If you're a parent, you know that a great babysitter is as good as gold. Once you have someone you like and feel you can trust with your child, you never want to let her or him go -- or even share with your friends and risk losing your standing Saturday night date with your sweetheart!

How do you find the perfect fit for your family? Aside from good old-fashioned word of mouth, more and more parents are taking their search for a babysitter online. So we asked Genevieve Thiers, founder of Sittercity, to share her best tips for finding a good babysitter online. Here's what she had to say:

giggleGlow: What advice do you offer to parents who are nervous about finding a sitter on the Internet?

Genevieve: I completely understand this hesitation, which is why we strive to make Sittercity safe and secure.

First off, be very wary of finding a babysitter through a free online service. Often, these sites have a higher risk of hosting some unsavory characters.

Second, the most important thing about hiring a babysitter from anywhere – including the Internet – is to follow a comprehensive screening process. Sittercity's four-step screening process has helped countless parents find their dream babysitters, so we highly recommend that our users carefully screen applicants.

Some things to think about:

  • Read online feedback. On Sittercity, parents rate and review our sitters directly on the sitter profiles, so you can quickly see what makes Susie so great and exactly why she is recommended.
  • Conduct an interview. In-person interviews are best. We have a resource library for parents that helps them determine the best questions to ask during an interview, and what red flags to look for.
  • Check references. Again, our library offers recommended questions to ask a reference [as well as suggestions on] how to conduct a phone call to get the most out of the source.
  • Run a background check. Many of our babysitters already have background checks, so it is free to request access to the results.

giggleGlow: What are the top questions you feel parents should ask prospective babysitters when interviewing them?

Genevieve:

  1. How long have you been babysitting and what is your background in childcare?
  2. How many families have you cared for and how old were the children?
  3. What safety training do you have? Do you know first aid, CPR, or the Heimlich maneuver?
  4. May I see your list of references and completed background check?

Beyond these, the best kinds of questions to ask are behavioral, such as:

  • Tell me about a crisis you faced on the job. How did you handle it?
  • What is your proudest moment in babysitting and why?
  • What was your worst experience in childcare and why?

giggleGlow: Do you recommend doing background checks on all babysitters?

Genevieve: Absolutely. LexisNexis is a great source for running background checks! They are the third party resource that Sittercity.com uses to run their checks.

giggleGlow: In addition to babysitters, what other kinds of caretakers can parents find at Sittercity?

Genevieve: We also have nannies, pet sitters and dog walkers, senior care providers, tutors, and house sitters.

giggleGlow: What is the recommended hourly rate for a sitter or nanny these days? Does it seem to change from city to city?

Genevieve: Rates definitely vary by location, as well as several other circumstances such as the age and experience level of your sitter, and the number of children you have. We get this question a lot and we love to direct parents to our Rate Calculator. [You simply enter] a few quick facts about yourself and the calculator generates the average hourly rate in your area. [These figures are based on] dynamic data from our site, so it's always relevant and up-to-date.

giggleGlow: And finally, if parents want to ensure that their babysitter is happy with their family, they should...

Genevieve: Communicate. Communication is the most important part of keeping a babysitter happy. In our library, we have an article on how to create an effective communication plan with your sitter. It can be as simple as having a brief 10-minute discussion before or after each job just to check in and see how things are going. This way, she'll be able to share her concerns, give you updates, and voice her frustrations before [anything] spirals out of control.