Hiring The One
It can be scary reading all about the horror stories online of what household helpers can be capable of. We’ve all seen videos of yayas spanking and maltreating their alagas, going out on an errand and never coming back, applicants from the province asking for transportation fare and never showing up. The list goes on.
Hiring household helpers can be a tedious (and expensive!) process. As we continue to go through the hiring process and learn from our mistakes, Albert and I have come up with our own principles when it comes to hiring household helpers:
Prevention Better Than Cure
Everything starts with the standards you place during the hiring process. It sets the tone for the environment and culture you want for your own home. As much as possible, we try to get it right the first time around. It’s easier to be choosy when hiring rather than having regrets later on.
Even if you’re desperate. Especially when you’re desperate.
I write this having the luxury of working from home while others have fixed work obligations and commitments. My timeline and endurance for being helper-less can be longer, especially when I think of all the bad hires we’ve experienced. Majority of the time, I’d always rather be helperless and tired than having someone I feel uncomfortable with in my very own home.
Face the truth — 90% of the time, you don’t know these people AT ALL. They will sleep in the same house with you, prepare your food, have access to your possessions. One careless mistake can burn your house down, hurt your kids, or even open the door to your husband having an affair with the maid. I know it sounds overdramatic, but these things happen.
Where to Hire?
The most ideal source of new helpers are referrals from family and friends who have hired them before. They can share experiences and what to expect, both positive and negative, so you have a higher level of confidence and know what you’re getting into. But these come far and few in between.
I’ve had an all-around helper who stayed with us for 8 months (while her expat employers were away for vacation), and those were the most stress-free 8 months of our household. Hannah’s first yaya was also a referral from a good friend, and she stayed for us almost a year before leaving to take care of her mother.
2. Recruitment Agencies
I’ve stopped using recruitment agencies because of bad experiences with them. (Feel free to list on your blacklisted agencies on the comments below). Aside from the exorbitant placement fees, the quality of helpers they give keeps getting lower and lower. Plus, forget about getting a timely replacement.
The usual profile of an agency maid is someone who may be skilled in what they do and have lived in the city for a long time. Based on experience, agency maids attitude-wise tend to be more proud, entitled, and bungangera. The last time I got from a recruitment agency was in 2016 and we haven’t looked back ever since.
3. Informal Recruiters
Our lone helper now (1 yaya for two kids, with me at 8-months pregnant) is from an informal recruiter referred to me by a friend. Informal recruiters are usually older ladies. They do recruitment as a sideline and charge 1,500-6,000 pesos per hire, with no or one guaranteed replacement.
The helpers they hire usually are people who live in their barangay. In general, I found these informal recruiters easier to talk to and to empathize with, and my success rate in getting a refund or a replacement is much higher than the registered recruitment agencies.
Tip: Explain your situation to these informal recruiters and give them extra (cash or food) whenever they come to drop off applicants so that they’ll remember and prioritize you.
It’s become a trend lately for strangers to message randomly on Facebook asking if you need a helper. I haven’t tried this before so I have no experience about it but my gut just screams “No!!!” at the idea.
Facebook can be beneficial, though. Ask your applicants for their Facebook profile name (because it’s usually different from their real name), and get an idea of what they look like, their families, and what they post. I know it’s being judgmental, but let’s face it. We all judge people on a certain level. That’s how our brains are wired to think, to make assumptions based on previous data we have collected through our experiences.
Keep an open mind, but trust your gut. One of my good friends hired someone who looked iffy to her, but she didn’t want to seem judgmental, and the iffy helper tried to kill herself in their home after a few weeks. Trust your gut! If there’s ever a least inappropriate time to judge, it would be to someone who you’re placing your trust to in caring for your kids.
Pamasahes (Transportation Money)
No For Us
It’s common for applicants to ask for pamasahe. And it’s a no guarantees situation. Our yaya who has been with us for two years so far was a blind leap of faith. We had no way to know if she was going to come after we sent her pamasahe from the province.
It was a good experience for us that we did it again, only to be left hanging and waiting. So right now, it’s a fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me situation. We don’t send pamasahe anymore, no matter how much we need a helper. I would ask the applicant to borrow money and reimburse them once they arrive, to which they almost always reply “Walang mauutangan dito” (There’s no one here we can borrow from).
Wait, Wait and Even More Waiting
And it’s not because of the lost money. It’s also the waiting time, waiting for them to come (if ever), waiting an extra few days (because the boat “broke down”), and a bunch of other excuses.
Going back to the original point, we ask the informal recruiter to just advance the transportation fee for the applicant. We’ll ask them nicely and tell them if they’re really sure about the person they are recommending to us, then they will surely come. And we will reimburse the recruiter once we meet them in person.
Otherwise, we’d rather just wait for an applicant who is already in Metro Manila.
I know it’s cutting off a huge number of potential applicants from the pool, but we just see it now as not giving others the temptation of stealing from us and leaving us hanging.
Ask The Same Questions Repeatedly
When I had my first pregnancy, we were wayyy stricter with hiring. We would only hire people we’ve met during a face-to-face interview. But market forces are at play and there are more employers than applicants. So we settle for phone interviews first, then meet with them in person.
I’ve also learned my husband’s lawyer-style of asking the same questions over and over. It was really annoying at first, in my head I would say “She already answered the question! Are you not listening?” But Albert, ever brilliant, says it’s a way to check for two things – consistency and patience. Are they consistent with the details and answers they give? Do they get annoyed easily when you ask the same question? If they aren’t patient enough to answer again or elaborate in the interview, you can bet the odds that they’re not going to be patient in taking care of your kids either.
Clear Expectations From The Start
During the interview (whether phone or in person), we also lay out everything as clearly as possible. The work load, the home environment, salary, benefits, and expectations.
We don’t have a written contract (yet), but there are the ground rules I lay out for any applicant, whether yaya or helper:
- No Cash Advance
- Day-Offs, Vacations
- Work Responsibilities, Work Hours, Break Times
- Privileges and Benefits – monetary, government-mandated, bonuses, etc.
- Values: Respect, Communication, Teamwork and Accountability
- Cite Reasons for Termination of Previous Employees
No yaya, No problem?
There’s a popular phrase “No Yaya, No Problem”, and in some ways it’s right. You don’t have to concern yourself with looking behind your shoulder (or your phone’s CCTV app) to see if your helpers are up to no good. There is no room for doubt because there is no one to give your trust to. And there is definitely less drama since there is one less human person’s emotions, problems and personal history to concern yourself with.
… but I LIKE having a yaya.
I admire moms who love spending 24/7 with their kids and single-handedly juggle so many hats. But that’s not me. Even if I am already a work-at-home mom, I like having me time, time with my husband, and space to pursue other interests.
It’s always a risk to bring in strangers to your home. Every time I see a Facebook post about a helper who broke their employers’ trust, it makes me a bit more on my guard and review what precautions my husband and I can take.
We’ve had our share of crazies and thieves, learning from mistakes along the way.