04 Sep Must-knows for acing your next senior caregiver job interview
Hiring a caregiver to take care of a loved one is a big decision that many families have to make.
When family members seek home health care services for their loved ones, they are committing to entrusting a caregiver with entering their loved one’s personal home and taking responsibility for their loved one’s health and quality of life.
Whether you’re a seasoned caregiver for seniors or new to the field, you’ll want to go into an interview as prepared as possible. From the qualities families look for to the questions you can expect to be asked — and those you should ask your potential employer — here’s what you need to know to ace your next senior care interview, whether it’s with an agency or family.
What families look for in a senior caregiver
Consider the characteristics families most often look for when hiring a senior caregiver. Then, ensure your outlook and answers reflect the following qualities.
Respect for the family and elder
The process of seeking a caregiver is a very vulnerable time for a family. Their families are seeking an in-home caregiver so their loved one can remain in the comfort of their home with dignity and independence. As they seek out a caregiver to rely on, they need to know this person is respectful of the uniqueness and complexities of their care. Having respect for someone in the most vulnerable state of their life, but helping them to continue to feel ‘normal’ and whole, is essential.
A positive attitude
Families often desire caregivers who will be a cheerful, positive presence in their senior’s life. Even if you’ve had a horrible day, leave your baggage at the door. It’s your bad day and nobody else’s. If you walk in and you’re tired, they don’t want to hear that; you’re there to cheer them up and make them feel better.
When a family is hiring a caregiver, there may be tough circumstances at home. Reassuring a family that you’ll be “a ray of sunshine” and positive, caring addition to the household can help put their minds at ease.
Family members look for caregivers who they can see and picture spending countless hours a week with their loved ones.
While having training and skills is definitely important, it’s also crucial the senior and the caregiver be able to relate through social interactions.
That relatability is unique to each family and client, but could include being able to discuss common hobbies, interests, pastimes and sports; enjoying the same meals; having common values and similar social norms, etc.
A passion for your work
Families would love caregivers who agree with the belief that serving as a caregiver is not just a career, but really more of a higher calling.
Over time, a caregiver is exposed to some of the most intimate details of a person’s and a family’s life, such as financial information and family dynamics. Clients look to someone they know they can trust with some of their closest secrets.
Preparing for a senior care interview
Before you have your phone or in-person interview, there are a few ways you can get ready. It’s crucial for caregivers to closely study the job description and familiarize themselves with it before the interview. Make sure you know the job requirements inside and out.
Questions you should be prepared to answer
While you may be asked any number of questions, here are some common ones you’re likely to face at an interview for a senior care job. Familiarize yourself with them and come prepared with answers.
What is your experience caregiving for elders?
Interviewers generally want to know what kind of experience a caregiver has. While a caregiver with specific experience like working with dementia patients is necessary for certain families, don’t be discouraged if you’re a new caregiver. Many agencies and families are willing to give a chance to someone green if they appear motivated, trustworthy, straightforward and honest.
Do you have any professional training or licenses?
Families often look for caregivers who have training or professional licenses. But it’s not always necessary to land a job. Answer honestly, and then share what you are and aren’t comfortable doing. It may be that you still have the skill set and experience they’re looking for, even if you don’t have the letters next to your name.
Why do you want this job?
Be prepared to discuss why you want the job and reinforce it with a personal story from the heart that speaks to your passion to make a difference in a person’s life. For example, it could mean explaining that you cared for a parent or grandparent with dementia and you wanted to give back.
Do you mind changing diapers?
This is one of the most often asked questions. For that reason, we recommend that caregivers assess their comfort levels with various tasks prior to an interview.
Some interviewers will ask you to describe a past situation or say how you’d handle a future situation, in order to gauge character. Here are more specific examples of these types of questions:
- Can you describe a situation where you or a colleague demonstrated exceptional care and kindness to a client or the client’s family?
- Our clients and families rely on us. Can you describe how you overcame a barrier in order to keep your commitments as promised?
- Can you give an example of how you have demonstrated the highest level of skill, competence and sound judgment in your work?
- What would you do if you were late to your assignment or suddenly could not get there?
- What strategies do you utilize to remain focused and calm during a crisis situation?
Questions you should consider asking
A job interview isn’t just a one-way street. You’re also expected to ask questions which will reflect your experience and engagement, as well as reveal information that will help you determine whether this job is the right fit for you.
Consider coming prepared with a list of questions that will help you get a better idea of whether this job is right for you.
What are your needs and expectations?
In a private caregiving situation, it’s important for candidates to ask the family about their needs, in addition to what they expect from a caregiver, since the job description may not give the full story.
It helps to get a full sense of what tasks you’ll be expected to do, such as lifting and moving someone, giving baths and changing diapers, so you can decide if you’re comfortable with what’s required.
What are your priorities?
Families might have a laundry list of things they’d ideally like a caregiver to assist with, but it’s wise to highlight what they want you to focus on. It helps to ask families, “If you could knit it down to a couple things that are very important, what are they?”
How do you handle specific situations?
If the senior has a mental or physical condition that could create specific challenges, it might be wise to ask how the family handles it or would like you to handle it.
What are my benefits?
Whether you’re working with a family or an agency, you’ll want to get an idea of your benefits, such as paid time off, health care, or in the case of working through an agency, insurance or liability coverage that will protect you.
When you’ve asked all your questions, the family will usually let you know when they’ll make a decision. That said, there are a few things that you should do after the interview that will help you get the job you want.
The follow-up: Send a ‘thank you’ but keep applying
Don’t wait around to hear back from your potential employers — even if you feel great about the interview. Instead, send a thank-you message via email to let them know you appreciated their time. If the family asked you to send any additional details or documents, include those in the message. Keep it short, and close with a line like, “I look forward to hearing from you.”
Then, get back to applying for other positions. Having multiple interviews will sharpen your skills and give you a better idea of what “sells” in your specific field. It will also help you find the best fit for you and will ensure that you’re not left without a job should the first family find someone else.
If you hear back from the family that they’ve found someone else, don’t panic. That just means the situation wasn’t the best fit.
If the family does extend a job offer, and before you accept, it’s recommended to have a contract that you’re comfortable with. You should also have a good feeling about working with the family. After all, your job is a major part of your life and you want to enjoy it.
Other facets of the interview –
Update your portfolio
A portfolio is a crucial component of the job interview. Keep letters of recommendation from previous employers, references and copies of any certifications or licenses relevant to your job, such as a copy of your driving record. Make sure your certifications are up-to-date and relevant for the job you are applying for.
Arrive on time
You should also arrive at the interview location 10 to 15 minutes early. This will show your prospective employers that you’re serious about this job and that you can be trusted to be on time when they need you.
This may mean you will have to sit in your car outside of their house [or meeting place] for a few minutes before going in, but you won’t risk arriving late.
Have the family’s contact information handy in case you have trouble finding their home or are running late. You should also bring your portfolio, which will ideally include:
- Your resume or CV
- Certificates and proof of education (e.g., your CPR certification card, a copy of your diploma, etc.)
- References with full names and up-to-date contact information
- Printed background check information (or permission for them to access it)
- A list of questions to ask the employer
Know the family
Read the family’s online profile, if they have one, and also search for them on Google. This ensures your safety as a professional caregiver and that you’ll have added knowledge of the family ahead of the interview.
If you have the parents’ names and know where they live, use Google to find out about them. For example, if a parent is involved with a charity, you might get a sense of their passions. You’ll want to see if you have anything in common with the parents so you can establish a common ground. Other online tools include Facebook and LinkedIn. Both can inform you about a family’s favourite activities or work history.
When you actually meet the interviewer, don’t come off as a creepy stalker and recite their birthday and their childhood pet’s name. It is to help you get a sense of who they are beforehand, and topics you may want to bring up.
Appearance matters too
Be sure to dress professionally, hide tattoos and keep fingernails at a reasonable length for the interview.
If you have a suit, wear the suit, or if not, wear business casual clothes, such as pants and a blouse. For an extra touch, add a blazer. Plan on dressing professionally but comfortably.
Smiling and nodding go a long way
Show you’re interested in the job. People get hired for their personality, so remember to come across as excited about the job. Smiling and nodding can go a long way toward showing your interest in the interview.
Get ready to tell the prospective family what you can do for them. Be as honest as you can be, but don’t say anything negative, especially about a past employer. Limit yourself to two minutes when discussing your skills and accomplishments and try to bring in interesting or funny anecdotes when you can — they will make you memorable and personable.
Ask to meet those you will care for
As a caregiver, you will likely spend the majority of your time with your charges. So focus on the senior during the interview. During the interview, ask if you can meet the person who needs care. By doing so, you are showing interest in the job and that you want to create a bond with the person that might be in your care.
While going into any job interview may be nerve-wracking, familiarizing yourself with these concepts and preparing for these questions can help you ace your interview and land a job that’s an ideal fit. Ultimately, don’t forget to be yourself and show your human side. Interviewers for caregiving positions want to know your story, your passion and your why.