How Long is Too Long to Hold an Au Pair Candidate’s File?

by cv harquail on April 7, 2016

I don’t know anything about baseball, but even so, the question raised in this post is a little “inside baseball”.  I think that means, you have to know a good bit already to even have an opinion about it.

2595338120_d2439676b3_mBriefly, the situation:

— A mom writes that she’s having a hard time finding candidates, and she wonders if it’s because families are holding candidates in their accounts for too long while the families make their decisions — meaning the candidates aren’t available for other families to interviews.

The bigger picture issue:

What guidelines should we Host Parents put on our au pair searching behavior, so that we, the au pair candidates, and other host parents all get a fair crack at finding good matches?

What do you think is your responsibility?

Where do you think it’s okay to think only of your own needs (sometimes this is okay!)

What can we do to keep the system running fairly?

Here are the details–  

I’m looking at matching for Aug with CC. I really don’t want to commit to a match until end of May, but I notice CC APs available in Aug are already being held by families multiple times.
I have been checking the website daily for APs that match my minimum requirements  (3 years driving, coaching older kids, advanced English) and put them into my favorites so i can see if they are held by another family.
I notice that the best APs get stuck in a family’s extended hold as soon as their profile is available, so if they’re really good, they are less likely to speak to more than one family unless they are brave enough to ask to be released from the hold while the family is making up their mind.
So I feel forced to start this process earlier than I wanted to.
How long do families hold an AP in extended hold before committing?
If I find the AP I want to match with this month, it seems grossly unfair to hold her/him until end of May when I’m ready to commit.
Do you know if CC receives a lot of new candidates for August arrival in May/June?
I can’t commit to an AP until my kids have spoken to him, and my younger son is pretty freaked out thinking about the current AP leaving. I also would prefer to concentrate on how much we enjoy having our current AP around, rather than thinking about the next one.


Lola April 7, 2016 at 11:40 am

We use APIA so the system is a little different, however we are having a lot of trouble finding candidates for an August start this time around too. We have now been searching for 3 months, whereas in the past we’ve matched within 3-4 weeks. We’ve actually asked 2 au pairs to match and they’ve chosen other families over us. It’s really time consuming to interview and then be turned down, not to mention really draining on the kids to skype and then get turned down. I thought about taking a break but the agency strongly encouraged us not to because there is so much competition right now for the strong au pairs. I’ve been thinking I might need to compromise on our no boyfriend, no dietary restrictions policies, and age requirements just to get the search over with but then I remind myself “no compromises!”

As for how long to hold an au pair’s file – I do agree it’s unfair to hold them 1+ month from interviewing with other host families. I think you should set a start date for yourself to start interviewing, and don’t even start looking before then. Really, you’ll drive yourself crazy, and that energy will rub off on your youngest. Speaking from experience here. Once you’ve got that date in mind, you can start thinking about how to address the search with your current au pair and youngest (tip: don’t tell him very much, and be very upfront and matter of fact. I also don’t let the kids make the decision. I just let them skype and then I listen in from around the corner to hear the au pair :) If you’re concerned about the search wearing on your current au pair, you’re right to be wary. Our 3 month process has been a strain on ours.

Taking a Computer Lunch April 8, 2016 at 10:31 pm

Unless you have a special needs child, an infant, or another mitigating factor, then you shouldn’t panic about candidates. With APIA – and I say this as a HM who is currently hosting her 12th AP via APIA, push them to work for you. Your LCC and your HQ-assigned coordinator can assign APs as soon as they become available.

As a HM with a teenager who requires total care, we never started looking until our current AP received her extension/heading home paperwork (I say this in the past tense because The Camel will be 18 within the year, so I suspect we’re hosting our last AP).

Don’t panic, and don’t lower your standards. We did that a couple of times and it led to a should-have-rematched situation and an actual rematch.

If you’ve been with an agency for more than 3 APs, then really push them to work for you. Once we hit the 10 AP mark, we reminded them that we were pushing the $100,000 figure just for hosting an AP (not to mention the stipend!)

Finally, APIA has really improved its search engine over the years (when we started it was a FEDEXED packet and a cold call to a candidate – really). Use it to see what you can find yourself.

Mimi April 9, 2016 at 10:36 pm

I remember that days of the scanned (handwritten) applications. So much easier now!

Dorsi April 9, 2016 at 2:05 am

I just left APIA after 5 successful matches because the pool was too shallow. I only like a few, and none of them would respond to my email. They were showing me their special, secret matches and they weren’t interested in my family. So far (1/2 way through a year) we are happy with our IE Au Pair.

The agency telling you not to take a break is like a real estate agent telling you that you need to make an offer today because the market is up, up, up.

Lola April 9, 2016 at 10:30 pm

We do have an infant, and 3 kids total. TACL – Every time I speak to the agency, it’s like we’re having the conversation for the first time. She has no memory of our criteria or situation. I definitely need to have a hard talk with her. Dorsi – Yes, SO many candidates I email don’t even respond! It’s unbelievable. It’s never, ever been like this in years past. OK. I’m also contacting IE on Monday. Thanks for the help, ladies!

WarmStateMomma April 10, 2016 at 8:08 am

If you use IE, make sure to email candidates on your own email platform (Gmail, Yahoo, whatever) and do NOT use the IE messaging thing. The APs see the IE messages and you don’t have spam-filter issues, but the agency reads them. I told an AP I was interested but going to release her so she could talk to other families while talking to us and the agency emailed me 20 minutes later – all in a huff that I wasn’t playing by their rules. It felt creepy that they were watching our messages so closely.

I think the low-response rate has to do with spam filters. Even though almost every candidate we speak with wants to immediately seal a match, there are many we never reach without agency intervention. After the agency lets them know a HF is trying to reach them, they are usually pretty eager. After months of waiting for a HF, many aren’t checking their spam filters as often.

hOstCDmom April 10, 2016 at 10:57 am

Does IE explicitly disclose that they read the emails?

hOstCDmom April 10, 2016 at 10:58 am

disclose upfront/in advance, I mean. and/or do HFs/APs somehow indicate consent to this?

WarmStateMomma April 10, 2016 at 12:40 pm

If it was disclosed, it wasn’t terribly obvious. Perhaps buried in one of those “I agree” disclaimers?

TexasHM April 10, 2016 at 7:20 pm

Also let’s be honest, if you are looking for a larger pool IE is not the place to go. Yes, they do read all the emails that are sent through the system. I referred several families when I was with IE and all but one of them came back to me and complained that the agency was reading the emails and they felt chastised for doing things they didn’t see as wrong (similar to WarmStateMommas experience above). They had agency reps reach out about questioned they had asked, handbook info they had shared, asking clarification on comments made, etc. It was a big turnoff but I didn’t have the issue as I always use my regular email account (its where all my canned email templates are!). Anyway, as I said if the goal is to get a larger pool then you are barking up the wrong tree anyway.

HMof2 April 7, 2016 at 12:51 pm

We are with CCAP. HF gets to hold 3 AP at one time while the AP can only be seen by HF if not already held by another family. We can only get the AP contact info after we hold them. We make a deliberate decision, after we hold them and exchange initial emails in which both sides express interest to continue to communicate, to release them so the AP can be seen by other HF. Of course, we run the risk that the AP matches with another HF before we decide to match. However, we have been encouraging AP to talk with other HF. We do not want to match with an AP who never spoke with any other HF. We feel better if the AP has spoken with several HF and then decides that we are the best family for her or him. We often are the first HF that the AP has spoken with because we check online frequently for new ones. We do not want an AP who matches with the first HF that he or she talks with. So, we release them after we have their contact information and then continue to email and Skype if the interest is mutual.

Multitasking Host Mom April 8, 2016 at 3:50 pm

Just wonder if others who work with an agency that does exclusive matching will get the APs contact info, release them, and still continue talking to the AP. I totally get where HMof2 is coming from because I like when the AP has spoken to many families. But on the other hand I assume that when we put a hold on an au pair’s profile…at that moment we are the only family the au pair is talking to. I would feel like I was not following the rules if I continued to talk to an AP after I released them back to the pool. And would be really annoyed if a family did that to me. Am I just being a prude or blind to what really happens??

2 kids and a cat April 9, 2016 at 7:06 am

Oh, my – if this is the common interpretation then we are guilty! I really only hold them enough to know if they’re worth a second email or not. The hod s only 48 hours and I couldn’t make a decision in that time.

AlwaysHopeful HM April 9, 2016 at 12:02 pm

I used to feel really guilty about that, but being in rematch cured me of guilt!

With CCAP, I hold for 3 days (sometimes less), or until initial contact, whichever comes sooner. One factor is that I like to consider a large number of applicants, and with CCAP’s system, you can really only look at 3 at a time, including the ones the match coordinator adds to your account . So I would hold, favorite, review info, reach out, and release, allowing the au pair to look at other families, and me to look at other candidates. I was completely open with the au pairs and the matching coordinator about this plan. I also always ask au pairs to let me know if they are talking with other families, so we are all on the same page.

I also would go back and forth between looking at the website without logging in, and looking at it while logged in. If I saw a new candidate that looked promising but was not “available”, I would make a note of them, then ask the matching coordinator for info and/or to keep an eye out and hold him/her in my account when he or she became available. It was aggravating and stressful, but given CCAP’S matching system, I didn’t feel I really had an option. When current AP leaves next year, I don’t know if I’ll need to be so aggressive (since not in rematch), but it will depend on how shut out I feel! :)

I’ve also used APIA and APC, each of which had much less stressful matching processes, but neither of which provided the same level of information in the application documents.

WestMom April 10, 2016 at 9:10 am

That’s what I did this year (IE), and it got AP in trouble…

I had candidate on exclusive hold, and asked to extend the hold once (so…96hrs?). BUT we were still not able to connect during that time. AP was super busy and apologized for not having time to speak before the following week. So I thought I was doing to right thing by releasing her and telling her to recontact me the following week if she was still interested. In the meantime, another family grabbed her profile and had a brief exchange with her. She let them know that she was in touch with another family, and apparently, they got very upset. The family called the agency, and the agency called the candidate to let her know she was not allowed to do that and they could pull her out of the program. I felt terrible. And I also felt the other family was sort of lame for getting AP in trouble. To be fair, I am not sure the candidates are fully told the matching rules. This AP certainly didn’t know it was ‘not ok’ to speak with more than one family, otherwise she would never have told them so openly.

But in the end she matched with us, so all ended well.

AspieMom August 23, 2016 at 5:31 pm

That’s crazy that it is against the rules. There is NO way I could match with a candidate in the 48 hours. I put the au pair candidate in my hold, take a screen shot of their information and then release. They deserve to talk to as many families as they can, just as I should talk to as many as I can. That’s how you get a good match! I would only put someone in extended hold if we were in active discussion and they were my favorite, OR we had matched. I don’t feel right holding a candidate if we aren’t in serious discussions. I just let them know I am releasing them so we can talk to many applicants and that I want to continue talking with them, if that is the case.

Fortysomething HM August 24, 2016 at 11:57 am

I’m with CCAP and I: (a) hold (b) initiate contact and exchange a few emails to make sure both sides are genuinely interested and (c) release while still talking. No way I’d want to match with an AP who has not had sufficient opportunity to talk to other HFs (my former and current APs, I was the first to grab their profile). I WANT them to compare other families with mine. I WANT them to pick me as much as I’m picking them. I always assume other families are doing this too.

My matching coordinator each year has known that I do this. Nobody has ever told me it was against the rules, and if they did, I’d leave the agency in a second.

CC’s exclusive match is great for snagging someone that you like and making sure you connect with them. But I think it would be counterproductive to a good match strategy (from both sides) to maintain the exclusivity during the entire exchange

Should be working August 24, 2016 at 6:51 pm

1. With CCAP you can now look at the entire application without having the candidate on hold, except for contact info. In the past you needed to reserve candidates to see things like DISC results, but this is no longer the case. So you can review candidates’ applications without reserving them. And if the application is interesting you can reserve them, and then have their contact info to start talking.

2. Even if no one is stopping you, I believe it is against the whole idea of CCAP’s system to be interviewing a candidate without having them on hold. That’s what “exclusive matching” means, they are yours to interview without anyone else talking to them! Exclusive matching is one of CCAP’s “perks” and I wouldn’t want another HF to be undermining my exclusive hold on an AP. Other agencies allow for the more free-for-all approach of everyone talking to everyone, maybe HFs who want that should go with one of those agencies. Yes, exclusive matching favors HFs. I’m ok with that, I’m the one paying the big bucks.

3. AspieMom, you don’t have to match within 48 hours. Your “main” candidate can be held for a long time, I usually take several weeks. Your “comparison” holds are for 48 hrs but can be renewed several times.

4. I would be one of those complainers if I spoke to a candidate who said s/he was in conversation with another family. Use a different agency if you want that approach!! Fortysomething, if you want the AP to have other opportunities, use APC or release the AP and wait a few weeks. I do NOT want my candidates comparing to the more geographically desirable, multiple-car-owning, younger-children HFs. It only encourages the perks-arms race among families.

Full Circle August 24, 2016 at 7:22 pm

I’m also on the camp that prefers to talk to a candidate without her talking to other families at the same time BUT if I see that I’m not really interested after a contact, I release her right away. I also only hold APs who I seriously want to interview. I did offer for the APs to talk to other families if they wanted to before deciding. I also agree that talking to multiple families is very very very important. I personally would not like an AP who asked me to release her so she can talk to other families. I had rematch APs do that and while I understand they have very little time, I think there’s still room to seriously consider each family one at a time. I had some say they thought our family was perfect AND ask us to release them so they could be back in the pool. Nope! Not gonna work for me. That right off the bat shows a lack of commitment and I eliminated those APs right away. Maybe I’m exaggerating and reading too much into it. But with a rematch AP who is already coming from a questionable situation, I’m not taking any extra chances. I definitely don’t want to feel like our top candidate is shopping around or have to wait for her to go through enough families to feel satisfied with he match (again, in a rematch situation).

AlwaysHopeful HM August 24, 2016 at 10:56 pm

I am solidly in the camp of releasing au pairs after initial contact ESPECIALLY in the rematch scenario whem everyone is scrambling. I know for myself that I just don’t move that quickly. I don’t want to hold up an au pair, and if she finds another family, that’s grand. But, I’m not going to be rushed, or feel the pressure of having to make a decision because she’s in my queue. Also, while it is true that you can read applications without holding an au pair, many are moving in and out of matches so quickly that you will lose access to their profiles unless you hold them, or at least favorite them. You also need to communicate with them to know whether additional cimmunization makes sense. It can also be stressful if your matching coordinator is actively placing matches in your queue. The window for grabbing that au pair you’re been waiting for may come and go while you try to slog through an already full queue.

I do get the concern about wanting exclusive matching, but to me, it is a detriment, not a perk (and I’m in a relatively small town). For me, CCAP’S main perk is information/ transparency, so going to another agency may not give me the set up I need.

New to This August 25, 2016 at 8:26 am

SBW, it sounds like the practices you’re complaining about are routine among CCAP host families, and in those families’ experience (including mine) have been tacitly or explicitly endorsed by agency staff. Sounds like IE sees things more your way; that’s a reason for me to steer clear, but maybe you would benefit from checking them out.

Fortysomething HM August 25, 2016 at 9:40 am

I genuinely don’t believe that release-while-still-talking violates the letter or spirit of CCA’s exclusive hold policy. To me, the exclusive hold just means that I can hold them as long as I want (so long as the AP has not said she’s not interested in matching with us, in which case of course i release ASAP), but am not required to continue holding them while we talk. APs can (and do) sign up with more than one agency and also look for HFs on other independent match websites, so I think it’s always fair to assume that any given AP you are talking to is out there talking with other prospective HFs though some channel.

As someone with a gig that some would consider “easy” (one older, school aged child, attractive geographical area, AP car), we have to be super careful to weed out the lazies and find people we genuinely want to be with us because they like us and are up for being an AP of a preteen (b/c the gig isn’t as easy as one might assume…. preteens bring their own set of challenges). If an AP wants to be with us just b/c we live where we do or b/c i have one child, those are terrible reasons to match with us (if they are the only reasons) and I want to avoid that match. So that means we take a LONG time to match (current AP was probably close to 7 weeks from initial contact to offer) and I have become a tough grader during interviews. I don’t want to be encouraging perk wars – to the contrary, I need to make sure an AP doesn’t pick me b/c of what our job appears to be at first blush.

I am not with CC b/c of the exclusive match in any event — it’s b/c we have an AMAZING LCC and virtually all of the APs in the area are with CC, so i like that they have a wide AP circle with lots of opportunities to meet other APs.

SBW, no disrespect whatsoever though, I hope we can agree to disagree. I certainly would never do anything that i believed was against the letter or spirit of the rules, but in this case, I don’t interpret the exclusive match set up in the same way. Best wishes.

AspieMom August 25, 2016 at 11:03 am

I agree, Fortysomething. There is no information that says we can’t talk after the candidate is released, as far as I know. Our match coordinator even mentioned that we should take screen caps of the contact information before releasing if we wanted to keep talking. I take many weeks of interviews with multiple candidates to make sure an au pair is going to fit well with my very intense kids and truly understands what it will mean to live in a small, rural, mountain town. There are many positives (ski hill 15 minutes away!), but there are also negatives (airport 2 hours away), and I don’t want to get an au pair who regrets her decision. I can only get so much from a profile, and busy schedules + time differences mean we can only talk once per week. I also want them to talk to other families, and our current au pair, so they understand how awesome we are. ;) Another limitation is LCCs. Because we are a small town, we only have one company represented here. I couldn’t consider another company lightly without an LCC local.

Should be working August 25, 2016 at 6:54 pm

I quote CCAP’s site and add asterisks for emphasis, “Hold au pairs in your account *to review exclusively*”; and also in FAQs: “Am I making a commitment in holding a candidate? No. You are, however, *removing them from consideration by other families* so we ask that you reach out to them in a timely manner and if not interested, release them so that they can be seen by other families.”

It seems to me that the intent of CCAP is indeed to have an exclusive consideration of the candidate by one HF at a time. That’s what I want, that’s how they define exclusive matching. Yes HFs can fudge the procedure once they have the candidate’s contact info, but that’s not the model of exclusive matching. (Switching to another agency with exclusive matching wouldn’t help–obviously no matter what matching model the agency establishes, once people have contact info for each other no one can prevent them from communicating.)

Just because some HPs think all APs should shop around before finalizing a match, that doesn’t mean those HPs should fudge the exclusive matching setup in order to achieve that. I used to care whether candidates had talked to other families. I don’t anymore and the agency doesn’t require that they do so. If the AP would be a good fit for us and thinks we would be a good fit for her/him, I don’t want to muddy things and I don’t want other HPs muddying things for me or her/him. When other HPs keep interviewing APs they have released whom I then put on hold, they are muddying my matching.

And of course I release a candidate as soon as I feel myself hesitating–whether because they take too long to respond to me, or I don’t like the response, or as we communicate I start to feel it’s not going to be a match. In rematch, I scramble quickly and go through as many as 3 candidates per day. Exclusively.

If I were king of the world, HPs with CCAP would stick with the spirit (and what seems to be the unenforceable letter) of exclusive matching as CCAP defines it. I don’t see why it is any different than complying with CCAP’s rule that APs get 1.5 CONSECUTIVE days off. It’s CCAP’s interpretation of a rule that other agencies read differently, you can rationalize why you don’t follow it, but if you contract with that agency, it seems to me you should be willing to subscribe to their way of doing things.

Mimi August 25, 2016 at 7:30 pm

The way it was explained to me for CCAP was that if you want to be exclusive, reserve them. If you don’t, let them go. We were never told we couldn’t talk to candidates if we didn’t have them on hold. I also thought that only the primary hold was exclusive so that the other two are able to talk with other families. Is there someone from CCAP who can clear this up?

LuckyHM#3 August 26, 2016 at 10:49 am

I too am with CCAP and both my matching coordinator and my LCC interpreted the rule that placing a candidate gives me the ability to hold that candidate so no additional host families can view their contact details and most importantly click the “match” button. I asked the matching coordinator about families that already had the APs contact details and she told me that they may or may not continue to talk and I should decide on the AP without worrying about the other families.

When I was in rematch and decided to go out of country, I was working with the area director (LCC’s manager) and she was really helpful. But ultimately I had to wait at least 6-8 weeks (they were able to get me someone here within 5 weeks of matching). She was sending me as many as 10 candidates (putting 3 in my account and the rest in my favorites) a day and told me specifically to review, if i liked them reach out to them by email and any other means ( i used whatsapp – since all the APs seem to be on it) and ask them to take a look at our profile to see if they want to start a dialogue. Give them a couple of hours (assuming they looked at our profile and also read my whatsapp which i can see) to respond and release them so i can look at someone else. That is what i did and was able to match with our wonderful AP3 that just left in less than 2 weeks.

Also, we are only looking at this from HF perspective, I have had several APs who either didnt respond initially or were lukewarm or perhaps good but talking to other families also reach back out to me.

So clearly CCAP doesnt seem to interpret this as exclusive matching to mean exclusive communication. I just cant even begin to imagine how they will police that.

HMof2 August 26, 2016 at 11:20 am

I am with CCAP. Here is my experience. I’ve released rematch AP back into the pool after making contact because (a) the AP ask for it – knowing she had very limited time and cannot risk us taking our time to think about it and then not make an offer (we will not make a split second decision in less than 48 hours since sometimes it takes that long just to schedule a first skype) or (b) we saw another interesting AP in the pool and we had used up all 3 of our holds and there is no way we can see AP contact info if we do not hold so we must release one in order to hold another.

We have experienced making contact and then releasing and staying in touch so both parties can think about it and either (a) we go back to the AP and make an offer or (b) we make an offer but the AP is unsure and after speaking with other families, AP decided we are still her best option and accept our offer.

Our matching specialist is fully aware of where we are with which AP we are talking with. We keep the specialist in the loop and give her an update after making contact with each AP so she knows whether to keep searching for us or if we are near closing the deal. CCAP has never told us that we cannot communicate with more than one AP at one time. There was even one time when we were interested in an AP profile but she was held and CCAP reached out to the AP telling her that we were interested in order to ask AP if she is interested in our profile (so that when/if she is released, CCAP can hold her for us, since we were “next in line”.) Without this offline type of communication with the AP, where CCAP acted as an intermediary, we would never know if she is even interested in us.

We tell the AP right away if she is not a good fit for us and release asap right after contact. For AP who we are not definite about and need more time to communicate with, we release and continue to talk with her until either party decides to end it or to match.

Especially in a rematch, not only is the HF under time pressure, so is the AP. It is unfair to tie up a rematch AP with the clock is ticking while vetting happens (more talk with AP, checking them out with previous HF, LCC, Program Director which all takes time to schedule) and in the end, still not offer her a match. Now, this AP has lost days and have to start all over again with another HF. That is very stressful. I rather have the AP in parallel talk to other HF with the hope that one of the HF will offer the AP a rematch so AP does not go home.

With my first rematch, I held a rematch AP and in the end did not feel comfortable enough to offer her a match. She ran out of time without matching with another HF and had to go home. I felt very guilty that I did not release her so that other HF can see her profile while still talking with us. I will never put another rematch AP in that position again.

WestMom August 26, 2016 at 2:06 pm

I am totally with SBW on this. What’s the point of exclusive matching if you can release and continue to speak? If CC agrees to this system, then they are being deceiving in their marketing spiel. As I mentioned above, IE made it clear that releasing and continuing the conversation was against their rule. As far as I know, they both advertise ‘exclusive matching’.

Personally, I couldn’t care less is AP speaks with other families. It’s like dating. If I find a good mate, I don’t tell them to go meet other women to make sure it’s the right fit. Instead, I spend my energy on continuing to court my AP candidate for another 2-3-4 weeks until I feel absolutely certain this is the right fit.

This point out to me that the matching system is generally broken. Each agency has a different approach. CC and IE have exclusive matching, APC has ‘limited’ matching, APIA is the wild west, some of these agencies ‘hide’ candidates from me based on my geographic location or the age of my kids. Meanwhile the candidates are not even fully aware of how the game is played. Furthermore, everyone is on Facebook which has become (in addition to third-party matching sites), a market place for Au Pairs.

To me, this has reached a boiling point where agencies need to break from their monopolies and have a much more open system. I’ll dare to propose two big changes: 1) Families should be able to see candidates across all agencies, not only the one they registered for (if the requirements are set by the government, then why can’t I sign up for all agencies at once?). 2) APs should be able to see family profiles and contact families. I would muuuuuch prefer APs being able to shop around that way and contact me if and only if they feel like we would be a good match. Imagine the time-saver?

Oh well. My last Au Pair just departed last Friday, so whatever changes may or may not happen, it really won’t have any impact on me, but I hope it gets easier for all of you in the future!

LuckyHM#3 August 26, 2016 at 2:16 pm

Another thing that some HFs do that is unfair is they see an interesting candidate, they would immediately snag her so she cant be seen by other families then they would take their sweet time contacting the AP. Last AP’s cousin was on some HFs hold for 10 days before they made the first contact. That is mean and horrible. If you are not ready to move forward or even initiate contact, then no matter how attractive an AP may look, dont hold her just so other HFs cannot

WestMom August 26, 2016 at 2:42 pm

LuckyHM#3, it is unacceptable, though agencies have systems in place to mitigate that problem. With IE, I basically have 48hrs to make contact, otherwise I have to request an extension. I doubt they would give an extension if I hadn’t even initiated contact yet… Maybe the agencies need to enforce these things better…

cv harquail August 26, 2016 at 3:47 pm

Folks, I’ve pended a few comments from this thread until I can look at them more closely. I’m not comfortable with the undertone of this particular turn of the conversation.

People should be following the agency’s rules. Agencies should interpret their rules evenly across all clusters, families, and candidates. If some families have found a way to work around systems, that’s not fair to other families or respectful of the process. Ymmv. Let me look at the rest of the comments and re-lease and/or revise them later. cvh

Fortysomething HM August 26, 2016 at 11:26 pm

Unless I”m missing something, I find it a bit a bummer that one of the comments that was pulled for review is mine. I went out of my way to be polite, and felt/feel that one of the posts that was at least partially directed at me (which has not been pulled for review) was less-than-polite.

CV, I hope you will determine upon review that I was entirely civil and my post that has been pulled was simply me standing up for myself after I was accused of purposefully skirting a rule, which I continue to believe is not, in fact, a rule.

hOstCDmom August 27, 2016 at 2:23 pm

FWIW, I haven’t been part of this conversation and don’t have strong feelings either way; however, I have been reading it and have found it to be civil and constructive — a case of where people disagree, even strongly disagree. Each side has explained themselves. And folks still disagree. But that not only seems to be ok, I think it should be encouraged. This site is valuable not because we all feel the same way about various issues, but because of the variety of perspectives and opinions.

New to This August 26, 2016 at 11:50 pm

Just echoing Fortysomething HM’s concern that a less-than-polite/accusatory comment was left visible here, while those of us defending ourselves against those accusations have been pulled for purported incivility. Unless the accusations are also pulled, I hope all responses will be reinstated. I value this site, but ending up a target of accusations that I can’t respond to (and which may or may not be obliquely echoed by the moderator comment, depending on how I interpret it) is distinctly uncomfortable.

New to This April 13, 2016 at 2:56 pm

With my agency, I got the impression that this was pretty common practice, and not a breach of any norms — an LCC actually suggested it in one case! It seems like the process effectively functions as a middle ground between strict exclusivity and a total free-for-all, with some leeway for families to strike their own balance in terms of how long they hold profiles and what they do if an applicant says they’re already talking to other families. That does make it incumbent on families to ask rather than assuming, though, and I would think it fair to be annoyed with the agency if their mixed signals about norms mean families get burned by not knowing to ask.

That said, I personally wouldn’t have used this agency if the expectation were stricter exclusivity; I wanted to know that our AP had shopped around and would be coming in believing that we were the best option out there for her. I felt like if I were the AP, it might help me keep a realistic perspective when grass-is-greener syndrome set in — no idea if that’s actually the typical experience, but it was most comfortable for me to go with a process that felt intuitively right.

At the same time, I do feel like the “hold” procedures may have added some useful structure relative to a pure free-for-all — maybe mostly just in signaling a level of seriousness about the contact, and encouraging closer attention/more substance in the initial exchange. Kind of a sense that you’re processing one “new” contact at a time, at least, and so still zeroing in to read that application and think seriously about whether to move forward. If the setup encouraged casting a much broader net, I could see having more sense (on both sides) of “Oh, I’ll send them a quick note now and take a closer look later,” and ending up being less efficient and ultimately more arbitrary about what one ended up getting around to.

I do, however, really like TexasHM’s suggestion of having “on-hold” profiles show up in searches, with an opportunity to join a waiting list for a crack at them…might make things less chaotic, and reduce reliance on agency placement coordinators (whose helpfulness seems to vary a lot, based on accounts I see here) to monitor and snag profiles for us.

Full Circle April 14, 2016 at 9:13 pm

hmmm this is interesting. I also always assumed I was the only family talking to them although I always ask if they have spoken to other families. During our search process I had the most promising au pair as my extended hold and asked the placement coordinator to extend the others if I needed more time. That worked really well and they were very responsive to these requests and even extended them multiple times because really, 48h is NOT enough time to know anything. There were a couple who we released back and we still exchanged a few emails, but that was mostly because at that point we were not as interested in them as the comparison applicants. One trick is to swap your extended hold with your 48h hold a couple of times, that way you can hold them for a little longer without releasing them. But you can only hold a candidate as a 48h hold twice, so that trick doesn’t work for long but does buy you some more time (up to a week)

With that said and now going back to the OP, I think it is totally fair to hold an au pair you are actively talking to and interviewing until you make a decision, even if that takes a while. I would be upfront about the fact that other families can’t see them (I found that some au pairs did not realize that) and ask if they wanted to be released while we talked. If you are not ready to commit, I really don’t think it’s fair to the au pair to hold them until you are ready. There are many girls who wait for months to be matched and that could potentially mess up their timing. For example, au pairs coming for a gap year and wanting to be back in time to start school, or for the older au pairs who will age out of the program and be unable to do it at all if they don’t match soon (we actually interviewed 2 on that boat so I was very mindful of their timing and released them back quickly). I would say that if you are not ready to commit, then wait until you are and start searching then. I was also worried about the pool of au pairs when we started searching. We started this process in October (for a June arrival) and there were A LOT of options for summer arrival with CCAP. I mean A LOT! The agency did encourage us to snag these “planners” but we just weren’t ready to commit then so we took a break and got back to it in Feb. To our surprise, the pool was MUCH different. Mostly young girls with weak experiences and very eager to “travel”, as opposed to the plethora of well qualified au pairs we were seeing in Oct-Nov. We worried a bit, but were able to find 4 girls within 2-3 weeks that fit our criteria perfectly and ended up matching with one that checks all our boxes! I think August is a competitive time frame due to back to school, but hang in there and you will find your perfect match!

Anna April 7, 2016 at 1:10 pm

If you have trouble accessing good candidates in this matching system, switch to the agency that allows au pairs speak to the multiple families at the same time; or search at multiple agencies at the same time and go with the one where you find your candidate for the year.
It may seem that it may be harder to find a good candidate this way, but it all depends on the ratio of available candidates to searching families. With some agencies that don’t restrict candidates to one family at a time I did have problems finding a good candidate (AuPairCare comes to mind), and with my current agency (GoAuPair) I have had good success finding a good candidate to talk to me and matching with them. My situation is far from most desirable by the way.

Anonymous in CA April 7, 2016 at 11:34 pm

Slightly off topic…..from Anna’s post: “search at multiple agencies at the same time and go with the one where you find your candidate for the year.”

I have wondered about doing this…am doing it right now, actually. And I feel slightly dishonest for doing so -I’ve had the LCC from the two agencies I’m searching from come do the home visit, etc., and I worry that when I select an AP from one agency and have to tell the other that I’ve selected an AP from a different agency, that I’ll burn a bridge for next time or something (or they’ll get mad and call me a jerk under their breath!).

And our current AP is from a third agency altogether. It actually happened organically…I knew I wanted to switch from very small current agency and both of these bigger agencies sent me “apply now for no fee” promotions…

Anyway, do other people do this? Is it ethical? (ha, thinking about the recent thread on ethics…). It’s of course a free market system, but does feel a little dishonest and I’d actually love to know others’ views on this. Thanks!

Lola April 7, 2016 at 11:44 pm

Just tell each agency that you’re also searching with other agencies to maximize your pool of candidates. NBD. You’re the customer. Maybe it will even incent them to provide you with better service!

For us we actually can’t consider using two other agencies because the LCC’s are nutty/flaky! We’re exploring some of the smaller agencies and then if we match through them plan to connect them to friends’ cluster meetings at the big ones.

NHM April 8, 2016 at 5:46 am

I have done this but openly told both LCCs that I am looking widely to find the perfect AuPair … neither seemed offended.

Multitasking Host Mom April 8, 2016 at 5:51 am

I always search with at least two agencies since I like having a bigger pool to search through. And yes it can be awkward when the LCC follows up later and I have to tell them I went with the other agency. I just keep it impersonal. After all it was never because of the LCC that I picked one agency over the other. I simply found the right AP in one system instead of the other. I also tell the LCC that I will be looking with their agency next year…which is true..but I also hope it softens the blow a little so they don’t feel their time was totally wasted.
If it makes you feel better tell everyone up front what you are doing. After all this is a business, the LCC has probably seen a lot of things, and I am sure you are not the first HF to do this.

Aupairmom in NY April 8, 2016 at 3:49 pm

So funny you ask this because I am going through with this now. I have been with the same agency for 4 years and I signed up with another agency because I haven’t been happy with the profiles I saw. I told my agency that I was looking with them and another agency. They are working much harder now! But I do feel a bit guilty – but it has nothing to do with the agency, but the candidates.

HRHM April 8, 2016 at 3:50 pm

I always look at CC, APIA and APC. My lcc and the other agencies are made aware in advance that I’m doing this. I feel like they are actually trying harder for me because they know that I’m not a forgone conclusion. Maybe it’s all in my head :)

WarmStateMomma April 9, 2016 at 2:12 pm

We just go with the agency that offers the best AP – they offer so few APs that meet our two basic requirements that we have to cast a wide net. LCCs don’t ever contact us until we have a match so we don’t do a home interview until we have a match. I tell the agencies that we are looking for an AP – not an agency. Frankly, the agencies can’t even tell who can drive (one of our two must-haves) so I prefer them to be pretty hands off during my search.

With the current AP, we prematched with her and let her choose the agency since the fees are pretty much the same for HFs but vary by as much as $3k for APs in her country. We will probably do that again next time.

Another CA HM May 31, 2016 at 1:37 am

With our first au pair i signed up with 2 agencies. One did amazing and i matched with the first au pair they put in our account. The second agency didnt do much at all. Stuck withthe same agency past 4 years and am now comparing agencies (prices).

Michelle April 7, 2016 at 1:21 pm

I use AuPair in America. I know they will not show all candidates to all families. They have a random algorithm that tries to show you candidates that you will best match with, but if you complain about it, they will release them all so you can view them all. I know I can add candidates to my favorites list and also my interview list, but I don’t think it blocks them from being approached by other families unless I select the “match” option. It seems unreasonable that AuPairs can be held by a family. The choice should be as much the AuPairs as the families. They should not be expected to accept just any family. They should be interviewing too.

massmom April 7, 2016 at 1:30 pm

When looking for our most recent au pair, we had to find someone very quickly, so we were looking with both APIA and CC. I much preferred APIA’s system of being able to talk to multiple candidates at one time. Yes, I couldn’t “lock down” a candidate, but I liked the fact that the potential au pairs were able to speak with many other families. When it came time to match, our favorite had spoken with several other families, and much as we did, she just knew we were the right fit because she had a sense of her alternatives and some points of comparison.

In contrast, I did not like the CC method of holding candidates. This was in part because CC kept putting candidates in my holding room that did not fit my needs — I had specifically said we were not looking for a bro pair — and I felt like I had to be totally on top of it because I felt bad holding up a candidate from finding an appropriate family. But I also didn’t like the fact that I didn’t get to see all the available candidates at one time — just whoever wasn’t on hold.

If memory serves, Au Pair Care allows you to put an au pair on hold once you are both serious about one another, which also is a fair way to do it. I don’t have a problem with the idea of holds per se — but I think everyone is best served if they get to talk to multiple candidates/families before making a decision. It feels strange to take someone off the market when I haven’t even had the chance to talk them.

HMof2 April 7, 2016 at 1:51 pm

I’m in matching for my next AP now. I specifically instructed my CCAP matching specialist to NOT put anyone on hold for me. Instead, I asked the matching specialist to put the AP as a “favorite” so I can review the profile and then I click the “hold” button if I decide that I want to hold this AP.

WarmStateMomma April 7, 2016 at 3:20 pm

CC did that to me, too! We ONLY host APs who speak Chinese, so I knew the agency was just distributing the new profiles at random.

NoVA Twin Mom April 7, 2016 at 3:34 pm

I *think* APIA limits the number of families that can see an au pair profile once you’ve clicked “interview this au pair”. We’re about to start looking for au pair number eight so it’s been about 10 months since I’ve been to that part of the website. The family does need to affirmatively click that they want to interview the au pair before this happens.

Until then, multiple families can have a single profile available to view, but if I remember correctly the contact info isn’t visible until you click “interview.” However, the system automatically moves the profile – even from the “interview” area – after a certain number of days. Which is good in some ways, because one family can’t monopolize a profile.

WCO HD April 8, 2016 at 1:18 pm

We had similar trouble with CCAP putting candidates in our account that weren’t at all what we were looking for. At one point our ‘matching specialist’ (Ha!) placed a candidate in our account that we had previously held, interviewed, and already rejected! Talk about awkward. That was all last year. This year we had a new ‘matching specialist’ assigned to us and we asked her not to place anyone in our account – we could search just fine on our own. So our only contact with her was just to keep her up to date on how our search was going. It worked out much better for us in keeping the ‘matching specialist’ out of the actual matching process.

2 kids and a cat April 7, 2016 at 1:56 pm

I agree that you have to stalk the CC site to get a candidate right away. Our position is not an easy one to sell (rural area, must speak the language with the kids) so if I am the first one to reserve them they turn me down right away. I have found that those who have spoken to another family or two are more willing to consider the whole picture, so now I try to mark them as favorites right away, but hold them after they’ve been through another family or two.
Personally, in my second email I always tell them that we are interested but releasing them because it’s important for us to feel that they were able to make a choice as much as we were. I don’t feel insecure about them talking with other families.

CO Host Mom April 7, 2016 at 2:14 pm

We just selected our first AP (woo hoo) and were looking with both APIA and CC. I agree with previous posters, for us APIA was a much better fit in the matching process. No one (either us or the AP’s) were captive – we could each talk to multiple parties. I personally think that is much better. My fear with CC is that even if we did find someone we like, she might just say yes out of fear vs being able to play the field. Also, we were very honest with our candidates that we were talking to other candidates and encouraged them to do the same. The AP we did select, it took us about 3 weeks from 1st email to actual match because of the time difference we could only Skype on weekends but we both talked to other parties during that time.

But, more to the OP’s question, I think it goes back to treating others like you want to be treated. I think if you want to do an extended hold with an AP, talk to him/her and make sure they understand your reason and are comfortable being on hold that long (and be understanding if they don’t). If I was an AP, I might be worried about wasting some of my limited match window holding with a family that might not ultimately select me as their AP.

Seattle Mom April 7, 2016 at 4:51 pm

Don’t assume that the host families are interviewing and interacting with these au pairs who are great on paper, and on hold for many days or even weeks. I have been known to hold an applicant for a while when I’m still waiting for her to respond to my initial email, or after she’s responded but has gone incommunicado after a few other emails. I haven’t done it many times, but I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Taking a Computer Lunch April 8, 2016 at 10:39 pm

I generally give a candidate 7 days to respond to me. If she hasn’t replied, then I cut her loose. I’m never sure what’s at stake – either she thinks it’s rude to outright say, “I don’t actually want to work with children who have special needs” (which I state in my dare-to-match-with-us email that it is not) or she has too many email accounts, but I figure I don’t want to consider a candidate who does not make herself readily available. (In my experience, the organized candidates who go on school trips or holidays get a family member to monitor their account and respond.)

TexasHM April 7, 2016 at 9:10 pm

Several things here:
1 – I completely disagree that the best candidates at CCAP get immediately snagged and held and taken by the first family unless they are brave enough to say no. The best candidates tend to be the ones that make a point of talking to multiple families and I am often asked to release their profile so they can leave it available (and they still want to speak with me but that’s another conversation itself). Last round there were several repeat APs at CCAP (they tend to get far more from what I have seen and I asked the APs and they explained that CCAP offers far discounted fees for repeat APs) and one had spoken with 11 families, another with 8 and another with 7 all before talking to me so there was no shortage of connections.

2 – Open season has its flaws too. We were with APIA for several years and I dreaded the matching process in big part because it was a free for all. The APs were stressed and often made poor decisions (families bidding against each other for good APs, family shopping after matching, it was a mess) and as someone in a nondesirable AP geo (IE not NY, DC or CA) it was very hard to get an APs attention. Can you blame them? Too much noise. At least at CCAP the APs read our profile when we put them on hold (almost never happened at APIA) and generally seriously consider the big picture before declining or matching with us.

3 – Timing. If you are not ready to match until May, I would highly recommend waiting until May. You only need one AP and as long as you are at a major agency you will have plenty of options. It is still early to be looking for August arrival and there will be a ton of APs then (summer window for Europe) so don’t make yourself crazy. I have seen MANY HFs start looking way too early and then get frustrated and settle for an OK match or change agencies and still not have success all because of timing. If you look about 3 months out you will have maximum candidates because the vast majority of the APs in the system will want to come right away and there is usually a 6-8 week docs process so looking 3 months out you are right on time and don’t have to ask a candidate to wait to come to you and everyone is on the same page.

4 – It is somewhat exhausting to have to check back often for new profiles on CCAP. I really wish (LISTEN CCAP!!!) that all applications could be viewed (even if on hold) and in a perfect world I would be able to make a note or flag a profile so that when it is released it goes right into my account or I get an email notice or something so I wouldn’t have to regularly log in and search. CCAP you are this close to nailing the system!! CCAP profiles are already more detailed so that helps me a lot, its just the profile management piece that is cumbersome. It’s also hard for an AP to get her profile released so I constantly hear from APs that families put their profiles on hold and never reach out to them – they often lose weeks! At least if its a 48 hour hold they get released but the extended – I hear all the time from good candidates that they have had X number of families sit on their profiles!

5 – To answer the sit on a profile question I try not to do that. If I am seriously considering matching with an AP then I have them in extended hold. Have there been occasions when a profile has timed out or something happened and I had to get them back? Yes. But I won’t offer a match to someone unless they are in our account on hold. Again, I think the profile holds piece is more process/formality. If you are not ready/wanting to offer the job until May then I honestly think you shouldn’t be looking yet. Just my two cents. The matching process is extremely stressful for APs (dream, money investment, fear, time investment, career goals, putting life on hold, leaving support system) and they often don’t sleep well, eat well, etc during the matching process so dragging that on for a month or two I think would not only be unfair but would be unlikely to yield you a match. I could see an AP waiting a week to match with a family they thought was great but two months? I don’t think so.

Full Circle April 14, 2016 at 11:21 pm

I think you nailed so many points about this! We are with CCAP too and I also think their system is good. You can release APs you/they want to, but you can also talk to them without feeling the pressure of other families also reaching out to them all at the same time. That has to be confusing for APS. I felt like each candidate we talked to had read our profile in detail (and we have a lot of detail in our profile) and the ones that hadn’t were already red flags.

However, I do think that is a caveat to your #3: we started looking in Oct for a June arrival. Yeah! Crazy early, I know! We ended up taking a break and starting again in Feb. But we found 2 things that we would not have known if we had not looked super early (I discussed some of this above so I won’t repeat it here much).

1) The pool was SO VERY DIFFERENT. I mean, it was striking. In Oct we could find many many APs that fit our criteria and in Feb it was slim pickings. I would have honestly not felt very confident about our search in Feb had I not known the potential for candidates. I even mentioned this to our match coordinator who assured me we would find a match. And we did. You really do only need the one, but I can see how first time HFs looking 3 months out would be discouraged by the pool. CCAP had many in Oct who were only available for this summer (so no waiting on their part). I mean MANY!. Some for as late as Sept.

I think if you are organized enough to plan something like this almost a year in advance, you already have some points in your favor in my book. If you are looking for a planner, you will find plenty if you look way in advance. None of the “planners” we looked at were available in feb. All had matched and we were looking mostly at totally new applications (except for what i will explain in my #2). APIA, however, only had a handful of them available for our timeframe when we looked in Oct and they told us it was way too soon (vs. CCAP saying go for it bc we would snag a planner).

2) Some of the APs that were available on a short notice in Oct (say, for a Dec arrival) were still available in Feb/March but at that point listed as April/May arrival. So basically, there is no way to know how long an AP has been in the pool just by looking at their profile.

I think this can be potentially helpful information. Why have they been sitting there? Are there red flags other families are picking up on? Or are they just very diligent waiting for the perfect family? Or are they really picky or set on a location and will eventually just “settle”? Our placement coordinator said she can give us the inside scoop on a candidate (I’m sure slightly filtered) if we wanted, like how long had they been searching or the general comments from other families about them.

HMof2 April 14, 2016 at 11:40 pm

I’m with CCAP. I look at the date the AP agreed to the health waiver and also the date of the interview to get a sense for how long ago or how recent the AP has been in the pool. It is not a perfect science to estimate when they got in the pool but these dates are good reference points.

Multitasking Host Mom April 8, 2016 at 6:32 am

First OP if you are not ready to match…wait until your are. When you will be matching, late May, there are always tons of APs looking for summer arrivals…mostly Europeans…so I promise you that there will still be good APs when you are ready to look. Now if you were looking at on “off season” time, I might have different advice.

To answer the bigger question…I have major mixed feelings about the ability to “hold” AP profiles.
Letting HF exclusively have an AP profile probably is a little unfair to the APs, especially if they get held for a long time by a family. (Although it appears that AP can ask to be released out of a HFs “hold” with the last agency I used.)

In theory I like an AP who has spoken to many families. I feel that has given them more of a feel of what families/child care situations are truly like in the US and that they are not just picking the first family that comes along without really thinking about what they are getting into.

That all said…for my family…we seem to do better in the exclusive hold situation. We have a child with some specially needs. If an AP is being held by my family, they seem much more willing to actually interview with us and ask exactly what they were getting into.( It actually is not as bad as it sounds once we all take a pause and ask questions. )

When we were in an “open” matching situation, we were rejected almost immediately by several potential APs and I know it was because they were being bombarded by so many families that it was hard for them to focus more than just a quick glance at a profile. Also, I felt like the APs we spoke to were much more likely to compare perks at just a surface value when they are had many people talking to them from different angles. Plus, I like to talk with the AP by Skype and email, then bring my husband in to have a conversation with the AP, and lastly (when I think this is the one that we will match with) have them talk with my children. All of this can take a few days to get through, so once again keeping the AP on “hold” gives me enough time to get through this process without the stress of worrying they will be pulled away by another family.

Anna April 8, 2016 at 8:38 am

I agree with moms about disadvantages of not putting au pairs “on hold” but only for agencies where there is lots of completion for good au pairs, i.e. the ratio of available au pairs to families is not very favorable to families. I have experienced it myself with large agencies such as AuPairCare and Au Pair in America, where I didn’t get to talk to desirable au pairs because I am not a desirable family (four kids).

However now I am with GoAuPair and it appears that even great au pair candidates rarely are talking to many families simulateneously, because there are about three times more au pairs than there are families in search at any given time (I asked..). So I was able to talk to enough promising candidates to find a good match without much difficulty. I still got many rejections, but half or less – the other half were willing to talk.

ChiAttyHM April 8, 2016 at 11:46 am

I am having the exact same issue with the same agency, only I am looking for September arrivals. (Yes, I plan ahead.) I see all these candidates who want Sept/Oct arrivals, and their profiles have been unavailable for weeks!

My personal method is to keep a candidate’s profile on hold until I have had a chance to Skype, and I usually only have time to Skype on a weekend. So I might hold a candidate for a week, maybe a little longer. But then, whether I like them and want to keep talking or decide that it is not a good fit, I tell them I am going to release their profile. If I like them, I tell them–truthfully–that I want them to be able to talk to other families so that, if we match, it is because we all think it’s the best fit. I also warn them that we tend to take a lot of time to make our final decision, often Skyping multiple times, and it wouldn’t be fair to hold them for weeks or even a month.

(Hello, all. Long-time lurker, first time poster–well, I tried to post once a long time ago, but I think it never got approved.)

Another DC HM April 8, 2016 at 2:57 pm

I guess my first question is- why do you want to wait until May to match? I don’t know if there’s any truth to the idea that all the “good candidates” get selected early, but if so, why wait? What’s the hold up? If you think it puts you at a disadvantage, get off the stick!

Personally I generally match 5-6 months out, partly because I do actually think the higher quality APs, who are older and have their life together, do sign up early.

If you are committed to not matching until May, then I am confused as to why you would be searching now anyhow. If you found someone you liked, would you then string them along until May?

As to the issue that people put their AP applicants on hold for too long- I suspect this is universal. It takes a long time to really get to know someone and feel comfortable with them, enough to match. In fact, the slower and more thoughtful the interview process is, the better it turns out for everyone. So keeping an AP application for a couple of weeks doesn’t seem problematic.

TexasHM April 8, 2016 at 3:31 pm

Here’s what I’ve seen/heard/noticed. Many families search early, most AP profiles aren’t available to closer to matching. Especially with agencies like CCAP where it often takes a year for an AP to go through the process! So you have all these families that look early, get concerned because the AP profiles are slim or on hold and then convince themselves they need to look even earlier next time. On the flip, I’ve helped several first time HFs match with AWESOME APs and it’s always been at the last minute (they need someone right away and AP wants to come right away. We have traditionally looked about 3 months out and never had an issue, the only time I struggled to find good candidates was the time I looked 6 months out. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
I think it doesn’t matter when you look BUT your interview cycles will be longer the further out you look and this has held with my personal experience. Keep in mind you just need one AP and that’s the same for everyone else. Almost every time I have liked a profile that someone had on hold it became available (Inc current great AP) plus as others have said, I want someone that has talked to other families anyway.
There is zero correlation between hfs looking earlier and getting better APs. If it makes you feel better to get the search done earlier then do it but be prepared to look longer and get more rejections. Also the one time we went 6 months out I wished I’d waited because current APs plans changed and she could have extended after all (and she was a rockstar and we should have but didn’t think it fair to bail on the OOC candidate we had just matched with – our only burnout AP). That almost happened to us this time too so next time I might wait until the literal last minute and then if we can’t do OOC take a rematch!

Mimi April 8, 2016 at 3:57 pm

We’ve never held an AP for more than a few days unless we were actively reviewing them or waiting for a response. We’ve been lucky with placement managers because I’m very precise with what I won’t even look at.

EBHM April 8, 2016 at 5:31 pm

I’m the original poster. I hope this comment makes it online because several of my comments have not. I’m so glad CV posted my query and I’ve had great feedback. To answer some of the questions above, I want to wait to end of May to match because anything can happen in a few months. I was matching earlier than I wanted to because I was in the trap TexasHM described above of thinking the good candidates are matched early. This is also what my matching specialist told me btw. I was prepared to commit to a match soon despite because I would not string a candidate along for months, and I would hope that CC would not let me. I think I have been receiving a lot of rejections because of the skew in candidates vs host families, and the last few weeks have been a strain on my family and my current au pair. I am now going to stop looking until end of May. So glad for this website!

Old China Hand April 8, 2016 at 6:46 pm

We are in an undesirable situation and only want Chinese speaking ap. We go with GAP because with my job I can’t be on top of things enough to make decisions really quickly and the exclusive hold made me crazy. Plus, and honestly this is the biggest thing, GAP has more candidates from China than all other agencies put together. I only go with girls from one orphanage in zhengzhou where they have volunteered or worked. Then they are competent. I don’t allow ap to drive so I don’t have to worry about that. I email extensively with a few and they all know I’m looking at more than one as they work together. I try not to match too early but with a January arrival I need to worry about holidays. So I match in October to avoid visa issues. So far so good. Ap3 is already asking about extending. We adore her so I hope things stay good for us and we don’t have to match again until my tenure package is in. It would save me a lot of anxiety.

Should be working April 9, 2016 at 6:14 pm

I really, really like CCAP’s matching methods, with the ability to have one “serious” i.e. pretty much indefinite exclusive hold, plus you can have two other APs on short-term holds for comparison. Maybe this is because I started out in the old days of barely-online searching, where one-to-one matching was the norm and the placement specialist was the only one who saw all the candidates. That was really frustrating at the time, but it did force me to focus on what about THIS candidate was appealing or not, and to develop a good sense for what criteria count for me.

Now that we can choose our own candidates, I feel like it’s the best system for us because I want one-at-a-time matching. Every time I’ve had even two APs on hold I find myself feeling more and more undecided. It’s like internet dating: More candidates always can make you doubt yourself and think someone better is still out there.

FTR I also hold my exclusive matches for a long time. I match over weeks, like 6 weeks, not days. Usually 3-4 email exchanges, some phone/skype, more email, they must talk to 1-2 of our previous au pairs, more skype, and only then match. But I also usually match with the first one I put on hold. It does mean that in matching season I am checking CCAP’s website very frequently, like twice daily. And I wish it were a smarter navigation and filtering system.

I also like an early start to matching, because I figure the early birds are well organized and some of the latecomers are just looking for a way to fill their gap year. But I have no proof that this assumption is valid.

WestMom April 10, 2016 at 9:16 am

One of our best AP was stuck in the pool for almost one year (this was before our agency had a website, so this was manual matchmaking with paper profile– yes, we are THAT old!). Her biggest complaint about the whole process was that some families were able to hold on to her profile for a very long time; in one case, one full month! She ended up missing the ‘hot window’ for arrivals because all this, and found herself with the slim pickings in low season. I still can’t believe we found that gem! It was one of our easiest search ever!

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