The most common question I get from prospective host families is “How will I know which au pair is right for me?” Good question. We have au pairs from all over the world, who speak many different languages and have many different experiences. Some families can narrow the field because they have a certain language or nationality they want their children to learn about, but most just want a kind and compassionate person who will love their children and give them the care they need. Here are some tips to make the search for the right au pair for your family easier.
#1 Be Honest!
The first mistake many potential host parents make is trying to “sell” their family to the au pair candidates. They want the au pair to like them so they gloss over the less-than-perfect stuff. These families might get their first choice, but that doesn’t mean that they will get the right au pair for their family.
Be upfront and honest about what your family is like and what your needs are. If you have a strict no TV rule, make sure to tell the candidates that. If you have a child that’s a hitter, let the au pair know. If you are conservative about dress and appearance, mention what standards you would like observed in your home. If you have special diets or allergies, again, let the au pair know. Now, I’m not saying the first thing you do is send an email stating all the negative things about your family, but you should carefully consider what makes your family unique (both good and bad) and during the matching process make sure your au pair has an accurate picture of your family.
This goes for the area you live, too. Some au pairs want to live in a big city; others are good with a quiet suburb. We have even had some au pairs request a rural setting. If you live 10 miles from the closest grocery store and the next big city is 20 miles beyond that, you need to let your potential au pairs know this. On the flip side, if you live in an area where traffic is crazy and there are people everywhere, you should probably mention that, too.
#2 Interview, Interview, Interview
So many families see only a couple files or videos of au pairs, fall in love with one of them, have one interview and ask them to be their au pair. You might get lucky and have matched with the perfect au pair for you, but chances are both you and your au pair are going to be surprised when you actually start living together. The better plan: interview many, interview often, and interview all.
Interview many – Meaning start off with a good amount of potential candidates and send an introductory email to them. I would say 5 to 8 au pairs. Even if you think their file is light on content, give them a chance to tell you about themselves. Then narrow it down to about half that you want to Skype with (if you are not familiar with Skype, I would recommend getting comfortable with it. This is how the vast majority of au pairs communicate with potential host families). Then narrow it down again to 2 or 3 that are your favorites.
Interview often – Most of the time one video chat or phone call is not going to cut it. You need to send emails back and forth and plan on Skyping several times. This is the time to be honest about your family and expectations. Evaluate your needs and make sure you ask questions to see if he or she will meet those needs. If you need a driver, make sure to ask lots of questions about their driving experience. If you have a 3-year-old, ask what types of activities she/he likes to do with that age child. If you need someone who cooks, ask what they like to cook. Don’t ask a bunch of yes or no questions, but more questions that start with “How would you handle…” “Tell me about a time you…” This way you can see how they would react in a difficult situation.
Interview all – Make sure that all the members of your family have a chance to Skype with your favorite au pairs. You can even introduce your babies or pets and tell the au pairs a little about them. This will help your potential au pair to understand your family a little more. You might even want to consider talking with the au pair’s family to get a better understanding of him/her.
#3 Understand your part
Remember, this is not a job interview; this is a cultural exchange program. You are not hiring a nanny, but agreeing to participate in a program where the au pair will live in your home like a member of the family and take care of your kids. Be sure you understand what you are agreeing to by hosting an au pair.
There are no guarantees that any match will be perfect, but by following these tips you and your au pair will understand each other better and hopefully be a great fit.