How to Assess an Au Pair Candidate’s Driving Experience

by cv harquail on March 23, 2010

Our second au pair had a lot of driving experience back in her Eastern European country. She’d been driving for 3 years, almost every day. Sounded great. This, along with her other great qualities, lead us to match with her.201003221642.jpg

Zoom ahead three months, as we settle her into the Toyota to go out for a driving evaluation. I didn’t know you could ride the clutch on an automatic, or gnash the gears even. When she turned right, we fishtailed. On dry pavement.

Wow, she did not know how to handle our car.

Honey, what kind of car did you drive back in the old country? I asked.

Oh, I didn’t drive a car, she replied. I drove a tractor.

I kid you not.

We hired a driving instructor from Sears. $300 later, she was good to go, and was one of our best au pairs ever. Thank goodness she was anxious to learn.

MAmom suggested several questions (in the comments on the post about US Driver’s Licenses) for assessing an au pair’s driving experience. I wish I’d thought to ask our au pairs these questions, since we might also have identified the au pair who was so scared to drive that she often pulled over to the shoulder mid-trip just to steady her nerves.  I added to MAmom’s list– what more do you suggest?

Questions for Assessing an Au Pair’s Driving

  1. What kind of cars have you driven?
  2. What is the furthest distance you have ever driven?
  3. What kind of bad weather have you driven in?  (snow? heavy rain?)
  4. Have you ever used a GPS?
  5. When you need to figure out how to drive to somewhere, how do you get directions?
  6. Have you ever gotten lost while driving? If so, what did you do?
  7. Have you ever been on a road trip with a friend?
  8. What is your best driving habit?
  9. What is your worst driving habit?
  10. How is driving at nighttime different from driving during the daytime?


What other questions would you ask to assess an Au Pair’s driving skill?

Tractor Girl from merfam


PA au pair mom March 23, 2010 at 12:56 pm

another one I like to ask is:

How do you feel about parking a car? Have you ever had to park anywhere other than in a parking lot or driveway (parallel parking)?

I also ask what their daily driving is like. There’s a big difference between driving to school and back and driving other, more unfamiliar places.

The list above was very good, in my opinion.

Should be working March 23, 2010 at 1:13 pm

Yes, this list definitely belongs in my ‘interview archive’.

Another one: What kind of car seats have the children used in your previous experiences driving children?

And for APs who have arrived at our house: “Here, now I’ve shown you the carseat. Let’s see you install it and put kid A into it.”

Soccer Mom March 23, 2010 at 1:14 pm

I like to ask if they have ever driven with children in the car. If yes, what is different about that.

Au Pair in CO March 23, 2010 at 2:06 pm

*How often do you drive? There’s a big difference between driving to work every day, or driving with a friend once a month.

*Do you own your own car? Also a big difference between being responsible enough to buy, maintain and drive your own car, or borrowing your parents’ car every now and then.

*What speeds are you used to driving in? In my home country, I had never driven above 55mph, so coming to the 75mph highways here was a bit of a shock:P

PA au pair mom March 23, 2010 at 3:44 pm

thanks AP in CO for responding.

The speed limit one is a GREAT question to ask.

'sota gal March 23, 2010 at 2:08 pm

How often do you and any other passengers in your car wear seat belts?

I also like to ask how they feel about carseats and how they have felt using them. In asking this I had one candidate tell me she thought they were a waste of time and too difficult to buckle. NEXT!

In relation to driving, I like to talk about police in their home country as well as license testing. I have learned that some countries are rather corrupt and one can “buy” a passing score for their license, bribe their way out of a ticket, or just run away from police officers.

Courtney Bosch March 23, 2010 at 3:18 pm

I LOVE that her experience was with a tractor. LOL!! Just shows how specific you need to be when interviewing any candidate. Definitely good to ask where they have driven (what type of area – city versus suburbs) how far, what kind of weather, etc. Also be sure to teach your aupair about our driving laws, especially school buses and how they have to stop for the red flashing lights. All stuff we take for granted!

franzi March 23, 2010 at 3:35 pm

questions: do you drink and drive?
what is your attitude towards driving?
what roads do you usually drive on? (paved, gravel, highways, neighborhoods…)
do you drive to and from clubs with friends (you being the driver)?
what is your attitude towards buckling up?
if you took driving lessons, how many lessons did you take? what did they entail?
what was your driving test like? – this will tell you a lot about the requirements to get a license in that particular country and give an insight into the skills.

i also suggest to cross-check her answers in a follow-up phone call, especially those where you suspect the answer was not truthful or didn’t express the whole picture.

Taking a computer lunch March 23, 2010 at 9:40 pm

Our first AP had owned her own car for two years, so we assumed driving experience. Wrong! She bombadiered into a parking lot my first day driving with her and nearly slammed into the back of two cars as I screamed, “Stop!” My kids were in the back seat. It turns out that in different countries driving rules and regulations differ from the United States, and some young women come better equipped to adapt then others. This particular AP had purchased her driving license when she realized that there wasn’t time for her to actually pass.

Some of my questions are:

Do you enjoy driving? (If they don’t enjoy it, the transition might be more difficult.)

Where do you drive? (We leave it open-ended so that they must describe it – that way we can assess their mastery the vocabulary for driving in English too.)

And then the usual: How often do you drive now? (Because if the AP only drives once a week or less, chances are she’s not getting enough practice if you really really really need her to be able to drive your car immediately.)

I like the seatbelt question. I tell our APs that if they are in an accident and they are not wearing their seatbelts, our car insurance won’t pay a penny of their medical expenses and neither will we. And if I — or a neighbor — sees any child in our car not properly seated they will be gone the next day.

HRHM March 24, 2010 at 9:00 am

Also, LOOK at their application. My last AP stated that she was a daily driver but on closer inspection, she had never driven in snow. This should have been a red flag for me bacause she comes from a country with SNOWY winters and got her license in October. Turns out “daily driver” was a flat out lie. When she arrived, she didn’t know the gas from the brake! :0
I also like the questions about sense of direction, adventurousness and ability to use a map/GPS. Even the best technical driver is going to run into problems if they are afraid to get lost and don’t know how to use google maps! AP2 (the same one above) had GPS in every vehicle, but wouldn’t even go to the post office by herself! It made for a long year.

Janet March 24, 2010 at 1:05 pm

I am not sure if asking all of these questions about driving will make any difference in how good your au pair drives. I look for an au pair who grew up outside of a large city and drives into the city or to a train/bus stop to get into the city. I have found that most au pairs who grew up in a large city have the least driving experience. I have also come to the conclusion most South American au pair’s pay someone off to get their license!

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