I first heard of the concept from my mom, who was raised in Ireland as a young girl. She told me that when people there were hiring a new housekeeper to clean their home, one of the things they would do was put a broom in the doorway. It was kind of a test. If a candidate for the housekeeper job stepped over the broom, then the family wasn’t interested in their services. If, on the other hand, people who were applying for the job took the broom and asked where it went, or picked it up and started sweeping the area in front of them, then the employer knew they had a potentially good housekeeper.

My dad used to be a manager in sales. When he was hiring new employees, he used to leave a key on the floor for the same reason. If a candidate picked it up and asked if it belonged to anyone, then he knew both that they cared and that they paid attention to detail. He would also have his receptionist try to make conversation with anyone who was waiting for an interview. If they were pleasant and took the time to say hello and engage in a chat, they were much more likely to be hired for the job that they were seeking.

In the last few months, I have had more caregiver interviews than I have had in the last several years. I have spent a long time honing my interview so that I ask questions that will give me a good feel for how a person will do working this job. Do they seem squeamish with the idea of personal care? Do they not like the idea of taking turns being on call at night? Are they uncomfortable with the idea that I am so dependent on other people for a large part of my livelihood? All of that is okay, it’s just that if any of those things are true then it is probably best that they don’t work for me.

There are other things I look for as well. Do the people that I am interviewing make eye contact with me? Do they interrupt me frequently when I am trying to explain the details of this job? (I make a point to tell everyone before we start the interview that I will tell them everything the job entails first, and then I will invite them to ask questions later.) Do they seem to be taking the things that I say seriously? Sometimes people laugh inappropriately throughout the interview, and that can be pretty creepy. On rare occasion, there is a person who goes through the interview process who makes me feel uncomfortable, and I decide not to hire them because I don’t know if I would be comfortable being alone with them in my house, let alone having them help me in and out of the shower and getting dressed and such.

Many times, part of my decision making process when it comes to whether or not to hire a specific caregiver is influenced by the feeling in my gut. I have been hiring and managing caregivers for the past 32 years and at this point, the feeling in my gut as to whether some particular person will work out or not is usually pretty accurate.

Every once in a while I interview a caregiver candidate and their impression on me was just average. In those scenarios, it is sometimes hard for me to determine whether I should hire them or not. It could work out. Or it could be a disaster. And I have had it go both ways in the past.

In those situations, I pull out my secret weapon. Leah.

My black Lab service dog loves everybody that she meets, and if she is allowed to she will sniff and snuggle with a stranger until they call her a friend. With everything she has been through, she has never lost a drop of adorable, and most people cannot help but smile after they have spent about five minutes with her. In my opinion, Leah’s presence makes everything better.

So if I am having trouble determining whether a candidate that comes for an interview will be a good fit for this job, I watch how they interact with Leah. If they ignore her or think that she is a bother, they should probably work elsewhere. But if they make a point to pet her and say goodbye as they are leaving, chances are that I will them offer the job, because they have their priorities straight.

In many ways, Leah is my sister. My partner. My best friend.

She is also my secret weapon.