How can an Au Pair candidate hasten a match?

by cv harquail on January 11, 2011

Yesterday we got this email from an au pair candidate who is very excited about finding a family. She asks:

How could I be selected as an au pair as soon as possible?

I offered her a little advice, and I’d love to hear what you all might suggest…

Hi I’m Shannon from (Southeast Asia), I am 20 years old and a university student.I’ve just applied to an au pair agency in the USA — I sent an application to that au pair agency a few weeks ago. I’m really sorry to send this email but I dont know what I’m gonna do please understand me and give me some advices. How could I be selected as an au pair as soon as possible ?

Hi Shannon-

Thanks for your email— on we don’t have any connections to the au pair agencies, so we don’t have the ability to help directly with getting you into your agency’s system or for getting you matched quickly. But here are some ideas….spirals.jpg

1. Be sure to complete all of the paperwork, interviews, and health exams that your agency application requires, as promptly as you can. The sooner your application is complete, the sooner you can get into the matching process.

2. Talk to your local recruiter or agency representative and ask her what you can do to move your application along quickly.

3. Take some driving lessons. The #1 reason that host families hesitate to match with candidates from Southeast Asian countries is that many au pairs from these countries really don’t know how to drive safely and well. Get some additional driving practice with different kinds of cars, and in different kinds of driving situations. If you usually drive in the countryside, practice in a city. If you’ve rarely driven on a highway, ask someone to coach you on highway driving. If you can get a real, bona fide driving school instructor to evaluate and certify your driving skills, that would be especially helpful.

Driving skill is important to 3 out of 4 host families, and if you are able to demonstrate that you have worked hard to become a good driver, that might make people more likely to consider matching with you.

4. Prepare information about yourself that communicates who you are, what you are looking for, how you handle new situations, and what kinds of childcare you’ve done. Carefully prepare any materials that your agency requests — letters to host families, application information, and so on– so that you communicate as much about yourself as truthfully as possible. Parents want a sense of the ‘real you’, not some ‘perfect you’ — so be honest. Consider posting information on your own blog site (like Blogger, Posterous, Tumblr), on your facebook page, or even putting your own video on YouTube.

5. Prepare yourself for your au pair interviews. By this I don’t mean that you should practice responses so that your spoken English seems perfect. What I mean is– make sure you know what the au pair job is, what the exchange experience is like, and what families are looking for. If you are very clear about what the au pair job is, if you know what kind of family you are looking for, and if you offer a lot of information about yourself to help potential families get to know you, this might be helpful.

You should look at AuPairMom posts on interviewing and matching, and see what kinds of concerns host parents have, and what things they are looking for.

6. When a host family contacts you by email or phone, respond right away. Even if you are away for the weekend, or busy with classes, let the family know you got the email and suggest a time that you can connect. Don’t let the email sit there for a day or two, or three, while you think of something to say.

7. If you share a phone with family or friends, let them know (once your application is in the matching pool) that you are expecting contacts from American host families. Many of us have left phone message after phone message with a relative of an au pair candidate, and never heard from the candidate. Even if the opportunity is not right for you, get back to the host family immediately and let them know.

8. If you have any special skills or talents to offer a host family, let your recruiter know... just in case there is a family that really needs what you have to offer.

I don’t know for sure if this will make a difference, but it seems worth a try.



AFHostmom January 11, 2011 at 11:38 am

Hi Shannon, and best of luck getting a match soon. The only further bit of advice I can offer is, if you have the knowledge and capability to do it, try to make a video of yourself (it can be very simple, just you talking, or a tour of your town, or showing a bit of culture from where you live, or anything creative) and have it available to email to host families (or through a link on youtube as suggested above). I know it sounds odd but our current AP said that her agency advised her to make a video multiple times and said she wouldn’t be as competitive until she did. It doesn’t have to be long, or too involved, but it might give you the advantage you need.

PA AP mom January 11, 2011 at 11:38 am

I would suggest that if the candidates are with CCAP, they upload a video with their application. My husband is adamant about not looking at applications if they don’t have a video attached. It is a good way for host families to quickly assess English ability. Not a perfect assessment, but a start.

My other suggestion would be to answer emails from host families quickly. Some host families are under a time constraint to select an au pair and may not wait very long before moving on to another candidate. With CCAP, we have to give a “yes” or “no” to an applicant in 72 hours.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 11, 2011 at 9:37 pm

APIA puts the existence of a video in the brief intro from which HP get to decide whether or not to put a portfolio in their folder.

Steff January 11, 2011 at 2:21 pm

In my opinion, try to be patient. I’m kind of in the same situation that you; already sent my application, currently in the matching process, and well, I dunno, do as much as you can do to assure you are going to be a good AP (all the tips given in this post, and in this site overall! They are all just awesome and sooo darn helpful!) I agree you should do the video (I’m with CC so for better chances to get pick, I did make mine, and well…I do believe that’s an awesome tool to have the family have a “peek” on you before matching, you know?)
I for one, will be getting extra-childcare experience volunteering at a kindergarten from February to May-June that is the time I’m hopefully be leaving for the States. I think you shouldn’t settle with the experience you’ve made so far (even if you already have the required hours or whatever) And not only childcare experience, but all kind. I agree you should practice your driving as much as you can (And let you agency know you are doing that much) I already know this spring break I’m gonna use it solely to have another set of driving lessons. I already took one course to get my licence but I wouldn’t mind (and won’t) pitch in another $500 to assure I’ll be a better driver in the States with a couple more courses before June. Even if I feel secure enough now I know I’ll use it. I’m from LatinAmerica, and as far as I know, Americans tend to have a “heavier foot” than we do (so to say) so they actually are used to drive a bit faster than we normally do and well, expect us to drive as fast (and as well). (Driving slowly and “too” cautious can also be a source of accidents depending on the kind of road you’re driving.
In my opinion, you should be an active participant on your matching process; don’t just sit around waiting to have a family but offer yourself a little bit more every chance you get. Get more experience, and talk to people, and be patient and trust (hope whatever) you’d get the awesome hostfamily you deserve! ;)

azmom January 11, 2011 at 5:40 pm

I agree with the above posts – ensure your driving skill information is up to date and correct. Then, get VARIOUS types of child care experience. We learned the hard way that day care centers is not the same as baby sitting. Watch your neighbors kids and see how it is because parents need to know how you do without a structured time frame as well as how you do when you have to have things done in a certain way. This way you really know what it is like when we may ask things like “how would you keep a toddler entertained for a day” or “how would you help make sure our children are ready for school in the morning”

DarthaStewart January 11, 2011 at 9:04 pm

I would encourage you to do anything you think you might need to do to prepare for the year: Driving lessons, more childcare, CPR, First Aid, and more. Work on your English skills.

Make sure that your application is impeccable, and that you’ve done the best job you can to accurately represent who you are, and what you’re looking for in a host family.

I’ll be looking for my next au-pair starting in a few weeks, and we always look for 1. Driving, 2. willing to take excellent care of 4 very different kids. 3. An Open mind.

If you are totally concerned about getting a host family quickly, may I suggest working with 2 agencies, and posting your application on one of the au-pairing sites, and pre-matching with a host family.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 11, 2011 at 9:51 pm

For us, the type of childcare experience is very important – I would prefer to see the application of someone who volunteered in a school setting over a long period of time to that of someone who only babysit for the minimum number of hours required by the agency (maybe that’s why I end up with APIA’s au pair extraordinnaire program 2/3 of the time!).

When I look at driving experience, I don’t care how fast you go, I want evidence that you enjoy driving and you have plenty of opportunity to practice (which means I probably won’t even look at applications from au pairs whose families don’t own a car again).

Practice your English. I can’t say this enough. Talk to yourself in English if you need the practice, but use it as much as possible. Don’t be embarrassed about the quality of your expression – work to get your ideas across. Some of my best AP candidates weren’t that fluent, but they had good ears and could hear language cognates and respond appropriately. No family will expect you to be perfect, but we do want to hear that you understand basic communication.

Provide a phone number for a telephone line that will give you the most clear communication with a HF possible. We didn’t match with a candidate because we couldn’t hear her at all. I did email our 18 pages of questions, but I’m sure they overwhelmed her – she never answered.

Every agency has different HF matching programs – learn what yours is. In APIA we can have up to 7 AP candidates in our folder at a time – but we have a limited time to keep them (although, as a HM, I have the means to get the agency to bring them back into my folder when the time has been too long – I tend to take 4-6 weeks and 5 telephone interviews before I’m ready to match).

Finally, don’t match with the first family that telephones you. If you really like them, it’s okay to say, “I really like you, but I’d really like to hear from another family before I commit.”

Ask to meet some APs from your agency who have returned to your country. Ask their advice, how long it took them to get interviews and match. Ask them about tips for living in the United States.

BoysMamae January 14, 2011 at 1:58 pm

I don’t mean to be critical, and I support the idea of being sure that you are a good match with a family, but if an Au Pair said to me “I really like you but I’d really like to hear from another family before I commit”, I’d assume she wasn’t a good match and move on to the next Au Pair. Do be sure about your family before you match and do be honest with every family you connect with, but don’t tell a family you are fishing for something better or on some level, trust is eroded.

HRHM January 15, 2011 at 2:39 am

I agree, if an AP tells me she is still looking/interviewing, I just move on to the next. None of the APs I’ve interviewed have been SUCH a stellar catch that I would be willing to compete to get them. If you don’t feel a “click” just tell the family thanks but no thanks. If you do, don’t play the market hoping for something better. Also, be aware that being picky about place (what is it with APs and California? – too many movies! LOL) or other details will make it harder for you to find a family. Also, most families look for an AP during the summer months, so if you are a great candidate, you will have less competition during the “off” months (the pool right now for example, stinks)

momto2 January 11, 2011 at 11:48 pm

Our current AP was very determined to realize her dream of becoming an Au Pair. She has long term educational/goals goals majoring in the pediatrics field, but knew that her fluency in English would be a significant asset, and could best be accomplished by travel to the US. She applied to be an AP with a major agency and began working as a full time nanny in her home country throughout the matching process. When her application did not move after six months, she did not wait around, she applied to another major AP agency to improve her chances of finding a match.

What impressed us about her application the most was the care she took in answering her questions about her goals and her child care experience. She made it very clear that she was not interested in coming to the US to party or to hang out in clubs……she stated as much 2-3 times throughout her essay, which was key for our family in deciding who to interview. She also made a video with her application which gave us a good sense of her English proficiency. As host parents, we have learned the hard way that many candidates rely on on-line translation tools to answer emailed questions to appear conversational in English……and then once they arrive it’s about a 3 month game of charades if the HF doesn’t speak the native language.

For us, driving was also a key issue. Our AP made it a point to illustrate how she saved up her own salary/earnings to purchase her own car to drive, separate from her parent’s car. This led us to feel more confident that if she was willing to invest in a vehicle which is very expensive in her home country, then she was likely competent enough to drive one.

Lastly, during the interview and matching process, our AP was very interactive. She answered our questions thoroughly and to the best of her English proficiency. (Did I mention she paid for English classes to improve her English?). But, in addition to answering our questions, our AP had a list of her own questions for us–mostly about our kids’ likes/dislikes, etc., activities and schedules. She not only asked these questions of us during our interview (via Skype), she asked to speak to the kids directly to learn from them first hand what they liked to do. This was a signal to us that she was coming here for the right reasons. Three months into our year with her, we know we made the right choice out of the dozens of applications we screened.

Emmie January 12, 2011 at 12:38 am

I agree with what is said above and would also recommend being as honest as possible. We recently matched with someone who does not have great driving skills. Ironically, one of the things in her application and interview that impressed me was her honesty about the fact that although she has her license, her family doesn’t own a car. When we interviewed her, she said she hasn’t had much opportunity to practice driving recently because she has no access to a car. She was willing to spend money to take more classes before coming, which she did.

I liked many things about her application; it was thorough, she was clearly a hard worker, etc… We wanted a driver, but it was not an absolute must for us. The fact that she was so honest and did not try to make her experience more impressive than it was really impressed me. She knew that her lack of driving experience was hurting her, and when I talked with our matching coordinator, she looked back to see why she had been rejected in the past, and it was all about driving. It was clear that this was a disadvantage, but she was honest about her situation. I knew that if we went with her that we would have someone who was completely honest. That has turned out to be true. She is a strong au pair, and I have been 100% comfortable with her integrity since the moment she arrived.

All that to say, I think it is important to try to improve your weaknesses, but I also believe that honesty and integrity shows through. For us, those are very important qualities. I would say even though it is hard to wait, and when you get that first interview you will be really excited, be as honest as possible in answering questions and filling out application materials. Host Families want to know what they are getting, and you want to know that the HF knows what they are getting and still really want you. We all have strengths and weaknesses after all!

Deb Schwarz January 12, 2011 at 5:01 am

The video is very important, as others here have pointed out. Try to set your video and application apart from the others – a very cute photo collage where you are very active and energetic – and energetic, inspiring music. In your essay, have examples of how you overcame obstacles and what kids have said about you in their words (maybe include them talking about you in your video?). In terms of photos, do not include just photos of kids you have looked after – but ones of YOU with kids – doing various activities. We don’t want to see your boyfriend, or photos of you as a little girl – but recent ones. Talk about the type of family that you think would be a good fit for you – don’t just sell yourself – families want to find the best fit – and an au pair who won’t just take anyone but is clear on what they are looking for. In your essay, talk about the adjectives that your friends and employers might use to describe you – the selection process is sometimes more based on a personality fit than on competency. Talk about the values that your parents taught you (another important factor in the “fit”). You will be a role model to their children so that’s important info to share. But above all – be honest and forthright. I can spot an application a mile away of someone who is not genuine and sincere, and is just trying to put on an image of someone they aren’t. I study photos very carefully – so pick them carefully – and put humor in your video – and be positive and energetic – this is probably the most important thing. Oh – and be sure to interview the host parents as much as they interview you. And – to land an interview, also register on (many host families register there and get what’s called “prematches”). You can also try to locate local coordinators in the areas that you’d like to live in through the Internet (although I get about 15 emails a week from prospective aps and unless something catches my eye, I don’t have time to help them). You’d be surprised with the vague, non-descriptive (I want to be an au pair) emails that I get. If you contact local coordinators, include a photo and a bit about your experience and the type of host family you are looking for – specifics help a lot to get our attention. Try appealing to some “niche” markets – e.g. have you looked after twins?, have you taught a language? what about your hobbies or interests? Don’t be bland in your application – let your true self show through.

The best video I’ve ever seen was one where the au pair enjoyed playing basketball and started the video tape with herself dribbling a basketball and then she went on to explain how her desire to be an au pair was like a basketball….(can’t remember how it was now). It was very creative and thoughtful – and showed the personality and creative nature of the au pair – use humor and creativity!

If you can afford it – apply with more than one agency! Some host families do that – and you can, too. Make sure that your Facebook account doesn’t have anything that shows you in a bad light. (one candidate had photos of her doing drugs on her FB!)

One last tip – before you interview with a family, research their area – ask about what you learn (e.g. I see that there is a wonderful history there – how interesting!) and ask what the kids like to do and what their personalities are like. Parents like to talk about their kids!

Good luck!!

Steff January 12, 2011 at 12:58 pm

First off, thank you to you and to everybody else for the helpful posts; something in your comment particularly kind of caught my attention anyhow, about the letter to the hostfamily. You gave us some tips (thanks so much for those) and well, lately the idea of changing my letter has been whirling in my mind. Not because I think my current one is bad, but because I think my way to see the program (& HFs) has changed in a bit over two months since I wrote the letter in the first place.

My question is, there are a lot of elements you added here the letter could have, but…For example, once upon a time when I finished the first draft of my letter, the ladies from the agency kind of told me is was too long (3000+ words, more or less) so I changed it, and made me letter almost half that. I guess then, my question is about the LENGTH of the letter; does it really matter too much? (I usually get carried away heehee) Do long letters scare HFs or something like that?

Thank you so much anyway for your posts! ;)

Brown January 12, 2011 at 7:08 am

We just started searching today for our next au pair, so this is a very fresh topic for me.

I’ll just amplify two areas that other have already brought up:

Once you land the interview, be prepared to interview your host family as much as they are interviewing you or more. Show that you have read the application and letter and that you have done some additional research on your own about the area. Tie in into questions about working with the children, e.g. “I see A likes to swim, do you think she’d like to go the beach near you on days she’s not playing soccer?”. Be curious about the children and how you would interact with them. Also demonstrate that you are aware of and have thought through some of the trickier areas of the au pair experience. This site is a treasure trove for those. How do you set boundaries, enforce boundaries, what do the parents do to prevent the children from playing them against the au pair. What about vacations, what are the expectations about au pairs coming along and how do you manage on/off duty in those situations. Use this not only to show you’ve thought deeper about the experience, but also see how organized your host family is. Also ask questions about your relationship with the host parents — both parents and au pairs tend to underemphasize this part of the experience.

Also, do the video. Be yourself, but i’m looking for your ability to concisely summarize why you want to be an au pair and your child care experience. I’ve just watched videos that are artistic, show command of video editing, show bike riding skills, walk through a house, and the one that i would most likely match on was just the au pair talking into the camera, because it was an organized presentation of information showing a fluent, cheerful candidate.

Best of luck!

Noelle January 12, 2011 at 8:06 am

Hi Shannon. A few things that would help you to make my short list of applicants if i were looking for a new au pair right now are:
1. Type of experience. As TACL said. In my case, i want to see full time experience, if only for a month, a summer. Not 2 hours of babysitting every week for 3 years. In my house, the AP works full time (the full 45 hours) and an AP needs to be prepared to deal with the reality of a 3 year old boy.
2. Remember, your AP letter to parents and video serve as the first round of a job interview. Present yourself well, both in your character and personality, as well as why you’re great with childcare and want to work as an AP.
3. As others have said, taking driving lessons and/or English courses shows initiative, which we appreciate in a candidate.

Basically, show the HP that you are taking this seriously and are aware of the benefits of this opportunity.

Good luck!

CO Host Mom January 12, 2011 at 10:15 am

I thought I’d share a few things that are red flags to me in interviews. Now I know that some of these are very legitimate questions for APs to ask in an interview, but they tend to give me pause:

What kind of car will I be driving?

How big is your house? Can you send me a picture of your house?

Will I have my own car/cell phone?

Do I have to work evenings/weekends?

Does your family take a lot of vacations? To where?

Now again, I know some of these are legitimate questions to ask, but when they come out very early in the process (like before the AP has asked about the kids, their interests, our family, etc…), they tend to signal to me that the AP is looking for a family with money that will take her on great vacations and not make her work much. But of course you need to be educated about the position you are interviewing for, so I guess what I’m suggesting is that you are careful about how you word questions, and be aware that how you word them can affect your interview.

For example, maybe instead of asking “Will I have to work evenings and weekends?” you might want to ask “What will my typical work hours be?”

Just my two cents….

Steff January 12, 2011 at 1:04 pm

I agree with your post, and with the questions you mentioned; the first one however, that one I know I’d be asking earlier on (Totally agree though how the kiddies and tons of other things come first) but for me, it is important to know if I’ll drive an SUV or one of those “big” cars Americans tend to drive. It wouldn’t be an issue that would affect matching by any means on my side, but if I’m driving a big car there, I’d *need* to drive a big car here to get actual practice I’ll use there ;)

NoVA Host Mom January 20, 2011 at 2:26 am

I agree that the question about the type of car can go more towards the comfort zone of the AP (some places are known for smaller cars, and in our house, the smaller is the more costly one – NOT the one the AP ever gets behind the wheel of).

However, the other red flags were on target. In addition, questions about the cell phone plan, and complaints to the current AP (when/if they speak) about the number of “rules” (like no texting during work hours, having the car back on time and having to tell us where they are going – um, I still have to call my own mom when I get home from a trip and I’m almost 40). Also questions or complaints about sharing things, like the bathroom, and questions about the kind of computer (model, etc) and what else is given vs earned are other red flags for us.

Stefani - Au pair to-be January 12, 2011 at 10:29 am

Hello :)

All that you have said above, we (au pairs to-be) already know. When we started the application or the interviews we know what is coming. But, when a host family we loved get in our application, the reazon of our mind just gonne rsrs…

It’s so hard talk with a host family without have desire to say ‘OMG you seems so perfecrt to me, the kids are beautiful and the place you live? I want to be you au pair please please match with me!!”… We said about the family for all our relatives, we look on the google about the city, we also dreamed with the family and the room that we don’t know yet. But a day, the family just leave your app, did not answer your e-mails anymore, like you just not exist, even to say ‘Sorry, You’re cool, but we have already chosen for another au pair’.

What I mean if that, Please Host families that are reading my comment, when you just don’t like the au pair, said to her ‘WHY’ for her/him try to improve their weakness. Or just said that you are not interested. Cause, last week I talked with a good family, I really liked them (I have already talked with families from GAP, but they were my first family from agency APIA), they talked twice with me by skype, I saw them and they are a amazing couple!! They said ‘we’ll put you on the high top the list’. I was so excited, but they just did not answer my e-mail anymore.

A day, about a week after we have talked, I could talk with the HF on skype, then he said ‘ We really enjoy with you, but we want some one as soon as possible, the agency said that for an brazilian au pair the time to arrive there is about 8 weeks and a european is 4.” I really was sad but after my tries finaly they ansewr me.

I hope I can find a good family again!

How I know that the ‘Advertising is the core business’ This is my Au Pair in America agency Number: 160560.


MommyMia January 12, 2011 at 7:44 pm

You’re so right – it is really bad when host families don’t at least tell the candidates that they’re not interested, as you said “sorry, but we’ve already chosen someone else.” I have tried to be very prompt in responding to emails while interviewing our past five au pairs, as I know what it’s like to be waiting and wondering. And it is always a good idea for us to at least give some general feedback on WHY you weren’t the perfect match for our family, as the family did when wanting someone as soon as possible. Honesty is always best. I will say that personally I get turned off when candidates get too enthusiastic too quickly and don’t ask enough questions so that I feel they’ve made an informed decision and considered all the factors. Some just hear our location, or the number or gender of our children and think it’s perfect, without listening to other details about what their life here will be. Don’t give up – you will find a great family!

Taking a Computer Lunch January 12, 2011 at 11:26 pm

Because we interview up to 6 candidates (although some reject us fairly quickly after the telephone interview), we always connect with the women we interviewed to tell them that they are great people who would make fantastic APs but that we went with someone else. It’s always a hard choice for us – and we realize that the first woman we interview has to wait the longest. We do tell them that if they match with another family to let us know (we hope as a means to keep them looking). But yes, just as we expect communication from the candidates, we expect it of ourselves. (And if they landed a telephone interview with us, then there was nothing “wrong” about them — well usually — it’s usually a matter of us connecting with one person the best).

There was one candidate whose English was unintelligible to DH and I, and in my rejection email, I suggested that her needs would be better met in spending a few months taking English lessons with a native speaker. While she swore up and down that she understood everything we asked, the only question for which she provided a reasonable answer was a yes/no question (and we purposely ask few in our telephone interview).

Dorsi January 12, 2011 at 11:36 am

I want to speak specifically to the Asian Au Pair candidates, because for the first time, we thought about considering a Thai Au Pair. We have only had Europeans and there were some reasons we thought about looking to a different part of the world. I looked through tons of applications, and had a really hard time finding any that I wanted to interview with — because they all sounded the same. Everybody loved children, loved their family, loved to travel, loved new experiences and loved America. It was hard for me to get past my stereotypes of young Asian women and see any of them as individuals. I would have been so happy if someone had a distinctive story/personality/set of goals.

While I agree that you should dedicate some time to preparing for the year, I am not sure I would be more likely to match with a AP who had taken CPR or First Aid classes recently.

One of my big pet peeves on applications are those with gigantic child care numbers. I saw one with 40,000 hours. I figured that must be a mistake. I actually looked at the application and the AP said she took care of her younger sibling 10hrs/day x 365 days/year x 10 years. While that may have been true (and quite sad, honestly) that was not the kind of experience I was looking for. I have seen other, similar, APs with thousands of hours from sibling care. In my experience, sibling care is not voluntary, not very engaged and not what the kind of care I want for my own children.

I do look for candidates with full day experience (I would much rather have someone who works 8hr/day, 3 days per week for a few months than 2 hour/day twice a week for a few years.) It is hard to spend all day with children and I don’t want you to discover that when you are here.

Sapphyre G January 15, 2011 at 8:08 pm

I am currently sorting out my application to be an au pair in America and am hoping to depart mid – August of this year.
When I originally started looking for an au pair placement I was particularly bothered with the location, I was more bothered in the family itself. I wanted to find a family where I would know where I stood. So for me the decision for matching (or not matching) came down to the information they gave or refused to give in some cases. I remember asking HF questions such as; “do your children have any dietary requirements or any allergies?”, ” what would be a typical day for an au pair?”, “what kinds of things/ activities do your children like doing?”, etc. And I wouldn’t get a response, then I would get an email from the same HF asking why I have turned them down, etc. For me these are pretty standard questions and should be answered, I understand that a lot of HF do actually give answer to questions, but only a few I talked to did.
Anyway I chose the family I am with now because they were upfront with what they exected of me (I didn’t want to arrive and find that there was a huge lis of things expected that I never knew about) like preparing meals for the child (I like cooking so was happy with this one), may have to start days earlier and/or when one of HP are on a business trip (again I don’t mind this, I just like to know where I stand), doing childs laundry (I have to do my own so it doesn’t bother to do the childs aswell), etc.
At the moment I am working as an au pair in Ireland which is not that far from my home (London, England) on a plane. The reason I chose to do this is because this I way I could get used to not seeing my family and friends often which I think would help with the homesickness when I am in America, and it would get them used to the idea of me not being around. Also I could fully understand what kinds of things are expected of me as an au pair (though I do understand that this can be different family to family).
Most of my experience has been with children under the age of 7. I helped out at a church creche Sunday mornings for children under 4 y/o, I helped out the nursery that cousins go to for a couple of days when they had a lack of staff due to illness (the children were all under 6 y/o), the child that I look after at the moment has not long since turned 5, I helped look my sisters who are twins, and a few days shy of 12 years younger than me, since they were born. The only experience I have with older children is with the youth club where I am a Team Leader for 2 and a half hours once every three weeks here in Ireland where the children are up to the age of 12.

At the moment I am just getting all my references ready for the application and once they are on the agency and I will arrange an interview for April. I really do not mind where in America I am placed (it is part of the American experience regardless) as how the HF and I get on is of far greater importance. The way I see it is that you could be in the most incredible location but not get on with the HF and this would make you unhappy regardless of location, but if you were with a family you really click with and like then any location is going to be an incredible experience for you. Anyway if there was a place you just had to go to then you could just visit it in your vacation time.

I seem to have veered off the subject here.

But my advice to Shannon would be the same advice you get for any interview – Be yourself! Also let your personality and (hopefully) love for children show, this way the HF can avoid any personality clashes and people who are just there to party (I am not assuming that is your reason for going). Be Honest when you answer questions during the interviews and don’t just try to give answers that you think the HF will want to hear, because if they match with you and you get there and it becomes apparent that you have lied they may be resentful towards you. Definately try to get as much driving and conversational English practice as you can.

Sapphyre G January 15, 2011 at 8:12 pm

I meant to say at the beginning that I “wasn ‘t particularly bothered with location…” instead of “was particularly bothered with location…”

JJ host mom January 16, 2011 at 1:05 am

Don’t be afraid to share your opinions during the interview. Don’t just say what you think the host family wants you to say.

With the au pair who will soon arrive, I emailed to ask if we could schedule a phone interview. She said sure, but asked if I’d mind Skyping instead, because it gives a more personal connection. She was right, of course, and I appreciated that she asked. I’m looking for someone who will have opinions about the kids, since realistically, our au pair spends as much/more time with the kids than my husband and I get to. So it was a good sign to me that she has opinions about things and isn’t afraid to share them.

The au pair before her was agreeable to everything we talked about on the phone, but when he got here, I realized he wasn’t the person he said he was. He lasted a month, and wasn’t able to rematch, so he went home.

Much better, for you and the host family, to be faithful to yourself and hold out for a family that is a good match for you, than to accept any family, only to find yourself in a situation that just doesn’t work.

aussie mum January 16, 2011 at 1:58 am


Has anyone else experienced a natural disaster while having an AP live with them? We have just experienced severe flooding here in Australia. My AP has volunteered her whole weekend off to help flood victims. I am sensitive to the fact that she will see some awful and sad things. She is resilient though and wants to study to become a social worker on her return to Germany. I think she is wonderful for volunteering and I want to make sure she does not become too disturbed by the experience. I have encouraged her to talk to me about her feelings and have also encouraged her to keep contact with her family back home. I know this should be on a post on its own but wasnt sure how to do this. Any other tips would be most welcomed. She has been with us for 2 months only. Thanks.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 16, 2011 at 11:37 pm

My first AP had been with us for about 5 months when 9/11 happened. She was surprised when HD and I showed up at home in the middle of the day after having walked 3 of the 7 miles to our home. Even though we were shellshocked, I don’t recall her having been particularly shellshocked (even though her family all wanted her to come home, she insisted on staying).

This AP also lived with us when The Camel had her brain surgery and nearly died from the post-surgical complications. She was a trooper and really pitched in during the emotionally charged days of The Camel’s recovery. Ultimately, the three of us (HD, AP and I) were exhausted by the experience and ended up with no flexibility or compromise in our relationship. It became our downfall -we could pull together for The Camel but not for each other.

I think the best thing you can do for your AP is to make a moment for you to talk alone with her and to tell her how proud you are that she volunteered to help flood victims. Let her open up to you and own her emotions. Don’t be surprised if she’s not distraught – but be willing to listen if she is the type who needs to talk in order to work through an experience. (Some people prefer to write, either publicly or privately.)

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