Hiring Nursery Staff? 5 Soft Skills to Look Out For

What they are, why they matter and how to see if your candidates have them.
April 28, 2017
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So you’re looking to hire a new teacher or practitioner at your nursery. You’ve got your list of candidates ready to go. What next?

As a nursery manager, you’ll know the ‘hard skills’ you need to find – the technical skills and abilities that are a must for everyone you hire. Child development, EYFS, safeguarding. Easily counting a room full of bobbing heads. The ability to make magical things happen with a cardboard box, perhaps.

But what about soft skills? Understanding the personality traits that demonstrate how someone will act on a day to day basis in your nursery setting is crucial to finding the best staff. So let’s get going, shall we?


You want someone who you can trust to deal with everything that comes at them in a calm and reasonable way. Happy to do the same thing a million times if they know it’s going to lead to the right outcome.


We all know nurturing children can be a labour of love sometimes. You need to find teachers who can see the bigger picture and understand the importance of perseverance. It could be resolving a conflict, improving certain behaviours, or teaching a new skill. Either way, you need to look for that special someone who takes pleasure in getting an outcome they’ve worked on for weeks or even months.

The Interview Questions

  • Tell me about the last time you were really satisfied with an accomplishment.
  • When was the last time your patience was really tested?
  • How do you handle things that frustrate you?


Comfortable and effective at understanding or talking to everyone they come into contact with, this isn’t just about finding a good talker. Much more important is finding a good listener.


In any environment where somebody needs to deal with a wide variety of people, communication is essential. No more so in a nursery, then. You need someone who can listen to and understand children’s obstacles. Someone who can collaborate with and engage other staff. Someone who can enthusiastically and professionally interact with parents. Not always an easy task.

The Interview Questions

  • What role do you normally take up in a team that you’re a part of?
  • Tell me about a time you communicated something badly and how you resolved it.
  • Are you a naturally good listener?

Problem Solving

You want someone who can think on their feet when faced with a new issue. Being calm and creative about the way they approach a challenge is important too.


Nursery teachers are basically full-time problem solvers. Finding a new approach to a struggling child. Coming up with creative ways to teach the same important lessons. Managing conflicts between children (or parents for that matter). All of these require problem-solving skills, so you better find someone with them in abundance.

The Interview Questions

  • How would you deal with a parent who raised an issue with the way their child was being taught?
  • How would you deal with two children who weren’t sharing toys well?
  • Come prepared with a quick exercise that focuses on ‘understanding the world’.


You want someone who can manage their own time efficiently, and structure it to make sure that things get done. You’re looking for that person who never lets anything slip through the cracks.


Keeping track of child records and remembering to note all the key details that come up in the day is essential for the best teachers. Keeping in mind all sorts of individual child information as they go about their day is crucial to providing an environment in which each child can develop individually. Managing your time effectively in a chaotic environment with plenty of regular interruptions is no easy feat either.

The Interview Questions

  • How easily do you switch from one task to another?
  • When you’re in charge of your own time, how do you like to organise your day?
  • Tell me about a time you’ve remained focused in a stressful situation.


Someone who genuinely cares about helping others. Understanding what makes people tick and being aware of the best way to work with them is critical.


A real passion for caring for children is why people get into the sector. To see genuine compassion and care for the children they are looking after is where it all has to start from. It’s an emotionally draining job at times too. Having compassion for your co-workers and putting others first from time to time is a hugely beneficial skill when you want to develop a top team.

The Interview Questions

  • Why did you get into the sector?
  • What do you like about working in a team?
  • If you weren’t in child care, what other job would you see yourself doing?
Create a radar graph like this for each staff member and lay them on top of one another. It’s a great way to work out the skills you’re missing for your team.

The big ideas

download pdf
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Official Danish Government Reopening Advice

Guidance from the Danish Health Ministry, translated in full to English.

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UK Nursery Covid-19 Response Group Recommendations

The full recommendations from a working group of over 70 nursery chains in the UK.

Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.

Learn more about Famly

Find out below how Famly saved Paula and the team at West Street Nursery time, and see what we can do for you in a personal demo.