How to Have a Successful In-Home Interview

1504852-1You found the posting for the perfect job. You sent your resume in. You passed all the initial screening. Now it’s time for “The Interview.” Interviews can be stressful but they are a necessary part of landing your dream job.

Interviewing for an in-home position can be even more challenging than typical corporate job interview. For jobs like Nanny, Family Assistant, Housekeeper, Estate Manager or Chef, not only do you need to have the qualifications, skills and experience, you also need to show that you will be the perfect fit to work in this person’s home. With good preparation and thoughtful follow-through, you can succeed in your interview, and in this blog post we’d like to give you some guidance for how to do that!

Preparation is key. It might feel like over-kill, but make sure you know ahead of time exactly how you’ll be getting to the interview, and how long it will take for you to get there. Map out your trip at least a day ahead of time. Take heavy commute traffic into account if your interview is in the morning or late afternoon. And give yourself a little bit of extra time just to be completely sure that you get to your destination on time.

Print out and bring an up-to-date copy of your resume along with you. Your interviewer already got a copy, but providing another copy will be greatly appreciated and helps show that you really want the job, you are prepared and you are taking the process seriously.

Do your homework! Make sure you have a really good idea of exactly what this job entails. If you are working through Town + Country, take the time to talk to your Counselor to learn as much as you can. Then, with this job in mind, look over your resume for experiences you’ve had in the past that likely fit this employer’s expectations or highlight why you would be a great fit.

Dress for success! First impressions really do affect the rest of the interview process, so make sure you are making a positive one! Your interviewer will form some strong first impressions based on how you make yourself look and how you dress. There is no “one outfit fits all interviews,” so for Town + Country interviews, talk to your Counselor to find out how to dress for this interview. If you don’t have an opportunity to get information ahead of time, the best bet is to dress simply, conservatively and professionally. Limit makeup, jewelry and especially perfume! A blouse that covers the shoulders paired with a nice pair of pants or khakis is a sure way to “wow” your potential future employer!

Start your interview with a warm, confident handshake and make good eye contact. Show interest in what they are saying, keep a nice smile. Keeping a friendly conversation going about the job, your experiences and their needs will help you make the personal connection with the family that shows you can be the right font in their home.

And whatever you do, make sure to avoid two very common mistakes:

  1. Never, ever bash or criticize a former employer. The family interviewing you will get the impression that you may bash them later after you leave their job, and no one wants that.
  2. Never, ever lie or exaggerate about your prior jobs, experiences or education. Speak about your experience in complete truthfulness. Dishonest claims will usually be discovered, and even if you only told one little “white lie,” it will tend to undercut everything else you’ve said. After all, if you were dishonest about that one thing, what else are you being dishonest about? For in-home positions, families need to be able to have complete trust in you before being comfortable having you work in their home.

Finish your interview the same way you started it. Emphasize your interest in the position, and say good-bye with a confident handshake, a warm smile and good eye contact.

Follow-up! Send your interviewer an email or, even better, a handwritten note thanking them for their time and again expressing interest. Double check that all names are correctly spelled and that you don’t have any typos.

Prepare, dress for success, show respect and follow-up afterwards - give yourself the best chance to succeed!

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Professional vs. Unprofessional Phone Use by Nannies and Caregivers

CUP0094991As the largest domestic placement agency here in California, we see a lot of what works and what doesn’t work for the families who hire through us. Most of the families we’re working with these days want to be able to communicate easily and effectively with their in-home employees, including through emailing, texting and good old fashioned phone calls. And just like so many of us these days, our candidates are doing their emailing, texting and phone calls using their smart phones. No doubt about it, smart phones are fun and super useful, and every day they’re becoming a more important as work tools.

A while ago, we did a post on “Social Media Etiquette 101” where we focused on some important social media do’s and don’t’s for people who have in-home jobs, including nannies, housekeepers and other caregivers. But how about using smart phones for more traditional ways of staying in touch with your employers? Mastering professional phone usage is always an important job skill, and with the flurry of hiring that seems to happen every year right about this season, it seems like the time is right for some reminders of exactly when and how phone use is appropriate on the job.

The best piece of advice we can give is to talk to your employer about their rules and expectations. Start your job off right by having a conversation about how the two of you will try to communicate day to day. That said, after having had many, many conversations about it with families, here are a few examples of what we have found to be appropriate or inappropriate phone usage while on the job:

Appropriate Phone Usage:

  • Mid-day updates for mom & dad.
  • Using the alarm and timer features.
  • Photographing cute events throughout the day that may be of interest to the parents.
  • Communicating with parents throughout the day addressing any concerns or requests they might have.
  • Making shopping lists requested by employers.
  • Recording important notes given from employers.
  • Using the calculator for superior math tutoring.
  • Surfing the web for fun craft and activity ideas.

Inappropriate:

  • Personal calls and text messages.
  • Asking for a raise. Discussions about compensation are completely appropriate, but they should always be done in person.
  • Canceling with your employer at the last minute via text message. Cancelling should only be done as an absolute last resort, and if you have to do it, please call instead.
  • Asking for vacation time via text message. Again, conversations like this should be in person, with any confirmation on dates or other arrangements made by email.
  • Scrolling through and posting on various social media sites.
  • Playing games on your phone.
  • Any cell phone use that distracts your attention away from your job, especially any use that distracts your attention away from the kids you are caring for.

We haven’t tried to address every situation here, and these are just some examples. Open, honest & direct communication is key to building trust and a positive working relationship! And a great place to start those lines of communication is to have a conversation about it with the family you work with. You’ll end up improving your own level of professionalism while also taking advantage of all that modern technology has to offer!

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Great Family Friendly Foodie Places in San Francisco

AYP1330497Who says the foodie explorations need to stop with the kids? Sure, it might be true that the high-end Italian restaurants and multi-course meals may need to be set aside temporarily – or maybe not entirely, as this recent article at the New York Times seems to suggest.

But regardless, what if we were to tell you that “foodie fun” for the whole family does indeed exist? And we do mean for the whole family, not just the kids. After all, we do live in one of the liveliest parts of California for food innovation. Every corner seems to offer a new culinary treat, and that’s precisely one of the biggest reasons so many of us came here.

So, with the entire family in mind, here are just a few suggestions for taking advantage of local treats:

The Hall on Market Street (1028 Market Street between 6th and Jones, San Francisco)
Why? Why not! The Hall is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and truly caters to all. Open 7 days a week from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm (closing a bit early at 5:00 pm on Sundays), we’re confident it can fit into your busy schedule somehow.

Mom wants Vietnamese? Dad wants Indian and the kids want burgers? Comin’ right up! This “super pop-up” won’t be around for more than a couple years, so there truly is no time like the present to join in on the fun! The vibe is casual, social and fun. Families are not only welcome, they’re encouraged. Both you and the kids will love the picnic-style table seating and hip décor. So, pack up the crew and head over to this new SF favorite that will cater to each member of the family!

Blue J Café (919 Divisadero Street, San Francisco)
Quaint, tasty and warm, Blue J Café welcomes the family with their special – kids eat free daily until 7:00 pm. How can this be? Don’t ask questions, just enjoy. Even better? Fridays before 7:00 pm is Movie Nite! A beautiful location, tasty food and a blissful atmosphere, Blue J Café really is your family’s next Friday night out.

Or try them on a Saturday morning. Blue J Café is quite Mimosa-friendly, especially for Saturday morning brunch.

And one last thing, do yourself a favor and give the Fresh Pacific Red Snapper a try. You won’t regret it.

Off The Grid Picnic at the Presidio (Main Post Lawn, Montgomery St., San Francisco)
This “Indian Summer” perk is definitely one of the best parts about October here in San Francisco. Every Sunday through November 2nd, head over to the sunshine (hopefully!) and the green grass of the Presidio and indulge in the treats being offered by the many food trucks and tents. “Variety” is an understatement and prices are very affordable. Enjoy Italian, Indian, Vietnamese, Mediterranean and American food, all at the same venue. Plus, the Off The Grid Picnic at the Presidio is a safe, family fun place for the kids to run while the parents enjoy a craft beer or two. Now, get out there and enjoy this incredible city with the entire family! (Note that the Main Post Lawn is located on the “other” Montgomery Street – the one in the Presidio, not the one downtown.)

Happy eating!

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Town + Country’s “Housekeeping Manual” Seminar was a Hit!

Town + Country recently hosted our fifth Housekeeper training of the year. This seminar’s focus was on learning how to build your very own Housekeeping Manual for quick reference on the job. One of Town + Country’s favorite placement counselors, Sarndra Elejorde, equipped our sixteen attendees with the tools and knowledge to successfully create and manage a personalized “household manual” for each of their jobs.

Each attendee got a pre-made Housekeeping Manual template that could be customized for their various employers. The manuals were filled with relevant information for proper management of a home including checklists, inventory lists, cleaning & laundry rules unique to that household, child & pet information and emergency contacts and plans.

Our Housekeepers were clearly excited to be able to get together, hear about others’ past experiences and share valuable housekeeping information.

We’re really looking forward to our next seminar in November and we’re hoping for another full class! Be sure and “like” our Town + Country Resources Facebook page for current updates on the upcoming seminars.

And as always, seminar attendees don’t have to be T+C candidates. Invite your friends, and if they become a T+C candidate, you will be eligible for our referral program! If you refer a Nanny or Housekeeper to us that meet our requirements and get placed in a job for 30 days, we will send you a $200 check!

We can’t wait to see you in November!

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Bay Area Halloween and October Festivities for the Whole Family

FAN2016960 (3)Houses are decorated, candy corns are a-plenty, the air will soon be getting crisp, and it’s time for the family to come together to celebrate the spookiest time of the year! No matter where you live in the Bay, we’ve provided you with some of the greatest family-fun thrills the area has to offer.

And ready for the best part…? They’re all F-R-E-E! So, rally the family, grab a blanket and kick-start one of the best months of the year!

SAN FRANCISCO

What: Boo at the Zoo
Where: San Francisco Zoo
Dates/Times: Oct. 25th and 26th, 11:00 am to 3:00 pm
Admission: FREE with paid San Francisco Zoo admission
Details: Bring your family to “Boo at the Zoo” for incredible thrills and chills! Roam the Zoo in search of candy, see special animal enrichment, create take-home crafts, take your picture with Casper the Friendly Ghost and much more.

What: “Clancy’s Pumpkin Patch and Hay Maze”
Where: 1620 7th Ave., San Francisco
Dates/Times: Oct. 1st to 31st, 9:00 am to 10:00 pm
Admission: Free
Details: Three generation family-owned pumpkin patch. In addition to pumpkins of all sizes, there are gourds, corn stalks and Indian corn. Crawl through a hay maze after picking out your pumpkins.

PENINSULA

What: Menlo Park “Halloween Hoopla
Where: Fremont Park, intersection of Santa Cruz Ave. and University Dr., Menlo Park
When: Oct. 25th, 11:15 to 3:00
Admission: FREE
Details: Come in costume and participate in the annual parade to Fremont Park. Participants will receive a trick or treat bag. A performer will be at the park to entertain parade participants. There will also be art and craft activities, a candy guess and a pumpkin weight guess. After the parade, trick or treat through Downtown Menlo Park at participating stores.

What: Webb Ranch Farm Pumpkin Patch
Where: Webb Ranch Farm, 2720 Alpine Rd., Portola Valley
Dates/Times: Opens Sept. 17th, Sun-Thu: 10:00 am to 7:00 pm; Fri-Sat: 10:00 am to 9:00 pm; hours for certain activities may vary
Admission: Free
Details: Pumpkin patch, haunted house, and jumpy house are open daily. On weekends also enjoy pony, hay rides, train rides, face painting and a petting zoo. Webb Ranch asks that you not bring any dogs.

EAST BAY

What: Berkeley Thrills and Chills Haunted House
Where: MLK Jr. Youth Services Center, 1730 Oregon St., Berkeley
Dates/Times: Oct. 31, 6:00 pm to 9:30 pm
Admission: Free; fun for ages 5-15 years
Details: Get ready to scream as you enter the scariest haunted house in Berkeley. Come join in the fun as you have a ghastly and ghoulish good time! Get your best Halloween outfit ready for an evening of music, food, fun, and fright.

What: Speer Family Farms “Bay Street Pumpkinpatch
Where: 5600 Christie Ave., Emeryville
Dates/Times: Sept. 19th to Oct. 31, 10:00 am to 8:00 pm
Admission: Free
Details: Pumpkin Patch features local grown coastal pumpkins, pumpkin carving kits and contest, hay maze, petting zoo, jumpy house, play area, and more!

NORTH BAY

What: Kevin’s Strawberry Villa Pumpkin Patch
Where: 100 Shoreline Hwy., Mill Valley
Dates/Times: Oct. 4th to 31st, 9:00 am to 9:00 pm
Admission: Free
Details: Pumpkin patch off Highway 101 with pumpkins, an inflatable slide, and an inflatable jump house.

What: Petaluma CreameryGreat Peter Pumpkin Patch
Where: 4235 Spring Hill Rd., Petaluma
Dates/Times: Sept. 27th to Oct. 31st, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm
Admission: Free
Details: Pick your own pumpkin, taste fresh cheeses, homemade ice cream, dig for potatoes, pet baby animals, milk a cow, wander through the hay maze, and hay rides. Fun for all ages and live music on weekends!

Thanks to NBC Bay Area for the suggestions. Visit NBC’s list of October Festivities for more Halloween fun!

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The Crock-Pot: A Family and Nanny Crowd-pleaser

FAN2024679Let’s face it, we’re all quite busy people. With summer over and fall well underway, our time is becoming increasingly limited. School, soccer practice, art class, tutoring, dance … a million and one things that all seem to take precedence over cooking a good, healthy meal.

Family dinner at the end of the day is arguably one of the most important family bonding times of the day, and passing up such a precious opportunity due to a lack of time would be such a shame. So, nannies, mothers, fathers, family assistants and housekeepers, rest assured that we’ve got the absolute perfect solution for you… the Crockpot!

In the morning, or even the evening before, throw a few ingredients in, turn on its slow-cook feature, and you’re free until dinner-time! Easy and delicious, they’re sure to be a real crowd-pleaser.  Here are a few of our favorite “can’t miss” recipes:

The Best Crockpot BBQ Chicken. Throw it in a sandwich, wrap or salad and you’re bound to be one happy camper.

Roast a Whole Chicken in the Crockpot. Can you even believe how easy this is? Thanks, Family Fresh Meals!

Carrots with Herbed Honey Butter Sauce. An easy and yummy way to entice the kids to eat those veggies.

4 Ingredient Cheesy Macaroni & Cheese. For those cold nights when comfort-food is entirely necessary.

Kid-Friendly Turkey Chili. Protein, anyone?

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Great T+C Candidates: Meet Annette!

Annette Sanchez 1Annette has 14 years of experience working as a Nanny and Family Assistant. She is organized, super pitch-in, warm, energetic and passionate about her work. Annette loves to cook and her other hobbies include reading up on child development, writing poetry and going to the beach.

Annette is excited about making another long-term commitment to a family!

Get to know Annette:

What is your favorite quote?
“The greatest power in the universe is the power of non-resistance.” -Eckhart Tolle

What three items would you take with you to a desert island (other than food and water)?
My iPad with Wi-Fi, my cell phone and some sort of survival tool from Home Depot.

Last book you read?
“A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose” by Eckhart Tolle

What is your favorite day of the year and why?
First day of spring, because the weather is beautiful and the surroundings are fresh and new.

If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?
Give some to the poorer communities for housing, cars, get people off the street, get a house/car/nice vacation for myself, and invest.

What is your favorite outdoor activity?
Swimming and walking on the beach at sunrise and sunset.

Annette is working with Town + Country to find a long-term, full-time Nanny position. If you are interested in learning more about Annette or any of the great Candidates we’re working with, please call us at 650-326-8570 or 415-567-0956!

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How to relieve back to school anxiety

Young couple walking togetherThe beginning of the new school year gives parents and children both the opportunity to get a start fresh and a clean slate! Parents and Nannies can help their kids start the school year off right with these helpful reminders. These strategies start at home and carry into the classroom.

Relieve back to school anxiety
Back to school creates anxiety for every parent, child and teacher, and it’s best to face it head on! Go to sleep on time, get homework out of the way early, eat healthy meals and get up early. Making sure these tasks are taken care of every day will help to ease back to school jitters and help set the foundation for academic success all year long!

Complete homework early
It’s so easy these days to put homework off until the last minute. Especially with all the awesome television and video games that are readily available for entertainment. Try hard to get your children to complete their homework as soon as they have had their afternoon snack and a break from class. And if your child runs into any challenges that need a bit of additional help or tutoring, getting started early leaves time to iron out the kinks before homework deadlines.

Go to bed and get up early
No child wants to do either of these, and it can be tough on parents and Nannies also! But it’s best for all parties if you can get on a fixed, regular sleeping schedule early on. The National Sleep Foundation can help with many tips for sleep success!

Reward success
Your children are learning what it takes to be successful. Rewarding them for their efforts and accomplishments can help set the right habits. Learning to tie their own shoes, take the bus, be punctual, finish assignments and overcome fears are all daily opportunities for them to be rewarded and encouraged to get up and do it all over again the next day. Be sure and make it known that the little things they accomplish each day are so important and recognized.

We hope you all have a successful and easy transition into the school year!

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Things to do This Labor Day Weekend with Your Kids

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Red Tricycle

We like Red tricycle and have often found them to be a great source for what’s going on in the Bay Area. As we start our good-bye to summer this coming Labor Day weekend, we can expect glorious weather in San Francisco and just about all the surrounding cities.

If you don’t have plans yet, Red Tricycle has put together an awesome list of suggestions for what do with your little ones this weekend. You can check out their entire list at their blog posting, “Bay Area Kids Weekend Events: Aug. 29-31.”

One example: Three-day weekends with little ones deserve special outings and exciting entertainment.  Why not enjoy some outdoor yoga in Golden Gate Park or a day trip to the San Francisco Zoo?! The East Bay is offering an outdoor movie, children’s village and the 149th Annual Scottish Games. In true festival form there will be art, wine and sculpture contests in both the South Bay/Peninsula and Marin County.

Check out their entire list, and have a fabulous and safe holiday weekend!

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What are some California laws relating to childcare?

We found some interesting facts in an article recently posted at SFGate.com … “California-Is it legal or not?

We picked a few that may relate to some childcare or family assistant duties. Some of these laws seemed pretty obvious, while others came as a bit of a surprise. You can check out the full list by clicking on the link above.

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SFGate

Some of the more interesting facts:

How young is too young to leave a child home alone? There is no minimum age requirement. But if a child is left alone who is not suited to take care of themselves that can be considered neglect and can result in a visit from Child Welfare Services.

Can you legally leave your pet in your car unattended? While it is not illegal to leave your pet in your car unattended, if the conditions endanger the well being of the animal, it could become illegal. More and more windows on vehicles are being broken to protect animals in unsafe conditions, and police, humane officers and animal control officers can take steps necessary to remove an animal from the car.

What are the real size, weight and age that a child needs to be in a child safety seat? This law has recently changed. Under current law, a child must be buckled into a booster seat until the age of eight or until they grow to be 4 feet 9 inches.

Do you legally have to clean up after your dog? There is no statewide requirement for cleaning up after your dog, but many counties & cities do. Of course, it would be nice if you did so regardless! Can I feed the birds? Speaking of friendly animals, it may come as a bit of a surprise that it is illegal in California to feed pigeons or seagulls. It doesn’t matter if it’s in your backyard; the beach or a public park.

Can you pick wild flowers? Nope! If you’re in a state park, on a freeway or in a public space, it is illegal to pick or cut the pretty flowers or any other plant. Do pedestrians have the right-of-way? In California the law requires vehicles to yield the right-of-way to all pedestrians. This does not however give pedestrians the right to act carelessly when crossing the street.

Do I have to wear a bicycle helmet? Do the kids have to wear a bicycle helmet? This law hasn’t changed in sometime but just in case you’ve forgotten here it is. If you’re older than 18, the law says you do not need to wear a helmet, but any rider under 18 must wear a helmet.

Can you record a private conversation? This may be of interest if you’re a Personal Assistant or Executive Assistant. SFGate reports that “It is illegal to record any confidential communication, including a private conversation or telephone call, without permission.”

Just a few things to keep in mind as you visit a park, go on a bike with your charges or take the dog for a walk. Do you know any other laws we ought to know about? Let us know!

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