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Interviewing helpers

  1. #1
    tinhau is offline Registered User
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    Interviewing helpers

    Hi everyone

    Seeking some advice regarding interviewing helpers.

    Our current helper is not working out mainly because her English skills are quite poor. This is an issue that has emerged over the last couple of months. We are not confident that in an emergency that she could communicate the problem, or take appropriate action.

    When we interviewed her, she was able to answer the questions adequately. In retrospect, we realise that we were not thorough enough to test her fluency in English.So now we're looking for another helper. We would appreciate any advice on how to conduct an interview or screen candidates with a focus on good English skills.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    illumination is offline Registered User
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    Hi Tin hau,

    We interviewed about 25 candidates over a period of 2 months before hiring our helper. It was a lot of hard work but it paid off. I finally found my helper through the ads on geoexpat. Yes, speaking good English was a big priority on our list. I used to call the various helpers through the ads posted. If I found it difficult to understand them on phone I would never call them for an interview. While meeting in person, I would make sure I did not have accent issues . Rejected a few good candidates purely on that basis. Communication is critical. I am not sure if you need any particular test, but spend some time with the next candidate and you will see if you can communicate well with each other. As Rani here at Geobaby adviced me then, what works for you might not work for another person, which is so true! I am glad I hired my current helper though she has two broken contracts.

  3. #3
    tinhau is offline Registered User
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    Hi Illumination,

    Sorry if this is a second post - not sure what happened to my last reply. To summarise, your advice is helpful and we'll definitely screen by phone call this time. Before we could only screen using a face to face interview (by request of helper agency), and it was hard to gauge English skills beyond the usual interview questions (for which one can prep).

    Accents aren't an issue for us, it's more a vocab issue. Our helper doesn't have a good grasp of basic English terms like sink or fridge (she keeps calling the fridge the 'ref'). After four months, the miscommunication is causing havoc in the house.

    Thanks again for the advice.

  4. #4
    rani's Avatar
    rani is offline Administrator
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    Our helpers have always called the fridge the "ref" too!!!

    We hired our current helper from GeoExpat too, and she's been amazing. We interviewed loads and it can take 2-3 weeks to find the right person for your family. Here are my tips:


    Would recommend making a list of what you're looking for in a helper: cooking skills, experience with babies/toddler or older kids, good cleaner, good communicator, good references (do call up previous employers).

    As you scan through the Geoexpat ads, you can shortlist the candidates. Then text each one to ask them to call you for a phone interview.

    Have some simple questions prepared for the phone interview. If you have trouble understanding her or she you, move on to the next person. As a working Mum I have to give a lot of instructions over the phone, and we need to be able to communicate.

    If she answers the simple questions well, move on to some more complex questions. If she enjoys cooking, ask what her best dish is. Or if she takes care of the kids, what games she plays. If the phone interview goes well, ask her to meet you for a face-to-face interview.

    Most helpers are free on Sunday or Sat and will come to your home. Line up a few interviews on Sunday. If you have kids, make sure they're around and see how they interact with each other.

    Also you can check the helper's passport to see who her previous employers are. Just to verify her work experience and the number of yrs she's been in HK.

    Do call previous employers for a reference. If they have worked for Chinese families, who can't speak English ask a friend or colleague to call for you.

    Also have a read through this article

    Hiring A Helper: Interview Tips - Hong Kong GeoBaby

    Place an ad on GeoExpat here:
    https://hongkong.geoexpat.com/classi.../helper-wanted
    illumination likes this.
    Founder of GeoBaby.Com

  5. #5
    tinhau is offline Registered User
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    Hi Rani

    Thanks very much for the advice, I'll definitely check out the article. Very useful.

    We did try to use Geoexpat before but to no avail, many of the candidates did not have a reference where I could contact the previous employer. I'll try again and make it clear that a contactable referee is a requirement.

    Also good to know that 'ref' may be a commonly used term back home for the fridge (I did ask her that but she said no, perhaps she didn't understand me....)!

    Thanks again, much appreciated.

  6. #6
    rani's Avatar
    rani is offline Administrator
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    @tinhau it must be short for "Refrigerator"

    Good luck with the search!
    Founder of GeoBaby.Com

  7. #7
    Nanki is offline Registered User
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    Hi,
    i have just moved to HK from Singapore and I am 15 weeks pregnant with our first child.

    I am looking to hire a helper from the Phillipines/Indonesia & I wanted to know about other mums' experience doing that. I am sure the agency will provide me with some basic information, but just wondering if a basic cv and phone conversation - without meeting the helper is too much of a risk to take.
    What are your thoughts on hiring a new helper vs someone who has worked here?

    Also, any idea tips on when we should start looking, considering we would like her to join around July-August?

    Thanks in advance.

  8. #8
    rani's Avatar
    rani is offline Administrator
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    Hi @Nanki, I've done 2 direct hires from the Philippines.

    The first, was recommended by another helper and I interviewed her over the phone. She turned out to be fantastic, and was with us for 5 years before she left to get married.

    Second I also interviewed over the phone. Thought she would be ok, and as there was an overlap between the 2 helpers figured she's pick up quickly. She lasted 10 months with us.

    So it's a real hit/miss. The last couple of helpers I've hired locally. You can interview them a couple of times/ do a trial etc.

    Have a browse through the GeoExpat Helper Ads. If you hire a finished contract helper it only takes 3-4 weeks to process her paperwork. Terminated contracts take a bit longer approx 8 weeks.
    Founder of GeoBaby.Com

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