Au Pair Applications: When you can’t show children’s photos

by cv harquail on November 28, 2015

or… When social media policies and Au Pair application expectations collide…

Au Pair Agencies tell Au Pair applicants to include in their  materials some pictures of themselves caring for children.3427340523_4ced059a9c_m

We host parents like to see these photos, because they help to confirm for us that the applicant has some childcare experience.

The photos let us see some of the kids the au pair candidate has worked with  — and we parents can more easily imagine the Au Pair with our kids too.

Plus: Kid photos! Only kitten gifs and hedgehog photos could make an application any more appealing!

So imagine this au pair applicant– who’s not allowed to take (and share) photos of the children she works with:

I’m applying to be an au pair for the first time, and as part of making a profile, the agency wants me to put together a photo album, with emphasis on my interaction with kids.  Specifically, they recommend using photos of the children you’ve cared for.

My problem is this:   For the last four years, almost all of my work with kids has been through government schools and a government-run outdoor school/school campsite.   There is a very strict no-photo policy, and any approved photos have very strict conditions placed on them.

My other experiences working with and caring for kids have come from companies with similar policies, or babysitting jobs where I didn’t take photos.

I don’t want my lack of pictures to reflect badly on me to any potential host families, but I can’t really see a way around it.  Any suggestions? ~PhotoLess Au Pair

Find a small way to use this to your advantage— — Be sure to mention this issue in your family letter. Many families will actually appreciate that you are sensitive to these rules and following them out of respect to your former employers. That’s always a good thing.

Another  possibility– have someone take a photo of you standing next to the sign or the front door of the place where you’ve worked– just to let folks see that it’s real.

You could also include a link to the webpages of the camps or care centers, so that parents who were interested in learning more about the context in which you provided childcare can get a sense of these programs.

2771481564_51eb646552_mIf you want some photos to demonstrate that you’re a child-friendly kind of person, maybe a picture of you holding kittens could send the right message.

Parents and Au Pairs– other ideas?


Taking a Computer Lunch November 28, 2015 at 9:15 pm

Child #2 hasn’t let me post a photo on FB for 3 years. If you were to state up front, in your HF letter, why you aren’t posting photos of the children for whom you have cared, then you’d win points with me!

That being said, I’ve seen some very creative use of black-out this year. Be creative. As a HM with 15 years of matching experience, what I don’t want to see is: 1) more than 1 prom picture, 2) more than one family picture, and 3) several picture of you hanging out with friends. If you don’t have nieces, nephews, or young cousins, then do find a way to show how you interact with children. Provide me with more than what I could get from looking at your Facebook, My Space, Instagram, Kik, etc., etc. account.

German Au-Pair November 28, 2015 at 9:42 pm

I would definitely do something along the lines of “Unfortunately I am not allowed to take any photos of the kids I work with. If you are interested in what I do, please feel free to look at *linkfromtheplaceyouworkwith* ”
Then I would try to find basically any child of friends, relatives or collagues (ideally one that you actually have a relationship with…if you don’t why don’t you offer a free babysitting gig to the parents and actually DO work with them?) and take some photos. Reality is, most photos on any given application are totally staged. I was lucky enough to be able to take photos with the kids I worked with, but A. those were photos that were specificially scheduled and B. never before did I sit on the slide with an entire class of children…even photos of someone working with children are absolutely staged and serve to highlight something the applicant wants to be highlighted (because how creepy would it be if someone regularly followed you around with a camera? :D )
I had some photos with my younger sibling and those TOO were staged because obviously when we did homework together no one regularly took a photo of us. So I would not find it any more or less appropriate to simply take some photos with friends’ children. I’d write something like “But here are some photos of me having fun with XY. XY is the child of Xy that I hang out with/ babysat for etc. ”
Be honest about the work situation but try to find someone willing to hang and take some photos with you. Being able to connect and have fun with a child you’re not super familiar with is also a pretty good au pair strength. ;)

DC Metro Mom November 28, 2015 at 10:11 pm

Definitely include these exclusions in the letter to host families. To be honest, this would score huge brownie points with me. I am super cautious on security of DD, and that includes strict rules against sharing her pictures and/or ANY identifying information on social media of any kind. This is one rule that I spell out, in explicit detail, in my handbook and on interviews. This is also a rule where I give very little leniency.

As such, if you were honest, I would appreciate that you stuck to it. This shows me several things about you. 1. You respect the need for privacy of your employer/potential host family. 2. You respect the law and recognize that, while the law may be silly to you, or it may even inconvenience you, you follow it. 3. You respect rules that you may or may not agree with. These are huge general issues that host families are going to appreciate. I promise you.

As for how to address this, as stated above, I would just be honest in the letter. If you are asked in an interview, explain, and make it into a strength, as described in the above paragraph–it shows respect for privacy, gives deference to the parents’ choices, etc. It might also be nice to include some sentences about the type of projects that you have learned from your current setting that you can bring to host children (art, meal preparation for different ages, conflict resolution, management of different personalities, temper fits, etc.).

For pictures, if you have family with children, that would be great. If that isn’t an option, I also like the idea of a picture outside of the setting with a link to the setting. Another option is a picture of you working on projects with the teacher, such as decorating the classroom, if that is an option.

WarmStateMomma December 1, 2015 at 8:21 am


New to This November 28, 2015 at 11:13 pm

I think the advice here is spot-on, but I would also just add that not all prospective HPs are going to care about the photos anyway — we barely looked at them, and probably wouldn’t have cared if a profile hadn’t had any pictures of kids. Besides attaching faces to help names and details stick in my mind a little better, the only influence photos had on me was that if somebody came across too high-maintenance, it made me a little extra concerned about whether they’d be comfortable with the messiness of infant care. I wouldn’t necessarily expect someone to be taking pictures of other people’s kids, or to be taking selfies on the job, and as German AP pointed out above, some applicants might have plenty of opportunity to just stage photos anyway, so I wouldn’t have thought about looking at pictures to verify experience.

When the Cat is Away November 29, 2015 at 7:14 am

I blurred the faces of the children in my profile picture although I was allowed to use them. I am just in general very concerned with pictures online, and I think it is enough to see that the kids and I were playing with each other on this photo. I wrote that I can send the original picture by email if the host family wants to see it.

I know that you aren’t even allowed to do that, but I just wanted to tell that all families I’ve been in contact with appreciated my concern. I also think it made my application special, and that host families remembered my profile.

Boy Au Pair Spain November 29, 2015 at 10:00 am

I am surprised that that was met with a positive response. Did you explain why you had decided to blank it out actually in your profile? If not, my assumption would be that you hadnt got permission for the parents.

From the au pair side, it always puts me off when a family has deliberately obscured the faces of the kids.

When the Cat is Away November 30, 2015 at 4:13 am

Yes, I told why. (And the parents of this girl were actually my referees – potential host families could call them. So obviously I wasn’t “hiding” something.

AlwaysHopeful HM November 29, 2015 at 8:30 am

I use photos to cull the applications before I start to really review them. I agree that you should explain the lack of kid photos in your letter, but I may never read your letter if your photos don’t grab me. For pictures of kids, I look not just to see if you can play with them, but does everyone seem to be truly glad to be with each.other. Same for family photos.

I would recommend not only saying something in your letter, but also captioning a photo or 2 with a brief acknowledgment that kids are missing. Maybe in the pic others have mentioned with you standing in front of your workplace?

Meg November 29, 2015 at 5:37 pm

Interesting. But how can you tell from a photo? I ask because thinking just of my own family photos there are some really cute pictures… but the real life event was one where the kids were actually mostly miserable. For example, both of my kids were sick on their first birthday and spend a good portion of the little family party crying but we still managed to get that perfect pic. Do you have a trick to see through the show? Or do you just see it as a negative if they don’t at least do the exercise?

New to This November 29, 2015 at 6:41 pm

So true! My infant has an “about to start screaming” face that, when captured as a still, looks absolutely joyful. On the other hand, his genuine smiles (which, lucky us, are much more frequent than screaming) can be hard to capture on camera, because as soon as he spots the camera, whatever else he was thinking about is eclipsed by “Hey, I want to chew on that!”

AlwaysHopeful HM November 29, 2015 at 10:48 pm

I can’t tell from the photo if they are “truly happy”, but a lot comes across in body language. I also consider that the pics the AP selects are the ones he or she best represent him/herself. So, if the only pictures the AP posts with children are ones where the kids look desperate to get away from them, that’s information to me. As for family pictures, strong family connection is important to me, so if there is a foot of space between each person, and no one is smiling, I move on. I know the smiling thing is a little unfair, because many countries are not as smiley as Americans–but smiles matter to me, so I consider them.

The bottom line for me is, there are a ton of applications to look through. In the very beginning, I’m looking for ways to knock out applicants, ro narrow my search. The pictures (and videos) give me a quick scan of the au pair’s personality, and I decide from there whether I want to move to the next step of reading the letter.

As an aside, later in the process I do a deeper dive into the photos. I consider, for example, whether the au pair seems appropriately dressed for the activity with the child. I study the photos with friends to get clues of the friends’ personalities, I consider what types of photos she chooses to share– all travel photos? All during the 2 weeks at the kindergarten? All prom photos? I really do believe that photos offer a great deal of info.

Boy Au Pair Spain November 29, 2015 at 7:34 pm

If I had discounted every family that had a profile picture in which the parents and kids didnt look truly happy to be with each other I doubt I’d have had many families to choose from! I think it says more about the artist ability of the photographer than the relationship of the subjects.

German Au-Pair November 29, 2015 at 8:21 pm

Because of this I had some pictures with me joking around with kids. I had the usually staged ones of reading to them or standing next to them. But even though the act of picture taking IS staged, making a joke or just being goofy always comes across differently. I’d just tell the photographer to keep shooting even though the pictrure isn’t obviously good (and I believe a good photographer shouldn’t even have to be told…)

Boy Au Pair Spain November 29, 2015 at 12:51 pm

I really hate having my photo taken and don’t like the idea of parents using how I look as a deciding factor in whether they choose me or not. When I was looking for my first au pair job in Spain, I didn’t have any photos on my profile. Nowadays, I have got over that a bit now and have a couple of photos on my profile, one with kids and the other a facial shot. Are you sure you don’t have any at all with kids? Relatives perhaps? The photo I have was taken on the sly while I was doing sport with the kids I looked after. Maybe if you ask around you could find some. If not, like others have said, you could stage some. Of course the idea of taking a photo next to the sign where you worked is also a good idea.

Meg November 29, 2015 at 1:30 pm

I’m curious about all the photos. Are any HPs willing to explain? I only really used them to weed out the very few who posted partying pictures or OTT sexy pictures.

Au Pair in NZ November 29, 2015 at 1:40 pm

I actually didn’t have any pictures of me with kids on my profile… (Nor did I have pictures of me with my friends or with my family… Whoops) Part of me just thinks it’s a little weird to post pictures of kids that have no say in if they want their photo online? I do have a picture of me and a puppy, though. ;) I guess I’ll never know if I was passed over because of that.

SeattleHD November 29, 2015 at 6:37 pm

Photos with kids always seem fake and staged to me anyway, so I don’t put much stock in them. However, it is nice to see the au pair visually in a variety of settings. A short note to say why you don’t have pix with kids is going to work for families who screen more for content in the profile than pictures.

Taking a Computer Lunch November 29, 2015 at 9:20 pm

I glance at the photos, and I ignore the videos. DH is the opposite, he watches the videos and ignores the photos. I look at the letter carefully (most are formulaic, but I try to see through the formula to glean information that offers job experience and life skills that are relevant to my family – APs if you can ignore the formula then your letter will really stand out!!!), then I turn my attention to job experience (anyone can tell me that they had 1,800 hours with a younger family member, so I ignore that – I’m looking for practicums and real experience in working with children who have disabilities, and then I look at references – a few of which are so honest they make me wince!

Look, every applicant puts her or his best foot forward! That’s a given (and the dare-to-match with us letter removes 80% of the applicants, and then Skype/telephone interview does a fair job of screening for actual matches).

However, what I want to say is that everything is staged, isn’t it? We all offer the best side of ourselves, which is why I clean my house to the nth before the AP arrives. I want her to learn, slowly, how little I care about housework when I’d rather be outside in my garden! (That being said, I’m morally compelled to be up front about The Camel’s real limitations and the fact that child #2 has an anxiety disorder because he’s done his homework in the pediatric intensive care while his sibling was on life support more than once.)

So, potential AP – better to have a picture taken in front of a school or another place of employment where you worked directly with children, then several pictures of you on holiday, the prom, or otherwise hanging with your besties! Because, really, while I care that you are a good “best friend,” what I really want to know is that you love being with children enough to fly across an ocean or a continent and be with mine for several hours a day for 51 weeks!

Returning HM November 29, 2015 at 11:30 pm

I do look closely at the pictures, and I will admit that they influence me one way or another. When someone’s hair is just too perfect in every picture, I do decide that that person is likely too high-maintenance for our household, where no one uses a blowdryer, except for 13 year old DD maybe once every 2-3 weeks.

The pictures in our current AP’s profile were part of what made me interested in him in the first place: He was working in a school for children with pretty severe disabilities, and in every picture (most of which were taken of him while working but didn’t appear staged), he had his arm casually draped around the shoulders of the child he was working with or reading to, or he was otherwise physically engaged with the child (helping one to ice skate and another to eat). My son has developmental delays, and it is extremely important to us that our AP be comfortable with a lot of physical contact with an elementary-aged child, both as an expression of affection and also as part of childcare. I also like to see pictures of a prospective au pair smiling, laughing, and having fun with people who have disabilities. It suggests to me that they might possibly our son and see his assets, not just his deficits. Obviously, the interviews and email exchanges will flesh this assumption out, but the photos do count for something!

OP, you have gotten good advice as to how to work around this. I do think finding a neighbor or friend with a child who will allow said child to be photographed with you would be a good idea – for parents who want to see children in the photos, this would provide what they want, but your description of why you have none at work would also be super important.

SwissAuPair November 30, 2015 at 3:58 am

I’m on Aupairworld and I did not wanted to just upload kids pictures to that very public platform , so I put those lines in my profile:
“I know that it would be nice to see me on pictures with children. But because of privacy reasons I do not want to upload them here. I’d love to share them with you in an E-Mail.”
Many families said, that they really appreciate this note and that it was one of the reason why they started to talk to me.

Rural host mom November 30, 2015 at 6:46 am

Certainly be honest; I don’t take the pictures too seriously since I assume they are staged, unless they had clearly been taken a while back. When everyone has the same outfit on at the park, doing homework, cooking eggs – they add nothing to the profile for me.
It’s responsible to just say why you don’t have photos. Keep in mind that, to this potential host parent, what I read right away is that you don’t have any recent experience watching kids on your own. I really like candidates who are currently taking care of children.

Mimi November 30, 2015 at 12:38 pm

HD glances at the photos, and probably watches the videos. I ignore both unless he points something out. I’m more interested in specifics of the profile (family size, other work experience, personal interests) and interview dynamics. If you had no photos of children in your profile with a brief explanation about why, it would suffice for us but any pictures of activities with you engaged with children would also work IMO.

AuPair in The Netherlands November 30, 2015 at 9:18 pm

Most of my childcare experience came from babysitting so I did not have many photos of myself with children due to the fact that there was no one there to take photos for me and I am horrible at taking selfies. What I did is I put the one photo I had of me and a kid I babysat and then filled up the rest of my required photo collage with pictures of me with my family, my friends and me doing extracurricular activities such as theatre and choir. If you mention that you don’t have photos of you with children and give the reason why I think you will be fine. In fact one of the reasons my host family picked me because of the extracurricular activities I did matched with their childs interest so the photos that helped me land the job were not even the photos (photo) of me with children.

NJ Mom December 1, 2015 at 5:54 pm

I like the idea of getting a picture in front of the school and camp and explain in the caption why you can’t show pictures with the kids. Another option might be taking pictures of the classroom when the children are not there, or pictures of arts/crafts the children produced making sure no names are captured either. Then I would load up on photos with your family and friends doing your favorite activities. Families are matching not only on your child care abilities, but also on a good fit with their family. Shared interests can make you stand out from other candidates – AP applications start to look all the same after awhile.

PhotoLess December 2, 2015 at 2:53 am

Hi everyone, OP here,

Thanks so much for all your advice, I’m feeling a little less stressed now. I’ve taken some pictures outside my work, and definitely will be including an explanation in my caption and host family letter.
Rural host mom – Thanks for letting me know how I came across. The families I currently babysit for are super-conscious of the digital profiles they’re creating for their kids and are very cautious of how photos of them are shared. I’ll definitely add that into my letter :)
Another question: I have some 3 and 4 year old pictures of me with kids I used to look after. Do you think they’re too old? All my family on this side of the country are 15+.
Thanks again for all your help!

Seattle Mom December 3, 2015 at 6:44 pm

I think, in the absence of other kid photos, the 3-4 year old photos of you with kids would be ok. Just not too many, and in combination with the caption on pictures outside your work will do the trick.

I personally do look heavily at the photos- photos and au pair letter are the most important things that I look at. I look at the photos to see if the au pair would be a good fit for my family values- I want to see pictures of the au pair looking down-to-earth, not all dressed up, wearing little or no makeup, doing outdoorsy things. If there are also pictures where they are dressed up for a night on the town that is fine, but if that’s all there is then I’m not interested. I want someone who can throw jeans and a sweat shirt on and go play in the dirt with the kids. Who will not need to blow dry her hair and put on make up just to leave the house. But if you clean up well, I won’t hold it against you :).

I’ll be honest, I’m also looking for clues of an active, healthy lifestyle. I do want au pairs of a healthy weight too.

If there are zero pictures with kids I might wonder why. But actually it’s worse when there are 10 pictures of kids without the au pair, and then only like 4 pictures of the au pair at all.

If I came across your application and you did the caption explaining why no pics of kids, plus maybe one or two old pics of you with kids, and then a bunch of other photos that show you in various activities and states of dress, I would be ready to consider your full application :).

New to This December 4, 2015 at 12:10 pm

Just a note that differences in individual weights (as opposed to aggregated population trends) have a lot more to do with genetics than lifestyle, especially in the AP age group, where lifestyle influences haven’t yet had as much time to accumulate. (In my own experience, college campuses tend to be full of skinny couch potatoes and active fatties — I was in the former group, as the impulse to take my nose out of a book and go outside didn’t really set in until I was nearly 30…) But I could certainly see drawing some useful inferences about lifestyle from the settings and activities applicants choose to highlight, and also from whether they appear to know how to dress practically for what they’re purportedly doing!

Seattle Mom December 4, 2015 at 7:41 pm

There’s another reason for the healthy weight thing, that has nothing to do with lifestyle: our dining area of our eat-in kitchen is a tight squeeze, and we’ve appreciated having normal-weight au pairs who don’t have too much trouble getting in and out. When my obese parents visit, we experience how much difficulty we would have with a heavily overweight au pair. I’m not looking for perfection, just someone who will fit in our kitchen. I teeter on the edge between normal and slightly overweight myself (though I’m super athletic), and that is fine- I just can’t handle teetering on the edge of obese, for a variety of reasons but mainly for the practical reason that they won’t fit in my house.

And in the back seat of our car, between two car seats. Because I’m tall and I’m not giving up shot gun! (except when my parents are in town)

But I do look for activity level, no matter what the au pair looks like, and I tell all prospects that they will walk an average of 2.5 miles per day taking my kids to & from school. I’ve had au pairs reject me based on that- and they were active people, they just don’t like walking I guess.

In the end, we all look for different things in au pairs, based on what is important to us. It’s different than hiring a bank teller or even a teacher. We’re looking for a prospective family member, and someone to live in our home for a year. So there’s going to be some bias. I don’t honestly think I’d hire myself as an au pair- I’m a nice, smart person, but too disorganized.

oranje_mama December 3, 2015 at 2:49 pm

I, for one, am not so impressed by multiple kindergarten internship photos. In fact, I’m not that impressed in general with the 2 week internship in a kindergarten – partly because I now have older kids, but also, I don’t think it demonstrates much (I should also say: I lived overseas and actually had a child in a kindergarten so I now how little that 2 week internship actually entails!). (Experience with coaching, summer/vacation camps, church youth groups are more important to me.)

I also screen in both video and photo for girls without a hair out of place / perfect make up or overly sexy/prissy attire. One prom photo suffices (and actually, I’m sick of prom photos, so you’d do better to skip if you have other, better photos).

Most effective photos:
– if you have lived away from home before (eg, a week long exchange with a family), a photo from that experience is effective
– a photo of you doing your sport/hobby
– a photo of you with your dog(s) (we have a dog and are looking for APs who are not only going to “tolerate” living in a dog-owning household, but actually appear to like dogs)
– a photo of you partaking in an outside experience (could be anything from a walk in the woods, to a ski photo – something that shows you like to be outdoors)
– a couple of photos with non-related kids is ideal, but in lieu of this, a picture with the summer camp sign or the like plus an explanation would work
– a photo of your family

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