How to Decline an Au Pair Match — Politely

by cv harquail on August 26, 2014

No one wants to be rejected — not au pairs and not host parents.   But reject each other we must, since we know that even a perfectly lovely candidate (in this case, either a host parent or a potential au pair) may just not feel like the right fit.

But how can we let the candidate know that we don’t feel a match, without hurting their feelings?

7982702742_b57e8ae424It’s easiest to explain that you’re declining by pointing to a concrete, unchangeable feature of the mismatch — e.g., “I’d prefer older children”, or “I don’t think I’d be comfortable in a situation where I’ll need to drive often on the highway” or “Our family likes to eat meat so we think a vegetarian might be difficult to accommodate in our tiny kitchen.”

Honor your intuition

If you don’t have a concrete explanation and it’s more about a gut feel, you should honor your intuition.  Folks have often said on this blog that they didn’t feel comfortable with a match but pushed on because they were in a hurry or they didn’t have a concrete reason to decline the match.  Don’t do this.

It’s perfectly okay to say “it doesn’t feel like a match to us”.

If it doesn’t feel like a match to you, and you’re sure you’re not being too picky, say so and move on.

Be prompt with your response. It doesn’t make it any easier to wait to share the mis-match news. Don’t leave a candidate hanging without an answer. Let them move quickly to the next possible match.

Reply using the same medium you promised to use. It’s fine to use email for your reply — unless you already promised to follow up with a skype or hangout. If you said you’d call – call! It won’t kill you.

Be kind. Phrase it in a way that doesn’t necessarily assign responsibility (e.g., never say “You seem creepy”).  I personally don’t think you need to start with “It’s not you, it’s us.” If it’s not a match it’s not a match.  

Make sure that you absolutely don’t suggest that someone is at fault. We are each who we are– none of us is “wrong”. It’s just that there isn’t a match.

There’s a glove for every hand, a lid for every pot, and an au pair- host family match that’s right for you.

It you talk with a candidate and you don’t feel a match, say so. Nicely, promptly, and without blame.

Release each other to move to the next candidate so that you can ultimately find a match that works.



Taking a Computer Lunch August 26, 2014 at 12:09 pm

As you might imagine, as someone who has hosted 10 au pairs in 13 1/2 years, I have both been rejected by lots of candidates and rejected many myself. When a candidate, whom I think might be a great match for us, won’t consent to an interview, I respond, with “I am sorry to hear that you are not interested in interviewing. Your experience as an xxxx and your work with xxx really intrigued me. I’m sure with those qualities you’ll find an excellent match with another family. Good luck in your au pair year.”

By the time we interview candidates, we are serious. In good years, we have several from which to choose. In the end we always have to make a hard decision. For example, we once had to choose between an older candidate who had done an Ausbildung and had extensive experience with children very similar to our own child with special needs. She had lived away from home and had done her own laundry and cleaning. We also interviewed a fantastic younger candidate, who had an excellent and long-term commitment to two neighbor children who had disabilities that differed from my child’s, but showed me that she could take on difficult tasks and see them through. However, when I asked her about chores at home she made it clear that her mother did all the housework, but that she would help when asked. As you might imagine, my choice was easy, but it felt really hard to tell the younger candidate “I’m sorry.” In the end, I composed an email that listed all the great attributes that would make her a wonderful au pair, and was explicit about the reasons why I selected another candidate.

In the past, some candidates have made it easier for me to say no, like the Korean candidate whose telephone interview lasted exactly 15 minutes, because she couldn’t understand our questions. The only one she understood was a yes/no question in basic English. While she sent me a follow-up email insisting she had understood everything, I wrote back and said, we only completed two of the five sections because no matter how we rephrased the questions she could not answer them appropriately (the reason we ask questions that cannot be answered by yes or no is that we want to be sure to match with someone whose English is more than intermediate). I told her while her application was stellar, she would really benefit from studying with a native English speaker for a few months.

WarmStateMomma August 26, 2014 at 12:20 pm

We don’t need someone who speaks great English so I prefer to do most of our communication via email. It’s way less frustrating (for me) than watching someone twist in the wind or trying to rephrase my question 5 times. However, we would have an entirely different approach if we knew the AP would be responsible for precisely conveying medical information as often as yours.

I know that the candidates get more time to come up with the “right” answer or poll their advisors about their response, but it’s also an interesting window into what/who influences that individual.

For rejection, I just tell the candidate that we need someone with more driving experience and that she should concentrate her search on families that don’t need a driver (typically in Northern cities).

WestMom August 26, 2014 at 12:52 pm

We have only rejected candidates a few times. In one case, we had three great candidates and we ended up going with the one with more childcare experience (she was a trained social worker who had worked in orphanages). I felt terrible turning down the other two. But in this case, they all knew we had a few candidates in mind, so after highlighting their great qualities, I basically explained why we chose the more experienced person. In the end, I recommended both to a friend of mine, and she ended up picking on of them, which was great all around!

As for WarmStateMom, we do most of our communication via email. Once we Skype, I am 90% ready to match (and I assume candidate feels the same way).

We have been rejected, of course. The main reason is that we require that our AP speak French at all times with the children, and some APs don’t want this type of arrangement which I full respect. The other reason is about timing, and I have to say that it often frustrates me… Admittedly, I do start my search early, so I won’t contact someone who wants to come 6 months before I am ready to host, but I have been rejected by candidates who won’t flex their arrival by one or two months because they ‘have plans for August of next year’. After six AP, I can pretty safely say that all our APs had noble plans for when they finish their year (work with street kids in south America, start an orphanage in Africa, go back to school…), but none of them actually ended up doing what they originally planned. I know it’s hard for a young adult to understand, but at that age, whatever you think you will be doing next year is very much a maybe… You might be missing out on a great family by not being more flexible with your arrival date…

TexasHM August 26, 2014 at 2:01 pm

We’ve had lots of both (rejection and rejecting) and its gotten much easier over time because as was said – there is a lid for every pot and it doesn’t mean they aren’t a great candidate and we aren’t a great family, there’s just a better fit out there. We have rejected candidates for timing, concerns over driving (2nd year AP that wasn’t permitted to drive in previous family), and APs diets (everything from German that wanted us to buy her specific food as its all she would eat and it was “expensive” so she didn’t want to pay for it – she was in rematch due to this issue and thought her family was being unreasonable to the Austrian that ate one meal per day at 2pm to the staunch vegetarian – we live in BBQ country after all). I had one candidate that had great answers but I got the impression she would match with any nice family so I cut her loose and was honest (I don’t think you have found your match in us) and she matched with another family 2 days later that only had her on view for one day so I guess we were right! :)
Often times its not big things but a compilation of little things that make us think they won’t be as happy here as they would somewhere else. Like the vegetarian that rode her bike everyday. We said she is great but would be happier in another city with better public transportation so she could stay active and have more food options and I gave her several cities that I thought would be great for her. She matched with a family in DC (one of the cities I suggested) and thanked us profusely after for that feedback, said it helped her see what she was looking for in a match.
We mostly get rejected for location (not NY or CA), for beliefs (Christian but we don’t discriminate, apparently that does not go both ways!!!!) and for differing desires of role (we want family member and give examples of what that means, if they want to be more of an employee they reject us).

WarmStateMomma August 26, 2014 at 7:54 pm

I’ve wondered if location is the reason why some APs just don’t respond to an initial inquiry. I guess if the only parts of the US you’ve heard of are DC/NY/CA, there isn’t much interest in going somewhere else.

TexasHM August 27, 2014 at 7:51 am

I now tell the agency if they don’t respond and hold their profile until I hear something either way. I find it horribly rude when they don’t respond. Usually once the agency reaches out I get a quick response, sometimes they give a one liner reason, sometimes it’s just “I don’t think we are a match”. I always ask them why to make sure it’s not something I’ve miscommunicated and it’s often location. This is where I get the “I want to live in San Francisco where it’s warm and sunny” type responses usually. :)

Peachtree Mom August 27, 2014 at 12:45 pm

I agree that it is rude when someone does not bother to respond one way or the other. I am left thinking “did my email go through”, “is there a problem” . This year I did tell the agency about this issue because there seemed to be more than usual.

WarmStateMomma August 27, 2014 at 1:56 pm

I hear you. The Chinese APs are often in the pool for a year or more, so I think many of them move on to other things before a host family contacts them. I don’t follow up because I don’t want to land the kind of person that has to be goaded into being an AP or forgot that she was once so interested in the idea.

It’s also unclear to me whether the lack of research about my location (or any of their options for education, recreation, etc.) once we start having serious conversations is a result of the great Firewall of China or a lack of initiative.

WarmStateMomma August 27, 2014 at 2:00 pm

We haven’t been rejected by an AP for any reason other than they already matched with another family before getting a chance to answer more than an initial inquiry from me. But I do think some don’t respond to the initial inquiry because of location. The candidates with agencies tend to be invested enough to respond most of the time; not so much for the candidates with greataupair or aupairworld.

exaupair August 26, 2014 at 5:47 pm

I’ve been rejected sooooo many times, certainly more than I’ve rejected a HF. Every time I got a brief explanation why we’re not a good match, however whenever I’ve rejected someone I didn’t get into details.

In the Throes of Rematch August 27, 2014 at 8:28 am

We’re in rematch now (earlier I was pondering it, but we officially initiated it on Monday — which went as well/badly as I had anticipated). We found three solid candidates from out of country that we are “pursuing” but no seemingly good rematch in-country candidates. I know that changes on the daily, so we’ll see.

When we were determining our match for AP2 (who is in rematch now), we found two other great candidates. One was so sweet and checked almost all the boxes, but her English just wasn’t as strong as AP2. (AP2’s English is mind-blowingly good.) Hubby was very swayed by the quality of AP2’s English, and it overshadowed some other things that were more attractive about other candidates. Lesson learned on that one. One of the candidates we loved came from a seemingly-impoverished household and had scraped together the money to come to America for her au pair year. She was very transparent about the poverty she was escaping and how excited she was for this chance at a new life. I had no other reason to reject her other than a worry in the back of my brain that she was coming for a husband. These were not necessarily legitimate.

When I wrote a nice note explaining why we were matching with AP2, I simply wished them well and thanked them effusively for the time they had invested in exploring a possible match with us. I said that AP2’s English was phenomenal and that was the deciding factor. I didn’t go into any of the other things.

We were rejected by an AP candidate that I was absolutely in love with. I loved her communication style, I thought she was great on paper and better on skype. The kids adored her jokes and she was very smooth but authentic. She chose to go to NYC and only considered DC (where we are) a back-up option. We had no chance unless HFs in NYC passed on her. She wrote a two sentence email wishing us well.

Repeataupair August 27, 2014 at 2:38 pm

As an au pair before my extension year I have rejected because of the language (french had to be spoken all the time to the kids) and the schedule (three 15 hour days), both those reasons my french agency gave me crap about it and threatened to cancel my profile…
For my extension I have been more specific and I rejected for age reason (I was really specific about not under 5, just because of what I like to do with kids), number of kids (4 boys) and location (East Coast). I have been honnest and answered right away to the family about the reason why I did not want to exchange with them, most of them moved forward right away, one only the dad asked me details about the reason why I was not interested.

I got rejected once and that was because the family was in a hurry to match and I was on vacation with time difference and I did not want to be stuck in a room trying to skype instead of having a good time, if they did not want to wait for four days to talk to me by skype, I just figured they were not the family for me. That same week I got in contact with my current HF and we skype the day I came back, that has work out.

WarmStateMomma August 27, 2014 at 3:16 pm


We are upfront about requiring our au pair to speak her native language with our daughter (and to the child we are expecting in December). I find it unlikely that an au pair would get much benefit from speaking English with my daughter because she’s only 20 months old, but I understand that improving their English skills is the biggest goal for many au pairs. At what age do you think this becomes an issue for au pair candidates?

Emerald City HM August 27, 2014 at 5:13 pm

I’m not sure there is an age of children when this really should or would make a difference. I think it’s just the au pair really. Our 3rd au pair was pretty insistent that she did not want to speak her native language to our daughters becasue she wanted to practice her english. :/ Ours were just over 2 and just under a year when she started with us.

So now we have to undo the damage that our au pair did to our 3 year old’s english. She picked up an accent from the au pair, and started using shorter (incorrect) phrases instead of the sentences she used to speak.

We have decided never again will we select an au pair whose only focus is learning english.

WestMom August 27, 2014 at 11:49 pm

I agree, I think it’s more of a mindset issue than a kids age issue. The girls who have rejected us bc of language really wanted to be immersed in the English language/culture, and unfortunately we could not offer that 100%.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 28, 2014 at 6:51 am

My first AP ended up speaking her native language to child #2, who was completely bilingual by the time she left 3 1/2 years later (we tried to sponsor her as an employer because had the skill set The Camel needed). She said, at one point, having spent the evening with a 7-year-old, that her English would have improved much faster had she been caring for older children. It’s nonsense to think that infants and toddlers will help improve one’s English!

Au Pairs who want to use HK to improve English should be looking at preschoolers and younger school-age kids. While my APs have had the perfect opportunity to improve their English with my younger teenager (The Camel does not talk), in the last few years I have seen few attempts on their part to initiate conversation.

WarmStateMomma August 28, 2014 at 7:24 am

LOL! I’m just thinking of the English words an AP would pick up from my toddler: “nilk” (for milk), potty, stinky poo-poo, “fook” (for fork), etc.

Pam September 1, 2014 at 10:45 pm

I’m arriving to the US in November and I’m taking care of 2 girls under 2, the first thing my HF told me was that they wanted me to speak in Spanish all the time with the girls.
I want to learn English but anyway the AuPair program is about cultural exchange so why not? I will be speaking English with my HP and my English is not that good so I can teach the girls to speak the language in a wrong way, because neither of us knows how to speak it fluently.
So I’m totally fine speaking Spanish all day long with the girls.

exaupair September 2, 2014 at 5:39 pm

Don’t worry, you will have plenty of opportunities to speak English, you will be surprised how it improved at the end of your year.

Repeataupair September 1, 2014 at 7:43 pm

I do think that younger candidates might come here to get a better english before starting post secondary school but a lot of them also have a terrible english, speaking their mother tongue might be helpful to actually properly take care of the kids.

My point of view is that I want kids old enough so I can have conversations with them, therefore the language is actually something that matters, but when the speaking is only going one way (like with babies or toddlers), I do agree that it should not matter which language we speak.

I also relate more easily to people from my country, so I know I will be speaking french outside of the HF home quite often, which is also the reason why I want an english speaking family. But I do teach words, numbers, expressions or cultural facts to my HK, I just don’t want to speak french daily.

S. Blackhurst August 28, 2014 at 1:15 am

This is hard, especially for the person being rejected. Being open and honest is the best bet. I also think families and Au Pairs should be open about if they are talking to other families or Au Pairs and how serious those conversations are. This could help families and Au Pairs prepare for the alternatives.

skny August 28, 2014 at 4:00 pm

great topic as we just matched with an au pair of out of country (fingers crossed, arrives in 2 weeks), and rejected 2 in country and one out of. One gave the excuse that rematch was because she did not want to speak native language to kids (HELLO? we request the same). Second rematched because she did not get along to older host child (same age of mine that can be trouble).
The hardest was between very different candidates. 26yo preschool teacher. tons of experience, great knowledgment, but picky eater, restricted diet, and just ok personality. Not bad, just a fine person.
Other was a 20yo in veterinarian school who was NOT very experienced, but had this awesome personality. She just seemed like someone who I would enjoy spending an year with. She loves to cook and shared all her secrets of experiences creating new meals… very fun girl. Hope I dont regret choosing her over experience. will see

WarmStateMomma August 28, 2014 at 5:41 pm

I’m pretty confident that my current AP had no meaningful experience with kids. She is intelligent, close with my daughter, and a lot of fun to be around. Good luck with your match!

TexasHM August 28, 2014 at 11:16 pm

It’s no secret I don’t look for experience. I’d take no experience and great attitude any day!!

Taking a Computer Lunch August 29, 2014 at 6:52 am

I’m the opposite – I do look for experience – it doesn’t have to be working with kids exactly like The Camel – but to have someone who has never worked with kids with special needs and face culture shock is too much of a learning curve for me.

I’m very up front about the diaper-changing, dressing and feeding, but every so, one AP arrived and immediately asked, “You mean I have to get in her personal space?” Well, duh.

LondonMum August 29, 2014 at 7:07 am

I work with special needs people and prospective employees always come and look round before interview and get a very straight talking explanation of what is required of care givers. Still, some of them are surprised on day 1 when they have to help change nappies and clean and change people! I guess some people are duh!

skny August 29, 2014 at 12:44 pm

I believe it. my last au pair (rematch one) was shocked that I was upset she did not wash the 4mo baby when she cried 40 min to sleep because she was dirty and sticky from sun lotion. She felt it was not an au pair job to bathe the child

LondonMum August 29, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Oh my goodness! Washing and feeding are the most basic forms of care, what on earth did she think she had to do to care for a 4 mth old! It surprises me that people applying to be an au pair can be so lacking in basic knowledge.

Seattle Mom September 1, 2014 at 2:02 am

Lately we have rejected a couple of candidates after skyping with them because they didn’t seem intelligent enough.. I don’t think this is something I can be up front about when sending a rejection email, so I usually just say “I don’t think we are right for each other” and leave it at that.

I find that I am most sensitive to whatever shortcoming my current AP has when I am in the hunt for a new AP. AP#1 lacked energy, so I looked for an energetic girl for AP#2. But then she lacked any warmth so we rematched and I looked for a warm AP for #3- I got that plus a very energetic woman. She was actually almost perfect so I wasn’t too worried about #4, who turned out to be lacking between the ears… so this is what we are searching for in AP #5, though we are being careful to find someone warm & energetic as well.

Taking a Computer Lunch September 5, 2014 at 11:38 pm

There was one HM who used to ask for transcripts. (Are you still out there?) I must say, I’ve had A students (often curious, push me, push themselves, are intense, and we end up getting along great), B students (some fumble along and rise to the occasion, others find their niche and are suddenly behaving like A students, some find their way into my heart because they’re reliable and learn from their mistakes), and C students (never ask questions, make huge mistakes, we don’t mesh because they don’t know enough to ask for help). Curiosity is hugely under-rated in a candidate.

2XY-1XX Mom September 4, 2014 at 6:30 pm

We all have our traits we are looking for and what one host family doesn’t like in an au pair, another may find just right. So I have simply responded by email with a very nice note thanking them for taking time to speak with us, and saying it was nice meeting them, it was a difficult decision, etc etc but we have decided to go with someone else. Then I sincerely wish them luck in their search and future endeavors.

And I do mean all of this – because I don’t even interview someone unless their profile has really impressed me. So usually it truly is a hard decision but just feel a click or something extra with the one I’ve gone with. So far it has worked for 2 and we’re about to welcome aupair #3 next week so lets hope I am not jinxing this. I think it is best to be positive, polite, and respectful and you do not need to over explain things.

Pam September 5, 2014 at 11:48 pm

You are so right!
When I was doing interviews some families were so rude on rejecting you so it is nice when the HM take her time to tell you that you were not the one they choose, I was not hurt by the fact they didn’t chose me, I was hurt because they just didn’t answered any of my emails, it is awful and so irrespectful when they just don’t answer you. You may reject other families because you’re waiting for them to tell you their decision, but then you realize somehow you are letting good families pass by!

(I’m sorry if I made any mistake, I speak Spanish! :))

exaupair September 6, 2014 at 7:53 am

If the Family rejects you in a rude manner, then being rejected sounds like a lucky escape to me! Imagine how they could be like in everyday life.
Some people, who rejected me didn’t get back to me even with a generic email…but I don’t find that very rude, I understand that a person who has to got through 100s of profiles and then interview dozens of candidates can forget to get back to one r two unsuccessful ones.

DowntownMom September 6, 2014 at 10:12 pm

APs absolutely deserve to find out about the decision from the host parents. After all you have invested time talking to us. A number of APs will reply “I didn’t want you anyway.” I realize they are young and no matter how nicely I phrase my email, some APs will take it personally.

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