How can you discover your childcare apprenticeship candidate’s qualities and experience at an interview? We asked our childcare apprenticeship team for their top tips for hiring great childcare workers.
- Write a childcare job description that accurately reflects the needs of your setting to attract workers who would flourish there
- Base your interview questions on the mandatory units of childcare qualifications to discover your candidate’s knowledge, competency and understanding
- Their attributes and qualities are just as important as their knowledge, so listen carefully for evidence of empathy, intuitiveness, caring, and social dexterity
When you’re hiring childcare staff, you’re looking for dedicated, fun, and energetic people. They’re just as passionate about play, as they are about working with children and developing their abilities.
But how can you draw out evidence of knowledge, competency and understanding, as well as qualities in a single interview?
We asked TSW Childcare route manager, Rachel Cox, and the wider apprenticeships and Flying Start team for their most insightful childcare interview questions. What follows are their recommendations to help you find the best people for your setting, even if they have no experience yet.
There are so many childcare occupations working in nurseries, schools, private healthcare settings, NHS hospitals, doctor’s surgeries and other caring environments where children need support.
You might be advertising for:
- Nursery assistants
- Nursery managers
- Residential childcare workers
- Childcare practitioners
- Nursery nurses
- Nursery practitioners
- Early years teachers
- Teaching assistants
Regardless of their title, you want to see they can translate the curriculum into the setting and allow the children to reach their potential.
There will be unique duties and responsibilities, specific to your setting and the demands of the job.
Outline what’s specifically required and desired from your candidates. Specificity upfront will help you to filter out applicants who don’t have the right qualifications, or abilities or experience.
Start with the duties and responsibilities, plus the type of environment they need to maintain or create. For example:
- Provide safe and stimulating play, that encourages social engagement and linguistic progression
- Create a programme of educational play that meets the emotional and imaginative needs of the child
- Maintain the quality and standard of care and education that the setting is well-known for
- Build healthy working relationships with parents and guardians
- Encourage positive communication between children, staff, parents and guardians
- Keep the playgroup environment clean, healthy and safe
Alongside the caring and play duties, outline tasks that do not directly involve the children:
- Admin, such as rotas and invoice distribution
- Compliance with industry standards and legislation
Duties and requirements that are unique to your setting
Reference the qualities that are unique to your setting:
- Welsh language capabilities – is your setting bilingual or predominantly English or Welsh speaking?
- Your initiatives that are developing and evolving the setting
Required childcare qualifications and professional development
Finally, reference what qualifications they must have to fulfil the role.
If there is an option to complete a CCPLD or Playwork apprenticeship while they work, add it to the job description.
The possibility of funded professional development will attract people with career progression and development in mind.
This level of detail in the job description will help you to attract the type of candidate you want in your setting.
Once you have a shortlist of candidates, it’s time to invite them for an interview.
You could divide up your line of questioning into different areas, using the CCPLD and Playwork frameworks as themes.
For example, if you’re hiring for an entry-level worker, you could talk to them about their experience of:
- The principles and values of children’s care, play, learning and development
- Children’s health, wellbeing, learning and development
- Professional practice in early years and childcare
- Health and safety in children’s care, play, learning and development
- Supporting play, learning, growth and development
- Supporting nutrition and hydration in early years
- Responding to signs of illness
We spoke to our childcare apprenticeships team to discover which questions will draw out candidate experience, competency, understanding and knowledge.
The questions they’ve suggested below are appropriate for childcare assistants and childcare and play practitioners. They directly relate to units within mandatory childcare qualifications.
- Please tell us a little about your experience of working with children aged 0-5 years.
- What do you know about Flying Start?
- How would you ensure equal opportunities and ensure all cultures are valued within the setting?
- What is your understanding of confidentiality?
- If you saw bruising or marks on a child, what action would you take?
- Part of the Assistant Practitioner role is to be self-motivated and enthusiastic. Can you give an example of how you have displayed these?
- Part of the assistant practitioner’s role is to support the children’s Learning Journey through collecting evidence, how would you support this?
- Some Assistant posts are float position so you may be expected to work and cover in different settings across Flying Start, how would you support this?
- Please tell us a little about your experience with children aged 0-5?
- What do you know about Flying Start?
- How would you communicate with families and ensure all cultures and traditions are represented with equal value to avoid racial and sexual stereotyping?
- How do you feel working in a deprived area differs from working a more affluent area?
- What is your understanding of the role of the Playscheme Supervisor?
- What is your understanding of confidentiality? Can you give examples of confidential records?
- What sort of activities do you think should be available in the group daily?
- A child is attending playscheme for the first time, both the parent and child are feeling nervous. How would you support them?
- Can you give some examples of how you have used your initiative when:
- A: working on your own?
- B: Working as part of a team?
10. What action would you take if a child made a disclosure to you 10 minutes before the end of the session?
You could add additional questions if there are specific needs within your setting. For example, if a child has health needs, or English is their second language:
- How would you support the acquisition of a new language through immersion?
- How would you support a child with asthma?
- How would you support a child with diabetes?
You want to hear that the candidate has a child-centred approach and will make a positive contribution to their development.
As they answer your questions, you should get the measure of their personal qualities too. How kind they are, or how assertive. Qualities and attributes are critical ingredients, along with competency, knowledge and understanding.
You don’t want a nursery nurse with a short-attention-span, or a lack of empathy.
Our childcare route manager, Rachel Cox says “The core attributes you need to look for are a calmness under stress, along with good and clear communication skills.
You want them to be adaptable and able to work both in a team and alone. But one of the most important qualities is empathy. And you need to feel sure they will identify danger and respond quickly.
Make sure you distinguish between natural reactions, and what can be developed. Empathy, for example, is hard to teach, but identifying hazards is a skill that can be learnt.”
As they answer your questions, you’ll learn more about them. If they have the right experience and qualities for your setting.
But how can you compare their experience with another candidate?
Let’s say you have two Level 2 CCPLD candidates with five years of experience. That might be where their similarities end. They’ve worked in polar opposite settings, with unique challenges and demands.
How can you differentiate between the two?
Before the candidates arrive at the interview, think about the answers you want to hear.
For example, you might want to hear that they’re intuitive to the needs of team members when a parent is upset. Or that they have a method of keeping calm during a tense situation.
A requirement checklist for candidates will help you to compare their abilities and qualities. The more points ticked off on your checklist, the more suited they are to your environment.
What’s on the checklist will be unique to your setting and tailored to the demands of the role. Here’s an example of the desired qualities and experience you might expect from prospective employees:
- Aware that their influence will impact the life of the child, and their contribution should always be positive
- Balanced and patient mediators, who can diffuse stressful situations
- Playful and child-centric
- Empathic, intuitive and instinctive
- Naturally caring, calm and observant
- Experienced giving care in a childcare setting and aware of supervision requirements for the age group they will be caring for
- Aware of the setting duties outside of play and caregiving
- Prepared for challenges, like unusual behaviour, injuries, or illness
- Prepared to help parents and guardians with complaints
- Able to follow processes, but show flexibility
- Experience with infants, young children, or the age group they will be caring for
- Creative and excited about lesson and activity planning
- Responsible and mature, ready for accountability