The Perfect Interview Method to Find Your Next Helper in Hong Kong

Published by This Indulgent Life on

Welcome back for part 2 of The Perfect Interview Method to Find Your Next Helper in Hong Kong. In this post, we’re going to look at the actual process of finding the perfect fit for your family and what to do once you’ve made that choice. If you missed part one about what a foreign domestic helper is, what to look for, and where to find one, you can find that post here.

You can also check out the interview we did with our beloved first helper, Theresa, to get an idea of why women leave their families to be helpers abroad.


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Eliminate the Crazy- Follow my simple process for interviewing helpers to find the best fit. | This Indulgent Life | Stop going crazy with all the applications you're receiving and use my simple and free process to save yourself time, headaches, and heartaches when hiring a helper for your family. | #domestichelpers #hiringabroad #hiringhelpers #interviewtipsforemployers #hongkongexpat #livinginhongkong #livingabroad #livingoverseas #expatlife

Hiring a Domestic Helper as an Expat in Hong Kong Part 2- The Interview | This Indulgent Life | Join me for part 2 of the series where we're looking at how to find the perfect helper for your family. Use the process I've used twice now to interview for our amazing helpers! | #domestichelpers #hiringabroad #hiringhelpers #interviewtipsforemployers #hongkongexpat #livinginhongkong #livingabroad #livingoverseas #expatlife
Hiring Helpers Abroad Pt 2- Interview Tips for Finding the Perfect Fit | This Indulgent Life | In part 2 I show you the steps I've used and the lessons I've learned in my search for an amazing helper. I've suceeded twice using this process! | #domestichelpers #hiringabroad #hiringhelpers #interviewtipsforemployers #hongkongexpat #livinginhongkong #livingabroad #livingoverseas #expatlife

Searching for a new foreign domestic helper:

In part one we looked at where you can go to find helpers looking for employment. Briefly, they were:

  • Use an agency like Fair Agency.
  • Find a helper through a referral.
  • Search the classifieds. 
  • Post your own add.

But what do you do when you start getting 50 messages a day and you can’t interview them all?!

And no I’m not exaggerating. At one point I got over 100 messages in 48 hours. And the truth is maybe 10 were even remotely what I asked for. But people are desperate and they figure the worst that can happen is you say no. Unfortunately, it’s exhausting for you to go through that many messages, asking the same qualifying questions over and over again. You can go through an agency and they will help filter these people for you, but if you’re wanting to do it yourself you have to find a different way.


Enter Google forms!

Not only is it free, but it’s really easy to use. The only problem I’ve come across is that when people are using their phones and the data plan in Hong Kong, Google automatically adds Cantonese characters to the forms and it’s a little confusing and difficult to get rid of. I didn’t have the problem on my home wifi though. The English you typed out was there still, you just have to look for it under the Cantonese. Also, any automatic fields like “email” may only be in Cantonese so you may want to make all custom fields or just explain it when it comes up.

The benefits of using Google forms in the hiring process:

Think of this form as a gatekeeper, or your personal assistant. In your ads and in response to when people message you, you just link to this form and if they take the time to fill it out you know they’re more serious. It’s the same reason a lot of employers ask for you to write a cover letter or answer a set of questions when you apply for a job. It weeds out the lazy people. Basically, if you’re not going to take the 15 minutes to answer the questions then I don’t think you’re the right person for the job. If you’re going to take shortcuts through the interview process, then they’re probably going to take shortcuts on the job too.

What I really love about Google forms for hiring is that it compiles all the submissions into a Google sheet (a spreadsheet like Excel if you’re not familiar) and so I can compare each candidate on the same questions. This makes narrowing down your selection a matter of minutes vs hours. I can even color code the applicants I want and don’t want to interview, and even when I’ve scheduled an interview to make it easy to distinguish as well. Then when I do interview them I can add notes later to the same sheet and use that to help me make a decision.

Because it acts as a gatekeeper and because it keeps everything in one place and has it all organized, Google forms is my number one recommendation to use in the hiring process. Even if you are using an agent you should do this with any potential applicants for your own records and an extra step to ensure they’re really serious about working with you.

Image result for gatekeeper gif

Am I dating myself with this reference?

By using Google Forms I was able to only deal with 28 applicants. And then from there to 6 that actually fit the requirements. Way better than fielding all the questions 30-50x a day!

Step-by-Step Guide To Using Google Forms When Finding A Helper without an agency:

If you already know what questions to include and how to set up and use a Google form, then please feel free to skip this section and so straight to Interviewing. This set-up also assumes that you have a Gmail account already. If not, you’ll need that first!

1) Set up a Google Form

This is relatively easy to do, but for those who’ve never done it, here is a walkthrough with pictures and links for you-

2) Name your form

We just named ours Helper Application, but it’s up to you. Just helps you find it later and lets the helper know they’re in the right spot.

3) Decide on the sections you want them to answer questions about.

Our form had 5 sections. These are questions and information grouped together so that the form made sense and was a logical progression.

The sections we included were:

  • Essential Information
  • Current Contract Information
  • All About You
  • Questions Pertaining to the Job
  • Information You Want To Know

4) Create the content for the Google form, the questions for hiring a helper. 

This is the most important piece. Think about not only what you want to know, but also the most important aspects of the job. For example, it was really important our new helper was comfortable living all the way out in Tai O. And even though we put that information in all our ads and even explained how far it was by public transport, we still had people messaging us and then saying it was too far away… {insert smh emoji here…}

The questions you include will be different for each person’s needs, but here is what we did. Feel free to copy and paste as needed. To see the whole form click here.

Repeat Questions

So in the form, I created several instances in different sections where I asked them to read similar information and respond appropriately. I even made it two different styles of responses; a multiple choice option and a short answer. Here are those two questions, but I did it with a few other questions as well. Remember this form is your gatekeeper! If something is super important to you, but people tend to gloss over it, then make sure to include the information a couple of times so you can pinpoint any discrepancies.


Section 1- Essential Information

This is the standard information you would have in an application. We included:

Legal name

Preferred name (it’s often different)

Phone number

Email address (I included this in case they want to go back and fix something, but not sure anyone did and it caused the most confusion with the Cantonese characters and no English)

That first qualifying question about where we lived.

A question about if they were currently in HK and willing to process their own papers.

Which day they were available for interviews. Be prepared for it to often be on Saturdays or Sundays because it’s very hard for them to take off to interview so they do it on their one day off.

Section 2- Current Contract Information

This was of course very important to us because we didn’t have time to go through the whole process and use an agent for someone that wasn’t already in Hong Kong or was in a  break contract situation. If this isn’t very important to you, you could ask for references in another section and skip this one if you wanted, but I find it’s helpful either way. The questions we included were:

Contract Status– We gave this in a multiple choice form so they could only choose one. At first, I tried completely eliminating the break contract option, but then found applicants were just choosing the finished contract option instead. Even though legally they wouldn’t be finished contract! Ay-ya! So give all the options and you can filter it yourself later.

Contract Expiration Date– I should have asked the visa expiration date instead. That’s what the government considers the legal date and bases when they can apply for a new job from.

Date of Availability- This may or may not be the same as the visa. Some need to take their leave home first, while others are willing to delay it. Some employers will even release them early (though it can’t be more than a month early or the government won’t recognize it as finished… a point that some employers cruelly use to their advantage). So while this date may or may not be set in stone, it’s obviously important to know.

References- I asked not only if they could be provided, but the name and contact of someone. However, I also gave them an out to tell me why they couldn’t provide one if they didn’t give me one. If you read the first installment of this series, you’ll see where we stand on the references issue.

Current and Expected Pay- I needed to see if what they were expecting was even in our ballpark. I had listed an amount we were offering in the ad, but again, not everyone reads lol. And I wanted to give us the option of raising that rate if we found someone super experienced that we loved that asked for it.

Reason for Leaving- This one is actually pretty helpful in learning about the character and history of your potential new helpers. Both of our helpers actually wrote that they were leaving because they wanted to work with young children. Was there more to it than that? Yup, I know for a fact after talking to them. But that’s what they chose to share which shows their heart… and it’s proven to be the truth as well.

Section 3- Personal Information 

I called this the “All about you” section. It was the most pivotal section in making our decisions. Some of the questions were just general interest like if they were married and had kids. It just gave us a little more information but wasn’t the deciding factor.  Other questions helped me see where their strengths and weaknesses lay and also showed them that I have a true interest in them as a person and not just as a helper.

The questions we included were:

Marriage and Kids- Yes it’s legal to ask here, no it wasn’t a determining factor. We have hired both married with children and unmarried with no children. It just lets us know more about who she is and gives us something to talk about.

Likes/ Dislikes of Being a Helper- These are two separate questions and really helps me to see where they may be strong and weak in relation to the job. I wasn’t looking for a specific answer, but it did help me to see if our priorities aligned and also helps me realize early on where they may need some extra support.

Cooking- First I just asked if they liked to cook, not everyone does. And then I asked what their favorite dish to cook was. I made sure to remind them that I wanted to know what they loved, not a particular employer. A- this let me see who doesn’t read or is too scared to be honest and B- it allows them to open up more about who they are.

Religion-  Again, not a determining factor, but it lets me see if they would need Saturdays instead of Sundays off, and if there may be any special holidays we’d need to accommodate for and so on.

Goals and Dreams- I LOVE this question. It honestly has nothing to do with the actual position, but it’s like a window into their soul. It really helps them come out of their shell a bit more and it gives us something to bring up during the in-person interview. I also make it very clear that their goals don’t have to be related to being a helper. I want to know their hearts for doing this job in the first place.

Day Off- I like to ask what they like to do on their day off because it gives me a further glimpse into the overall person. I don’t really care what they do, as long as it’s legal, but it does show me what’s important to them. I have had one helper that needed to leave on Saturday nights to spend the whole time with friends and I’ve had a helper that likes to sleep in and maybe go on hikes with friends. Either way, I can see they’re not lonely and aren’t going to feel trapped. Especially living where we do.

Education/ Experience- This is pretty standard, but it’s not a disqualifier either. I’m going to ask those with education or nursing experience first maybe, but I realize how difficult it is to get an education there and I’m not holding it against anyone.

Section 4- Questions Pertaining to the Job

This section was geared towards letting me know what knowledge and experience they had that related specifically to our job offer. Everyone’s questions would be different here because all of our situations will be different. These questions were super important to see if they would be a good fit for our family. For example, we asked if they preferred to be inside or outside. Neither answer is inherently wrong, but I knew someone that didn’t like spending time outside was going to hate walking with my son for hours a day (he hates coming inside). Other questions included:

Type of Experience- Here we looked to see what experience they had with small children and animals. If they had it, great, but their attitude towards kids and interest in working with them, as well as their confidence around animals, was more important.

Languages- I, of course, need them to know enough English to communicate with us effectively, but I’m also interested in other languages they may know and could speak to my son. Plus if they know Cantonese then it’ll be easier for them where we live, but not a requirement.

Recipes- People were pretty honest with this. I just wanted to know if they could follow a recipe. This will relieve a lot of training.

Food Planning- We live far from any grocery stores and only some things can be found in our local market, so we try to only go grocery shopping once a week. Which means our helper (who determines what we eat) needed to be able to plan ahead so we don’t have to go back and forth.

Questions/ Concerns- We gave the option for them to tell us any misgivings or questions they had before meeting with us so we could be prepared to answer them. Sometimes this also helped eliminate someone though because it showed they didn’t read the very important information provided in multiple places.

Section 5- Information About the Job

This section was definitely developed because I was tired of people not reading the job description and wasting my time. So I made a bit of a reading comprehension section where they had to read a statement and then either choose an answer or they were told to type something specific from the text to show they read it and agree. It tells them what to expect out of the job before they agree to an interview and ensures I’m not wasting my time. Sections I included were:

Location- Yup again I typed up a description about where we were located and what to expect living here.

Housing- This just let them know they would have their own room and bathroom separate from us and if this was ok with them. Of course, it was lol. It’s a mansion compared to what they’re used to.

Work Hours- Our days are quite long because of where we live, but I am lenient on Saturdays. Some people can’t handle waking up when we do so I wanted them to know that ahead of time. We may start early, but we also end earlier than most.

Outside Time- Yup, I brought it up again. It’s so important to the happiness and development of my particular child so I need them to understand what those expectations to play outside and with local friends were.

Grocery Shopping- At the time my husband still worked an outside job with extra long hours and then, of course, I worked long hours so we didn’t really have time to grocery shop when our priority was time with our son. So we asked if they were ok doing so and even said they had freedom of when to make it easier. Now my husband does the shopping.

Salary/ Food- This just again lets them know what we’re offering and give them the choice of saying if they wanted a food allowance or to eat with us.

Start Date– I wanted to make sure we could get someone to start when we needed them. I can’t even tell you how difficult this can be and people will say they’re available 2 months before or after still!



5) Share the link with everyone that messages you (because even if you put the link in the ads they will still message you)

Pretty self-explanatory. I literally would just have a message in WhatsApp that I copied and pasted saying something along the lines of “Thank you for your interest. Please fill out the form linked below and I will get back to you if we want to schedule an interview.” Short, sweet, polite, but also not engaging in further discussion until they’ve followed directions.

6) Review the Applications as They Come In 

So when an applicant fills out your form you can see their responses one of two ways.

  1.  In the “Responses” tab at the top of your form.- This can only be seen by you, the creator. When you go into your Google Drive you’ll see your form and when you open it you have two tabs at the top: Questions and Responses. Going to Responses will allow you to see a summary of all responses (with charts and graphs if you’re into that), or individual responses, but you can’t highlight or anything and it is hard to compare multiple questions at once. hire a helper in hong kong without an agency using google forms

In the Google Sheet- This is the best method for organization because you can compare applicants over multiple answers at once, you can move them around, and best of all, you can color code them! Usually, this sheet is automatically created for you and in your Drive, but if it’s not then you go to the Responses tab and there is a little green Google Sheets icon that when you click will take you to it. self-hiring a helper in hong kong using Google Forms

7) Use Google Sheets to Organize Your Applicants & Make Decisions

Now it’s time to start organizing all the applicants. First thing I did was check to see their contract status. If their contract status was not finished contract or terminated due to relocation, death, or finances then I marked them a faded red.

Next, I looked at all their details and made sure the dates lined up and if I offered them an interview I turned it blue. If I wasn’t sure I made it purple. Then I added the details of the interview and any additional questions I wanted to ask in person to the end of the row for that person so everything was kept in one place.

Anyone that wasted my time and stood us up became a bright red so I know not to reschedule. We had one person come all the way there and then couldn’t follow basic directions to find us… it’s not that hard people. Face the water and walk to the left. Then she left before we could even go help her! So she went red.

Finally, we used yellow for our first choice and green for our second choice. Color coding made this super simple to keep organized.

color coding applications

Interviewing Helpers In Person

I know, by this point you’re ready for all this to be over. You’re tired of people not reading your ad or following directions and you wonder why you started this in the first place. But have faith because the hardest part is over. No, I’m for real, finding potential helpers it the hardest step of all if you use the Google Forms/Sheets method.

Traditional method vs Google Forms when hiring domestic helpers in Hong Kong

Traditional Method

Traditionally, hiring a helper is a much longer process. We actually did this the first time we hired a helper. You get a bajillion messages and message them all back, set up times for interviews (and you may be doing this in a public place or your home, we chose our home) and then wait to see if they show up. The ones that do you ask all the basic questions and try to get to know them a bit before saying goodbye.

But that’s not all, you still haven’t seen them in action, so now you book a second meeting for the ones you’re interested in to give you a demo. For some families, this includes cooking and cleaning (you pay for their time), but for us, this means showing me how you interact with children… I’ll get into more on that further down.

So you’re doing double the work, you’re waiting on them to fill out forms, or you’re writing things down (if you even remember to do), and it’s chaotic the whole time.

Google Forms Method

In this method, you take out all the extra messages and only focus on the ones you’re booking physical interviews for. This alone saves you hours every day. Then you’re skipping the whole first interview! Everything you would cover in the first interview is already accomplished by using the forms. So there is no need to have a sit down meeting with them. You can skip to the most important part of all, the demo. You have all the information you need easily accessible, and now you just need the one meeting… The demonstration meeting.


What is a Demo Interview?

In the teaching world, you often have to give a sample, or demo, lesson before they hire you. They look to see if you can communicate clearly, how you interact with the kids, how you manage behaviors, and so on. You want to do the same when you’re hiring a helper. Especially if you have kids and/ or pets.

Why is Demonstration Is Important to Hiring a Domestic Helper?

an amazing foreign domestic helperThis type of interview is very important because it allows you to see your helper react to real-life situations. This is especially important with younger children with no impulse control. You need to see if she is going to yell, smack, ignore, lecture… whatever. You also need to see how protective and interactive she is. Is she one to sit back and just let them play? Does she make everything a game? Does she pick your child up instead of letting them walk? Does she let them get dirty? And so many other observations. There is no right or wrong response to most of these, but you need to know what you want to happen and then look for the person that does that.

How To Do A Demo Interview:

During this interview, you will make introductions and some small talk including any other questions you’ve come up with since reading their responses. Then let them know you just want to spend some time with her and see her interact with your child/ pets.

If you already have a child/ pets: 

This is super easy if you already have a child because you just allow them to play together. It could be in the house, at a playground, or wherever you’re interested in seeing interactions. With our first hire, we were in a village house surrounded by a garden so we let them go outside while we observed from above (this felt most natural). For this last hire, we met inside and then had her take the dogs and our son for a walk. We would help as needed with the dogs though. This was great because we were able to see if she was overprotective, if she just walked or if she pointed things out, and all sorts of observations. I was also able to talk to her while we walked (so less stressful environment) and ask questions on discipline, emergency situations, and so on.

If you are pregnant with no other children: 

This obviously poses a challenge. You want to observe how this person will interact with babies or kids, but yours isn’t quite ready to meet her yet. So do you just base it on talking to her?

If you can help it, no. Trust me, I’ve met many lovely ladies that sounded great on paper and in person, but then when we did a demo we realized was not the right fit. These interactions are very eye-opening.

So what can you do? I remember wishing there was a rent-a-child situation lol. But my best friend came to the rescue. She offered her kids up. So one afternoon we had her and her two kids, almost 2 and 4 at the time, and invited our top two candidates to meet at our house. Meeting at your house is very important because it not only allows them to see if they’d like living in that area but is a real-life situation. We then made introductions and allowed them to go outside and walk around. It was awesome.

I actually almost preferred this because my friend helped talk me through some of my thoughts and offered additional input.

Looking at all the cues

To showcase the importance of paying attention to nuances, let me describe the situation we ran into when hiring our first helper. We had two ladies come back for a second interview to do their demos. Both took played with my friend’s children, took them outside and so on. However, only one really played with both the dogs and the children. My friend also said she felt the lady also seemed to prefer the older girl versus her rambunctious boy.

At a cursory glance, they both seemed to do and say everything the same. However, once you start paying attention to body language and those small tells, you can easily see which person is best for your family. 

Deciding On the Perfect Helper

So how did we know? How did we manage to find amazing helpers twice when others are constantly having problems finding decent help? Well, a big part of it I’m sure was prayer, part luck, and a HUGE part in the process and trusting our gut.

We knew going in what was important to us and we carefully crafted a process, questions, and situations to allow us to see if those qualities came through. We prayed daily, and we trusted our gut both times. We actually never called references, but if we didn’t feel so strongly about one candidate over another we would have used that to help as well.

Are you looking for a helper and want some help that isn’t a biased agency? Feel free to contact me and I will help you through the process!

Stay tuned for the next installment where we take a look at what to do once you’ve found the perfect helper for your family!


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