The Top 5 Things to Ask the Housekeeper Before you Hire Her

What 5 Things should you ask
the Housekeeper before you hire her?
Once you have decided to hire a housekeeper, there are several ways to go about finding one. 
The best way (in my opinion) is to ask for a personal referral from a friend, family member or neighbor. Most independent housekeepers and services like to have clients in the same neighborhood, to limit travel time, and some even give a small discount for referrals, so that may be a good place to start.
You could also place and ad in a local paper, or post a flyer at a local college. With the rising cost of tuition, many college students are looking for ways to earn extra cash for books and course work when they are not taking classes. Be specific as to what you are looking for: (Examples: non smoker, English speaking, has own transportation, has liability insurance, brings own supplies, etc.)
In order to be clear with prospective housekeepers, you should also come up with a tentative schedule and a list of tasks that you would like taken care of on a regular cleaning day. Be specific about what you want done-(the bathroom light fixtures, make beds, etc.) and what you do NOT want done-(your home office, the spare bedroom, the antique dining room curio cabinet, etc.)
So now as the calls come in-take a few moments to talk with each caller-don't just schedule a meeting. Learn a little bit about them and tell them a bit about what you are looking for. (You don't have to go into detail, you are just getting a feel over the phone as to whether or not you want to set up a meeting.) Skype with them to get an idea of facial expressions and general appearance. Ask if they will give a free estimate at your home. If you feel comfortable, set up a meeting. If you do not, ask if you can call them back in a day or two once you see how your schedule looks for a meeting. Then follow up by Skype or by phone, and see if you still feel uncomfortable or if you want to go ahead and schedule a meeting. 
As you schedule interviews & meetings, keep these top 5 questions in mind as you make your list of others you would like to ask:
  • Experience: How long have you been cleaning houses? Ask if there are 3 or 4 clients you can talk to as references. Actually call and talk with those references. Ask for a 3-4 visit trial period to see if it will be a good fit for you, your family and your pets. Let her talk and tell you about her experience and skills, and see how well she communicates. 
  • Insurance: Are you insured? By whom, for what services & for how much? Even if you have a homeowner's policy, this is an important question to protect both you and your personal items as well as the housekeeper. A general liability policy for housekeeper is very inexpensive (less than $300 yearly for $2M of coverage) and every professional housekeeper should carry it. 
  • Finances: How much do you charge? Are your rates and services negotiable? What forms of payment do you accept? Don't feel uncomfortable inquiring about and negotiating prices & services, but be sure to be fair to the housekeeper and pay her for the results she is getting and the problem she is solving for you.  Its easy to just rattle off an hourly rate, and view housekeeping as "unskilled" labor, but remember something: that housekeeper is doing tasks that you don't have time, to, don't want to or don't know how to do. It does take skill or you wouldn't need her in the first place. So please consider the expected tasks, experience, skill and efficiency of the housekeeper along with the end result you are getting. If she is supplying her own supplies, insurance, (medical and liability,) and traveling a distance to help you, that all needs to be compensated for in addition to her service.  If you ask for additional tasks, expect to pay extra for them. Nothing is more de-motivating than working hard for someone who does not value your time, effort or knowledge, so once you do hire her, as long as she is delivering quality service, remember to tell her and show her how much you value her expertise, and don't be tight with what you budget for your services. Be sure to have her cash or check ready when she comes.
  • Schedule: How do you handle bad weather and reschedules? Weather and sick kids will happen, so most housekeepers leave one day open for reschedules. If a client  would need to change their day for any reason, that "open" day would be the alternate day. Talk about this with with prospects and find out how she would reschedule you if she had to come late, or had a doctor's appointment or personal errand to run.
  • Privacy: Tell me about your worst client/cleaning job? This is a sneaky trick question, but an important one to ask as the housekeeper's response will be very telling. If she begins by rolling her eyes and telling you a detailed story about her worst client ever, take a step back. Not only is she indiscreet and demonstrating a negative attitude, but she is invading that other client's privacy. Even if she does not mention a name, it is in poor form to talk about other clients, especially with a prospective one. Sure we sometimes work with people who get on our last nerve, but in this case we should really keep it to ourselves. Would you want someone talking about you and your messy home, or your toilet overflowing or your personal routine, vacation plans, etc. to strangers-or worse, neighbors? Probably not. Now, if she responds with "I can't think of any off hand..." or "I never had a client I didn't like", give this candidate some serious consideration. 

These 5 questions will help you determine if a housekeeper candidate will be a good fit for you, your family, your pets and your home. Start with these and add your own questions which are personal to you and your situation.

What other questions would you add to this list? Place them in the comments below.