Family Resources Hiring

The Definitive Guide and List of Interview Questions for Hiring a Caregiver

Guy Matorin, ucarenet CXO

May 22, 2022


Hiring the right Caregiver is a combination of Art and Science, and when these two intersect we can find the perfect match in terms of personality and competency. The better the fit, the more comfortable our parents will be with accepting someone in their home.

Yes, all of this can add up to added stress on some days, and less on others. You may feel that you have all of that pretty well in hand. Yet, you’ve recently heard of fellow caregivers getting burned out. That makes you pause. The idea of getting burned out to the point that you can no longer do your caregiver work is troubling. After all, you love what you do. It means a lot to you to be able to help families keep their loved ones and elders at home.

Before I provide you with the list of questions, I am going to describe the process I use.

I find it useful to start by identifying what I want, and I do this by first describing the ‘current situation’ followed by the ‘desired state’.

This helps me to describe what the ideal environment will look like, to understand what is required, and define what my expectations are of the professional caregiver I will hire.

Then I proceed to write a detailed job description, clearly define the role and it's responsibilities. For example, telling a job candidate that I need someone to take care of my mom for three days a week only tells the candidates that it is part-timework. By not describing the responsibilities, I risk attracting the wrong matches.

Writing a Job Description

To write the job description I start by creating a list of my needs, and followed by creating the profile of the ideal candidate. By:

  1. Making a list of the daily activities and tasks your ageing parent needs help with.
    • What duties would you like the caregiver to perform and how often? List out the duties and frequency (e.g., light housekeeping weekly, driving to doctor's appointment as needed, and aiding with bathing every morning).
  2. Identifying the desired weekly schedule, including holidays, weekend, and vacation periods.
    • When and how often do you need a caregiver? Is it likely to change soon? If so, will it be a problem?
  3. Deciding on the credentials and training the Caregiver needs to meet my requirements. How about you, are you looking for someone who is a licensed and accredited Practitioner (Nurse, Personal Support Worker, Home Health Aide), or can you find a sufficient level of service with an experienced companion keeper/caregiver?
    • Do you need any specialized care, such as for dementia, stroke, or incontinence?
  4. Developing the profile of the caregiver, by highlighting the qualities, languages, interests, and nature of the individual I'm searching for to ensure a good fit of personalities.
    • What are the qualities a caregiver would need to make the environment safe and happy? A sense of humour, or the ability to stand his or her ground? The caregiver you hire will be spending a lot of time with your loved one, so this is a significant issue. What are your loved one's pet peeves? Disorder or messiness? Smoking in the home? Bring these up when you speak with the caregiver and see how they handle these types of situations.
    • Once I have formulated a mental profile of the ideal candidate, I write the job description and decide on the criteria I will use to evaluate the candidates. If other people are involved in the interview process, I share this with them so we are aligned in our interviewing.
    • To screen the candidates, I ask myself the question: if I find someone that has meets the above skills and personality, will this deliver the results I need? If yes, great I proceed with interviewing, if no, I move on. If I do not find a sufficient short list of candidates, I re-assess my list and tweak my requirements until I find a satisfactory list of caregivers.
    • The most important step is sharing the list of candidates with your Parents. Get them involved in the interview process as much as possible. It's their caregiver, their interview, with you asking the questions for them. So, get them engaged and have them take some ownership on defining the requirements and the type of person they want.
    • Once we have agreement, I write a job ad describing the person we are looking for, and the details of the role. Then I place the ad.
    • When you have created a short list and are ready to proceed with interviewing, be very clear with the candidates that you will be checking their references and performing a criminal background check.
    • Let candidates know that in order to proceed to the next step, they need to provide a copy of their Social Insurance Card, driver's license, home address and contact details, and 3 references – 2 professional and one personal, and a completed resume; and that prior to extending an offer that you want a criminal background check.

Interviewing Candidates

For interviewing candidates, I select open ended questions that help me assess the candidate's:

  1. Qualifications, Experience, and Training
  2. Flexibility and commitment(s)
  3. Dependability and trust-worthiness
  4. Behavior and personality

The 12 Questions

  1. What draws you to the caregiving profession? A good caregiver will have a caring, nurturing personality, and find fulfilment in working with older adults.
  2. Tell me about your work experience in the last years and some of the biggest challenges you encountered. Getting a broad sense of what types of work the person has been doing can give you a good idea of whether they'll be a good fit for this opportunity. Does their work history show experience in companionship and working with older adults? Do they have experience working without direct supervision? Will they allow you to contact their employers as references?
  3. What type of position are you looking for? After reviewing our job description, is this position what you are looking for? Why do you think we would be a good fit for each other?
  4. Are you certified and do you have first-aid training? Caregiving is a profession, and you want to work with someone who is invested in his or her preparation to be a caregiver. Typically, you will work with a home health aide, a certified nursing assistant or a personal support worker. Their certification should be current, and they may also have evidence of continuing education credits.
  5. Will you be comfortable driving my mother's car, if need be, or using your own car to run errands if we request it? Make sure your potential caregiver has a current driver's license, reliable transportation, and is comfortable driving your loved one to appointments and visits.
  6. Do you have any medical conditions to prevent you from heavy lifting? Would you be capable of transferring someone? Getting someone from a wheelchair to a bed, and helping them dress requires a good knowledge of body mechanics so they do not injure themselves or your loved one.
  7. Tell me about your availability. If we were delayed, go out of town, or go on vacation would you be able and willing to adjust your schedule? It's best to find someone who can be flexible and accommodate your vacations and holidays.
  8. What type of diagnoses have you cared for? How do you handle people who are angry, stubborn, or fearful? Give an example of a difficult situation you handled, for instance, how did you handle refusing to take a shower? Dementia, loneliness, and loss can bring with it behaviours that require sensitivity and resourcefulness. Your caregiver should be able to describe in detail how they have worked with someone who is depressed, forgetful, aggressive, stubborn, or fearful.
  9. Here is a list of expected caregiving related duties-is there anything on the list that poses a problem or that you will find challenging? Your loved one may have needed the caregiver has not had experience with in the past and they may require detailed instruction about aspects of the care you wish to receive.
  10. If meal preparation is needed, what kind of food do you cook? Have you had experience cooking for other people? Give me some examples of your favourite dishes you like to cook. If part of your caregiver's duties is to include cooking, it's good to get an idea of how they’ll handle the task, and whether your loved one will like the food they enjoy preparing.
  11. I will be completing a criminal background check. Have you ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanour? Are you willing to sign a contract stating you will not accept money or gifts from my (parent/grandparent/spouse, etc.) without clearing it with me? You should always do a background check on potential caregivers. This is a good way to find out if your caregiver is forthcoming and honest, and if there's anything in their past that raises a red flag.
  12. Are you willing to provide frequent updates on the phone or computer? You'll have to communicate with your loved one's caregiver a lot. Be sure they’re willing and able to keep you in the loop.

And then the final and most important question: Do you have any questions for me?

This question can alert you to any issues you might not have considered.

Remember: do not disguise any emotional sensitivity, or some sort of decline in the mental state of your parents (you can adapt your question depending on your loved one's state of mind, but it can cover such things as anger, silence, sadness, moodiness, and memory problems).

Laying this out before hiring someone is a win-win for you and job applicants. You can get a sense of how they'll be with your loved one, and they'll get a sense of interpersonal skills required for the job.

Here are some additional questions to select from:

  1. Are you comfortable with my (parent/spouse) having guests or other family members stopping by?
  2. What are your expectations for vacation time, and are you willing to help find coverage for the days that you need to take off?
  3. Are you able to work the hours needed? When are you available to start working?
  4. After a 30-day trial period, would you be willing to commit to a (fill in a time-frame/6 months, a year is common) long-term?
  5. What are your responsibilities outside of work? Do you have to account for the schedules or needs of others in your workday, or are you flexible?
  6. Will you be working other jobs that might be affected if I'm delayed getting home?
  7. Would you be available for respite care, or to stay over for a long weekend?
  8. When are you available to start working?
  9. How far from here do you live?
  10. What time commitments are you willing to make to stay on the job?

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