Should you reject a domestic helper with a bad reference?

One of the most frequent dilemmas for families looking to hire domestic help is when they find someone they really like who has a bad reference or some other red flag pops up. Then, families have to decide whether or not to take a chance and hire that person, or look elsewhere.


The problem is that it’s not easy to make this kind of decision, because finding the right household staff is not easy. After all, we must remember that everyone makes mistakes and no one’s history is going to be perfect. So, employers need to ask themselves if this “bad reference” was down to a one-time error, or was it part of a pattern? Another consideration is how long ago this bad incident took place – five months ago might be worrying, but a blot on someone’s copybook from five years ago can usually be forgiven.

You should also consider how serious the offense was. For example, if your proposed babysitter has a couple of speeding tickets it’s probably less of a concern than a conviction for violence or theft. For those who’re unsure of what offense took place, it might be an idea to ask the candidate about it. Have a “heart to heart” so to speak, and get their side of the story. This can help you to decide if it’s worth giving someone a chance.

When evaluating someone’s bad reference, be sure to remain open-minded. You can be critical, but you should also be fair to each candidate. For example, if a candidate has a bad reference from an ex-employer, but that employer had hired them for several years, you need to ask why that person kept them on for so long if they were doing a bad job. You also need to keep in mind that if it’s only one bad reference against several good ones, it could be down to something fairly trivial like a personality clash or bad chemistry between the two of them – which means it may not happen again with you. Another possibility is that the candidate’s ex-employer was completely unreasonable with their demands, and chose to give a bad reference to ‘get back at them’.

As such, it’s not fair to dismiss an applicant entirely just because of one bad reference. You need to take all the factors into consideration when choosing a domestic helper, and so one red flag doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t give someone a chance.

Still, you will also need to exercise caution too. The last thing you want to do is let an unqualified, untrustworthy or downright dangerous individual into your home. Then again, you don’t want to risk losing the opportunity to hire a very talented and grateful worker just because of some simple mistake or personality clash in their past.

As such, it might be a good idea to give someone a chance over a short term period of perhaps one or two weeks, during which time you can carefully monitor their performance and see if they’re up to the task.