April 25th, 2017

Writing A Beautiful Letter of Reference You Don’t Really Mean

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We love when nannies come armed to their interview with glowing letters of reference. We know those letters take time to write, and we appreciate the effort that goes into crafting them. But parents, please do not write a glowing letter of reference for your nanny if you don’t mean what you write. The next parents who hire your employee will believe what you penned. And unlike White House Nannies, they may not bother to call you to follow up for verification. They liked what you had to say. It was what they wanted to hear. It validated their impressions. They counted on the accuracy of your letter when making their hiring decision.

I get the problem. If your departing nanny asks for a letter of reference, it may be hard to decline the request. What should you do? Write the truth. How long did she work for you?  Her dates of employment. Was she reliable? Always on time? Not really. Then leave that out.   Did she love your children? Treated them like her own?  Say that. List activities she did. Responsibilities she had. If you have mixed emotions, make it clear that there is a longer conversation to be had and offer to speak live.

For us it is always shocking to speak live with an employer whose verbal assessment is a complete disconnect from the reference letter they have provided. What prompted this blog was a beautiful two page ringing endorsement of a nanny that turned into a complete diatribe on the reference call. What?

The flip side is sometimes we are presented with a very short, uninspiring letter about a nanny who has worked a decade for a family.  Ten years and fewer than ten sentences? Much to our relief, when we reach that long term employer, we get a much more complete and favorable assessment. In that case, the letter-rather than being a help to the nanny-is a disservice to her and any prospective future employer.

Please, keep those honest insightful letters coming. And if you have nothing nice to say, remember what your mother told you.

One Response to Writing A Beautiful Letter of Reference You Don’t Really Mean

  1. I agree. As a travel nanny, I no longer ask my clients for a letter. I ask would they be willing to be a call referencr. I know my clients are busy folks. I feel they can be really honest with a call and they seem to like that option. Plus I can give names of ones with similiar needs. Their thoughts come back to me via the new client! I am not in long term so newborn parents and travel parents seem to appreciate that option. I have a different situation but our goals are the same. Great article!

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