1. Know what you are looking for
Just like you, no one helper can cook restaurant-quality food, be a top-notch nanny and keep the house sparkling clean. If you’ve hired one, congratulations, you’ve hit the jackpot! For all other employers out there, know what you are looking for. Start by creating a simple list: what qualities must your helper have, and what are your deal breakers? Stick to a short list of points that you won’t compromise on. Discuss the list with your family members so that everyone is on board. Feel free to ask for feedback from friends and relatives, but keep in mind, the definition of a perfect helper differs from employer to employer. You are the one hiring so you should be the one in control.
2. Use the right channel for you
There are quite a few choices to be made as to how you should find a helper. In Hong Kong, there are over 1,500 employment agencies, but each agency has a relatively limited number of helper applicants, and even fewer who meet your requirements. You may take to Facebook as there are quite a few groups of helpers looking for jobs, but be prepared for some frustration as you are competing with hundreds of other employers. Referrals from friends or other employers can be great leads, but are also tricky, especially if you decide not to sign your best friend’s helper. Finally, there are a few online websites featuring detailed profiles or CVs. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, so if you want to increase your chances of finding a great helper, use a route that you are comfortable with.
3. Interview, interview and interview
It’s not easy to decide who you are going to hire, but the more candidates you interview, the more you will know what you are looking for. Prepare for the interview and create your own list of must-ask questions. At times you may be tempted to sign a helper on the spot if she is particularly good, but don’t do this merely because you are afraid she may sign with another family. Instead, plan a few interviews back to back and take good notes so that you can compare your candidates. Don’t hesitate to insist on a second interview if you’re in doubt!
4. Check references, but don’t take them too seriously
Speaking to previous employers will give you a good insight into your helper’s capabilities and performance. But keep in mind that every family is different and don’t make your decision solely on a recommendation. One previous employer may rave about your candidate, only for you to find out that she does not meet your expectations. Another employer may give their helper a bad recommendation, just because she wanted to sign her again and the helper refused. Be diligent, but decide on a case-by-case basis how credible the reference is.
5. Be ethical
There are many employment agencies and even online forums that overcharge their domestic helper clients (the legal charge is 10% of the first month’s salary). An overcharged helper is often forced to take out loans from loan sharks at high interest rates. She will be preoccupied with her debts, while still trying to provide enough income for her family back home. Your home may not be her priority. Be alert for cheap paperwork processing and employment agencies that sound too good to be true. Cheap employment agencies may save you money in the short term, but will only create headaches in the long term.
6. The helper also has a decision to make
The key to hiring a great helper is ensuring the candidate is also comfortable with your family, the job duties and other arrangements. A worker who loves her job and is happy, will do her job a hundred times better than a helper who is unhappy. Introduce her to all your family members, show her around the apartment (if you feel comfortable), tell her in detail what your expectations and house rules are, and what her living situation will be like. You don’t want to get stuck for two years with an unhappy helper.
Hiring a helper is a big decision, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. So get comfy, brew yourself a cup of tea and start with your list. Take things one step at a time and stay in control. If an employment agency feels fishy, even after you have paid them, or if you don’t feel comfortable with any of your applicants, keep trying. The right helper for you is out there somewhere – you just have to find them!
Once you’ve found the perfect helper, you will need insurance, find out more here.
HelperChoice is a social impact startup connecting thousands of helpers with employers. Employers will have access to thousands of domestic helper profiles with a detailed experience history and their skills. Domestic helpers can use the service 100% for free so that employers can rest assured that their hired helper has not been exploited to find her job with them. HelperChoice aims to eradicate modern domestic slavery while offering both the employer and the worker control over the process of finding the right match.