Domestic Helper (Maid) Interview Guide
Published on 16 Dec 2023, last updated on 2 Feb 2024
Table of contents
Create a job description before the interview
Before interviewing a potential domestic helper (maid), discuss and determine the helper’s key role and responsibilities. Once priorities and management style preferences have been determined, we recommend employers to create a job description that will include priorities, list of tasks, a potential schedule and the helper’s ideal personality type (bubbly, mellow, cheerful, etc.). This will help guide the recruitment process and support the employer in setting clear expectations with the candidates about the job they are interviewing for.
If there will be more than one primary supervisor of the helper (for example, your spouse, parent, sibling etc.), we strongly recommend that they join the interview so that every relevant person managing the worker has the opportunity to get to know her and vice versa.
It helps to already have a preliminary idea about the job offer and corresponding terms, conditions and benefits such as rest day arrangements, salary range, preferred food arrangement (sharing meals or food allowance provision), and accommodation.
Employers can start the interview process by asking the applicant simple introductory questions to help the applicant warm up and feel more comfortable. Domestic helpers tend to be shy and nervous at the start of the interviews because many have very limited experience in professional interviews.
- How are you today?
- Tell me a bit about yourself and your family.
- What is your reason for wanting to work abroad?
- Who will care for your children once you leave the country?
- Do you have any personal hobbies?
- Why do you want to work in Malaysia as opposed to Hong Kong or Singapore?
Most domestic helper applicants would have some experience in domestic work, either as formal domestic helpers abroad, or locally in their home countries. Others may be complete first-timers and only have domestic work experience tending to their own homes.
- How many children did you look after? What were their ages and how was their personality?
- Did you manage your own tasks or did you have a very fixed schedule? Describe a typical day of your job in Dubai
- Did you have a co-worker?
- What was your favourite part of the job?
- When you did housekeeping, what kind of household items did you use? (vacuum, washing machine, duster, etc.)
- Did you have any problems with your previous employers? How did you resolve them?
- Out of all your job experiences, which one did you like the most? What did you find challenging?
- What type of cuisine did you cook? Did you get guidance in cooking? Did you use any recipe books or were you shown how to prepare dishes? Name me some dishes
- I see that you cared for dogs before. Are you comfortable with any type of dog? Can you describe your pet-care related duties
The list of questions for this section is non-exhaustive. Since the helper may have a lot of experiences, focus on experiences or duties that are relevant for your job description
Tip: Describing a typical daily/weekly/seasonal schedule is a straightforward and comprehensive way to give your helper an idea of their roles and responsibilities
- Since you will be caring for my child, can you share your experience with infant care?
- I sometimes have guests that come over the weekends; are you comfortable with cooking for large parties up to 10-15 people?
- I have two active children under the age of 5, and some days are quite hectic. They have school and then after school activities etc. How would you manage your time?
- I have an existing Indonesian helper. Are you comfortable working with a co-worker from a different country? Do you have any concerns about this?
- My child is very talkative and would like to spend a lot of time with you. What activities could you do with my child?
It is a good idea to find out how the applicants will react in different scenarios. The goal of this exercise is to improve your understanding of their personality and how they problem-solve. Personality and problem solving are not things which can be easily taught or learned. Try asking some ‘situational questions.’
- I see that you made a mistake and point it out to you. How would you feel? How would you respond?
- You accidentally drop a plate. What would you do?
- You seriously cut yourself with a knife. What would you do?
- If a child uses abusive words with you, what would you do?
- Imagine you are home alone and a workman rings the doorbell. Your employer didn’t tell you anyone was coming. What do you do?
- What is the first thing you should do before you cook any meal?
- The children are arguing with one another over a toy, how do you handle the situation?
- My mother-in-law who is a bit strict visited one day and spoke a bit firmly with you. How would you respond?
- How would you put a baby to sleep? What if she cries for a long time?
Employers should also take the time to discuss other important items to align with the potential applicant.
- Rest day arrangement (fixed weekly rest days, irregular, etc.)
- Accommodation offering (room with aircond/no aircond, size of room etc.)
- Important house rules such as responsible phone usage, safety guidelines
Employers should always reserve some time during the interview for the helper to ask any questions she may have about the job. It helps to show an encouraging and open demeanour so that applicants actually ask the questions they have, which can reveal important insight into the applicant’s suitability for your household.
After the interview, employers should debrief and consider whether the applicant would be a good fit for the household.
Sample reflection questions:
- Do you see your children/other family members being able to get along with her?
- Do you think that your management style suits her personality?
- Do you think her working style (independent/instruction follower/active/passive) is suitable for my household tasks?
- How much are you willing to pay this worker to attract her to your job?
- Domestic helpers tend to be shy during interviews. It helps to ask probing and follow-up questions if they reply with mono-syllable answers
- Ask open-ended questions when you can to avoid “Yes”/ “No” answers
- Use simple/ uncomplicated words because for a majority of helpers, English is not their first language
- Keep the questions relevant to domestic work and personality/work style type questions