The Most Successful Au Pair Picker in all of New Jersey

by cv harquail on January 31, 2014

Last weekend I had an insane conversation with a woman who was introduced to me as “The Most Successful Au Pair Picker in All of New Jersey!”

Okay, so our mutual friend was exaggerating. But I spied an opportunity for you, dear readers.

How does she do it? What’s her secret? AuPairMoms demand to know!


First, I look only at young au pairs– 19 years old, tops.

I like candidates from Latin countries like Brazil, who are outgoing, cheerful and like to socialize.

I want them to have big appetites and say they’ll eat anything.

If they’ve never been away from home, that’s okay because we have a friendly family.

They all stretch the truth about their driving, so we take them out for a road test on the Garden State Parkway on their the first day.  If they can’t handle the mini-van, I sign them up with the Sears Driving School. Those guys love me.”

[Blank stare, from me.]

This Most Successful Au Pair Picker in all of New Jersey Host Mom just rattled off all the things I *don’t* look for.

And when I asked her about her process, she said:

“I just take the first one who’s pretty and cheerful who can arrive on my timeline.”

No. Not possible. She’s had 11 au pairs — and not one rematch. NOT ONE!

It doesn’t seem fair.

Why do we talk so much about our criteria?
About our careful vetting processes?
Are we just nuts? Obsessive? Superstitious?
Or has this Host Mom just been lucky?

I report. You decide, below:



Image: AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by MissBlythe


Momma Gadget January 31, 2014 at 10:52 am

Wow! My control freak side just well,… freaked out.
Maybe she should go play lotto because she sounds very lucky or maybe just one of those charmed people. Maybe she is just really easy going .

I do think for all our evaluating, and looking over dossiers with a magnifying glass, our best matches have been 70% dumb luck. I also know our worst match happened when I was a lot more cavalier about the whole matching process with a “I’m sure she’ll be fine” attitude.

Southern HM January 31, 2014 at 11:55 am

Agreed, wow! This is actually pretty funny. Maybe she has been very lucky, she should play the lottery! Or the whole process is more like a lottery than we all allow ourselves to admit. I do agree that pretty and cheerful and my timeline are good starting points. But personally I will not deal with au pairs any more that cannot drive. I am not paying for anybody’s driving school. I cannot wait for an au pair to learn driving, my kids need to go places, that’s why we need an au pair!

My guess is that this host mom is pretty laid back about other areas, too. It’s great that this works for her. And while I think we are pretty laid back in many areas (no curfews, au pair car…), good driving is a real need for us and has been an issue with several au pairs (though by the way not a problem with any of our South American au pairs, but definitely a problem with our East European ones).

Should be working January 31, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Yes, can we get more info, or an INTERVIEW, with this host mom?? I want to know whether housekeeping is a task she requires; how many kids she has; what kinds of conflicts she has had with au pairs, the whole caboodle.

Multitasking Host Mom January 31, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Obviously, being pretty and social are traits that this host mom values in her own life. I agree CV, that I am looking for more than that in an AP. But I could see how this could work for the above host mom. She ends up with the type of person that she wants to be around her and her children, so she is happy. The big personality traits I look for is someone who shows maturity and values education. But these are things that I feel are important to pass on to my children. And that is what works for my family. It is a good illustration of how unique the matching process truly is for each Host Family and each Au Pair.

Should be working January 31, 2014 at 12:55 pm

I’m with Momma Gadget–my control freak self is now even MORE self-doubting in reading this.

I only wish that I could have 4-5 questions whose answers would determine who is acceptable. I’ve been complaining with Momma Gadget about the problem of tea-leaf-reading with matching and how I used to be more confident than I am now about my own criteria.

“Cheerful and pretty” might sound like superficial criteria, but it might be more interpretive than we realize. It could even be a shorthand for something I look for, more verbosely described as: positive-minded, friendly, pleasant, well-groomed, no trashy clothes, not very overweight or at all underweight, a good role model for my pubescent daughter regarding not-fussy-appearing, appropriate makeup (not excessive). But I would think that conversation would be really really important too.

11 au pairs without rematch means she’s had 11 years of au pairs. Interesting. I think DarthaStewart rivals that record, but including rematches.

Emerald City HM January 31, 2014 at 12:58 pm

I think she has just managed to find what works for her family. I can see how that would not work for us though. It might be fun for a while to have a more outgoing au pair in our house, but our introverted sides would become exhausted and probably bitter.

HM in SoCal January 31, 2014 at 2:02 pm

I think that being in the area she is in helps with regards to some of the regular issues we see in my area. That location has alot of au pairs in the cluster with multiple age groups with many opportunities to do things with. One of my au pairs had no one under 21 in our area so she did not get to participate in the main activity for those aupairs which was clubbing/husband searching. My last search I focused on someone who was happy/extroverted who could make friends easily, and got an au pair who loves to party with a million friends all over which has her putting on extremely high amount of miles on our car (greater than 1K each month). I think luck certainly plays a big role and even when you think you know what you want, you don’t know the side affects of those traits.

Should be working January 31, 2014 at 2:09 pm

“Even when you think you know what you want, you don’t know the side affects of those traits”. This really is an existential issue, or maybe it’s more like Aristotelian tragedy, that what appears to be the strength of the character can also be their downfall.

We likewise wanted extroverted and talkative, and got high-drama and need-for-lots-of-attention. We wanted big-family-knows-what-work-means and got big-family-with-strict-outlook-less-warmth. Et al.

Angie host mom January 31, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Here’s what I think – the more time we spend (including myself) on going through profiles, reports, skyping, researching, the more invested we become in the image of what we want our au pair to be, and the more disappointed we are when the real live individual shows up at our door with her own faults and idiosyncrasies. We convince ourselves we are going to have an au pair with a world view aligning with our own when the reality is just as likely to be oddly off. Sounds like “the picker” is just looking for an upbeat girl and probably is very easygoing in her requirements.

Alliinny January 31, 2014 at 4:51 pm

It’s really an amazing thing that someone could be looking for the absolute opposite of EVERYTHING I look for and still be happy. I guess it goes to show… something, I’m not sure what!

I’ve only had 2 APs – both terrific (although one better then the other) but I had 5 years of full-time live in help leading up to the point where my kids were old enough to try an AP and so I would hope that for my next, if I stick to my basic requirements, I’ll have the same success again. I think the key is that after all these years I truly understand what my family needs and, just an important, what I can live with. I must have an excellent driver over 22 years old from a snowy European country who has lived independently and who is an independent person. Not needy and not looking for me to be her new best friend but hopefully wants to be my kids best friend. It’s easy to lose hope when searching or slide towards compromise but perseverance is key! Or at least that’s what I tell myself – ask me again if my next AP ends up in rematch!

OpinionatedHM January 31, 2014 at 6:58 pm

Ditto every fellow control freak on freaking out. But, there is something to be said for this method. We had a great first Au Pair, and now that we are on Au Pair number 4, I am finally understanding why we loved her so much. AP1 was happy, confident, easy going, and attractive. This meant that everywhere she went, she was received positively and welcomed by everyone.
AP2 was happy, positive, introverted, and average looking. Everywhere she went, she faded into the background and people forgot about her. She spent much of her time waiting, in vain, for someone to tell her what to do. We stuck with her, because she was so sweet with the kids and she had the best of intentions. However, by the end of her year, we were ready for her to go because having her with us was like having another kid in the house.
AP3 we decided to go with a more mature and assertive AP, thinking we didn’t want to have a repeat of AP2. AP3 was older, independent, confident, and attractive. What she wasn’t was happy or positive. Everywhere she went, people wanted to like her, but they didn’t. She became even more sullen and miserable as time went on. (We reap what we sow?) Family members who can find the good in anyone found it hard to like her after spending a day with her. We eventually rematched. We learned a powerful thing about what we need in our lives.
On to AP4, younger, happy, extroverted, confident. I might need to give her a few reminders, I might have to pick up her shoes, but she makes my kids smile and everyone else too for that matter.
I can live with someone who leaves a messy kitchen, I can live with someone who needs to be reminded to do things, or who is chronically late. I cannot live with someone who is a glass half empty person. We are a happy, exuberant family and we need someone who can hang with that! Everything else is workable!
(Of course I will print this and put it into my planner to remind me when I am grumpy about picking up those shoes for the umpteenth time;-))

Au pair January 31, 2014 at 9:18 pm

I think it really depends on the hm. I have been her over 3 years and have been friends with aupairs that aupair for a family I know. If my hm had just one of those ap, she would have gone crazy, but the other doesn’t care. Kitchen dirty? Laundry all over the house, kids do what they want with or without aupair, hm seriously does not care. She is always in a great mood, loves her ap’s as her daughters etc. they are nice ap’s, have good characters but suck at being an au pair. But if you as a hm don’t look for tidy organized entertaining aupair, and don’t freak out about things she does wrong thank of course no aupair rematches;) all 3 of them stayed, 3rd is extending. She describes her job as a fun vacation!!

WestMom February 1, 2014 at 4:30 pm

OMG- a fun vacation? I tell our candidates that if that’s what they are looking for, we are not the family for them…

Au pair February 1, 2014 at 8:31 pm

Totally agree with you!! My job was never a vacation!

spanishaupair February 2, 2014 at 3:06 pm

I agree that aupair job is not vacation. You can enjoy it and have lots of fun when working and in your free time and discover a new country and culture. But yeah working full time minding other peoples children for sure is not hollidays

HRHM February 5, 2014 at 11:03 am

If I wanted another kid, I’d adopt!

What is the point of spending the money, dealing with a stranger in your house, training, etc, if at the end of the day, the person doesn’t actually make your life easier/better. This is my worst nightmare!

Happy Host mom January 31, 2014 at 11:08 pm

I think it depends on you and your family. I’m no expert but spent ALOT of time researching the country, the Au Pairs, their profiles, and kept talking with them even AFTER matching and just asking them about their days, their likes, dislikes and got to know them on a good level. I think it’s 70 percent work and 30 percent luck You never know who you are really getting until you have them come over. I’m the opposite, I wanted a family person, someone who really loves being part of a family, would still have their own interests but would want to be part of our household. I like a younger Au Pair, someone who is still living with their own family, and wouldn’t find living with another family as a “step back” in their independence or growth. for us, it has worked. The downside is that these types of girls typically don’t want to rematch and want to go back to their own countries and families (Ireland and the UK for us), but it has worked. Sounds like to me that this woman is very laid back and knows what works for her family too.

Dorsi February 1, 2014 at 12:44 am

I think it is a bit unfair to imply that this women is only successful because she tolerates terrible behavior from the Au Pair. I think this speaks to the miracle of amazing management. Someone who has clear expectations, good communication, and the ability to motivate can get great performance out of a wide variety of people. We have had 5 matches, all lasting one year. There is one AP that was pretty terrible and we should have rematched. However, I consider it my failure as much as it was hers — I was unwilling to be confrontational, unwilling to risk that she would leave if I raised my expectations and let too much slide. It is entirely possible that she could have been an excellent AP with a great manager.

I think the “likes to eat anything” is funny — one of my early deal-breakers is an AP who says they have no food dislikes. To me that means they will say anything in order to match, and they can’t be trusted to give me honest answers.

LookingForwardToBeAP(made it!) February 1, 2014 at 12:29 pm

I have to tell you it is possible to not have food dislikes! I don’t!

I like eating, I ENJOY food, having a great meal can make my day, I like one things more than others, and sometimes I get tired of something and prefer not to have it for a while, but I don’t really have dislikes, and trying new things and new condiments I am not used to is one of the things I enjoy most about being in a different country!

(btw I have average weight and I am not crazy as this post may suggest)

Momma Gadget February 6, 2014 at 11:02 am

LFTBA-a bit off topic- I just noticed your “(made it!)” added to your screen name. It made me smile! I hope you have a great, interesting, rewarding & fun year!

WestMom February 1, 2014 at 4:37 pm

We do specifically look for people who are willing to eat almost anything. Our current au pair told us she could eat anything, but turns out she used to eat what her mom made for her which turns out to be pretty limited. At least she is adventurous and will try everything, but I was surprised that she had never tried asparagus, cauliflower or brussels sprouts!

Peachtree Mom February 1, 2014 at 9:03 am

The best advice I received from this website was to really decide what is important to you and your family and go with that. Let the other stuff go. You will never get the whole package….at least we haven’t even with hours of studying profiles, interviews, crystal clear expectations and handbooks. Good driving skills – definitely-we chose someone from Germany, 26yo who drove a cab on the weekends for extra money….totaled our SUV due to failure to pay attention. But she is just smitten with our daughter dependable and upbeat, she is a keeper despite the car incident and lack of laundry skills. I focus on what is important to us and let the rest take a back seat.

TexasHM February 1, 2014 at 10:38 am

I don’t think everyone is necessarily saying she tolerates “bad” behavior from the au pairs but I completely agree that my gut says that she is very laid back. Getting younger APs and having them feel indebted to you from the beginning (being the one to bring them to the US, expensive driving lessons upfront) probably heavily weighs into the completion rate I would think. That combined with a very laid back personality (no curfews, great location) would not surprise me at all to have a 100% completion rate. I would be curious how many extended. Just thinking about the indebtedness, that weighs in on a year but once they complete their commitment I wonder how many signed up for another year. Interesting!
We go over 21, screening for open-mindedness, flexibility, cheerfulness, ability to put themselves in the host family’s shoes (empathy) and would love to screen for driving but know thats impossible so we screen our best and then manage the reality when they arrive. We have had two APs, first extended another year, second extended but is about to go home because her dad is in the hospital so technically we have a 100% match rate and 100% extension rate although I realize we are going on #3 and not 11 I would like to think our neurotic interview process is translating into success – only time will tell! :)

Darthastewart February 1, 2014 at 11:08 am

I’m pretty sure it works for her. We’ve had au-pairs for 15.5 years, and we’re on our 22nd au-pair. the ones who haven’t worked have been older. Or male. and one who was from Turkey who didn’t like our dog at the time.

So, as long as we stick to our recipe- 18-19 years old, just out of highschool, German, cheerful, and not scared to match with us, it’s worked great. We do look at things and try to get a sense of them being able to fit in here, but really, we typically scare off so many au-pairs, that by the time we find one who’s friendly, and not terrified of 4 kids.. We know we have our match.

Should be working February 1, 2014 at 12:57 pm

Dartha, you must have older kids after 15 yrs. How do your 18-yr-olds do with your teens? I’m finding that gap smaller and smaller with a 13-yr-old. How do you screen for “can handle teen moods”?

Darthastewart February 1, 2014 at 2:29 pm

Sure- my oldest is 15, and is working on getting her learner’s permit.

As far as how the older kids 13 and 15 get along with the au-pair? They’ve had au-pairs since they were born, and they know better than to give the au-pair grief. At that age, it’s not about discipline, but about driving them places, and making sure that they’re doing stuff. Usually a gentle reminder is enough. My current au-pair actually gets along great with the 3 oldest, but my little guy (who is 7) is the pain in the hiney.

CaliHostMom February 1, 2014 at 2:36 pm

For Should be working: I’ve had APs for 14.5 years. My kids are now young teens. I’ve had 13 agency APs (with 1 rematch and 1 who stayed 9 mos. instead of 12). Interestingly, the rematch was a young AP (19) when we had tweens and the one who left early was an older AP (25) when the kids were around 6 years old. In both cases, it was much more an issue of bad personality fit with the job and with us rather than an age gap problem. That said, my last 3 APs have been very successful older APs (25, 26, 28) who have been able to understand, empathize with, and cope with the raging teenage and pre-teen angst here. All three have had enough distance from their own teen years that they have been able to reflect BACK on their own lives and experiences and memories and realize that they, too, did this kind of crazy sh*&. They could be non-judgmental and calming while coping with the neurological / biological changes that make teens so irrational and moody. So my advice is to choose older APs and just ask a few questions during the interviews to gauge their understanding of teen brains and their own memories of their teenage trials and tribulations with their parents. Also, I highly recommend that you and your APs read “Yes, Your Teen is Crazy” by neuroscientist Dr. Mike Bradley. It is a hilariously funny and full of super practical advice on living with teens. The author describes the recent brain research that has revealed the how and why of prefrontal cortex development (read: the scientific reason why teens are certifiably nuts). Last but not least, make sure in your screening interviews and your HF essay that you are very clear about the difference between aupairing for a family with teens versus young kids. You want an AP who knows what they are getting themselves into; not that caring for teens is worse than caring for children of other ages, it is just very different. It’s more about tutoring, chauffeuring, organizing, shopping, cooking, and counseling and less about diapering, runny-nose wiping, teaching to share, bathing, singing, and crafts.

LookingForwardToBeAP(made it!) February 1, 2014 at 12:18 pm

Woow! I hope no one takes this the wrong way but I’ve been laughing imagining your control freak faces as you read this!

I just want to say that you can put 3, maybe stretch to 4 on being lucky, but 11?? ELEVEN? even if they are all under 19 from the same country, you still have 11 different people!

I think in general when one over thinks something, one ends with a bad choice, whether it is your choice for lunch, a new car or an au pair, sometimes you have to go with instinct, and maybe this HM has great instinct. I agree that she probably has great management skills as Dorsi said before, and I am sure she is not laid back, but she is flexible which is not the same, and I can imagine she treats her au pairs like she treats her children, and I agree with TexasHM that maybe they feel indebt to her (in a good way) so they give their best.
I see a lot of that around, we au pairs hear awful things! so when our HP do something nice we are grateful and we want to give back (at least the mayority of au pairs I know)

SeattleHD February 1, 2014 at 12:56 pm

If you really don’t care about driving skills (and let’s face it, if you’re putting them through driving school right away, they are essentially novice drivers the entire year – I wouldn’t trust anyone with that level of skill with kids at all) and you recruit minimum age compliant girls from Latin America, then you’ve kind of defined all the parameters of the relationship up front.

There’s no way in our rural situation that our au pair would ever get out of the house with that level of driving skill – never with kids, and I’m not sure I’d want a novice driving my car on her free time.

So if your expectations are that low, I guess you can make anything work.

Should be working February 1, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Except for possibly driving skills, I don’t think the “picker” has LOW standards. Young and compliant are good qualities for some HFs. Young can mean that they are used to living according to family rules, not their own; compliant means “moldable” and will do what you want.

SeattleHD February 1, 2014 at 4:47 pm

From the stories my APs tell me about other APs they know (and the network is pretty big, with lots of stories), compliant has typically meant “easy to take advantage of” so I’m always wary of anyone that selects specifically for compliant/vulnerable.

Should be working February 1, 2014 at 8:36 pm

I can see your point. We, however, had an AP who refused to change kids’ sheets every week as per my handbook. She said once every other week was enough, she just wouldn’t do it, I’d have to do it myself if I wanted once a week. So I realized why compliance was in some contexts an AP virtue.

hOstCDmom February 1, 2014 at 10:28 pm

Seriously? I would have rematched in 5 min. Some job requirements are just black and white. I can’t imagine an AP telling me “no” to suck a concrete; linear; clearly permitted under the program job requirement…!

Should be working February 1, 2014 at 10:42 pm

She was passionate and strong willed. But she also loved us passionately. She was a great leader with the kids, inspiring them to all kinds of activities. She was also our first “real” AP (after a total lame starter before I knew anything about matching) and she was such an improvement over the previous one that I didn’t think it was a big deal then.

But now I do look for a DiSC personality profile that shows something besides that kind of inspiring/dominance trait, although it had great advantages in a way.

SeattleHD February 7, 2014 at 12:45 pm

As you mention below, the DISC profile is a great help. Having used it in a work context and having lots of experience with other personality typing tools, it gives a lot of interesting clues. Anything that looks like “bossy” goes out of the window almost automatically, as does anything that looks like “doormat”.

Should be working February 7, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Seattle HD, say more about what you look for. I used to like High I, but now I think that translates to needs attention, although it also means fun and talkative.

Should be working February 7, 2014 at 1:05 pm

These days I look for highS&C. Or high I,S,C. But high SC can mean reserved–so I want high SC with cheerful warmth….hard to diagnose.

Old China Hand February 1, 2014 at 2:40 pm

We are on our first AP (she’s extending for 6 months then I have a 6 month maternity leave) but because we are restricted to China/Taiwan/Singapore and maybe Hong Kong if the girl spoke Mandarin, we are pretty much restricted to identical applications. I took more of a read between the lines attitude and assumed they all couldn’t drive. We don’t need a driver anyway, though it’s a pain to get her to cluster activities. We look for someone who is more independent than average Chinese girls, who tries to speak English during interviews, and has done unusual things (for Chinese girls) like play on a sports team or bike long distances. I certainly don’t look for or expect perfect and did a lot of training early on. I also am basically only going to get girls trained in at a missionary orphanage in Henan because they have really worked with taking care of kids and not just babysitting. But I think that I would have a hard time with getting an AP from a country where I wasn’t familiar with the culture and language. It really helps that I can give directions in Chinese and read between the lines on applications. I would be terrified to get someone from somewhere else, especially a more independent and less family oriented culture.

Should be working February 1, 2014 at 2:50 pm

We take only au pairs from 2 countries we know well and speak the languages of. I want to interview them in their language to get a real sense of personality, and I call references to get the full scoop. We even know regional differences in temperament and political outlook, so that helps when we can recognize from pictures or town names that this is likely a certain kind of family (like conservative-but-friendly-countryside-religious vs. cosmopolitan-but-aloof-urbane-non-religious). I would not like the lack of orientation of choosing an AP from a country I didn’t know. I don’t buy “instinct”, there are cultural signals and it helps to know them.

OpinionatedHM February 1, 2014 at 7:50 pm

I do agree about cultural signals. We have a friend who is from the AP’s originating country conduct interviews in their primary language whenever we can. I think so much nuance gets lost in translation. It’s been very helpful. In fact, our recent rematch was the only AP we did not do this with before matching. Lesson learned.

Old China Hand February 3, 2014 at 10:40 am

I like the idea of conducting some of the interview in their language. We’ll try that next time. My husband doesn’t speak Chinese, but that’s ok – I am more in charge of AP stuff anyway. Getting a sense of personality is so important.

CaliHostMom February 1, 2014 at 3:23 pm

I think it is possible that the HM who has had 11 good matches and no rematches might just be lucky. Or a combination of lucky and flexible. If you think about all the thousands and thousands of host families that exist and the hundreds who regularly read AuPairMom, the mathematical odds suggest that at least a few HFs out there will win the AP matching lottery over and over (and other, perfectly good HFs will lose the matching lottery over and over due to no fault of their own).

I also think it’s possible to overthink matching.

That said, I would not trade my own matching process for something as simple as the one used by the “NJ AP picker.” I’ve had APs for 14.5 years. I’ve had 13 agency APs. They have ranged in age from 19-28. I’ve only had one rematch and one who went home a few months early. I’ve also had 3 extensions. I have a system for matching that has evolved as our family has grown older and our needs have changed and as I’ve become a more experienced HM. Like the NJ AP picker, I too have had almost all my APs from the same country (Germany). This could be one reason I’ve had so many successes. As our family has learned more and more about Germany, our family has become an easier and easier landing place for a German in a new culture.

Also like the NJ AP picker, I look for a girl who eats anything. Honest-to-God, that is one of my most important criteria and a deal breaker for me. Why? Because our family loves good food and cooking and sharing meals with our APs. And after living with one or two APs in the early years who had dietary restrictions, I realized it was not as little a thing as I had imagined. It was a big bummer. So, if you are vegan, get a vegan AP. If you are not fond of fish, get a fish hater. I wonder if sharing meals frequently with an AP who has similar tastes helps the HF/AP relationship overall?

What else is in my system? I have about 10 other parameters I look at. It would take many paragraphs to explain. I have used the same basic system over the years, with a few tweaks. Age was never a big consideration. I have had both level 1 and level 2 APs, but most of my APs have been level 2s. Three of my APs had been APs before (for other HFs).

Both of the APs who didn’t work out so well (rematch and early depart) passed my screen. In other words, I didn’t go against my judgment or criteria. I chalk both of those mismatches up to bad luck. I am very glad that I pulled the plug quickly on the rematch. In the end, it was the right thing for both of us. It is hard to make the rematch decision after all you invest in the matching process. But when you have something that isn’t working, it is more miserable to live it than to end it.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 1, 2014 at 4:02 pm

Ironically the one AP who proclaimed herself a vegetarian was really a “white food” eater (cheese, yogurt, cereal, potatoes, pizza, and pasta). She was not interested in hearing how I balance my proteins during the week. I had to coach her to feed my kids a balanced diet. Most of my APs have tolerated my pesce-vegetarian diet fairly well, have left loving several dishes I make – although they, like the rest of the family, enjoyed the nights I was out and meat was served.

Should be working February 1, 2014 at 8:38 pm

CaliHM, Can you summarize your 10 parameters beyond Germans and liberal eating?? I really love to gauge what other HMs do!

CaliHostMom February 3, 2014 at 7:49 pm

Sure. I’m sharing below. What do you look for ‘Should be working’?

So, assuming her dates work for us, she’s willing to speak German with the kids, and is an omnivore, here’s what I screen for (in order of importance, generally):
1) Great references from past child care employers (ideally, I’ll also call them myself)
2) Evidence of energy level and work ethic (what’s her idea of a long day? what activities and sports does she do on regular basis?)
3) Experience caring for older kids / teens (total # hrs / any tutoring?) and willingness to care for older kids
4) Host family letter (detailed & shows spark of personality? superficial & generic? attempt to use good punctuation, complete sentences? discussion of why she likes kids WITH EXAMPLES)
5) Video and photos (grandparents, baby cousins are good; youth party shots are bad; how much effort and creativity was put into the video? was the audio clarity good on the video or didn’t they care about figuring out how to make it good?)
6) Willingness to care for special needs kids and/or more than two kids
7) AP’s medical history & smoking (looking for non-smoker without medical issues such as migraines or past eating disorders or psychiatric trouble)
8) Experience and willingness to cook, clean and do laundry for kids
9) Chemistry of the Skype, phone, and/or email interactions
10) Cursory Internet search of Facebook, StudiVZ, etc. to make sure no girls-gone-wild style stuff

I also now look for an older au pair who is a confident driver.

Should be working February 3, 2014 at 9:16 pm

Thanks, CaliHM! We’re similar. In fact you list a lot of the criteria that I look for (we’re not special needs or more than 2 kids). I guess the question is precisely how you get the sense of “true story”–like that attitude toward older kids, or how much they will really just clean up after themselves. Do you just ask them and trust the answer?

I also look for younger teenage or preteen sisters, educated parents, parents who look and seem truly nice (I try to talk to the mom), high S profile on the DiSC, non-trashy clothes and makeup, non-fashion-model photographs, an “unfussy” look.

Host Mom in the City February 4, 2014 at 9:29 am

Thanks for sharing, CaliHM! FWIW, we have a very very similar list and have had two very successful au pairs from it. The only other thing I look for is raised with one or more siblings (sorry for any only-ies out there – that’s my own bias) and for long-term experience with children (that is, more than just “I babysat evenings for this family for a few months”) – but that’s why we only look at extraordinaires. Just makes it easier for me at matching time to narrow down the candidates.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 1, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Unlike the Most Success Au Pair Picker, I am incredibly picky and plodding. Every year, when DH and I begin the matching process again, I warn my LCC and HQ that I am picky and to bear with me, because in 13 years and 9 APs we have never gone into rematch (not that I haven’t been tempted). I have learned over the years that I’d rather have an introvert than a self-center extrovert.

My “musts” are driving (the AP hits the road driving the middle-school carpool immediately), experience with children with special needs, ability to swim, and non-smoking. Everything else is negotiable. But, given my musts (I want the driver to have achieved a full license more than a year before she applied for the AP program, the AP who obtained her license the old-fashioned way “bribing the examiner” and the Chinese AP who never learned how to park were disasters I don’t want to repeat), I spend a long time matching. However, I usually end up with an AP who really wants to be with us.

Aussie mum February 1, 2014 at 5:54 pm

I think this system works because the hm is selecting for personallity and probably is really good at reading people. I use a version of this system, I look for a happy relaxed personality, some evidence of a work ethic and child care experience and driving ability. My disasters have all been equestrians (we have horses) and I think that maybe that sport involves a lot of parental support and no time spare for the part time job etc. maybe also they all were coming for the horses rather than us and the kids!

Gianna February 3, 2014 at 1:34 pm

I don’t think the host mom with the great record necessarily has low standards. I would be willing to bet that this lady is very pretty and has a magnetic personality. She is probably successful in other areas of life. Maybe she is in a position where she doesn’t have to bend the rules ( kids in school all day , for example ) and maybe she offers some perks like liberal use of a car so that when she does need to ask for something extra, the aupairs think twice about complaining. I don’t think good hiring skills are the only factor but good management skills weigh in. Fairness and the ability to say no , for instance, without hurting anyone’s feelings, are management skills. Some people are blessed that way and some people can learn those skills. It is always a blessing to meet people like that in life.

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