Sittercity is to babysitters and parents what Match.com is to singles looking for love. The online service provides connections; it’s a way for babysitters to find more work, and for parents to find a good babysitter to watch their children. However, babysitters are not the only household help you can find on the site. If you are in the market for a nanny, pet sitter, senior care worker, house cleaner, or tutor, you can also find available candidates.
Sittercity was founded in 2001 by Genevieve Theirs who had been a babysitter herself for nearly 30 families while in college. She decided there had to be a better way for parents to find babysitters than simply putting up fliers. She organized 600 babysitters in three weeks, and parents flocked to sign up and find suitable childcare.
Now, more than a decade later, there are over one million sitters signed up with Sittercity throughout the United States. I signed up with Sittercity a few months ago and have enjoyed having access to hundreds of babysitters in one location.
To find safe, responsible babysitters, Sittercity suggest parents follow a four-step process:
- Interview the applicant
- Check references
- View sitter background checks
- Hire the best candidate
How It Works
1. Sign Up With Sittercity
If you are not sure Sittercity is right for you, sign up for a free one-week trial. During this time, you can post a job and view the profiles and applications of those who apply. You are not required to enter your credit card information when you register for the free week.
2. Post Your Job Request
Sittercity offers detailed suggestions as to how to word the title and the body of the ad to attract the maximum number of candidates. In the title, you want to be as detailed as possible. Rather than, “Need a Sitter,” you should write something like, “Need a Sitter for Two Preschool Children Two Mornings a Week.”
3. View the Applications of Those Who Apply
Most sitters post pictures and detailed information about their background, including their education, babysitting history, and their qualifications, such as being certified in CPR. However, if you choose the free option, your access is limited. You can only view those who are applying for your job; you can’t view the other available sitters in your area who have not applied to your job.
When you are notified that someone has applied, you receive a message in your email inbox, and you can click on the link provided to view the application. Alternatively, you can log into Sittercity directly.
4. Interview Those You Are Interested In
If you are new to interviewing babysitters, Sittercity has an entire page dedicated to the questions you may want to ask in the interview. Some questions you might want to ask include, “What has been your most challenging babysitting job and how did you handle it?” and “How do you typically like to spend time with the children you babysit?”
As you get more responses, you may want to first briefly conduct phone interviews with prospective sitters. When I was looking for a sitter, I just wanted someone two mornings a week, which proved to be difficult to find. Either people who were applying to the job only had one free morning a week, or they wanted more hours than I could offer. I began to ask over the phone if the limited hours were a problem, which helped me screen out potential sitters to interview.
5. Check References
If you have a few sitters you think would be a good fit for your family, ask for and check their references. If possible, check at least two references and ask about their experiences with the sitter as well as the sitter’s strengths and weaknesses.
6. Extend the Offer to the Prospective Babysitter
When you extend an offer to hire a sitter, also discuss the hourly wage you will pay and how often you will pay. I pay my sitter once per week, though some parents pay the sitter at the end of every day on the job. Also, exchange contact info so you can reach one another in case of emergencies or scheduling conflicts.
Cost & Pricing
Sittercity offers a one-week free trial period – usually just enough time to understand how the site works, but not enough time to actually find a suitable sitter. If you would like to use Sittercity for longer than the free trial period, there are three options available:
- 1-month subscription for $35
- 12-month subscription for $90
All subscriptions will auto-renew unless you manually stop them.
There are several advantages to Sittercity, which makes it a worthwhile place to look for sitters, nannies, housecleaners, or others who offer home services.
- Sittercity Is Secure. All messages sent through Sittercity are monitored for spam and inappropriate content. Sittercity has been awarded TRUSTe’s Privacy Seal. In addition, your personal and financial information is only shared with third parties as is necessary for purposes of using the Sittercity site.
- Sitters Are Available in One Place. Rather than posting jobs on Craigslist, in the newspaper, and via other sources, you can post your job in one central location, where thousands of available caretakers can view it. Likewise, you can choose from hundreds of sitters in your area.
- Background Checks Are Available. Sittercity offers the option of running a background check on those applying for your job. There is a fee for this feature, however, and you can only run the background checks that the sitter or other provider allows you to run. Ultimately, the sitter gets to choose how detailed the background check can be. You can choose between a standard background check for $14.99, a deluxe background check for $49.99, and a department of motor vehicles record check for $19.99.
- You Can Browse Others’ Ratings. Based on a five-star system, with “five” being excellent, you can look at each sitter’s rating, as well as feedback that others have offered. However, many sitters do not yet have ratings, either because they have not yet taken any jobs, or because their employers have not left feedback.
- Sitter Profiles Are Easy to Read. If you take out an ad in the newspaper, you don’t know anything about the people applying for the job. However, the sitter profiles let you get a feel for the prospective sitters. For instance, you can learn what the sitters are like, what their hobbies are, where they went to college, what they majored in, as well as what second languages they speak.
- Subscription Cancellation Is Simple. Once you sign up for a subscription, it renews automatically. However, cancelling is easy and simply requires that you push a “cancel” button.
While Sittercity offers many advantages, there are some disadvantages, which can cause you some difficulty when looking for a sitter.
- Help Is Often Seasonal. Through using Sittercity myself, I have noticed that many sitters sign up for the site looking for temporary jobs during the summer or during holiday breaks. Because Sittercity is free for the babysitters, they keep their profiles on the site, even though they may be back in school and are no longer interested in taking jobs. This can make choosing a sitter difficult, especially if you are looking through the sitters yourself to find one you like. Sittercity recommends that parents post a job and wait for applicants to apply. However, I took a more proactive approach and also combed through the many sitters available in our area, which is ultimately how I found our current sitter. In addition, because some sitters are available only seasonally, you may find a great sitter that you can hire for only a few months.
- Not all Sitters Are Reliable. During my search, I had several difficulties. One sitter applied for the job, was interviewed, accepted the job, and then never showed up. My calls to her went unreturned. I also interviewed an older sitter for a morning job, yet she told me in the interview that she likes to spend her mornings at home and doesn’t like to leave the house. Needless to say, I didn’t hire her. I don’t know if my experience was unique or if it is a common problem, but I found several of the sitters I interviewed to be unreliable.
- Some Parts of the Site Aren’t Accessible With the Free Trial. If you sign up for the free trial, you are only allowed to run an ad and interact with those who respond. You cannot look for sitters yourself by combing through the sitter profiles, and you cannot run background checks. The free trial is more of a teaser, as you may soon discover that the site is not fully functional for you unless you become a paying member.
If you are considering using Sittercity, keep in mind that they offer a generous referral program. Introduce your friends to Sittercity, and for every person who signs up with your referral code, you will earn a $30 Amazon gift card. Not only will Sittercity potentially help you find a sitter for your own family, but it can also help your friends find a sitter and give you a reward in the process for referring them.
Have you used Sittercity? What are your likes and dislikes?