Finding Good Au Pair Candidates 2: Best Practices for the “they give me a group to look at” system

by cv harquail on July 21, 2009

difft from other girls.jpg
Okay, so you’ve set your basic preferences and sent them to the agency. The agency’s computers churn a bit, and out come 4 recommended candidates, right into your online family folder.

Now what?

How can you make this process really work well for you?

{ 5 comments }

Calif Mom July 23, 2009 at 10:22 pm

Be ruthless about clicking ‘not interested’ right away. Don’t save someone for later that night to look at again. Just say bye bye without guilt. Even if “they seem perfect except for…”

Get very friendly with the tech-y support person at HQ who can loosen up more apps for you than the 5 you are “allowed”.

Don’t rely on the computer-generated matches to fill your inbox — use the filters and find your own candidates, then get that tech person to add them to your list.

Anonymous July 26, 2009 at 11:01 am

This sounds like really good advise but I have a question. If you want extra applications, why not go with an agency that offers you the whole data base approach. Or is there someone else about your agency that you really like too much too switch ?

Calif Mom July 27, 2009 at 1:51 pm

[Hmm. Are you a marketing person at an agency? Well, nevermind that, I don’t hold it against you if you are, and my answer may help improve customer service!]

We initally chose an agency based on my experience calling each agency’s local counselor for our area. My instinct told me that that relationship was much more important than the mechanics of accessing a candidate pool (and even the cost). That instinct was correct, IMHO. I continue to believe that, especially if you are new to hosting au pairs, having an excellent counselor advising you makes a huge difference in your success and happiness as a host family. Also think a terrific counselor is a big benefit for the au pairs, too.

Now, frankly, we don’t love our current counselor. She’s not the one we started with — who really should get a spiff from the agency because she IS the reason I picked them. But I don’t not love our current counselor enough (at the moment anyway!) to go to another agency. I did seriously explore that option once when I wasn’t getting good service during a rematch, and that competitor still send me tempting offers by email. But because there is value in being with an agency with a large number of au pairs in our area, I instead called HQ directly to complain and suddenly our counselor was very responsive and did what we needed done, quickly. Now we just ignore the counselor, since we are in a nice, stable, extension year.

Susan July 31, 2009 at 10:39 am

Hi,

I am glad that finally someone writes about this topic. I whish this blog would have existed when I started to look into Au Pairs to learn from other host moms.

We have had great experience finding our Au Pair using a agency Proaupair for the last three years because they are specialized in Germans. We are both full time working parents in demanding jobs, and we wanted our children (now one-year old and our 3 1/2 year old) to learn another language from the beginning, but also needed an Nanny like professional childcare provider and not just a Momy’s helper. We checked the Professional Au Pair programs at http://www.proaupair.com, at http://www.europair.com and http://www.aupairinamaerica.com

We have very young children, but I know other dual income families with kindergarten age kids, school age kids, or special needs kids and we agree that if you hire someone who knows what it means to care for this age group for 45 hours a week from 2+ years experience, you know that this person will most likely know what they get themselves into. Then you “only” have to deal with the cultural adjustment and all the other things which come with someone living with you.

I will mention that the total annual coast are higher then a regular program, but compared to a domestic Nanny, it is still significant less expensive hosting an Professional Au Pair then hiring a domestic live-in (about ½). There are several agencies who offer professional programs, but my experience is that there is not much room for price discounts because of the high demand for such qualified candidates. My recommendation is to just call and ask how many candidates they have given your requirements and let them send you 3-4 candidates for you to look at.

You get a much better feeling if you hire a more experienced Au Pair who choose childcare as a career. And if you don’t have a lot of time to train your Au Pair, the extra cost of the Professional Programs is a good value for money (about $420-450 per week, or about $2000 more then a regular Au Pair program and a $250 stipend instead of a $196 for a regular Au Pair) depending on the agency). I prefer to compare annual cost to my family.

There are more benefits to hiring a Professional Au Pair:
From my experience, older Au Pairs are more likely to be beyond the phase of partying for the first time away from home, and they find it easier to make contact in the community thru sports clubs, online networks, ect with only a little guidance form the family or the agency. Therefore, the local counselor is not as critical for this relationship to work as if compared to a very Au Pair first time away from home. But don’t get me wrong, a great local counselor is always a plus! We like to get all the help we can get ?

Professional Au Pairs have more experience driving because they are older, and in my case I learn a lot from my Au Pair, a German Kindergarten Teacher, about the development of my children, e.g. when to start potty training (she started my daughter on the potty last week, and she does A and B, can you believe this?), how to deal with tantrums ect. I like asking what they did at day care or kindergarten in this or that situation. We have a curriculum at home, where every week my Au Pair does projects with the kids to focus on difference developments, language, and we speak about over the weekend.

Bottom line, the more options when choosing an Au Pair are always better then less :-) http://www.greataupair.com is a good online tool, but you can spend you live searching. However, it does give you a broad overview of what is available above and beyond the 12 designated Agencies.
Just make sure, you bring in your Au Pair with the proper J-1 Au Pair visa, should you consider using a specialized non designated agency to find your Au Pair, and the earlier you start your search and hire someone, the happier you will be.

Thanks for starting this section, and good luck searching!

Nienke November 20, 2009 at 6:06 pm

I am surprised to read all this. I run an agency myself and we ALWAYS try to find the best match and if we don’t have a good match we use targeted recruitment to try to find the right au pair. Surely, we cannot be the only agency who work like this. There is a drawback though, there are lots of internet based agencies where families enrol for less than £100 and can try to find their own au pair. We found what seemed a very good match for one particular single father. He agreed and was most delighted. Close to finalising he told us he would not go ahead because our fees (£375 for 12 month placement) were extortionate and outrageous (he had ticked our T&Cs when he registered which clearly state our fees). So it is not just au pair agencies failing families, sometimes it is families failing themselves. A personalised service comes at a price. My advertising costs are sky high and I need to do this to get the right candidates … So ultimately I think you get what you pay for.

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