36 daycare interview questions to assess professionals’ skills and experience

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Daycare institutions play a key role in children’s development. Hiring skilled daycare staff is essential to providing a safe and nurturing environment for children – and to giving parents peace of mind. 

For this, you need a hiring process that enables you to identify professionals who have the right blend of skills, empathy, and patience.

But how do you evaluate those qualities in candidates? Credentials on paper won’t show you whether they have what it takes to work with children.

Instead, we suggest combining skills tests with structured interviews to evaluate candidates’ skills accurately and objectively – and find the most suitable people for your daycare center.

Below, we’ve compiled the most important daycare job interview questions you should ask applicants, along with their sample answers to help you assess their answers. You’ll also find information on how to assess the skills of daycare staff to hire the best talent.

How to evaluate daycare skills

Daycare teachers and other staff have diverse responsibilities, from creating a nurturing and stimulating environment for children to ensuring their safety and well-being at all times. 

To ensure that each person you hire has the appropriate skills for childcare, you need to make unique considerations when designing your recruitment process. Parents will ask you about it, too: More than 70% of those who enroll their children in daycare centers factor in the qualification of staff when choosing a facility. 

The best way to hire a strong team is to adopt a skills-based approach to hiring. This enables you to find candidates who have the right balance of role-specific competences and interpersonal skills.

For this, you can use pre-employment skills testing to identify the most skilled applicants in your talent pool – and then invite them to interviews to get a more nuanced understanding of their emotional intelligence, adaptability, and creativity.

This enables you to filter out those candidates who simply don’t have the right skills and only focus on top talent when conducting interviews. 

Here are some skill tests you could use when hiring for daycare roles: 

  • Understanding Instructions: Understanding and following protocols and instructions is essential in daycare institutions and helps protect children’s health and well-being.

  • Communication: Daycare workers need to be able to communicate with children, parents, and other staff clearly and confidently. Evaluate their skills with this test. 

  • Critical Thinking: Critical thinking enables daycare staff to accurately assess children’s needs and make sound decisions on how to best stimulate their development. 

  • Problem Solving: In childcare, every day comes with its own set of challenges, which is why you need to hire expert problem solvers.

  • Time Management: Can candidates manage their time effectively and strike the right balance between structured and unstructured activities? Find out with this test.

  • Culture Add: Cultural sensitivity and competence is essential when working with children from diverse backgrounds and in a diverse team. Assess candidates’ culture-add potential with this test.

With TestGorilla, you can combine up to five skills tests in a single assessment to shortlist the best candidates. After that, you can invite them to an interview for a more detailed evaluation of their abilities.

Top 18 daycare interview questions and answers to assess applicants’ skills

Below, you’ll find our selection of the best interview questions you can ask when hiring daycare teachers and other staff, along with sample answers to help you evaluate your candidates’ skills.

1. Why did you choose a career in childcare?

This question enables you to get an insight into your candidates’ motivation and the reasons behind their career choices. 

Answers will vary; some candidates might say they’re passionate about working with children because they love nurturing their curiosity and helping them grow into confident, caring individuals. Others may say that they’re interested in making a lasting impact in children’s lives, or that they love the challenge of a job where each day is different.

To see whether candidates’ expectations align with what you can offer as an employer, you can use our Motivation test.

2. How do you adjust your communication style when interacting with children of different age groups?

Experienced candidates will know that age-appropriate communication is essential in childcare and might give specific examples: 

  • With toddlers, they might use lots of hands-on activities and simple language to keep them engaged

  • With kids aged 3 to 7, they might introduce more complex concepts but always in a playful, accessible way

  • With older children, they might look for ways to stimulate their critical thinking by asking open-ended questions and encouraging them to express their ideas

Regardless of the age group, candidates must be patient and validate children’s feelings and experiences to build a strong relationship.

3. Can you provide three examples of developmentally appropriate activities for toddlers?

Skilled daycare professionals will have plenty of ideas for toddler activities. The best candidates will also be able to explain how each activity helps children in their emotional and intellectual development. Examples might include: 

  • Storytelling, which stimulates language development and imaginative play

  • Art projects, which stimulate creative thinking and expression

  • Using building blocks, which encourages problem solving and fine motor skills

  • Music and movement activities, which stimulate coordination

  • Read-aloud sessions where children can turn pages and point to pictures, which nurtures their language skills

4. What strategies do you use to monitor and support children’s social and emotional development?

Daycare staff has a key role in helping children develop their social skills and emotional awareness. 

Candidates might mention that they aim to create a safe space where children feel comfortable expressing themselves and keep an eye on their interactions. They might also explain how they use storytelling and role-playing to discuss emotions and teach empathy, or structured group activities to teach cooperation and respect for others.

5. When you meet a new group of children, what do you do to gain their trust?

Answers to this question will help you ascertain whether candidates are able to quickly break the ice and engage with children easily. They might use different strategies to gain a group’s trust, such as playing a game, making sure they learn everyone’s name quickly, and sharing something about themselves to make the interaction more balanced. 

The best applicants might also mention the importance of consistency when interacting with children, because it shows them they can feel secure and open up.

6. What would you do if a child in your care is consistently showing aggressive behavior towards other children?

The first priority of a daycare worker in this situation would be to ensure the immediate safety of all children. Next, they would focus on the child to identify triggers or patterns in the behavior and see how they can address the root cause of the issue. 

Skilled applicants will explain that they’d then work on helping the child develop their emotional vocabulary to be able to express feelings without aggression. They might also use structured activities like role-playing and cooperative games to promote empathy and sharing.

Communication with parents and other daycare staff is also essential in helping address any underlying issues. You can use our free Communication test to evaluate candidates’ skills more accurately.

7. How and when would you involve parents in addressing and managing a child’s problem behavior?

The best candidates will explain that they’d initiate open, non-judgmental communication with parents to share their observations and seek insights about the child's behavior at home. This way, they’d be able to establish consistent strategies to address problem behavior in all settings. 

It’s vital to ensure that parents feel supported and part of the solution – and also to schedule regular follow-ups.

8. Describe a situation where you had to handle a difficult conversation with a parent.

Answers will vary based on candidates’ past experiences but will inevitably show you whether they know how to handle difficult discussions with children’s guardians. 

Do they understand the importance of empathy and active listening in such situations? Are they able to communicate their concerns in a way that focuses on the child’s well-being and provide potential solutions? Do they know how to make parents feel heard and reassured? 

9. How do you address and respect the different parenting styles and values of families?

Cultural sensitivity is essential when working with children; not everyone has the same background and each family is unique. 

Are candidates looking to understand families’ values and expectations? Do they establish open channels of communication? Are they respectful of differences in parenting styles? Do they know how to guide parents and suggest alternative approaches if they’re concerned for a child’s well-being? 

10. A child gets injured in the daycare. What do you do?

In this situation, candidates’ immediate priority should be the safety and comfort of the child.

Look for structured answers who show an applicant’s ability to stay calm and methodical. If necessary, they should provide first aid (if they’re trained to do so) or get help as quickly as possible. 

Calling medical assistance is a must if the injury is serious, while also making sure other children are safe and occupied. They need to document the incident and get in touch with the child’s parents to explain what happened and the steps they took. 

Following the daycare's protocol meticulously is essential in such situations.

11. Can you give an example of a health emergency you've handled in the past?

Not all candidates will have experience with medical emergencies but for those who do, it’s important to get information about how they’ve handled these in the past. 

Did the candidate contact emergency services immediately? Did they check the child’s records for health-related information? Did they contact their parents swiftly? Did they ask for support from other staff members? Did they manage to stay calm? 

12. What's your experience with toddlers' sleep needs and schedule?

Candidates who have worked with toddlers will know that maintaining a consistent nap routine is important for toddlers’ health and well-being. 

They might mention that in a previous role, they’ve adhered to a structured nap schedule, ensuring a calm and cozy environment. Experienced professionals might have also helped educate parents on best practices for sleep routines at home.

13. How do you establish and maintain discipline in the classroom?

Discipline depends on setting clear, consistent expectations and creating a positive learning environment. 

Candidates might explain that they start by establishing ground rules with the children, involving them in the process so they feel a sense of ownership. They might also mention that they use positive reinforcement by acknowledging positive behaviors and gently redirecting negative ones. 

Look for answers that mention the importance of consistency and applying rules fairly and predictably to create a sense of stability. 

14. Describe a creative project you introduced and led in your previous role.

Creative projects help develop children’s curiosity and imagination, so they play an important role in most daycare facilities. 

Do candidates have previous experience with such projects? How did they maintain children’s enthusiasm and engagement? How did they make sure that every child enjoyed participating? What did they achieve? Ask follow up questions if necessary. 

15. How do you keep children engaged for extended periods?

Engagement is best achieved by taking into consideration each child’s interests and learning style. Candidates might give examples of different activities they use or mention that they sometimes work with smaller groups to encourage hands-on participation and interaction. Establishing a balance between structured and unstructured play helps ensure there’s enough variety and novelty every day. 

16. What's your experience with field trips and activities outside of the facility?

Have candidates helped organize field trips in the past? If yes, ask them about how they picked destinations and activities, how they coordinated logistics, and what safety protocols they had in place. Did they engage children before the trip by discussing what they'd see and learn? Did they reflect on the trip afterward? This helps make the experience more meaningful. 

17. Can you provide an example of a tough problem you solved in a previous daycare role?

Daycare work comes with a wide variety of challenges, so strong problem-solving skills are essential. 

Did candidates need to find better ways to engage with parents? Were some children having a hard time adhering to nap schedules? Did they need to make the most out of a limited budget for supplies? 

Whatever specific issues they mention, look for answers that clearly outline the ways they identified problems and the solutions they implemented. 

18. How do you handle disagreements or conflicts with colleagues?

When conflicts arise, candidates should be able to approach them calmly and professionally, focusing on the issue. For this, they might explain they use active listening and empathy to understand the other person’s perspective and to find a common ground and a solution that addresses the concerns of everyone involved. 

Look for candidates who have the right team-player qualities and know how to turn conflicts into learning experiences and use them to strengthen the team. 

16 additional daycare interview questions you can ask

If you’re looking for more inspiration and ideas, we’ve compiled 16 more daycare job interview questions you can ask candidates. 

  • How do you plan and organize a typical day in the daycare?

  • How do you plan children's activities for the week?

  • How do you keep track of each child’s progress and needs?

  • How do you handle a situation where a child is being ostracized by others because of their different cultural background?

  • How do you balance routine and flexibility? 

  • Describe a particularly rewarding experience you had when working with children.

  • How do you handle the stress and emotional demands of working in a daycare?

  • What are your long-term career goals? How would this role help you achieve them?

  • How would you handle a situation where you witnessed a colleague behaving unprofessionally?

  • How do you maintain professional boundaries while building trust and rapport with children's families?

  • What skills are you currently working to improve?

  • How do you integrate new ideas and approaches into your work with children?

  • How do you ensure a safe and hygienic environment in a daycare facility?

  • How do you monitor children for signs of illness or distress?

  • What techniques do you use to encourage creativity and critical thinking in children?

  • How do you incorporate music, art, and physical movement into children’s daily routine?

For more ideas, check out our situational and behavioral interview questions. Those aren’t role-specific, so you might need to adapt them to the context of daycare recruitment.

And, if you’re looking to hire a nanny or a babysitter, check out our selection of the best nanny interview questions.

Hire skilled daycare staff with the right interview questions

With the right strategy and tools, you can hire teachers and staff for your daycare facility quickly and efficiently.

Use a combination of skills tests to evaluate applicants’ suitability for each role and then invite the best talent to an interview. With the right interview questions, it’ll be easy to gain additional insights into candidates’ strengths and weaknesses

This approach gives you a better understanding of the candidates’ abilities and interpersonal skills and enables you to eliminate bias and hire the best childcare professionals confidently.

Hire the right talent with the help of TestGorilla. Sign up for our free demo to talk to one of our experts – or try out our free plan to see how we can help you select the best candidates.

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