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Hiring a Nanny: Traditional Nanny Agencies vs. Online Nanny Services

The nanny hiring process can seem overwhelming, especially if you choose the do-it-yourself route of placing a nanny classified advertisement. Sifting through hundreds of responses from potential candidates, making endless phone calls and screening and interviewing candidate after candidate is enough to make some families run for the nearest nanny agency and let the professionals take charge. However, with an online nanny service as your partner, there are many benefits to bypassing traditional nanny agencies and investing the time and energy required to find the right nanny for your family.  

Traditional Nanny Agencies

Families who wish to bypass the hefty investment of time and energy required with the do-it-yourself route may go directly to a traditional nanny agency. With a full staff on hand, an agency has more resources to screen candidates carefully and verify references.

A full-service agency basically does all of the “dirty work” for the family, prescreening the candidates before the families ever meet them. Nanny agencies will initially screen a pool of candidates over the phone to ensure that they meet the minimum qualifications required by the agency and family. They then set up in-person appointments with potential candidates. Oftentimes, a large percentage won’t pass the phone interview, and of those candidates who do, some won’t make it past the in-person appointment because they won’t pass muster during the meeting, or their references simply won’t check out. Only those candidates who pass all of the agency’s screening protocols are presented to the family, who knowing that the agency has pre-screened the candidates, needs only to choose which nannies out of the pool of highly qualified candidates they feel the most comfortable with and would like to personally meet.

With nanny agencies, you are effectively paying top-dollar to access a pre-screened pool of professional nannies who are serious about finding employment. While this is the most expensive option, a quality agency offers the best service for those who are short on time or energy. But even when using an agency, parents must use caution. There are hundreds of nanny agencies out there, but only a select few have real processes in place to find the best candidate for your family. Securing a nanny through a quality full-service placement agency can cost upwards of three-thousand dollars for a full-time nanny placement. If you choose to go this route, look for an agency that will provide you with a written replacement guarantee. This way, if you feel that the agency did not provide you with the nanny you expected, you have a point of recourse. 

Online Nanny Services

The do-it-yourself route of nanny selection has come a long way since the days of placing a “nanny wanted” ad in the local newspaper and waiting for the phone to ring. Today’s online nanny services combine the do-it-yourself approach with the resources used by traditional nanny agencies to help parents find the right nanny for their family.

Many people like the fact that with an online nanny service they are completely in charge and ultimately can determine the quality of the outcome of their nanny search. Although the nanny hiring process requires you to take an active role in the search for the right candidate, quality web-based services act as a partner so that you do not feel like you are going through the hiring process alone. The best online nanny services provide helpful hiring forms and information similar to what nanny agencies provide the families with whom they work.

Although families must essentially act as their own HR department during the nanny selection process, conducting nanny interviews and filling out all the appropriate paperwork, a paid membership with a quality online nanny agency involves much more than access to nanny listings. An online nanny service should present members with nanny candidates that align with the families’ preferences. Look for an online service that asks both families and nannies to fill out preliminary getting-to-know-you questionnaires, and the search for a nanny online will be a lot more targeted. A targeted search reduces the headache of sifting through hundreds of ads, only to find a handful of candidates who may or may not pass your screening process.

Although some web-based nanny services will include nanny criminal background checks for an additional fee, parents should be clear that most online services typically do not screen or conduct background searches on potential nannies or on nanny members; their claim to fame is connecting parents and nannies.

If you are unsure whether to go with a particular web-based nanny service, ask for an in-depth preview of the pool of candidates or a free trial membership. Trustworthy online nanny services will provide families with a sneak preview of their candidates so that they can decide whether or not a paid membership is worth it. Take note of the number and type of candidates that the service represents—you will likely be impressed with the quantity of candidates available when using an online nanny service.

The primary reason that many families decide to use an online nanny service is affordability. Oftentimes, families feel that the value an agency provides is not worth the high price tag that comes with the service. Online nanny services provide tools comparable to those that nanny agencies use at a significantly lower cost, but the important question to ask is whether or not you have the time and resources needed to effectively use those tools and conduct an in-depth search.


There are benefits and drawbacks associated with both traditional nanny agencies and web-based nanny services. It is important to evaluate and understand the tradeoffs associated with paying a lower price for a membership to an online nanny service. For those who have the time and resources available to spend on the nanny hiring process, using an economical and efficient web-based nanny service is likely the more attractive option.

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