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    February 07, 2020
    Interviewing Potential Helpers
    • Post By: Eugene Chan

    When seeking to employ a domestic helper, one of the main steps in the whole process is interviewing the potential candidate. Through the interview you would be able to assess her character and personality, skills and experiences and ultimately determine if she will be a good fit for your needs and your family. 


    Interviews can be carried out over video conferencing or in person, video conferencing is more common for those who are still overseas but are looking to come to your current location for work as a helper. Some things you can prepare for the interview are of course questions pertaining to her tasks and some personal questions as well. You may reference her biodata as filled out by the agency which should be quite concise and give a good amount of insight as to her capabilities for required skills and her family background. But of course her skills may be top notch but personality has to play a part as well, as she is not a direct member of your family but will be staying in as part of your household, it would be best to determine if there is a positive “click” during the interview. 


    It is also advisable that the employer be clear about why they have decided to hire a helper, is it for child care, elderly care or general household chores management? This will allow potential employers to source and employ the helper that is of the best fit for your household in the shortest time possible, so we advise preparing the questions for the helper beforehand.


    In the event you are hiring a new helper which means it is her first time working as a helper, you would most likely be engaging an agency. For transfer helpers, who have working experience already and are ready to transfer to a new employer, you will be engaging them through agency, or individually through external platforms like social media, or other platforms. The type of questions will mostly be similar but will definitely vary in certain aspects.


    For Transfer helpers who are currently still employed, it is common that you would be meeting her in a public area or arrange for her to come to your home for an interview. This is completely normal and is not a form of soliciting. Regardless of what type of helper you are meeting be sure to be friendly and smile more, but also maintain professionalism. Share with her more about your own lifestyle, e.g. pets and children, or ah ma and ah gong are living together too. This will allow the helper to have a realistic idea of her potential job scope.


    Be concise about the type of questions you are posing, choose the most relevant ones so you are able to remember all the details of her response. Perhaps prepare a few questions regarding job scope, personal and some questions regarding specific situations and scenarios such as in the event of an emergency. For agency intervention, let the agency understand that you would like to hear the input directly from the helper herself, but of course assist with some translation when required. Popular candidates will of course be highly sought after, so if you wish to have some choices do let the agencies or helper know that should someone offer them a job to let you know. 


    The type of questions you ask are entirely subjective, and could be determined by a couple of factors. It could be based on her experience level, her ethnicity, whether she is a good fit for your family especially with elderly or young ones. Below is a general discussion on the different categories for questions that you may include in your own set!



    Depending on the type of helper you are interviewing, which could be a fresh/new helper or a transfer helper, the questions will be quite different. For new helpers it would be more about understanding her willingness to improve on the basic skills she would already be equipped with and having a more guided approach to her working with you and your family. For transfer helpers they already have the experience and skills gained while working with their previous employer so are generally more ready to hit the ground running with less guidance on the employer’s part. Here are some sample questions you may ask about skills:

    • What kind of cuisine can you cook, Chinese, western, Japanese etc? If you watch a cooking show or follow a cook book are you able to create the dishes?
    • Have you had any experience in other type of fields like hospitality, service or even restaurant?
    • Out of all the basic skills, which would you feel you are better at?



    Experience varies from helper to helper as it depends on the household she is about to join or has worked at. For new helpers questions regarding experience will mostly be about finding out her willingness to carry out certain types of work. For experience helpers it will be more of finding out which type of tasks she is most experienced at completing, of course discussing about tasks she may not have worked on before e.g. washing cars or taking care of children/elderly. Language could also be a new skill to pick up or she may already be equipped with some basic dialect or other languages from working with previous employers.

    • Are you willing or have you taken care of pets?
    • Are you willing or have experience with taking care of elderly?
    • Do you have any other basic language skills?


    Basic Personal 

    With personal questions of course there is some level of sensitivity involved, for both new and transfer helpers. Personal information like having children or any other special talents the helper may have could not only allow you to shortlist more efficiently, but also have sort of a mini ice-breaking session. Find out about her hobbies, her passions, perhaps you might have some common ground and could enjoy hobbies together for a more positive work relationship?

    • Do you have a partner or children?
    • Current status of parents, are they in good health etc.
    • Any children and how old? 
    • Is there any type of foods you do not handle or consume?
    • Do you have any hobbies? Any interests? Singing, embroidery, etc?
    • Are you willing to learn or know how to use public transport?
    • Are you willing to learn or is independent enough to go market/grocery shopping by yourself?


    Scenario based

    There are other questions too that gives you an idea of her intuition, especially in emergency scenarios which may occur. You could prepare some emergency scenarios and see how she responds but of course if the answer she has given is less than satisfactory, knowledge on the right thing to do can always be imparted to her from the employers.

    • If ah ma fell down, what would you do?
    • Didi was supposed to be at the school gate at 3pm but he isn’t there.
    • A stranger has come to the door claiming to be a plumber but mam or sir did not tell you they are expecting someone.