The original title I had for this post was “In which we address, once again, the issue of driving skills”. However, since that’s neither SEO-friendly, nor really helpful, let’s see if we can actually come up with ways to assess driving skill. Everyone who has ever driving a car can call say that s/he’s an experienced driver. But, who’s to say what “experienced” really means? Does it include driving a tractor? A Vespa? On country roads? Is three years enough, or might someone be a great driver with only one year on the road? From an au pair’s application, it can be awfully hard to tell whether s/he has what it takes to get behind the wheel with our kids in the back seat.
How to Assess an Au Pair’s Driving Skill
To assess driving skill, we can use:
- ‘# years driving – # moving violations’
- The au pair’s own explanation of his or her driving experience (on the application)
- Serious interviewing about driving (e.g., what kinds of driving situations make you tense?)
- Calls to his or her references to ask specifically about driving.
- Conversation with the applicant’s parent about her or his driving experience.
As an Anglo-American, I’m a big fan of direct, explicit inquiry. Imho, if you tell a person (the candidate or the reference) what you need in a driver and why driving is important, and mention safety, you’re likely to get the truth about actual skill level.
Can we assess attitudes about driving?
In addition to assessing the au pair’s driving experience, we also need to assess their attitude towards driving. Someone with less experience who seems committed to really learning how to drive in your specific American environment, in your family cars, might be better for you than someone with a lot of experience who is more careless.
If you follow classic management advice when interviewing Au Pairs, you should “hire for attitude and train for skill.”
What I’d really want to hear is respect for the challenges of driving, awareness of the importance of rules, enthusiasm about learning, and confidence without overconfidence. I wonder, what could we ask to get at these attributes? Here’s a specific question from Host Mom Nina:
I really need advice from experienced host moms (and dads) on this site:
I am having a panic attack. We are about to match with an au pair from Denmark. We like everything about her and she is the best candidate I have interviewed so far this year after 2 months of interviewing, except that I am not sure about her driving ability. On the application she said she drives frequently/regularly but after talking to her realized that’s only few times a month on weekends. It’s also mostly on country roads in a small town and sometimes on highways.
I was so “in love with her” otherwise that I didn’t pay enough attention to her driving, but this morning my husband told me that her driving worries him and now I’m lost… I promised her and 2 other girls I am interviewing that we’ll make the decision this weekend, so the pressure is on…
The nice thing is that I mentioned during our first conversation that I think she would need to practice more before she comes and the next time I called and asked what she will do that evening, she told me that she already borrowed a car from her sister to drive and practice and had to return it that night…I really liked that.
We have also interviewed another girl from Austria who drives more frequently and overall is not a bad candidate but don’t like her as much the one from Denmark.
I really like the girl from Denmark and I already matched with her in my mind, until my husband made that comment…
We will of course have few days with her to practice driving but still, she would come in January and who knows how the roads would be.
I just need and objective viewpoint and/or tips…Maybe someone even has an experience with someone from Denmark? I like her but don’t want to make a mistake by choosing her.
Thanks for your ideas, Nina
Two (temporary) parting thoughts: 1. Until someone comes up with a reliable online assessment of driving skill and driving attitude, we just have to ask a lot of questions and be ready to intervene once our au pair arrives. 2. If you are a potential au pair candidate, tell the honest to goodness truth about your driving experience, and be ready to talk a lot about driving in general.
Image: 4yr old driving her toy car! from stewartde