Finding an Au Pair: Too Much Detail in Our Host Family Letter?

by cv harquail on January 3, 2017

When it comes to writing the materials you use to find and match with an Au Pair, I’m all for being comprehensive.

choosing an au pairI’d much rather lay it all out for a candidate (and for myself) so that s/he can make an informed choice about whether or not to pursue an interview with us. I’d prefer to weed people out with my materials, than wait until after we discover, in a conversation, that something about my family is a deal-breaker for the candidate. But that’s me; I’d rather write than talk.

However, for every good choice we make about how to present ourselves and how to go through the finding & matching process, there is always a downside.


Dear AuPairMom-

As an American Host Mom in Europe, I find my au pairs through Great Au Pair.com. I have a VERY detailed profile description, and have completed their 22 Interview questions for host families in a fair bit of detail.

(If you’re not familiar with the site, the questions cover topics like “What duties will be expected of the au pair?”, “Who does meal planning, cooking, grocery shopping?”, and “What modes of discipline and parenting style do you use?”)

I have populated all of this with lots of detail because I feel it lets a candidate know more about us. Right up front, they are able to make a well-informed decision about whether our family would be a good fit for them.

I like to use an Au Pair applicant’s questions back to me as a way to gauge their interest, see how much attention they are paying, get an insight into how they think, etc.

I’m concerned that the detail in my profile makes it hard for a candidate to have many questions. As I start corresponding with candidates and ask what questions they have for me, I often hear “your profile is so detailed, it covered every question I have.”

Of course, some of this is just laziness (so helps to rule out ones I don’t want), but it is true, I’m pretty comprehensive.

So my question:

Is it better to leave gaps in your family / role description to leave more opportunity for questions, or better to lay it all on the table up front?

 

See also:  Want to find a fabulous Au Pair Host Family? Reply to our emails promptly

 

Image: Cesar Astudillo on Flickr

{ 31 comments }

oranje_mama January 3, 2017 at 5:50 pm

Our Host Family letter is also very detailed (and lengthy). In addition, before I interview anyone, I have them answer 3 short questions by email that are important to us (#1: which childcare experience have they enjoyed the most and why, #2: eating habits, #3: interaction with our dog).

In my view the detail in the letter plus the litmus questions by email helps avoid wasted time in interviews. I’m not interested in a picky eater (vegetarian, etc) or someone who’s not enthusiastic about having a dog. And since I have older kids, an AP who references a kindergarten internship as her favorite childcare experience is not going to resonate with me either.

Sometimes this means that au pairs have few follow-up questions. That’s OK with me, as long as they have at least 1 or 2 good questions to ask. An AP who has literally no questions to ask (even by email post-interview) would be a red flag to me.

Also, if we make it past the first interview(s), I will have my current AP interview the prospective AP. That also usually provides some insight (an AP who didn’t ask much in the interview with us might ask our current AP more questions).

2 kids and a cat January 3, 2017 at 8:43 pm

We’re only in year 2, gearing up for our 3rd search. I, too, use questions to me as a measure of note rest in my children and home. Mid-search last year, after too many rejections/non-responses (we live in a rural area and were expecting a baby – quite a hard sell), I pared down the letter a bit and stacked the information and questions over 3 correspondences. Depending on the level,of language, I think this was easier for the candidates to process, and gave them more time to think of questions to ask. It also piqued their interest without overwhelming them.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 3, 2017 at 10:30 pm

I was not the person who coined “the dare to match we me letter,” but I’ve used the phrase enough over the years for people to think I have. We have a lot to offer APs (a car, no curfews, boyfriends – or girlfriends can stay overnight, family and friends are welcome to camp out at our house, and only a few weeks in the year that the AP works more than 30 hours. Most of our APs have been extraordinnaires, so the short schedule lets them pursue interests, catch up on sleep, meet friends, etc.

The kicker is that our first sentence says “We are not the HF for most APs. Please respond immediately and tell us if you are not interested. Our feelings will not be hurt.”

We let the beloved Camel weed out the good time party girls or the young women who never really thought about being an AP meant that they would actually work. We call it a job up front. The Camel is medically fragile, wears diapers, doesn’t talk, walks with assistance, requires a lot of assistance – and clean up – when eating, and needs to be bathed. 95% of the APs we contact are not in the least bit interested. And that is fine with us. We want to match with someone prepared to work in exchange for the amazing benefits we offer.

When the kids were younger, we had no trouble lining up interviews and often had the pick of 5-6 women – even with The Camel’s disabilities. Now that the youngest is working on a driving license and The Camel is as old as some of our youngest APs, the interest level has declined precipitously. (We’re fortunate that our current AP has 10 1/2 months left with us – but her second year seems to be flying past as fast as her first.) We have asked if we will be eligible to match again or not.

Over the years, we only had a couple of dudes – the Chinese AP who couldn’t really drive (damaged a car backing out of a pull-in parking space on her first full day with us – and a driving assessment led to three months of lessons – she never surpassed the advanced-beginner stage), the German AP who said “I didn’t come here to be a housemaid” on her second day and then nearly totaled the AP car slamming into a Hummer on her birthday, and the German AP who was a junk-food junkie, snarky, and wanted every weekend off (she was our only rematch). Out of a dozen APs we managed 4 extensions (and the first we tried to sponsor as an employer – she lived with us for 3 1/2 years – albeit not as an AP after the first year).

I put it out there and expect 19 rejections out of every 20 emails sent. Your mileage and tolerance for rejection may differ. Legally, I am not allowed to lie about The Camel’s disability, but I’m not inclined to sugar coat it one little bit.

Aupair Lauren January 4, 2017 at 4:37 am

From an AP perspective I absolutely LOVED host family profiles who were detailed and incredibly thorough. That way I could completely invision what my life and day-to-day routine would be like living with that family and ultimately if I thought I could be a good fit for them. But that could just be me :)

WestMom January 4, 2017 at 9:13 am

I love the GAP questions. I think it’s a great guideline for any family to use. I would not use it as a family letter per se, but maybe more as supplemental information for an interested candidate (here in the USA, since we cannot use GAP anymore without using them as an agency…). We actually used to have a Family page on Facebook to introduce ourselves to candidates and I used to have these questions/answers as one of the links on that page.

I think these detailed questions, especially as they are phrases in GAP are very ‘matter of fact’ and still leave room for the more subtle ‘how do you expect to meet friends abroad’, or ‘tell me more about your favorite cuisine’ or ‘how is your relationship with your siblings, and what do you like to do together’. I Personally used to leave some of the answers blank because I think they are a bit too personal for such as site. For example some of the information regarding personality of the children, or our philosophy on discipline which I prefer to discuss in person once AP is with us.

But although I agree with providing a lot upfront in my profile (as in GAP, agency profile, or Facebook page I mentioned above), I also never take for granted that AP has read (or understood) everything I provided and still use a slow trickle to introduce ourselves with multiple emails in follow up conversations, which are typically a deeper introduction followed by a number of related questions.

massmom January 4, 2017 at 11:05 am

I’ve matched with all three of the biggest agencies, and I really prefer the CC profile, as it is the most detailed and leaves a lot of room to lay out responsibilities and expectations. I’m able to describe all our dealbreakers in our profile, and the good APs have clearly taken the time to read it and ask more pointed questions related to the information. I prefer not to send our handbook prior to matching, and I don’t send long email questionnaires…I rely heavily on Skype interviews to gauge chemistry. I find we always have plenty to talk about despite having lots of detail in our profile. I want to know about their family, their interests, what they want to get out of their year, how they’ll handle homesickness, etc. I think a detailed profile just gets a lot of the basics out of the way so you can focus on getting to know each other!

Taking a Computer Lunch January 4, 2017 at 9:36 pm

When I send a handbook prior to matching, it only has the rules for the AP section, not the very personal kiddo stuff.

HMof2 January 4, 2017 at 11:11 pm

Our handbook is mostly about rules and practical instructions. Not personal kiddo stuff.

We also do not share the entire handbook during the matching process. Some topics are not relevant until AP gets here like how to do certain things such as use appliances and direction to library, supermarket, post office, park etc.

Here is what I share from my handbook during the matching process:
– Expectation about childcare such as activities to do with HK, discipline style, food and cooking for HK, safety, favoritism, being a role model, use of phone, ipad, computer, tv etc. while working, nap and sleep while working, do personal things while working
– Work schedule including a sample week schedule with itemized activities and chores each day as well as sick day policy
– Communication style and expectations, including the weekly check-in meetings
– Curfews or lack of curfews, in our case, and house rules
– Privacy and safety in the home
– Privacy and safety outside the home
– Privacy online
– Expectation on participation in shared household activities (as a family member)
– Expectation or lack of expectation to be with the HF, when AP is off
– Working other jobs (illegal)
– Smoking, alcohol and drug use
– Telephone and TV
– Computer and internet use
– Stipend pay schedule
– Vacation policy
– Car policy (do’s and don’t), who pays what, driving practice, driving evaluation and test, driver’s license, car insurance and deductible, car accident, winter driving, under what circumstance will car privilege be taken away
– Grocery and food – buying, eating together/separately etc., food exclusions like luxury items or junk food, and expectation or lack of expectation about cooking together or separately
– Things HF will provide for AP
– Things HF will not provide for AP
– Household responsibilities such as clean up after yourself, clean your own bathroom etc.
– No hair dye policy
– Visitors and guests
– Play dates
– Education policy such as HP must agree to class schedule before AP can enroll and when AP cannot take a class (conflict with work schedule)

Should be working January 5, 2017 at 12:00 am

Haha on having a policy on hair dye! My handbook says “if you dye your hair you must remain in the bathroom the entire time it takes to dye it.” That came after splatters in the hallway.

HMAdvice January 10, 2017 at 10:27 am

I agree with this approach as well and use a very similar one. I try to lay out all the “deal breakers” upfront but I take a lot of time in our interview to talk about soft questions and assess their personality. I have thought about sending the handbook ahead of time but at the end I think it is something I would rather go over with them in person. I do try to give disclosure to things an Au Pair might have a hard time with but I think the rest is really more day to day and environmental. I don’t like to use email too much because I have found inconsistencies in replies vs what I get in an in person interview so I may use email just to assess if their answers are consistent or give them more detail on some things I think might be different from what they are used to. I also heavily rely on skype and go through a series of skype interviews. I think a candidate can look great on paper but once you get into that conversation your opinion might change.

HMof2 January 4, 2017 at 1:58 pm

I am mindful of too much information too soon and asking the candidate to digest and comprehend a lot of information that may not be written in their native language. I am also sensitive about publishing too much personal information on any website, including in my agency profile. I give basic information about the make up of the family, general description of what part of the country we are in, the schedule and overall categories of responsibilities. My first email to a candidate is also general, just enough to see if they are interested in a family with a certain number of kids of a certain age range, in a certain region of the US, and doing certain types of tasks. Basically, characteristics about us that cannot change.

I am a very very detailed oriented person with a 40 page handbook. I intentionally pull back in the beginning because I can overwhelm others with my level of details, if they are not used to it. I also prefer to get personal by email, and not publish identifiable information on a public website where I cannot control who sees it.

After the initial “are you at least interested to continue” email based on m family’s basic characteristics, then I ramp up quickly with a list of 15-20 open-ended questions, some of which are follow ups to what they wrote in their profile. In addition, I ask them 25 multiple choice questions on personality and preferences. I screen for whether they invested time to give thoughtful responses. Also, allows me to see what their English level is, in comprehension and writing. This stage is where we get most of our rejections.

After that, if they are still on-board, then we Skype and continue to email questions and answers back and forth. We prioritize and bring up our deal-breaker topics first so we eliminate sooner rather than later.

Towards the end, when we are interested in matching, we feed them excerpts from our 40 page handbook, pacing them out in 3-4 separate emails with Q&A back and forward over one set of topics before moving on to the next set. This allows us to focus on a small manageable set of topics and once we are on the same page with it, then move on to the next set of topics. This stage is a formal repeat of topics that were discussed in earlier emails or Skype and a review of the “fine print” details to make sure they truly understand what they are signing up for.

CO Host Mom January 5, 2017 at 1:58 am

Would you mind sharing some/all of your multiple choice questions? You’ve made me curious :)

HMof2 January 5, 2017 at 1:42 pm

My multiple choice questions were inspired by various personality tests that I found. We are not looking for an AP who answers a certain way. We use this to help us have a more well-rounded picture of a human being. There are no right or wrong answers and we do not tell the AP about our personalities and tendencies beforehand. They have to select one answer and if both are applicable, they have to select the one that reflects how they are, more often of the time.

Here are some examples:

Question #1:
a. Prefer to take public bus or trains
b. Prefer to drive myself

Question #2:
a. In a group, I prefer to introduce myself
b. In a group, I wait to get introduced

Question #3:
a. Stay home if I cannot find a friend to go out with
b. Go out by myself if I cannot find a friend to go out with

Question #4:
a. Takes people a lot of time to get to know me
b. Takes people little time to get to know me

Question #5:
a. Schedule appeals to me
b. Schedule limits me

Question #6:
a. I prefer to be praised as a person of compassion and feeling
b. I prefer to be praised as a consistently reasonable person

CO Host Mom January 5, 2017 at 1:54 am

I think about it in terms of how I would hire someone for a job in our office. I try and balance “sales” with reality. First, while we live in a major city, we don’t living in one of the AP capitals of the US so we spend some time in our letter “selling” our city. We try and get some of our personality across in our letter. We don’t have a huge perks list – our AP doesn’t have her own car, en suite bathroom, gym membership, we don’t allow opposite sex sleepovers, etc. Even with all of that, I think we are a great host family and don’t want to sell our family short. We typically get to these things in our first Skype. I want to put forward a good impression. I think about if I saw a video that ap said – I have limited cooking skills, don’t want to walk your dog and have never iron clothes. None of these are deal breakers for us but they wouldn’t make the strongest first impression.

I also think you risk giving away the test answers. So, if before you talk to someone you tell them you do time outs and use a reward system for good behavior. Then I’m asked what type of discipline I’m comfortable with – don’t be shocked if I say I use time outs and rewards :)

As another poster said, if you can’t come up with any meaningful questions – you’re out in my book. I want you to demonstrate that you not only heard/read what we’ve shared but have processed and are interested in learning more.

Whatever way you slice it, for us, matching is a stressful time consuming process.

Amy-AP January 5, 2017 at 3:31 am

I might be in the minority here but I think that profile is just TOO detailed. I like seeing that the host family has put an effort into their profile and actually read something that makes me go “I want to know more about this family”. Things like discipline styles and who’s doing the grocery shopping can be discussed once a mutual interest has been established. It would be weird to get that email saying a family wants to interview me only to see a profile that reads like a handbook – that hardly tells me about the actual people in that family but rather just what their expectations are. I also think putting that much out there without even having an initial conversation with an au pair puts you at risk of an au pair who’s desperate to find a family *acting* as though she’s the person you’re looking for based on what she has read. Details are good, I want to know what I’m getting myself into – detailed handbooks are amazing, I read my host family’s handbook over and over again prior to my arrival, but if you want authenticity you’ll have to leave some details out for when you actually get to speak to your candidates.

WarmStateMomma January 5, 2017 at 9:00 am

I put a lot of detail about our city (most APs don’t know anything about it since it’s not on a coast), our must-have qualities in an AP, what we value as a family, and a bit about how we spend our time (working, studying and free time). That all goes into the HF letter. I resist the urge to make that too long because the APs we target don’t have the English skills to digest anything too long in a short period of time.

We interview almost entirely over email to avoid language and logistical issues. They learn about our personalities and once we know they meet our basic requirements, it’s mostly about personality fit.

Then I provide a detailed handbook. I ask “dare-to-match” types of questions. We lay out all of our rules, requirements and expectations BEFORE the Skype interview. Then the Skype interview is just to see if she appears to be the same person we emailed with and doesn’t appear to be crazy. It’s the final step for us in deciding who to offer a match.

When the AP arrives, she gets a fuller handbook that includes info that would not influence matching and that she doesn’t need until she arrives (where we store kid medicines, for example).

I don’t worry about “giving away the test answers” anymore because we only host from China, where no one would know the answers for our particular family. I’m looking for brains and attitude because that person will learn how we approach child care; we won’t find someone who already implements our approach.

I leave out a lot of the perks and ask my current AP not to share those details. There will always be unpleasant surprises when you move somewhere new, get new roommates and start a new job. Either things we didn’t think to disclose, things that come up, or just the agony of waiting at the Social Security Administration for 3 hours with 2 little kids. I’d like there to be some nice surprises to offset those experiences.

HMof2 January 5, 2017 at 9:53 am

We don’t mention about perks except for the AP car. We also do not live in one of those “popular” AP cities. Most AP don’t know anything about our city and sadly, most never bothered to google some info about it before the first Skype. We would ask “do you know much about City X?” and their answer tends to be “no”.

Because of where we live, a car is necessary. For the sake of our AP’s mental and social health, we see a car as essential to give her independence during her off time. We do not want an AP feeling stuck at home and always need to ask someone else for transportation. That makes for an unhappy AP. We tell the AP this up front during match so they know that we are concerned for the AP’s state of mind and happiness. We have not asked any AP to drive the HK yet (because none of our AP had good enough driving skills that we trusted.) So the car is purely for AP personal benefit so far, although during matching, they are told to expect to drive the HK as part of their job. We do look and match for driver (not a deal breaker for us) but we no longer are confident or trust what any AP says about their driving skills. We’ve had too many disappointments. At this point, we match for driver (ask loads of driving related questions), but have no expectation that they can actually drive well enough when they get here.

We give perks based on how well the AP is doing and what their interests are. A stellar AP will get more. In our opinion, giving a perk that does not have much value in the eyes of the recipient is not a perk. So a gym membership to someone who wouldn’t use it would be wasted. We do not tell them we have house cleaning service. They are told to expect to clean their own room and bathroom. Only when they are here do we let them know.

I portray our family as going totally by the books as far as what we provide for the AP. We do not create an impression that we provide anything over and above the State Dept rules (except for access to the car – even that, we describe it as having “access to a car” when in reality, the car is almost exclusively theirs and not shared with HP). We want to match with an AP interested in us and not our perks.

I also save perks to be used in the future as nice surprises and rewards.

WarmStateMomma January 8, 2017 at 4:12 pm

We have similar issues with driving – it’s a necessity here but the APs don’t realize how low their skills are until they arrive. The trick is convincing them that we really don’t have public transit, since they can’t quite believe it.

None of them know about our city, but they’ve heard of many smaller, coastal cities like San Francisco or Miami.

TexasHM January 12, 2017 at 9:18 pm

HMof2 I felt like I could have written your response until I got to the part about you having a house cleaning service and not telling them. I found that interesting. We too downplay or shadow our perks (we love to travel so our APs get more trips, we too give bonuses and gifts, etc) and definitely don’t want someone entitled but I also try to give an accurate picture so they feel like we were honest with them about our situation. We too have a housekeeper come every two weeks so AP doesn’t clean her room or bathroom aside from picking up her stuff and we do say “right now we have someone that comes every other week” implying that it could always change but I don’t think I have ever gone as far as to tell them to expect to clean their room and bathroom and then surprising them with it after. I realize its probably a great surprise and absolutely for their benefit but I also want to be pretty transparent and I figure they know they do kids laundry and dishes and whatnot so telling them they would clean their room or not probably wouldn’t filter anyone out of our profile either way. I wonder if you have found that to be a dealbreaker for some candidates. Would love to hear what your experience has been using that tactic.

I asked my current AP what she thought of that (keep in mind she is German, very direct and pragmatic and has a masters in Psych) and her response was basically that a bait and switch is still a bait and switch and that if I had done that to her she would have wondered what else I misrepresented about my household and it would shake our relationship early on. Not rematch worthy, but made it clear that it would be a strike for her in the relationship. I asked her how that was different than us not disclosing our perks and she said it was different because perks aren’t job expectations. I thought that was fair feedback so I am curious how your APs reacted and if they gave you any feedback on their early thoughts.

To answer the OP – we thread the needle on the profile. Some things I feel are more personal that I want to detail on the site I explain are detailed in our handbook which we are happy to provide if we decide to connect and pursue further. Other things (mostly dealbreakers) I am very detailed and upfront about. Things like car curfew and access, schedule, etc. I don’t have time or energy to attract candidates that are perk shopping or refuse to work weekends ever.

Historically my APs have loved (and have said as much in interviewing) that we have had a lot of detail but we also target mature, smart, go getter APs that aren’t going to match with someone they talked to for 20 minutes. They appreciate that we take the time to be detailed because they realize its a huge decision and risk and they want to take it seriously and appreciate that we do as well. I asked current AP about this topic yesterday and she said that our profile stood out in a great way because it was so detailed and immediately gave her confidence that we knew what we wanted and were doing in the program and she couldn’t believe how many families had gaps or few word answers on their profile so she said it gave her a great first impression of us and immediately moved us to the top of her list. But again, this is if you are looking for an AP that values the detail and structure. If you want someone super laid back you might try building your profile to align better with that personality type.

HMof2 January 13, 2017 at 2:48 am

TexasHM: From my perspective, I don’t see it as a bait and switch. Interesting that your AP sees it this way. I consider having a cleaning service as a perk, for me as well as for everyone else living in the house. It is a luxury and can come and go at any time. I set the expectation that everyone (HF and AP) picks up and cleans after themselves, whether it is a bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchen counter or dishes. I don’t consider this a job responsibility. I consider this as being a good housemate. A bait and switch would be to promise something and then take it away. In my case, I am offering something above what I started with. I think a bait and switch would be to tell an AP that she will not work most weekends and then require her to work a lot of weekends, or promise her access to a car and then never let her use the car.

We actually do not have the cleaning service clean the AP room. We are sensitive to privacy and prefers the AP room to be off-limits to everyone including the cleaning service. Our AP are okay with cleaning their own rooms. I imagine, for some AP, not having a stranger enter their room is probably preferred. Our AP does not have her own private in-suite bathroom. It is mostly hers to use but we set the expectation that sometimes, the kids, us, or a guest may use the bathroom because of convenience. If it was in-suite, we probably would have that off-limits to the cleaning service, too. Right now, the cleaning service does clean the bathroom that the AP uses because it is not exclusively hers.

Cleaning service is not the norm where we live but we made the decision to have this expense as a form of pampering ourselves – honestly, whatever little free time we have is better used to spend with the kids and ourselves than cleaning. Quality time together is worth more to us than the money. However, we do not want to give the impression that our family lives in luxury if having housekeeping might imply that and attract AP who feels cleaning is for someone else to do.

We are very up front about the kids related chores. There is kids laundry, tidying kids room, cleaning kids dishes etc. We make it very clear that any cleaning that is job-related is limited to kid-related cleaning. We are also direct about what being a good housemate is – meaning pick up and clean after yourself and there is no one else to do that for them. This has never been a problem or a deal breaker for any AP.

Our AP have not really reacted one way or the other when we tell them we have a cleaning service later. It is a none-issue so far. We also discuss with the AP that even with a cleaning service, we should still do cleaning of our own mess in between the cleaning visits and not leave stains and other messes just sitting there to harden, which makes it difficult to clean later. They all seem to understand that. Surprisingly, the only negative reaction so far from an AP was her discomfort about being home when the cleaning service was there and feeling obligated to “monitor” their work. We had to tell her that it was not her responsibility to check the cleaners’ work. It was nice that she felt the need to look out for us but it made her nervous if the cleaners did a bad job while “on her watch” so to speak.

TexasHM January 14, 2017 at 12:36 am

Ah gotcha ok thank you for the context I took your previous post a little differently than your explanation here. Makes sense! Interesting point as well about APs potentially being uncomfortable with service cleaning their room. When we started hosting we didn’t have service clean their room but we had an AP that well frankly we loved to pieces but was a slob! Then we changed services and got a great deal for whole house and just assumed that the AP would want their room and bathroom cleaned so they wouldn’t have to do it, I didn’t think for a minute about privacy concerns but we are a very open door family. I’m definitely going to ask current AP what she thinks about it!

Also interesting about overseeing the service! Our South African AP actually pushed me to get rid of the service we had and try someone else (who has been worlds better and does everything for almost the same price as the other was doing half the house)! She kept lamenting that we shouldn’t pay them because she watched them and they didn’t even move the couches to clean under them! Lol

And agreed, we chose to spend money on this as a luxury item because we both work, have 3 kids and lots of activities so its worth it to not spend our weekends cleaning house!

FullCircle January 12, 2017 at 10:54 pm

This post is so timely! We actually just had this discussion at home and changed our strategy. We too had a VERY detailed profile with all the important information. So it was hard to gauge what questions were important for AP. We decided to delete some of the details (it’s still pretty thorough), revised our initial email and have had good success so far. I want to know if AP will ask about car, free time and vacations or about kids, her routine and duties first. If I lay it all out upfront, I don’t know which part she focused on while reading. We still go through the exact same content over the period of the interview process, but let it unfold while AP asks us questions. Here is our current approach: 1)detailed description in profile but leaving enough room for question. So for example, we describe the general schedule but not details about school, extra activities, etc. We also have a sentence about our parenting style without details (to weed out the ones who have very different styles right off the bat). We do this with all sections, including car, time off, etc. Think of it as a detailed teaser. 2) we send an email with very detailed info about the aupair we are looking for. We may revise this if I find that APs are trying to fit the bill, but so far I haven’t noticed it because it’s not an easy thing to do. We say it right upfront what kind of family we are, how we approach the AP program and what we expect from AP. We then state in the email if the info above is what she is looking for, then great! This email includes 10 questions (I know!) that cover our top priorities. Once we have her answers we decide whether we want to interview or move on. 3) We Skype and the very first thing we do after the introductions is to say “What questions do you have for us”. I like to open it with this so that we can see what she cares about, what is unclear to her and what she does with this opportunity. Then we answer questions and ask the next set of priorities for us. 4) We have a second email following the interview with more questions and more info about our family. Each time, more details about our rules and expectations, her job, education, etc. We Skype at least 3 times and exchange emails in between before we feel like we can make a decision. 5) Right before our last Skype, we send her the handbook and invite questions. Our last Skype is going over the handbook and making our final assessment based on that discussion.

It’s exhausting…but by the end she has all the info she needs and there are no surprises. I am a big fan of absolutely no surprises. And I state over and over that it better to be up front to ensure a good match then come and find out it’s not what you wanted. We are currently interviewing using the method above. Wish us luck!

Shira February 6, 2017 at 4:25 pm

Hello – we are looking for our very first au pair and as i go through all the different comments on how folks choose their au pair, I become seriously overwhelmed.

Can some share a typical handbook or list of questions to go through. Is there a standard guide of questions to ask and then I can also add mine.

We need an au pair soon but this process is nerve wrecking.

Thanks so much in advance!!

NZ HM February 7, 2017 at 2:39 am

I like the idea of a ‘questions’ thread – I don’t think there is one (search function on the homepage is very good, also if you are looking for handbooks: I found ‘questions aupairs should ask’ but not a collection of HP interview question in one place.
I am always looking for more, new, different ones to add to my list. I never use all of them when interviewing but I’ve changed what’s important to me over time and it’s been interesting to see what others are asking/ looking for! I’d be happy to post my list, here or in a dedicated thread (CV?)

Taking a Computer Lunch February 7, 2017 at 10:00 pm

I think we had a questions thread years ago. Nose around and see if you can find it. I know I posted several of my questions here, and lifted some posted by others.

I’m definitely in the TMI camp – and yet succeeded in matching with 12 women (10 of them fantastic, one with whom we lurched through a year, and one rematch after 8 weeks) to care for The Camel, our beloved child who is both medically fragile and severely mentally retarded. We honed our questions after years of trial and error – making it clear to each young woman that no matter what her brochure said, we were offering her a job – not a vacation.

Sadly, we’ll be saying goodbye to our last au pair in a few weeks. A family emergency caused her to give us two-months notice. The Camel is now 18 and legally an adult. Child #2 is learning to drive and starting to think about college. We are not permitted to host any more au pairs. It was a great model of caregiving for us – some year were better than others – but the Camel almost always weeded out the good-time party girls. Most of our au pairs have gone on to make the world a better place. Not surprising, many advocate for people who have special needs.

Should be working February 8, 2017 at 11:19 am

TaCL, it has been amazing to read about you and your family.

I believe we are on our last au pair right now as well. Pre-teen and teen kids mostly need driving around (although all that laundry help, and appointment-making help, and kid-errand help have been great), and we think we can just use Lyft or the kiddie version of Lyft, plus do more of the afterschool stuff ourselves. $18K will buy a lot of Lyft. And our last AP was wonderful, until he did something awful, which broke my faith in things somewhat.

An interesting thread possibility: “You know you are on your last au pair when….” . I remember there used to be one that was called something like “Good luck, from an ex-aupair-mom”.

American Host Mom in Europe February 8, 2017 at 12:07 pm

TaCL and SBW – I hope you’ll both stick around here to share your common sense and experience and wisdom! Sad to read both of you are moving out of the au pair hosting years…

TexasHM February 9, 2017 at 11:44 am

NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! Oh TACL and SBW so sad to hear you both are trending out. You have been such a tremendous resource over the years and I have so enjoyed selfishly gleaning off your advice and experience! The learning curve on this program is so high it’s a shame when folks like yourselves leave as much is lost. Selfishly I’d say please still contribute ;) but as a fellow HM I know that’s unrealistic. If you are ever in DFW I would totally buy margaritas! :)

Taking a Computer Lunch February 9, 2017 at 9:56 pm

You won’t be rid of me fast, but probably over time… You’ll hear a lot more complaints about nursing and turn-over, of that I’m sure. And I’d love to share a margarita if I’m ever in DFW.

Angel February 10, 2017 at 5:25 am

@Shira the process is just as nerve wrecking for the AP.
I never knew families could view more than one AP at a time and felt really disappointed when my first family I interviewed with told me that they really liked me but decided to choose another AP without even telling me anything, just vanished after I had numerous skype calls with all the kids and even the previous AP. You should be honest with the AP because some of us are actually genuinely excited to be an AP and member of your family. Atleast consider the AP because ehile you have them on view no other family can view them and it takes them longer to match with a potential Host Family.

Momofthree February 8, 2017 at 9:39 am

I think Texashostmom did a guest post about her 12 step matching process. She was kind enough to share her interview and email questions as well as a sample of the introduction email she wrote. I cribbed pretty heavily off it- it was very comprehensive but also gave me a good idea of questions I needed to ask that were specific to our family. If you search using the keywords 12 step you should find it.

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