Finding Good Au Pair Candidates 1: Best Practices for the “1 at a time” system

by cv harquail on July 21, 2009

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How do you manage the process of interviewing candidates one at a time?

What can you do to make sure that the candidates you are sent are a pretty good match to begin with, so that you don’t have to weed out girls who surely wouldn’t fit with your family?

{ 7 comments }

StephinBoston July 21, 2009 at 2:28 pm

With this system, you need to communicate, communicate, communicate with your placement coordinator. If she doesn’t have a clue what you want and need, you’ll get ramdom candidates.. I have a very well defined list of things of MUST HAVE Then a list of NICE TO HAVE and a list of ABSOLUTELY NO WAY will I take a candidate with these characteristics. I share those with my placement coordinator, tell her very clearly I’m not in a hurry (start 6 months before I need someone) and tell her not to bother putting anyone who doesn’t match this list in my box. I’ve gone though the process 3 times and its worked out very well for us.

My 2 cents July 21, 2009 at 3:25 pm

I agree 100% with StephinBoston. It all comes down to how good of a placement coordinator you have and how demanding and clear you are with them. In our experience, which is very small, they throw a few less than stellar applicants your way at first and from there you make more and more clear what you want to see as you see how the applicants are falling. There’s a definite understanding that they don’t get paid and commissions don’t roll in until you sign for the AP, so don’t worry about being a PITA, they will work hard to find her in order to seal the deal and move on to other families. I too would start the process early — really, how can it hurt? It just gives you more time to find the right person and not settle because you are in a time crunch. Also, some agencies give discounts to families who match (and pay) early.

Anonymous July 21, 2009 at 9:29 pm

My biggest complaint with the one at a time is that I was grilled with the reason that I didn’t want the candidate. I felt guilty saying that they didn’t feel right. I was “encouraged” to call everyone. They paid for the call. It was extremely time consuming. I finally put my foot down and said – not right – move on. At times they tried to steer me to a particular country – South American – that lasted a couple of weeks. Every girl I called couldn’t carry on a conversation. My kids are older and they need to be able to communicate with them and help with homework. No English doesn’t work. I can hire an illegal alien, if that is what I am looking for. My advice is to put you foot down, make sure they understand your requirements and don’t spend a lot of time of someone that just doesn’t seem right. I stopped calling everyone. It took days of trying to reach someone. If they are not there, unless you have a great gut feeling, move on. With time zone difference, this can take forever. Email can work….but in some countries this is also time consuming.

This time I found a great au pair. She didn’t live at home and only had a cell phone which had a really bad connection. I could only call when she was at work and it was 5 p.m. in her country when it was 10 a.m. here. Email was slow because she didn’t have a computer and she could only email after work. There was just something that told me she had great values and would be a great match. I started five months in advance.

Starting early is also good if you have an au pair that isn’t really performing her duties. They get scared that you will replace them early and start to show that they can really do the job!!! Imagine that!!!

Although it was time consuming and I reviewed many applications, I definitely have the right au pair!!

Be demanding……know what you want………have patience………start early………and use your gut. I also had my kids talk to the au pair and ask questions. They were very excited about the AP we selected. They were part of the process and thought she was sooooooooooooo nice. It really helps.

Good luck with your search.

Deb Schwarz July 22, 2009 at 5:34 am

At first, as a host family, I didn’t like the one at a time process, but then I grew to love it – since no one else is looking at the candidate – so you aren’t competing with lots of host families for that stellar candidate (and losing out to “better cars” or “better hours”, etc.). I found that if I provided the matching specialist (and my LCC) a list of what I was looking for – and why, that helped a lot. And also if I reject a candidate (and after having 15 au pairs, I have a pretty good sense of what we want), I give feedback on WHY – this helps the placement specialist know what I’m looking for.. I have no qualms about rejecting a candidate – that’s part of the process and au pairs don’t take it personally. I also ask for a comparison match – if their inventory is good, then that’s usually not a problem. From being an LCC and matching specialist in the past, I can also tell you that those host families that are very responsive and give feedback quickly get my attention because I know that they are serious and aren’t wasting my time – for those families, I’ll pull out all the stops and find them a great au pair!

PA Mom July 22, 2009 at 7:42 am

Ok Deb – what’s a “comparison match”? I too have been very clear and involved with a matching person – she was great. It’s a personality thing – they either “get” you or don’t. Last year our agency used a friend of my college roommate to match me (I know small world) and it was a good match – first one picked. This year she had moved on (kids all grown) and we got a new matcher – while she may be great she was picking APs from her home area of Europe which was not a good cultural match for my family. Couldn’t convince her otherwise. Ended up switching matchers and the new person – nailed it the first time. We love our AP and it was so nice to have a great fit. Email is helpful because if they can write in English it can transmit personality. This APs emails just popped and we loved her. Our phone connection was awful but with the emailing we were able to suss her personality out and – I wish I could clone her. My husband said it’s like having another daughter – and he means that positively. I will be the saddest HM in the world when she moves on to the next big thing in her life (whatever that will be) – but definately glad to have had her here. PS the kids feel the same way – they are already working on getting her to stay another year. But life calls and those really living it – often are ready for the next stage.

Best advise on this sort of matching – know theyself. Are you introverted, a rule follower, a rule breaker, an extrovert. If an AP who has lived her whole life with a strict set of rules (or rule followers) were to move in – would she be unhappy because you have a family of rule breakers. If an AP who has lived her whole life just gliding through and being flexible to each new thing were to move in (to a family of rule makers and followers) would you think her undisciplined and kooky. Does the AP have siblings and can she relate to your kids sibling structure. Does she really like kids, what does she think this year will be about, have you been frank about your family rules and at least a few of the quirks? Even with a one at a time system – think about these issues.

StephinBoston July 22, 2009 at 8:35 am

PA Mom, you bring up a great point, I share my whole rule book after the second interview (all 18 pages of it). The way I see it, they might as well read it now, see what they think and decide if they can live with my rules now instead of having a surprise when they get here. My 3 APs have said they really liked that, they knew what was coming and there was a mutual understanding of what was expected of them. I tell them straight up, this is what its going to be like, happy to have you join our family if you can follow those rules.

PA au pair mom August 19, 2009 at 11:46 pm

I agree that at the beginning I felt compelled to give a legitimate reason for rejecting a candidate. Then I thought about it and realized that I will be trusting the AP to take care of my kids, my most prized possession. I have the right to reject a person whether it’s a gut feeling, religion, health status, childcare experiences, or any other reason.

I spoke with my placement coordinator and told her that I would be happy to give her a concrete reason if I had one. She was happy to receive feedback on candidates when I offered it, but didn’t hound me for a reason when I didn’t.

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