The au pair selection process can be a daunting one for any Host Family, especially when you may be narrowing down from hundreds of available au pairs, like we have at Go Au Pair. Host Mom, Anna T., has written some excellent advice for other Host Parents who are going through the selection process. Please go read the wisdom of this real-life mom of two girls and two boys and Host Mom of 12 au pairs so far!
I must reiterate Anna’s wise words – trust your gut! You may view literally hundreds of au pair applications, or only a dozen, but how will you determine the individual who will be the best fit for your family? Obviously, the applications will provide essentially the same information about each candidate, their age, education level, interests and skills, languages spoken and even family information like birth order. We even provide you results of personality testing and an interpretation guide, as well as physical description including height, weight, piercings and tattoos! Above all, trust your instincts when making your Mutual Match.
Anna makes a great point, stating that one can tell a lot from the photos the au pair provides. Another point I would like to add is during the live interview, whether you chat on Skype or by telephone, pay attention to the au pair’s questions. Much can be learned from what the au pair says, or does not say. Perhaps during the first interview, he or she may be overwhelmed or excited and won’t have many questions. However, if he or she still has very few questions about your family or doesn’t ask about the children by the second call, this raises a red flag to me. The au pair should have many questions about your home, family, community and lifestyle before he or she agrees to match with you. You want to make sure the person you choose is interested in you and your family, not just a free ticket into the US.
Anna tells how her family gives much weight to the au pair’s essay, but I am not sure I totally agree. Although it is the time and place for an au pair to sell him or herself, not everyone has great writing skills or can present a full picture of themselves in a few short paragraphs. The same is true of Host Families’ letter to their au pair. It should be obvious that the writer gave some effort to express their needs and expectations, but I think the live interactions can be more telling.
When interviewing candidates, all parties should be engaged in the conversation, ask many questions, even be willing to include family members in the conversation (on both sides). I like the idea of asking an au pair what he or she would do in a hypothetical situation, which could actually happen at home. Anna makes the point that many au pairs may have had experience with very well-behaved children in their own country and will be shocked by what we consider normal behavior from our American kids. Ask the au pair what he or she would do in a given predicament, and then ask for another solution. This will let you, the Host Family, know if he or she can problem solve, or come up with an alternate solution. It also provides an excellent way for the family to listen the au pair’s use of English and a window into his or her level of creativity.
Many families find au pair childcare to be surprisingly affordable for the American working family. Perhaps you are looking for flexible childcare with a cultural experience too! I look forward to discussing au pair childcare with you and your family. My name is Joan Lowell, Local Area Representative for Go Au Pair in the Providence, RI area. Contact me at 401.309.1925 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or simply register for free online and get started interviewing candidates right away!