Finding Good Au Pair Candidates 3: Best Practices for the “Searching their whole data base” system

by cv harquail on July 21, 2009

No! Not the needle in the haystack image!

indias bday party 05.jpg

Okay, here’s something different. These girls are all delicious, all delightful, all of them clever smart and kind.

But really, with all those cute photos and similar profiles, how do you find the one(s) who are right for you?


Anne July 21, 2009 at 11:25 am

I’m on the hiring committee at my job, so the entire database approach of my agency was appealing to me.
I used the database to search for applications meeting my absolute qualifications, such as age of children. Then I read the profiles and weeded them out based on things that were next most important (for us, years of driving experience was one). Of the applicants that were left, I looked for applications that jumped out at me as appealing. I saved those applications and went back and read over them entirely. I ended up reading the entire applications for less than a dozen young ladies.

Another CA Mom July 21, 2009 at 2:07 pm

What Anne said. :-)

I am a database geek myself, so I appreciate being able to make my own filters.

I also filter first on the most important criteria – which is the indication of what ages of children they’ll take on (with 3 under 4, this is critical!). Then I will filter for driving, which is a key activity here and continue to filter on other factors.

Our first au pair was a great fit with us, using this criteria (and it’s been refined during our match for our 2nd).

During our 2nd match, I ended up with about 6 candidates – 2 true finalists after dropping a few more when the language barrier was too great – and we are thrilled with our current (2nd) au pair!

Another CA Mom July 21, 2009 at 2:08 pm

… I forgot to mention our very first filter, which is age. With so many wee ones, we have not even considered au pairs under the age of 24.

Lucky1 July 21, 2009 at 3:45 pm

I agree with the previous posts that I used the filters to weed out the APs by country, age and experience. I would then save them as my favorites, identify the ones I wanted to interview and based on the interviews, I would assess if I needed to return to the database to keep looking.

While it seems a bit daunting at first to have an entire database, I liked it b/c I know my family best and appreciated being able to review all the candidates. I didn’t worry or wonder about missing out on other candidates that were just as qualified since I was the one doing the work.

Anna July 21, 2009 at 7:30 pm

I have been with two agencies, one “a few at a time”, and now “an entire database” approach. I prefer the second one.

It doesn’t seem daunting to me, because I am very picky. I first filter by country, age, and experience with kids the same age as mine. Driving ability is necessary but the amount of experience is not critical for me (very rarely she needs to drive the kids).
Last time I went through the process, that left me with 30-50 candidates. I don’t read all of them – I just browse through the pictures and one-sentence blurbs and click on those that look appealing to me at the first glance. I do a quick read of the application, starting with photos and essay, and if it grabs me or stands out to me, I add it to favorites. I don’t do it all at once, because then I lose the ability to get a picture in my mind of the girl. I read maybe 3-5 applications at a time.

I end up with 6-10 favorites. Then I reread them all as a group, and the ones in that group that I stop seeing something special in them, I delete from favorites. That leaves me with about 5-6 applications. I print them out, show to my husband. I take some days to “sleep on it” and read them again. Then I plan to start calling those that I still want to talk to after all of this.

But, usually, I am just looking for one girl who really strikes me as “meant to be” for us. During this process I keep checking for new candidates in my general search almost daily.

All this process stops once I see a girl that strikes me and I want to call her immediately for fear of losing her to another family. I trust my gut and in cases where I did it, the match was perfect. I usually talk to one candidate at a time. I call the one that appeals to me based on her application so much that I get really excited, and if nothing goes wrong in the interviews, I have an intention to match with her. The times I did it, the au pair was equally as excited about us (which confirmed my feeling about the match), and I never got a no. One year I didn’t listen to my intuition and matched with a candidate that was fit for us on paper but didn’t produce that “wow” feeling in me, was a disasterous year with two rematches.
I have an ability to get a very good picture from the application and the “feel” of it, so it works for me.

I followed a similar process with “a few at a time” agency, calling only the one candidate that I absolutely loved from the application. One year – when I trusted my intuition again – we matched with the first candidate we finally called – and we loved her, and it was mutual. Another year, when I was pressed for time and was calling candidates who fit on paper but didn’t send me jumping for joy, was that bad year. Doing this same thing with “a whole database” agency just seems to save time for me.

Busy Mom July 21, 2009 at 11:21 pm

We just went through the selection process for our 2nd au pair and used a similar approach both times. Our first au pair didn’t quick ‘click’ with us personality-wise, but was excellent in many ways; hopefully our approach works even better for #2! I like the control of having the full database at my finger tips (I am the epitome of a Type A personality). Driving is an integral part of our au pair job, so that’s the first screening criterion for us. We have 3 school-aged kids so are less particular about childcare experience, but need someone with very good English (which you can only ascertain from the interview).

We had a number of live-in nannies prior to having au pairs, which has helped me to be very decisive, know what we want/need, and trust my intuition.

Best practices:
Performed triage based on our primary criteria to narrow the pool and make it manageable
Sent details about our family prior to setting up an interview, giving the au pair the opportunity to decline

Details of my methodology…
1) I filtered on age (20+) and driving.
2) Then I eliminated all who categorized themselves as driving “sometimes” as well as au pairs from a few countries that my LCC has said to steer clear of if one needs a solid driver on day one.
3) I did a quick scan of health & other things easy to review that are important to us (e.g., dietary requirements , education) and eliminated more for various reasons. (Given the medical insurance discussion this month, I’m particularly glad that I eliminated those who had health conditions.) Note that at this point, I hadn’t even looked at their letter…I was just trying to narrow the quantity of profiles that I needed to review carefully simply to save time.
4) For the remaining au pairs, I took a closer read of their profile and saved as favorites any who had lived away from home before or struck me as particularly interesting/strong candidates. (Plus, eliminated a few more where something in the profile struck me that it wouldn’t make for a good fit with our family.)
5) I kept a separate spreadsheet of everyone I was interested in with a few tidbits of info to help me differentiate between them & prioritize which ones I wanted to interview first.
6) I send a long email to those I chose to interview – a repeat of the family letter (even though my agency shares the letter, I found that some had e-mail access, but infrequent internet access) and other information about us (pictures, details about where we live, etc.). I asked the au pairs to let me know if they were interested, if they were close to matching with another family, and to reply even if they were not
7) I set up initial phone/Skype interviews with those who were interested. Skype is wonderful!

This go round, I sent 19 emails:
7 declined & 2 never answered, so that helped me to avoid spending time on unnecessary interviews.
3 quick chats or email exchanges to clarify driving..
7 full interviews of which 3 progressed to 2nd interviews.

We did lose 2 of those 3 to other families, so there definitely is competition.

I did find that new candidates pop up throughout the day – sometimes even on weekends. During the 2nd search, I was in a rush and had only 4 weeks until the match deadline (delayed the search thanks to the economy and an uncertain job status), so I checked multiple times per day to make sure I didn’t miss any good candidates.

Anonymous July 22, 2009 at 4:51 pm

Another observation – I always ask my LCC for some insight as to how many aupairs of any particular nationality are coming to or leaving our cluster. She has always been very happy to tell me this. I also ask if these aupairs are doing well and have a good situation.
I like to know that my aupair will have someone from her own country to talk to, hang out with, etc. I always encourage her to make some friends from countries other than her own – it improves her English to speak to lots of different people.
If there is a large pool of aupairs from a particular nationality , I want to make sure that she is going to get some positive imput.
God knows, some of these girls have really upsetting stories and it is my impression that alot of what they have to say is right on target.
As sy

mpathetic as I am to this, I feel that providing TLC is the responsility of the LCC and I don’t want my own aupair upset by these situations and I don’t want her playing Dear Abby all the time instead of taking
care of my children and having a nice time of her own.
If all of the aupairs from a given country are big partiers,
I would just as soon get someone from another country .
This is something I like about the whole data base approach.
I like my LCC and I think she likes and respects us. She knows everybody in the cluster and although she won’t tell me anything personal about another family, I would not feel so comfortable talking to an administrator about these kinds of details.

Anonymous July 22, 2009 at 5:15 pm

I think the LCC is a good resource. Not only is the “Country of Origin” of the other cluster AP’s important, but I ask our LCC about the ages of the AP’s in our cluster. Since it’s a smaller cluster in a big college town, the AP’s split into 2 social groups: those who can/want to go to over 21 night scenes and those who don’t. (For the record, I think I prefer when they can go to the clubs. I worry more about where they go when they can’t go to the clubs…)

Anonymous July 23, 2009 at 9:41 am

A lot of the filters we use in this method have been covered above. One additional filter I use that won’t apply to many families but was a consideration for ours was religion. Our agency’s database doesn’t allow us to filter by religion, but it is indicated on the profile along with a level of importance. The AP indicates their religion and how important it is to her. Because we are atheist, we screen out girls that say religion is “very important” to them. I still consider the APs that say religion is “somewhat important” – but I worry that an AP who is very committed to her faith may not be a good match for our family.

I think this concern could work the other way as well. A family that is actively practicing a particular faith may not do as well with an AP that is of a dramatically different faith or no faith at all.

Just a thought.

Anonymous July 23, 2009 at 11:29 am

This is very important.
It is not just a matter of who celebrates Christmas and who doesn’t but also what type of televsion shows and what type of music the aupair will bring into your home. In my experience, very few aupairs are very religious and many come from very secular countries.
You can make certain assumptions ( to a limited degree ) about the religious life of an aupair by considering the country she comes from.
As far as atheism is concerned, you might want to think about your view of atheism and the outlook of someone who grew up in the Soviet Union or its aftermath. Although neither of you believe in God, you may have a very different outlook on life. The atheism you speak of may arise from very different experiences.
Thank you for bringing this sensitive topic to light.

E2 July 23, 2009 at 1:41 pm

We filter on driving (eliminate anyone that got their license w/in the past year), religion, swimming ability, nationality and age. We also look carefully at the years of experience in childcare – when I looked back at our one rematch I saw that it was all in one year — don’t know how I missed that. We also look at the pictures for tatoos and piercings and ask about these in the interview. We’ve lost out to other families quite a bit due to location — LA and NYC are much more appealing & au pair’s movie-driven view of America. The one thing I don’t like about this system is it feels very competitive with other families. I think some families may select au pairs just to get their contact info and then release them right away to get another au pair’s contact info and so on.

AZ HM July 23, 2009 at 2:10 pm

We, too, just finished this process in search for our second au pair. This time around we decided we were going to initially focus on AP who spoke a particular language. It was a desire to find the “right” person who could also teach our family a bit of this 2nd language as part of the cultural exchange. With our first au pair, we felt we missed out a bit because she had been living outside of her own country and in an English speaking nation for many years before becoming our AP. For our first AP, we were very concerned about English language skills. The trade-off was that this AP was not that interested (or able) to teach us much about her homeland/language…and we learned that the cultural exchange was really important to us.

As well as language, we also filtered for age (we have very young children and have looked for caregivers 24+ to help us find an AP who may be more mature, have more life experience, more childcare experience, more driving experience, etc…

We also filtered for driving experience (we need an experienced driver) and swimming (need someone to at least have experience).

From the existing candidates, we then looked at childcare interest/experience and the letters. If there were no red flags, and perhaps some qualities that stand out as important for our family, I flagged as “favorite”.

Then from the favorites we dug deeper. This time I felt I was much better able to uncover potential “issues” in the application material — from ALL I’ve learned here and from what we learned from our first search and AP. I look at the info on the APs family — we are a busy family of 5…I prefer someone who comes from a larger family so they aren’t surprised at the chaos that occurs in our household. We, too, look at religion and screen out “very” since we are “not” (during the interview process I address our religious beliefs and explain we are completely accepting of the APs practice, but we need someone who is comfortable with us not practicing). We look at experience living away from home (to try to screen for possible “extreme home sickness” as described in the “moper” post — I know I won’t have the patience for that). Finally, I look at childcare experience (our 3 children are 5 and younger)…We automatically get candidates with at least 200+ hours of under2 experience. But, I must say that I’m of the belief that more hours does not = more prepared, nor does it necessarily mean a better candidate for our family.

Now, we had a short list — 5 candidates. We made a spreadsheet with some basic info and our initial notes (what we saw as potential strengths and weaknesses based on the application). BTW, I asked the matching expert if I could add an extra AP to our “interview” list. I then emailed the six with a short note and told them we’d be calling soon. We made initial calls and screened again. Now we were down to one lead candidate and a second.

We took our time and actually had ongoing email, 5 telephone calls, and 2 skype video chats with our “lead” candidate…and were able to screen out #2 after the second or third call.

The whole time (over 2.5 – 3 weeks) we were interviewing our lead candidate we asked that she let us know if she was considering another family and we communicated our continued interest. I also continued to do quick searches of the data base using our criterea above. I guess it was reassuring to me to read other apps and know that we were getting close to matching with the “right” AP.

After the 7th or 8th voice/skype contact, we asked our AP to match. We are all excited.

It takes a LONG time, but I think it is such an important decision and I know we can do a better job than the “matching experts” (who try but tend to send me candidates that I can screen out in the application). I’d rather spend my time screening the apps myself than to spend the time trying to explain to the “matching expert” what I’m looking for and waiting for her to find the candidate. We stuck with our current agency in part because of this selection process.

TX Mom July 23, 2009 at 4:05 pm

Like E2 I feel this process is very competitive and I get anxious and feel rushed to make a decision. I was very surprised the first time we went through the process that AP’s “fell off our list” after about 10 days. (A quick email put them back on our list, but obviously there is a timer.) I didn’t think that was enough time to make enough contact before deciding to match. I was also surprised that the good candidates matched very quickly. (Often before our 2nd scheduled call with the AP.) My counselor told me, “If you see someone good pick up the phone; don’t email them.” Our favorite AP told me after being with us most of the year that she was really surprised by how quickly families called her after her profile was released. I know that if an AP chooses another family, it’s probably for the best, but this process is an emotional roller coaster until you match because everyone (AP’s and HF’s) is trying to improve their odds.

Anna July 23, 2009 at 7:12 pm

I second TX mom about moving quickly. When I saw the application of a girl we matched with this year, I was so taken with it I called her the second day after she appeared in the database; and another family already called her! In this agency the limit is 2 families interviewing one girl at a time, so if I was the 3rd family, I wouldn’t be able to reserve her for an interview

AZ HM July 24, 2009 at 1:41 am

I want to add that with our first AP, I too felt very rushed….and within about 4 days we had 3 calls and matched. For the most part it worked. But, we have learned a lot…and taking our time seemed more important this time. We wanted to know more about our AP before matching this time. I think the agency wants us to feel stressed…seriously, they get their money when we match. There are so many potential APs….new ones joining the database each day. I reminded myself that if an AP we had talked to, and that we were interested in, matched with another family first, they probably weren’t the best fit with our family. As I said above, our 2nd AP went through the extended 2-3 week interview process with us. She was contacted by other families, but I think she also felt comfortable with us and our process.

I just think it is important to know that they system (i.e. interview 2 or 3 at a time…for 72 hours only…and knowing that other families are competing) is designed, I’m guessing, to create some of the anxiety that many of us feel…which may make some people (at least us with AP#1) match quicker than our comfort level.

MTR July 24, 2009 at 12:02 pm

AZ HM, so how did you do 2 week interview process with the 72 hour limit from the agency?

AZ HM July 24, 2009 at 4:36 pm

MTR Good Question — they don’t explicitly tell you, but after the 72 hours, you still have all the contact information for the APs you are interviewing/have interview in your “previous interviewed AP” list. The difference is that they are now released back to the whole database for other families to interview. They are only held for you (and one other family) to interview for 72 hours (plus 24hrs – or more if you ask your matching expert).

Again, I consciously did not fall prey to that “OMG” feeling when the 72 hours was up (like I did last year)…I knew we were clicking with the our lead candidate…we told her we were interested but that we wanted to talk more. We also went on vacation during this time so were really out of commission with regards to interviewing – and I explained that to our lead candidate. We took a risk that she wouldn’t match with another family while we took our time. I’m guessing she felt better about the longer, more contact, process as well.

Anonymous July 24, 2009 at 8:40 pm

My agency shows us their whole data base and my counselor can tell me if any other families are looking at the aupairs I am interested in
She , the counselor, can tell me what happened if the girl disappears.
If many people are looking at an aupair and no one selects her , I wonder if there is something that surfaces on the interview or if she is just very picky.
If no one else has downloaded the candidate I like, I have no problem. I think that maybe it was just good luck for me. There are so many girls out there, many people just didn’t see her .
Once , my counselor called someone who did not pick someone I liked and asked the other host mother what happened. I was just an issue – the aupair wasn’t into baseball or something like that. My kids and husband are not interested in baseball so I went forward and followed up. The counselor was a big help in this matter. There was no way I could have tapped into that info without her. She has also helped me by making these kinds of calls when I was in rematch.

Au Pair comment July 26, 2009 at 1:58 am

Hello Host moms,

I’m sure you moms want the best for your precious treasures, of course, protect and look for a good au pair is escencial, make the whole research about their best skills, driving, age and everything. You guys are totally right about it, and if i were mom, i wouldnt do different and hire someone who doesnt fit my criteria.

The point is, don’t you think your criteria is not too ”closed” about the au pair skills and features? I’ve been reading that blog and i noticed many moms saying that they filter au pairs to be aged more than 20 years old, and very well experienced in driving, on the other hand, i think the same au pairs, aged more 20 and very well experienced of driving, dont make you be totally away from have future problems, you can check it out reading around the posts.

I want to expose my opinion and might make you think about some subjects to consider.

I’m brazilian, and i have been planing become an au pair some months ago. I have been doing the whole process for more than 9 months ago, many hosts don’t even imagine how many things we have to do until be into the agency. In my country we cant have a driver’s license before 18 years old. I have been doing the process to get it. Do you know in Brazil since 2008, we have to get 45 hours in class to get a drivers license? Really studying about how drive safe, and after it, do a theoretical, if you pass, then you can start your another hours of studying, its more 20 practical classes, where we drive in very busy roads and the hard traffic that we have here (i live in RJ), and different weather situations. after it, 50% of the persons are getting the driver’s license, only if they make a good practical exam, so you have to be a good driver anyway.

Although, you might be thinking, ”well, but she still don’t have experience”. What if i say you in my application that i have 3 or 4 years of license, and i drive everyday? incomparable no? But, could you really trust that i drive excellent? I have contact with another many au pairs and future au pairs, and i can say,that have years of driving doesnt mean they drive excellent at all, I’ve see some girls in a topic about if they are really confident to driving in Usa how the question asks in the agency application, and the major answer was no, some affirm that even if they have years of license they dont feel safe driving because they really never had too much experience and they hope ”loose” this afraid of driving while drive for your kids.

Another thing, i noticed, about the age, do you really think a 20’s year old woman can be more responsable than a younger girl? I dont want to say in general, but i think dont matter the age, you should consider the culture that the live inside before filter the age of the girl, another example from Brazil, here usually 20’s girls are getting into the ”freedom spot”, and they really likes going to clubs, and dating a lot. I can say again, i know many au pairs going to live with you for take care of your kids, and they are looking for fun, i’ve heard before ”I dont know what you guys under 21 are going to do in states now. You can’t even drink, there is no fun, wait! is better”, another thing to consider is that your under 21 years old au pair, wont become a club girl even if she wants to, just because they know they are supposed to ”no-fun” in USA.

The point is, go to another country looks something amazing on eyes of ”freedom spot” girls, but they totally forget about the major motive for it, the KIDS. Anyways, i think its too radical to think about a perfect age to your au pair, some under 20 are homemade and responsable, some 20’s are totally clubing girls, or the opposite. When we talk about persons, its really complicated to just label how they are supposed to act with your kids. Maybe you loosing the chance to get an excellent au pair, and you even dont know it. I gave you the example about two things that host moms usually consider more when choosing the ”perfect au pair”. It’s frustrating, when you know you waiting for a family who will hire you not only as an nanny, but a member of the family, as a friend, a nice example to your kids and caught their expectation about you, and someone who is looking for fun get more chances to be into this family then you, only because they have 2,3 years more than you.

I should finish this post saying that, honestly i know that NO ALL GIRLS are the same, and asking you host moms, think better before label and exclude au pairs from you and your family. The culture, the country and another things in general, can make a under 20 years old be your perfect au pair. Its not easy leave your home and the ones you love, be planing it the whole year, thinking about how is going to be your little kids, what age, how cute they are. Being an au pair, is more than go to another country and have fun, you must love what you do.

Anna July 26, 2009 at 8:25 am

Dear au pair,

not all moms need au pairs to drive their kids daily. I don’t, and I don’t look for years of driving experience, I just look that they have drivers license, which most do. This is for them, because even though they can walk everywhere kids need to go in my neighborhood, to go to cluster meetings, to go out with their friends, they will need to drive. And I do let them use my car for that. Also in my state they cannot use international license for more than 60 days, so in the first two months they have to take and pass driving test here. So for me, driving experience is not something I filter on.

Age is, again, for the benefit of the au pair. I want her to be happy and have a social life with friends. In my town most au pairs hang out in a bar/restaurant that serves alcohol, and they don’t let in anyone under 21.

Anonymous July 26, 2009 at 10:57 am

I personally do not think age is such a big issue but it is a big issue if the host family lives in a state where the insurance companies charge much more money if someone is younger than 21.
I am also interested in finding someone who is not doing with the intention of finding a job or a husband in the United States and has no intention of ever going home. I do not want someone who is doing this strictly for money. That is, I do not want someone who is sending all of her money to her family at home and looking for off the books work here. If that were what I wanted , I would hire someone who is here legally.
I want someone who is going to come here for one or possibily two years and then, take her experiences back to her original country.
I want her to have a very good time while she is here and I want someone who is going to do something other than go to bars and clubs.
Sometimes I cannot tell that an application or even an interview but I can make some reasonable guesses based on the country she lives in and the political and economic circumstances there. Then, the application and interview tell me even more about the individual person.
As a cultural exchange, theses programs are great. They are not supposed to be cheap childcare.

Au Pair comment July 26, 2009 at 12:16 pm


I’m glad there are host moms like you, you are open-minded. I know that when we come there, sometimes we have to get the state license, thats another fact to consider when choosing a au pair that don’t have many experience on driving.
Thats very generous, thinking about au pair happiness, I hope i can find a host mom like you. I personally belive, that if the au pair can’t go to the clubs or another 21 years old programs, doesn’t mean she wont have have a social life, or be unhappy. I think there are many kinds of persons, and some just dont like going to club like they are ”supposed” to do. I get my own example, i love have fun with my friends, going to restaurants, watching movies, concerts, hanging out on the city, and i know i could perfectly have friends there and probably be happy with them. I’m a very social person, i have many friends, even if i dont go to the clubs here (and my age permit it here), i like more the healthy programs.
Anyways, for dont escape of this subject, i would like to thank you moms, for the last 2 comments, it makes me feel happier to know that no all families are looking for +20 girls.

Au Pair comment July 26, 2009 at 1:26 pm

I forgot to say, i love you reading that blog and see the another side of the au pair life, its always good to see what ”moms” think about their au pair and how i could do my best to be a good au pair. I also read au pairs blogs and posts around internet, but this blog shows me the family side, instead of just the au pair. I have experience with children around 2500 hours working in day care center and school, and we have a good relationship with their moms, since we also have special needs children. I know live in, is very different, but this site have been making me have an idea of how i could resolve any potential problem, communication stills the key for it, and i like to read all your different opinions, i think i will help me in building a excellent relationship with my host family.

Calif Mom July 27, 2009 at 2:07 pm

Dear Au Pair,

Thank you for commenting! Would it make you feel better to know that many families and counselors advise people who do need their au pairs to drive that they should look for girls from western europe and brasil?

Also, about age, I long ago learned that age does not equal maturity! If that’s the one thing I wish future host parents could know, it would be that. And for the host mom who only picks above 24 year olds, I suggest great offer caution! We are at about a 50 percent success rate with that age range. Watch carefully for signs of maturity/emotional issues or an attempt to escape from needing to grow up. Been there, it’s horrible!

Anonymous July 27, 2009 at 4:59 pm

To our new aupair friend from Brazil ;
What questions can we ask on the interview that will help us identify someone like you ?

Au Pair comment July 27, 2009 at 11:33 pm

Calif. Mom,

Yes! It just made me feel much better about this situation. And i think that this information you gave us, just confirmed what i said about how much we are being prepared to drive here in Brazil.

I belive, there aren’t any model questions that you could make to identify at the first see someone who really meant to be a good au pair. But i think you could consider some aspects while interviewing an au pair:

I believe it’s very important being opened and say your exceptions about her, be honest so you can find honesty on her too, because she will feel very comfortable to tell you any important (or no) information about her that probably she were ”hiding” or just afraid to indicate, I think if you make this interview a time to talk about your selfs and expectations, it become easier to know about her real personality and make you feel she is right for your family or no. This way, you could try identify someone who is being honest to you and not only saying just the ”right things”, answering you with decorated answers. (Belive me, they do it hehe).

I think sometimes it’s very hard to talk about our selfs without sounds fake, mostly when we know that the host families are looking girls with some specific skills, but if you are being honest and confident, talk about yourself makes it a great opportunity to show your best point, the real you, so i belive, if you could make your interview, an opened and natural conversation, and go away a little of all regular and massive questions that she is already expecting from a host mom with the well prepared ”nice answers”, you will have more further knowledge about her and you will find out if she is trying just to seems someone perfect to you or she really has really a good personality as described in the application.

I hope i helped you on it, and thank you for asking my opinion :)

NewAPMom July 28, 2009 at 3:58 pm

We’re in the process of choosing our next au pair and this input has been so helpful to me. Thank you to everyone who weighed in.

I haven’t seen anyone say this so I’ll add one thing. We’re a bilingual/bicultural family (American mom, European dad.) One of the main reasons we have au pairs is so our kids can have more exposure to the minority culture and language. So we only look for au pairs from the country where dad is from. That narrows things down quite a bit.

(For any of you who are concerned about the cultural exchange aspect from the AP’s point of view, mom used to be an ESL teacher and always speaks English with the au pair even though she is fluent in the au pair’s language. What language the dad speaks is up to the au pair.)

I don’t really care about driving or age, actually.

It’s been my experience that age has nothing to do with maturity levels so far. I do look for a “story” that seems to hold together; for instance, the au pair has finished high school, and wants to take a year to travel and learn English because it will help her with X specific goal, or the au pair has been working for a while and is ready to move on to something different. I want her to be motivated to be an au pair for specific reasons.

With respect to driving, there are lots of activities that are walkable to our house, and public transportation is very accessible. We do have an old spare car that the au pair could drive on her weekends but unless there were a very strong driving track record, and I was reassured by multiple trips in the car with her, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with an au pair driving the kids around. I have learned just not to mess with au pairs who “don’t know how to drive but really want to.” Either they drive or they don’t and that’s that.

CCHostMom July 28, 2009 at 5:07 pm

This has been a very helpful thread – great input all around.

To the delightful au pair from Brazil, I have a driving question, if you don’t mind. When I view applications for Brazilian au pairs, I see that some have a “full” drivers license, but some only have “permissao”. What is the difference between the two types of drivers licenses?

Thanks for giving us your perspective on this process from the point of view of an au pair!

Au Pair comment July 28, 2009 at 7:48 pm


The difference is that ”permissão” (permission for driving), is the license that we get after finish our driving course here ( the process with 45 hours class, and 20 pratical, plus the exams) , we have to use that kind of license for 1 year without get any ticket, for who is getting the license in 2009, the ”permissão” is for 2 years. So ”permissão”, is a ”trial version” of our driver´s license, if after 2 years (1 before 2009) you dont get any ticket for driving bad, and follow all rules, you can get your full license valid for more 5 years, you must re-new it 5 in 5 years.

I not sure if i´m allowed to put my informations here, but since i starting my process of looking for a family, i would like to leave my email adress here,, and if is there any mom interessed in an au pair portuguese speaker, or just have any question… please email me :)

Busy Mom July 28, 2009 at 9:10 pm

Au Pair from Brazil,

Thank you so much for educating us about the process of getting a license in Brazil! This information is very helpful. Plus, I’ve visited both Rio and Sao Paolo and anyone who can drive there would be prepared for the impatient drivers and heavy traffic here in NJ.

Darthastewart July 29, 2009 at 11:15 pm

I guess here’s what I filter on:
No Portuguese or Spanish Speakers if I can help it- I speak both languages fluently, and I fell it’s a disservice to them. (Have had 1 Mexican au-pair and sure enough he never learned any English)
The au-pair MUST drive- regularly.
The au-pair must be able to swim.
I look at their childcare experience, and filter on that, along with the number of kids they have cared for at once. If they have never watched more than 1 kid at a time, I eliminate them from my list.
I filter on religion.
We used to consider both male and female au-pairs, but neither of the males we’ve had worked out, so we no longer consider males. (they both decided it was too much and went home)
I don’t call any that explicitly state that they only want to go to a certain part of the country.
I eliminate most vegetarians/dietary restrictions. I also like to try to understand what kinds of foods they eat.
I filter based on their socio-economic background- I eliminate girls who come from both poorer and wealthy backgrounds- looking for someone who comes from a solid working class family with some education, and some travel experience.
We look at their pictures, and what they show pictures of.
I generally go through the database and make a short list of 8-10 applications, and my husband goes through and weeds out his favorites, then calls them. He’s an excellent judge of character.

Like others, I go through the database over and over again looking for candidates to appear, as it can be hard to attract an au-pair since we live in NC and have 4 kids.

We’ve had some very successful younger au-pairs with new drivers licenses, and yes… we DO pay through the nose for insurance.

CCHostMom July 31, 2009 at 7:06 pm

To the Brazilian au pair: thank you so much for your description of the process for getting a license in Brazil. It was very helpful! I wish you all the best, and I hope you find a great host family :)

Au Pair comment July 31, 2009 at 8:15 pm

Thank you CChostmom! :)
I going by CC too, i hope i picked the right agency :D

Calif Mom August 1, 2009 at 11:53 am

One more lesson learned: filtering on “swimming” can be tricky. I’ve posted this elsewhere, but it bears repeating. APs interpret “swim, yes/no” in many ways along a continuum from “I won’t drown if I fall in the baby pool but I really hate the water” to “I’m Phelps’ training partner”. Be sure you plumb these depths in the interview process. We had an AP once who said Yes to swimming, but actually hated going to any pool so much she never took the kids. (What a lousy summer that was — but she had many issues and we let her go before summer was over.) Our AP now is a self-described “non-swimmer” — wouldn’t have made the filter– but she is happy to stand in the water and take the kids every day, just doesn’t like the deep end. (Which is fine, I don’t need her to.) She asked the teenage lifeguard/swimmer who’s giving the kids lessons to teach her too! :-)

Darthastewart August 4, 2009 at 11:02 am

Calif Mom- I think you’re right- in fact I think it can be tricky to filter on nearly any criterion. I guess you can take nearly anything in the database with a grain of salt- swimming, religion, driving, cooking… And the list goes on.

NewAP Mom August 19, 2009 at 3:46 pm

I learned something valuable by talking to another local host mom and thought I’d pass it along here.

She suggested that even though we are with the agency with the giant database, I write to the match coordinator with my needs and ask her if she has any potential candidates to send me. I thought this was overkill because I’m the queen of databases, our requirements mean that we have a fairly small pool of people to choose from, and I was sure I had them all. But I did it anyway, just to see.

The match coordinator sent me two excellent candidates – both better than any that I had seen, and neither of which showed up in my search. Now, it’s entirely possible, probable even, that it was simply a timing issue and that these candidates had either entered the pool in the last couple of hours, or had been interviewing with other families, or whatever. But regardless, it made me realize that even if you think you’ve got them all, it’s worth asking just to make sure.

We’re just about to match with one of the girls she suggested. Thanks to this site I was much better prepared for the interview/selection process, and I feel like she’s a great fit for our family. Can’t wait until she arrives! Thank you so much for this site – it truly is helping me be a better host mom. Honestly don’t know what I’d do without it.

darthastewart July 28, 2010 at 11:50 pm

In my experience, sometimes they hold back certain applications for families that are in transition. Or they may have au-pair candidates that are interviewing, and they add more families in, or they just give you someone that is hot off the press. I’ve discovered that there are a number of interesting loopholes in the system. ;P (I’ve had times where I was interviewing 12 at once.. uRF.. It’s really too many to do them all justice, but they’ll load you up with everyone in the DB so you can talk to them, if you ever do find yourself in rematch)

JJ Host Mom July 28, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Another thing I just learned about the “giant database” system, at least at Au Pair Care.

They have their au pairs divided up between those who are capable of taking care of kids under 2, and those who will take care of kids under 2. As you might imagine, there are a lot more “over 2” au pairs.

Obviously if you have a new baby, you’re better off with the “under 2” crowd. But if your kids are on the border, and you’re not seeing any candidates, you might ask your matching coordinator to give you access to the “over 2” au pairs. My kids will be 2 by the time the new au pair gets here, but because they’re under 2 now, I only have access to the “under 2” au pairs, and there were no good candidates for weeks on end. Our matching coordinator finally gave me access to the others and there were tons of them. I wish I’d have known this a month ago. But anyway, now the rest of you know.

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