Improving the Matching Process: 10 Things I Wish Au Pairs Would Do

by Texas HM on May 21, 2014

Matching well matters — for both Host Parents and Au Pairs.

Asking good questions and getting thoughtful answers helps a lot when it comes to finding a good match, but there’s more that host parents and Au Pairs can do.  TexasHM had some great ideas (I italicized the points I particularly loved):

In the matching process, I wish that Au Pairs would …

1. Do your research.

5208973775_f0b6039b21_b.jpgJust this morning I had a candidate say she wanted to go to San Francisco because she “loves the sun and hot weather”. First of all, San Francisco is never HOT and its cool/cold all year round and is often foggy or overcast. If you have a particular area in mind, or if you are considering a few different spots– get to know them by researching them before you talk with prospective host parents.

Also, do your family research! Ask to speak to the previous APs. Talk to the local coordinator/counselor. This woman is going to be responsible for your welfare should you end up in rematch! She has also likely known your host family and previous APs so ask her anything and everything!

I sent a candidate our LC’s info once, her response was “Why would I call her?” Come on au pairs! You are going to live with a family of total strangers! You can make a couple extra phone calls or send a few emails!

2. Respond in a timely manner.

If you are about to leave for the weekend and will not have internet access – TELL the family or families you are interviewing with! I can’t tell you how many times I have been mid-stream in the interview process rolling along and suddenly I get no response. Then a day goes by, and another, until finally I cut them loose. Then, au pairs are surprised and explain they had plans. We have plans too and if you are truly motivated you will communicate effectively.

If an AP said “I am going to visit family for the holiday weekend I will not have access until Monday am but I can respond then,” I would be totally fine with that.

3. Respond to the real questions and issues.

Every time we interview I watch as I reach out to candidate after candidate and a significant portion just don’t respond! If you see that the family is not in your ideal location (I could write a separate blog post about how many times I have watched matching for a location end in rematch) or you do not think they are a good match for whatever other reason, be an adult and respond telling them that!

I much prefer the AP candidate that responds immediately with real information, such as  saying she has already visited our area or isn’t comfortable watching 3 kids. I can’t stand just sitting around waiting for someone to respond! Trust me, we host families will move on quickly. It’s best for everyone if you tell us early if you think its not going to work!

4. Be creative in sharing information about yourself.

Whether its in your AP video, host family letter or during the interview process don’t be afraid to be yourself and be creative. PLEASE do not take the canned stuff the agency gives you and use that. I could probably recite the script from certain countries because all the AP videos and letters are the same! I am looking for personality and trust me – even with all the canned answers in the world you are going to be living with these people, they are going to see your true colors and better now than later!

5. Ask questions.

And better yet – ask real questions. Not the canned stuff the agency gives you.

Just so you know, the first question I always get is “do you have a special diet?” While I realize this can make a difference, I would much prefer you ask me something specific to you like “Is it ok that I am a vegetarian? I am fine preparing meat and I don’t mind if others eat it, I just don’t care for it and happy to make something for myself.” Or “what are your favorite foods?” or “do you go out to eat often” or whatever it is you really want to know. “Special” is such a relative term and doesn’t tell me what your normal diet is so how do I know if you would think it was “special”?

6. Give feedback to the Host Parents.

If you are excited about the family – TELL them. If you love a particular picture of the kids or want to do a certain activity with them – SAY so. Otherwise we often have no idea.

There have been a few times that we have walked away from a candidate only to have them suddenly send a passionate email about how we are the perfect family for them – why didn’t you say so before?!! Giving me the flat boring emails doesn’t help you! I realize if we don’t match you might be a little embarrassed for putting yourself out there but seriously – this whole experience is putting yourself out there! Be brave and fight for what you want!

7. Try to not to make assumptions or limit yourself by having “perfect” family criteria.

You might be pleasantly surprised. We do not live in a primary AP market (CA/NE/DC) and our au pairs often brag to their friends in those areas that they have so much more disposable income and travel opportunities. We have a giant airport 10 min away that is the HQ of the largest US airline and has cheap flights direct to pretty much anywhere you would want to go. The community colleges here are $125-165 per class so our APs often take a lot more courses than their friends that have classes that are $1200 EACH (never mind those friends are paying the difference themselves!).

There are pros and cons to every location. Find out what they are and see what matches your priorities best.

8. Wait for “the one”.

Or at least, consider more than one family!

I can’t tell you how many rematch stories I have heard start with “they were the only family I talked to” or “they were the first to ask me to match and I didn’t want to risk waiting”. I am telling you – WAIT. When a family that’s right for you comes along, you will know. Trust your gut and when they come along you will 300% know!!

9. Put yourself in the host family’s shoes when you are sharing information about yourself.

Do they need to meet all your friends back home in your video? Probably not. Do they want to know about your hobbies and interests? Absolutely. Put some thought into what they might need/want/be looking for and you will be able to answer if you are able to meet those needs and have a successful year.

When you’re thinking about the family’s expectations, also put yourself in their shoes.  Host families don’t have curfews or guidelines for no reason. Ask them why, what they expect and what they are comfortable with. Understanding a family’s criteria before you make a decision (whether you match or move on) can only improve your chances of finding a good fit.

10. Pick your “2 out of 3”.

I had a fellow host mom tell me once that the AP experience has 3 dynamics at play – Family, Location and Perks. I don’t know any APs that are able to have all 3 out of 3 be exactly what s/he wanted. So, in her words, “pick two and prioritize what is most important to you”.

If being a true family member is most important say so. Don’t pick a family that has a great location and perks but wants nothing to do with you! Vice versa,  if you want an employee relationship don’t pick the warm fuzzy family! If location and family are most important be prepared to sacrifice perks to get that match. And if family and perks are most important then location shouldn’t matter! You don’t want to match with a family that is seriously not what you want in one way or another. But be flexible and know you can find a situation that is ‘fine’ in one area and ‘great’ in the other two.


Families, what would you add the list of “10 Things I wish Au Pairs Would Do To Improve The Matching Process” to make it an even dozen?  

Add your advice, below:


TexasHM May 21, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Shout out to give credit to NNTexasHM for being the genius to tell me #10! :)

WarmStateMomma May 21, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Number 4!!!! Exactly.

I recently found out that my current AP volunteered over a few years with a group that helped neglected elderly veterans in her home country. She’d celebrate birthdays with the vets, fund care packages for them, etc. I wish she’d put that in her application instead of the canned agency nonsense. It’s so much more indicative of the mature, compassionate young woman she is than the garbage the local agency thought would appeal to American parents.

Should be working May 21, 2014 at 4:39 pm

After we matched our AP told me she had worked with teens talking about internet addiction and had had a special training. AND I HAVE TEENS! AND I WROTE IN THE HANDBOOK THAT INTERNET ACCESS IS A CONFLICTED TOPIC! She said it never occurred to her to mention it earlier! But we still think she’s great. :)

WarmStateMomma May 21, 2014 at 5:00 pm

I don’t get it. Our AP had a demanding job and still made time to care for vulnerable people – going against social norms to do so. (The vets fought for the nationalist army against the communist army and are widely despised.) She told me about some of the life stories and personalities of the ones she knew best. The agency had the prospective APs all take photos holding a plate of homemade dumplings, practicing Chinese calligraphy, etc. The volunteer experience would have been much more valuable information for us than the photo of her painting Chinese characters.

I suggested she open up her own agency when she returns – she can teach APs to drive and then teach them how to create application packages that show who they really are as individuals.

Should be working May 21, 2014 at 5:14 pm

This is funny! Dumplings and calligraphy versus volunteer work!

I love volunteer work in APs. Not the same stuff most of them do (like all the Germans work in a kindergarten for–gasp! the dedication!–a few weeks), but something that requires a little more initiative, like helping refugees, asylum-seekers, Down Syndrome adults, volunteer fire brigade, and so on.

TexasHM May 21, 2014 at 5:37 pm

Me too! Both of our great APs had volunteer work and it was clear they had a heart for those less fortunate. We are interviewing a candidate right now that loves animals and we don’t have any (allergies) so she already asked if there were shelters near our home that she could offer to volunteer at in her free time. Love it!

German Au-Pair May 21, 2014 at 7:35 pm

They tell us to work in a kindergarten. I had a whole YEAR of experience in an elementary school, working with a child with a disability. I have a sibling who’s ten years younger than I am so I’ve actually lived with a child before. I had several tutoring job and was part of a project to help foreign children to adjust in school. In short: I had a TON of experience. They made me do an internship in a kindergarten for 3 weeks because apparently that’s what you need to do to appeal to American families.
We also have to say “I want to become an au pair in the USA because I love working with children.” When I noticed that’s kind of a duh-moment, they said we HAD to say it right in the beginning. To show enthusiasm or something.

TexasHM May 21, 2014 at 7:48 pm

Right there is a perfect example. NNTexasHM told me yesterday if she hears one more AP say first thing in their video “I want to be an au pair because I love children” she’s going to lose it! :) I don’t think Should Be Working was saying working in a Kindergarten is bad, I think she was pointing out that when your only volunteer experience is 3 weeks as an assistant at a Kindergarten that you just did the month before you applied is not quite the same as APs that volunteered to work with refugee children while her friends were on the beach all summer. But I could be putting words in her mouth…

Should be working May 21, 2014 at 7:52 pm

Your words are better than mine! Yes, of course 3 weeks in a kindergarten is good experience. But when it is her only childcare experience, and the candidate waxes poetic about her nostalgia, and shows pictures of the goodbye cards from the kids, I say, “Big deal.”

Once I was interviewing AP candidates in December (for summer arrival–I like the good planners!). I asked one I really liked what she was doing over New Year’s. She replied, “I am going camping with Down Syndrome adults.” GREAT answer, we had a great year.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 21, 2014 at 10:13 pm

German-Au Pair – here’s irony for you – as a parent of a child who is disabled, I look for candidates who write explicitly about their experience with children who have disabilities (I don’t care if they resemble mine or not). However, volunteering in a kindergarten for 2-3 weeks is a red flag for me – to me it say the candidate did not have enough experience with children and did something last minute to pad her hours. While there is nothing wrong with three weeks in a kindergarten, do put your experiences down – both in your work timeline and in your letter to potential HF.

WarmStateMomma May 22, 2014 at 9:36 am

@SBW: I completely agree on the last-minute “volunteering” stint. We noticed that every AP from Thailand at our last agency had the same 2 months experience “volunteering” at a child care center. If you work for free at a business as an agency requirement to get your hours documented, you did not “volunteer” your time and your skill level wasn’t considered valuable enough for them to pay you. It sounds more like an unpaid internship. It’s experience, but it doesn’t say the same thing about a candidate as true volunteering.

@German – it’s becoming pretty clear that many of the local agencies just don’t know what appeals to American families. I’d be way more interested in your professional experience (meaningful) than a short-term unpaid program arranged by the agency (not meaningful).

HRHM May 22, 2014 at 10:56 am

German AP,

Spread the word – the local agencies are totally wrong! I look for an AP with a MUCH younger sibling (current AP and the one before had sibs 6 and 8) and/or real work experience (incoming AP was a hotel chambermaid in Switzerland for 2 years) I don’t know a single HM that thinks 2 or 3 weeks helping neuro-typical kids open their milk cartons for 4 hours a day while supervised translates in any way shape or form into usable skills for an AP.

WarmStateMomma May 22, 2014 at 11:14 am

I would also take the chambermaid experience (that’s hard work! she can clean!) over a few weeks of opening milk cartons (no responsibility/initiative required).

German Au-Pair May 22, 2014 at 1:50 pm

I understood you didn’t mean it’s bad, but just wanted to point out that they actually make you do it if you haven’t already. Crazy, right? How could they think that those 3 weeks made a difference? For me their reason was that the kids I took care of were all age 5 and up so for them that would limit my chances. I only mentioned the internship in a side not and focussed on the work that I actually did and the experiences with my brother. Plus in my case while I had an every-day job working with children, they needed a second official reference so I had to do it.

For some girls it’s the only chance to get the required hours though. In my town finding a babysitter job is almost impossible. Had I not done this gap year in a school, it would have been my only chance, too.

Old China Hand May 22, 2014 at 1:04 pm

I only looked at applicants from China but felt like they were all identical! The photos were the same, the letters the same, and so on. The things that stood out to me about our AP (who we love) were:

1) She was waiting for her AP placement by working (for a small stipend) at an orphanage for handicapped kids. Note that this is common for prospective APs in her province – it’s a training program run by a foreign orphanage.
2) She had worked in Apple factories during her school holidays.
3) She was from a rural area so she definitely knew hard work – her mom raised pigs.
4) She played varsity basketball in college – very unusual in China – and once decided to bike home, which took her 16 hours.

All of these, except the experience at the orphanage, which was identical to a number of other AP candidates, were highlighted in her letter or experience. Some of them I only got from reading the letters of reference carefully. The cutsey photos in the pool (she can’t swim) and behind the wheel of a car (she can barely drive) did nothing for me, especially as they were basically the same obligatory photos all the girls had.

Should be working May 22, 2014 at 1:10 pm

Oh man, I can’t believe the pool/car photos if she doesn’t have those skills!! Even if I were ever considering a Chinese AP, this would wipe out any idea I might have that it’s something to try.

WarmStateMomma May 22, 2014 at 4:08 pm

I saw one Chinese AP dive into a pool and swim a lap in her application video, so it may not be as bad as driving. I have definitely added “swimming” to my list of issues that need more probing. I’m not sure how picky we can be considering we want a Mandarin-speaking driver with life experience, good judgment and an outgoing personality.

Old China Hand May 23, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Apparently the local agency tells the girls to put down that they can swim because it’s easy to learn. I would trust photos that actually showed someone in a pool doing something and where it looked like they actually liked swimming.

I have just given our AP permission to take our son to the local pool if they are in a place where she can stand. The pool is so quiet on weekdays and she isn’t scared of the water, just a novice swimmer. We also gave her private swim lessons as an early birthday present, so that has helped my comfort as well.

Old China Hand May 23, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Oh, I forgot… we also don’t need a driver so we just told her that because she can’t drive standard, she can’t use our cars. It came out later that she really isn’t comfortable driving (after several friends rematched over the swimming and driving issues). There is no reason for our APs to drive because our town is easy to walk and bike around and classes are on campus, which is 2 blocks from our house.

WarmStateMomma May 23, 2014 at 2:24 pm

@OCH – a pool photo just proves she’s not afraid of the water. My AP revealed that she often wears a life vest in the pool, after I saw a shot of her (face only) in a pool.

Getting to the truth in their applications is so frustrating and I had loads of second thoughts once we matched with AP#2. I was worried about getting duped again and kept waiting to learn that she’d lied about something major. I’m pretty sure much of her childcare experience was invented since she was working a professional job the last few years, but her parents run a preschool and she has a big family with younger siblings and cousins. Two months in and she’s still a great fit.

LondonMum May 21, 2014 at 3:53 pm

Don’t lie! I know you want to sell yourself and show all the positives but be honest if you can’t do or aren’t good at something. The family may still think you are a good fit even if you can’t offer every single thing they wish for. Every HF knows they will have to compromise somewhere and it’s ok to know this up front. If you lie and say you can cook when you can’t, that will drive the HM mad, especially if they have young children and you need to make them a meal each night. Some families will do big batches of meals and freeze them, you can have time to learn the kids favourite meals and your cooking skills can improve as you go along – just please be honest!

TexasHM May 21, 2014 at 4:08 pm

SO true! Only once have I heard of an AP lying or misrepresenting something and not end up in rematch. Every other time the host family felt misled and trust me, if its important to them they will not or cannot compromise to wait until you learn to drive or figure out how to swim! The only time I saw this not end in rematch it was an AP that smoked socially (deal breaker for host family) and when confronted she quit and they agreed to keep her. Had she continued she would have been sent to rematch. There are families that take social smokers, non-drivers, non-swimmers, you name it. Much better to find that family than to misrepresent and end up in rematch with very limited options!

WarmStateMomma May 21, 2014 at 4:51 pm

AP#1 lied about being able to drive and we kept her because we didn’t know any better, but she wasted a year of her life unable to leave the house on her own and she didn’t make any friends. I know APs from her country don’t all find a match, but getting to the US isn’t worth it if you don’t find the right match.

Skny May 22, 2014 at 7:52 am

Dito on the no lying. I am visiting my home country and met my future Au pair (know it is not kosher, but she lives only 2hs from my parents and her family wanted to meet us…). We had a fine time but took our lunch together to discover that our “I eat everything Au pair” is extremely pick eater. Eats no chicken, or pork, or salad, or veggies. She is going to starve at my house!!!
My first urge was to call agency and cancel match. Instead I took a deep breath and told her (in front of her parents) that our meals are made up of 90% of what she does not eat (but told me she did), and I would not be cooking something else… And I expected shed either be learning to eat new things, or spending a lot of money on mc Donald’s. Sigh

HRHM May 22, 2014 at 10:58 am

Why would it not be kosher? If I had the money/time/opportunity, I would LOVE to meet my future APs in person and especially see their home, eat a meal with them and meet thier parents. Lucky you!

Boys Mama June 2, 2014 at 8:07 pm

Wow, that’s so interesting! How did she react when you confronted her about her picky eating? Did it make you nervous she’d lied about other things?

CA Host Mom May 22, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Totally agree – this is #1 for us!! No one is perfect, everyone is different. It’s usually pretty easy to tell when an AP is telling you the canned (agency told them to say that) stuff and none of that is what I actually want to know.

The only AP we sent into rematch was one that completely misrepresented (lied) her skills and experience in working with infants. We dropped the agency too because we could tell that they had a big hand in the misrepresentation.

Just be honest (best advice for APs and HFs) … a great match can be such a rewarding experience for everyone … and it’s only possible when both parties REALLY know what they are getting into!

Old China Hand May 23, 2014 at 12:14 pm

There was one agency where I found it impossible to tell what hours the girls actually had for experience. I don’t know if it was the form was confusing or what, but they all looked like they had thousands of hours of experience at each of several different jobs. Not sure why, but it looked like they had multiplied things they shouldn’t have. It definitely made me not so trusting of that agency.

BackHome May 23, 2014 at 2:19 pm

I found it pretty difficult to list the “experience hours” because obviously I didn’t write down every hour I spent taking care of children. I went through my journals from the past years so I could find out approximately how many babysitting hours I had. It was really hard to figure out how many hours I should list for watching my little sister, too. I was a scout leader and I helped organizing our summer camps and of course attended them (10-14 days). So I was (together with the other leaders) responsible for the kids 24/7 but I felt that listing 240 hours for one camp wouldn’t really be fair. The agency doesn’t really help with that. They just tell you to list as many hours as you can no matter if you were just watching TV in the living room while your little cousin was sleeping in his nursery or if you took care of two toddlers during the day, actually interacting with them (feeding, playing, potty training,…)…

Angie host mom May 21, 2014 at 4:29 pm


I know it is exciting, there is a language/culture barrier, there is the feeling that you should be trying to “win” the job….but listen to what the HF is saying. Not in a cramming for a test tomorrow kind of way, but in a way where you are learning what the HF is really like.

Aussiemum May 21, 2014 at 5:36 pm

I have had an aupair list a job at a cafe , only to find she had quit because it cut into her horse riding time. The same girl despite apparently having a lot of baby sitting experience never really played with my daughter and didn’t seem to talk a lot either. We rematched due to my perception she was uninterested in kids and the realisation she had told half truths in listing her work experience.

Emerald City HM May 21, 2014 at 6:02 pm

Read the host family information / application.

BropairJJ May 21, 2014 at 6:33 pm

The questions are the hardest part for me, when I had my first “interview” the HPs asked if I had any questions and I just drew a blank. They had just given me so much information about their life and city that I was still trying to digest it all.

Number 8 is difficult too. The way my agency works (CHI) the family gets exclusive rights to my profile for a week, during that time no one else can see my profile. In the end I turned them down as I felt that I wouldn’t have been the best fit for their family. But even though I know it was the right decision I’m still left with doubts as I haven’t heard anything for two weeks now. It makes me think that I should just go for the next family that comes along – a mistake if we aren’t the best match.

TexasHM May 21, 2014 at 6:46 pm

You did the right thing I promise! And on the questions, take a breath, read the profile and write down things that are interesting. It doesn’t have to be a lot of questions, just show that you really are reading the info and taking the process seriously.

MommyMia May 22, 2014 at 10:08 am

And it’s totally OK to say “Wow, you have given me so much information, I need some time to process it. May I email/call you back soon, as I’m sure I’ll have some questions?” We get that it’s difficult to think/speak another language and that you need some time, as we also do, to sift through a mountain of information and decide what’s important.

WarmStateMomma May 22, 2014 at 11:50 am

Have a list of questions ready. Some questions work for all host families and some should show that you read their profile. In the US, we always go into a job interview with prepared questions even though some get answered in the course of the conversation. Having no questions makes it seem like you will take any family and haven’t thought much about your decision to be an AP.

TexasHM May 22, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Great point. I cut a candidate loose yesterday because she had no real questions and I finally had to ask her – do you have any questions about the kids? She quickly sent a list of canned kids questions so I told her that we were skypeing another candidate next week and I didn’t want to hold her profile for that long so I would release her and if she wanted, I could reach back out again next week. I got no response, she was put on view by another family right away and I pinged her to make sure she got my email. Her response – yes, thank you! Clear that she doesn’t really care about the kids or which family, she just wants to get to the US so she’s now off my list. If she really thought we were a great fit I would have expected her to show some disappointment or counter with – I am happy to Skype as well and if you are willing to seriously consider me I am ok with you keeping my profile for the next week as we talk.

German Au-Pair May 22, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Agreed! I had almost zero questions because my HF everything essential. If you want to see what kind of questions someone might ask, hold the information a bit and just add what’s not been asked.
Plus I think it’s normal that one will use the agency’s questions because we are in a situation we know nothing about the suggested questions probably have some valid points that we just don’t want to miss.

BropairJJ May 22, 2014 at 1:03 pm

See, I had a bunch of questions ready but everything had already been covered by the host parents, they had pretty much talked non-stop for about 10 minutes explaining everything that I needed to know. I can’t claim a language barrier as I’m from the UK.
I think the main reason I drew a blank is because I didn’t want to ask unnecessary questions that seemed insincere.

Interestingly this family didn’t have a profile for me to look at, the way CHI operates its system families can choose whether we see a profile or not and they had evidently not ticked that box.

BroAuPair May 21, 2014 at 6:37 pm

I matched with my current Host famiy i about three days, my host mother was fast, but I made sure I was making the right decision, and yes, we are having a great year, and it is ssad to know that I just three months left but I am staying in the US anyway.

exaupair May 22, 2014 at 1:46 pm

3 days?!? consider yourself lucky. IMHO 3 days sound almost impossible to get to know someone enough to decide to move into their home for the entire year.

Apart from plenty of minor questions 3 main things I always asked were:
1. possibility to have a chat with previous APs – very important to know other APs points of view….my first(quite bad) family gave me contact numbers to two APs, none of whom was available nor called me back(I’ve tried to reach them few times over a period of about 2 weeks, while still being in contact with the family). The family seemed what I was looking for, so I’ve decided to go with them without checking their references. BIG MISTAKE.
2. Copy of the contract – I did not go with an agency so it was a safe thing to do, however many contracts looked bizarre to say the least. The bottom line was: If you prefer not to send me a copy before I arrive to review, you’re out. If you do and I’m not exactly satisfied – you’re out, unless you’re up for some negotiation. If you don’t want to sign a contract at all, you’re definitely out.
3. Employee-employer relationship – it didn’t mean I wanted to give everyone the cold shoulder, I’m kind and friendly but I’m rather independent too and I really didn’t want to disappoint someone who would prefer to nurse yet another child.

LondonMum May 22, 2014 at 2:00 pm

I usually know really fast if someone will fit or not, usually after the first couple of emails and definitely after the first Skype. I am on AP#6 now so I am much better at the selection process than when I first started.

To be honest, I know all the advice is to ask lots of questions, and you should, but really … if someone kept on and on contacting me with endless questions I would probably think they were unsure of us, or unable to make a decision, or not sure if they were really ready to commit to a year away from home.

But then, I have always been the type of person that makes their mind up really quickly and tend to go with my gut instinct, it seems to have worked so far! (Apart from one AP who just lied about all her previous experience and skills!). We still put up with her for 10 months – what a year that was!

exaupair May 22, 2014 at 3:43 pm

I followed my gut with my first Family, and I think I’ve made a huge mistake, but then I have also followed my gut with another HF wen I’ve decided to leave the first HF(the bad match) and they were perfect :-)

TexasHM May 22, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Your gut can be overridden by things like stress, desperation, excitement etc so it’s important to “sleep on it” as we would say. Right now there is a candidate that it think could be fantastic but we are taking our time (not skypeing until next week due to busy schedules) and with the right match the conversations get better and better and eventually I have no doubts and can’t imagine them NOT being a part of our family. With the mediocre match it was between her and another candidate and I was torn – I should have listened to my gut there and didn’t because I felt sorry for her (she was about to turn 27 and age out of eligibility).

exaupair May 22, 2014 at 5:56 pm

On paper they were absolutely fine, I didn’t feel rushed to make my decision there and then, especially when I had two more families booked for skype the following day. One of them didn’t feel I was a good match, so eventually I had to choose between two, and picked the one I felt more connected with. But actually living together made all the differences between us so transparent that at the very end I felt exhausted even thinking about spending time with the HPs. The HK was great, but that was the only family member I felt bonded with so leaving them was a no brainer. The whole experience must have been exhausting for the parents as well apparently, because later I found out they stopped hosting APs at all and switched into day care.

BroAuPair May 22, 2014 at 11:05 pm

My process was very quick, the day that I got online this family appeared in my profile, the host mother sent me a message if i could skype her, we skyped at the same day after my work, we talked about 30 minutes, she sent me the family handbook, 20 pages, i read it at the same night, next day I skyped the former au pair, she is frmo the same country and city that I am from haha, small world, the other day I skyped the Host mother plus the kid, just one kid, then she asked for a match, I don`t regret it at all :-)

TexasHM May 22, 2014 at 11:33 pm

We matched with our rockstar AP in 3 days and we made the decision to match with her in 2 days but we wanted to make a sign and ask her in a cute way so that added an extra day. In fairness, in those two days we skyped 4-5 times and sent probably dozens of emails so its not so much about the time as the ground covered. Other AP candidates have taken 1-2 weeks to get through all the steps and material she did in 2 days. If you do your diligence the timeframe doesn’t matter. 2 days or 2 months, whatever it takes to get it right.

exaupair May 23, 2014 at 3:56 am

It depends on how many families you’re skyping with, I assume with some agencies the AP can only contact the one family that is interested at the moment.

BroAuPair May 23, 2014 at 9:15 am

You are right :-), but my family and friends were shocked and a little bit worried of how fast I made my decision, but I told them that I was sure and I was prepared for that and I was extremely sure of my decision.

WarmStateMomma May 23, 2014 at 11:45 am

It sounds like it all worked out well and you’re having a great year with the host family. That’s all that matters, right?

BroAuPair May 23, 2014 at 11:57 am

yep, that`s what matters :-) I am very lucky to have this Host family.

Repeataupair May 21, 2014 at 10:21 pm

To be honnest, I will not send any email to the counselor just because I always consider them to be more on the side of the family and they will be more likely to sell us the family than be honnest and I don’t see any question I would ask her that I could not ask the family herself. When I match though I always sent a quick email to my counselor to shortly introduce myself and ask to be added to the email list so I can get all the newsletters even before I come, it gives me an idea of what the counselor offers to the cluster and that gets me excited for the year to come.
Concerning the video, we cannot all get creative with it, my only recent experience when I was still in France was camp counselor and other jobs for the city. When you work for them where I am, you are not allowed to take any picture or video with personal phone/camera even with parent consent. So the video was basically me talking the whole time, plus my computer is slow enough that putting together a good video is really hard.

The agencies overseas pressure us a lot to match. I was online in February for an August departure and they were threatening me to ask the US agency to shutdown my profile because I was refusing families to easily. (at that point 2 that wanted me to speak french, 1 that wanted me to work 3 days a week but 15 hours a day, when I told it to my agency they said it was fine since it is 45 hours a week…). After that I did accept a skype with a family I was not interested at all in and had them waste time towards me, because of my agency.
I have experience concerning matching, I matched with my third HF this month (repeat au pair going in extension). I have noticed a few things from the HF side:
– You don’t always answers all the questions we send to you
– We would like to know at least after we matched how your house looks like, if we’ll have a phone, etc (thinks that I believe shouldn’t matter in the match but that we want to know and would like to avoid having to ask)
– Your profile is sometimes REALLY empty (I had a host family presentation that had 4 sentences total), we sometimes have to spend hours on ours, please take the time to fill up yours.
– As much as it seems fun to know how many times a year I will go on vacation with you, if you don’t tell me how your kids are, you are not going to be attracting any good au pair this way
– If there is months before the departure date, please don’t rush us into a match, talking for more than 3 days would be great (I know you have not so much time on the agencies websites to see an au pair profile but once you have the au pair email nothing really stops you from talking to him/her)
– Be honnest with your kids personnalities (we know that kids aren’t perfect but saying what is more difficult with one or another is helpful for us into realizing if we are a good fit for you or not)
– Tell us what your kids are looking into an au pair (a fighter, a hugger, a story teller, someone who will do fun craft projects, play chase at the park…). I knew my current HK loved to play lego, the reality is, he loves building sets but then need someone to get him into playing with them, I am not the great fit for that
– If the au pair is going to be sharing the bathroom with anyone, say it. Some of us are not comfortable with it (I know I would be fine sharing with the kids but not with the HP).
– Read our profiles (When I write that I want to learn about the american culture, it makes me smile to have a family with a french dad and an italian mom or a jamaican mom and a vietnamese dad, same when I say I am available in August and I am asked to come in May or that I don’t want to leave on the east coast and that the family lives near NYC)
– If you match with another pair, just don’t stop sending emails, send us a note to tell us.

Julie May 22, 2014 at 10:05 am

What agency was telling you that 15 hours was okay?

Emerald City HM May 22, 2014 at 1:05 pm

I wondered that too. And was it the foreign agency parter or the head agency in the US?

Repeataupair May 23, 2014 at 2:27 pm

AuPairCare France

MommyMia May 22, 2014 at 10:15 am

Yes, sometimes the LCC may not be the best contact for candidates who are new to the process as a first resource. Ours hasn’t updated her “website” in about two years, never posts any useful information (has just a few rudimentary links to social security admin. and state motor vehicle dept. for drivers license info. that is standard for all in our agency. She is helpful only to a certain few in our cluster and leaves the others to fend for themselves or lets the experienced host families do what she should be doing in terms of providing information. Honestly, I think that contacting her would frustrate and turn many applicants away from some great host families!

TexasHM May 22, 2014 at 10:25 am

I think its clear that mileage varies from agency to agency as far as what is required of the LCs and how useful they would be to your process. One of the reasons we changed to Interexchange was because they actually train their LCs – I know, novel concept! – and they are required to plan cluster events for the next 3 months to give everyone plenty of notice, the cluster meetings are mandatory and they cover timely info at each one while doing something fun – aka water/sun safety in the spring, preparing for the holidays emotionally in the late fall, etc. They also check in with the LC, AP and HF to make sure every step is completed like home interview, 2 week check in, documented monthly check ins with AP and HF, quarterly the regional director sends a quick e-survey link with her contact info and asks if we need anything, etc. Night and day from the previous large agency we were with (APIA). So in our case, the LC is a trove of valuable info, knows all her APs and HFs well and would be a valuable interview resource.

NoVA Twin Mom May 22, 2014 at 11:51 am

It also varies within each agency – our LCC is great, but we hear about the LCC in the “next cluster over” (which by us is less than a 30 minute drive away) and it makes me shudder!

WarmStateMomma May 22, 2014 at 11:47 am

The LCC at our first agency was a disaster! We’d only be able to match with the most desperate APs if they’d thought to contact him. Luckily, they hired him only the week before our AP arrived (so someone could do a home interview).

Old China Hand May 23, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Our LCC is horrible. She had the wrong information for how to contact the insurance when our AP got hurt, she has planned only two outings this year (and one was a very last minute notification) and they are always at least an hour from our house and usually on weeknights, and she normally plans things where she doesn’t actually have to hang out with the APs or families when on the outings (or the family day, which is required). If there were another agency with girls from China, I would switch, but I haven’t found such a good selection as the one we’re currently with. There are no other APs in our county and only 3 or 4 in the cluster total. It’s really awful. I’ve complained to the agency about our LCC but they don’t seem willing or able to do anything about it.

WarmStateMomma May 23, 2014 at 2:16 pm

I’m intrigued about the idea of finding the next AP on one of the bigger sites and then having her switch to the agency I want to use. There aren’t a whole lot of APs from China so it would be helpful to cast a wider net. The LCC with our new agency is great, but I’m also paying $1,500 more than the old agency and I’m not sure that’s worth it.

TexasHM May 23, 2014 at 2:45 pm

I know Interexchange has 4 agency partners in China. I have been playing with the websites right now and honestly its been a huge hassle. I get contacted by a million desperate candidates (majority of which do not match our simple criteria let alone wants) and they don’t read our profile and most of them have no idea they have to use an agency to come to the US legally and then you have to tell them which agency to go to (luckily Interexchange sent me a list of all the countries they work with and their partner agencies – again – LOVE their transparency) and I find myself spending more time explaining the US AP program as a whole vs actually interviewing! I am bummed because I too thought I could use it to cast an even bigger net (although honestly the interexchange candidates are great and worlds better than our previous agency so I don’t even think I will look outside the agency again – no need! – plus the matching coordinators are AWESOME so once I tell them what I want I can sit back and she drops the profiles in that match as they come and she notes all my feedback and tweaks as we go along). For those of you that have used the sites – any tips? I have EXPLICITLY stated in our profile on the site that we need 21+, driver, swimmer, Nov arrival that is willing to go through Interexchange and I have yet to be contacted by a single candidate that fits!! But I have gotten at least 60+ that didn’t just in the last few days!

WarmStateMomma May 23, 2014 at 3:05 pm

@TexasHM: I just checked the IE website and there are several APs from China. Most have almost no driving experience (like APC), but one has had a license since 2009!

I can’t believe you had 60 contacts in a few days and none meet clearly-specified requirements. That’s got to be frustrating.

TexasHM May 23, 2014 at 3:14 pm

You have no idea. I wrote the site owner for a refund and they blew me off. They also had a canned response about how you could “hide” your profile from candidates (doesn’t that seem counter-intuitive?!) and that US families get bombarded because thats the #1 country AP candidates want to go and I’m guessing the fact that the vast majority of us interview through agencies means that few US host families use the site so the combo of huge demand and low supply has = huge headache for me the last few days and wasted $$. I was ok with losing the money $50-60 to really check it out and see if it could be a tool for finding awesome APs but if I had known it was going to be this kind of timesuck and hassle I wouldn’t have used it even if it was free! :) Plus I don’t know whats up in Spain right now but I have gotten TONS of heartbreaking desperate pleas from Spanish candidates that will do whatever it takes to get here because the economy is bad there. Sad. I can see how the site might work for other countries (a lot of the girls want shorter terms) that don’t use agencies but unless I am missing something I don’t know why in the world a US family would use this. If I wasn’t getting stellar candidates like we are already through our agency I would change agencies to try to find someone better before I would try to tackle this site again.

WarmStateMomma May 29, 2014 at 1:46 pm

@TexasHM: I searched for APs from China who say they can drive and care for infants. Only 11 profiles; none worth pursuing. One cures infants’ illnesses with rock sugar because medicine is bad for them. One says purity pours out of children’s eyes and makes it pretty clear that cultural/communication issues will arise. The others have entry-level jobs in expensive cities far from their families – whose car are they driving if they don’t own one?

I’ll probably just register with a few agencies next time to cast a wider net.

TexasHM May 29, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Honestly the candidates this round with Interexchange were so good that I ended up recommending several to friends! Never had that happen with previous large agency! Yes, independent website was a total waste of time, will NEVER do that again! I showed some of the profiles this round to friends and they were shocked. Many candidates that had already been APs before (US or otherwise), many were nurses and teachers, most had degrees and real full time job experience – BRAVO Interexchange! Keep doing what you’re doing!

Host Mom in the City May 29, 2014 at 10:29 pm

TexasHM – I know you and I have gone back and forth on this before, since I really have had great experiences with APIA. I’m currently in the matching process and have been looking at Interexchange based on your strong recommendation, but I am simply not seeing any differences in the pool between Interexchange and APIA. They both seem to have mostly young women with occasional babysitting with a sprinkle of highly qualified candidates. Am I missing something?

TexasHM May 29, 2014 at 10:45 pm

Really?!?! When you do the search criteria on the side what are you selecting? You can ping me at and I can give you the criteria I used and the names of at least half a dozen candidates I really liked but we didn’t fit (mostly because I was looking for Nov arrival). Right now I’m agonized because we are about to match with an awesome candidate but there was a fantastic British pediatric nurse I was about halfway through the process with and she’s awesome too but I’m going to have to cut her loose!

Host Mom in the City May 29, 2014 at 10:48 pm

Argh, I am definitely doing something wrong then. There also don’t seem to be that many search criteria – you can’t even search by arrival date. I will look again.

TexasHM May 29, 2014 at 11:01 pm

I wouldn’t stress on the arrival date. When you see the profile cubes it has their start month but I just matched with an “August” for November so unless their arrival window says May-July specifically and you want Nov I wouldn’t worry. The pediatric nurse we are about to release was a July start I think and she just told me she actually thinks end of year would be better so I just ask them plus they see your desired arrival on your profile so if it doesn’t work for them they should tell you. I searched for 21+, exp driver, intermediate or higher swimmer, will care for 3 children. If you want I will give you the name of the awesome nurse and others I was impressed with but not on here – just drop me a line on email. :)

Taking a Computer Lunch May 22, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Repeataupair – I don’t want to list the “perks” – like the designated AP car, the cell phone, the 20-25 hour weeks with six hours off midday, the bedroom with an ensuite bathroom and a private exit outdoors, and the holidays in my application. I don’t mind if candidates ask about them, but I don’t want to match with a candidate who wants to use my house as a launching pad to tour the United States when what I need is someone to change my teenager’s diapers (btdt!). In fact, this year, I took a lot of the perks out of my “dare to match with me” letter on purpose, because I wanted candidate to think about what they were getting themselves into first.

I want candidates to ask me questions, if we reach the second stage – the interview. If I play all my cards and the candidate seems contented by the information provided, then I miss out on opportunity to learn more about them.

Finally, what could be more American than a family with a French dad, an Italian mom, or a Jamaican mom, and a Vietnamese dad? That’s America! (And they may be U.S. citizens – even if they were born in another country. If they were born in the U.S. then they’re automatically American.) You’re always free to say no to any HF, but if you’ve already lived in the U.S., then you’ve come to realize that “American” is flexible and not the Hollywood version of us.

Repeataupair May 23, 2014 at 2:34 pm

To me the perks you are mentionning is something I never ask about before a match since I don’t want it to influence the way I think of a family, I am not sure I was explaining myself clearly on that, I was just saying that some families put the perks upfront to get au pairs to want them.

For the questions, you would have been happy to interview me :-) I send about a dozen questions in each email before the first skype. From technical questions, to questions to know the personality of the kids but also questions to learn about the parents, the area, etc.

As I understand America is a multicultural country, to me when none of the parents were born in the country it is hard to get the traditions I am looking for. If I wanted to know how italians celebrate christmas I would have asked to be au pair in Italy. I know some au pairs don’t mind, there all type of au pair profiles just as there are all type of family profiles.

WarmStateMomma May 23, 2014 at 2:53 pm

The US has been about 10% immigrant for the last 100 years or so, with even more people born outside the US before then. So loads of American families have a parent born outside the US. I’ve also heard of APs turning down a family without even asking if the parents are from the US because the AP doesn’t consider a non-white family to be “American” enough. Some exchange students and APs aren’t looking to join a regular American family, but an Abercrombie and Fitch ad. That’s just not what the US is really like in most places – definitely not in the cities the APs favor most.

One of the best things about the US is that anyone can “become” an American. I can’t move to China and “become” Chinese. Ditto for most other countries.

HRHM May 23, 2014 at 4:23 pm

LOL Abercrombie & Fitch ad! Love that, so totally true. The vast majority of American families look nothing like what is on TV…

Repeataupair May 23, 2014 at 4:53 pm

This is different when one of the parents is american, I came here to celebrate Thanksgiving, hear about their family traditions, etc. When you get several families with good profiles, we need a way to go through them and that is mine. This is probably trues for families as well, you have a ton of au pairs looking for families, you need your criterias to go through the number.

Concerning the places where most of APs are placed that’s another question, I never got families from areas I really wanted (Colorado, Arizona, North Carolina, Texas…), we all have our list of things we’d like, some I am willing to accept to “give up”, some I am not. I always gave up the location kinda, first time Michigan, I did not care where I was going, second time DC I just did not want NY/NJ area. The bigger the cities, the more immigrants there are, I see it, and as au pairs we are part of it for a year or two.

TexasHM May 23, 2014 at 4:59 pm

An AP whose geo first choice is Texas!!! So you’re telling me there’s a chance…. ;)

WarmStateMomma May 23, 2014 at 5:04 pm

I had no idea that any APs wanted to go anywhere but the cold cities or California!

Taking a Computer Lunch May 21, 2014 at 10:24 pm

AP candidates – it’s okay to push back – by that I mean – don’t match without talking to previous APs (if there are any), the LCC, or anyone else who can give insight into the family. While the conditions may seem less than ideal (changing a teenager’s diapers, caring for three children under 5, caring for more then 3 children, etc.), previous APs can tell you about what their work day was really like. I personally refuse to show candidates my current AP’s bedroom via Skype 1) to show candidates that I take privacy seriously and 2) to give my current AP the opportunity to put her best foot forward and tidy up her room.

I tell candidates before I interview them that I want them to be honest about themselves. One candidate’s mother gasped because she told me that she was a slob (she wasn’t horrible, but just like me, housecleaning was not her priority in life). I’d rather have some honesty up front then be surprised by a candidate who has never done any cleaning herself!

exaupair May 22, 2014 at 5:46 pm

Based on my own experience I would say asking about the AP bedroom is actually important, although the question should be asked in a very delicate manner not to sound materialistic or concentrated more about the housing conditions that the HF itself.

One of the HMs during skype interview, instead of actually focusing on the conversation started running around the whole house with her laptop, which I found pretty awkward. It made the “conversation” last for ages and brought no info at all.
That said I have tried to ask basic (and maybe awkward) questions about the AP room only because with no agency involved no one checks if the families are actually able to host anyone. Therefor I usually started with the presence of a window and door, and whether the room is an independent unit to avoid having to sleep in a place everyone can pass through. Never crossed my mind to ask about the size of the bedroom….and I ended up in a tiny single which was about the size of the wardrobe I had in my parents home.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 23, 2014 at 11:47 am

exaupair – that is important in Europe. In the United States, the LCC is supposed to see that the AP has a private room with a door that can lock before the HF is able to submit their application. Within the first two weeks of the au pair’s arrival, the LCC is supposed to meet with the AP in her room, which is a second check. While I’m sure some families abuse the rules, my guess is that most don’t.

Whether it meets local code requirements is another issue. Our first AP bedroom was upstairs with the family, so it did. Our second AP bedroom had a lockable door, but with an old-fashioned key, and two windows, only one of which could open – and neither could be used to escape – although there was an outside exit in the basement down a short hall. Our third au pair bedroom passed inspection as a basement bedroom, which means it has its own exterior exit, windows, and doors that can lock. It also happens to have a full ensuite bathroom. The candidate is always free to ask us questions about it, but I tell them that if they want to see it, then they must Skype with the current au pair. (I do try to remember to photograph the room before the arrival of each incoming au pair, so I do have a record.)

Caring HP May 21, 2014 at 11:01 pm

APs please, please, politely and clearly ask your HFs a LOT of questions. You will be doing the HF and yourself a favor in the long run because each of you can screen one another and help avoid rematch risk later. One persons dream match is perhaps another persons nightmare match. Keep an open mind but do prepare yourself.

For example:
Ask whether they see you as a big sister/daughter of the HF, or see you as a 3rd Adult like an older cousin, Aunt or relative and see if that is the relationship you want.
We see ours as another ADULT and automatically dismiss EVERY AP who says she wants to be a BIG SISTER. We are not capable of being full time moms and dads to needy very immature APs (we did in the past and it exhausted us and caused us to neglect our own kids so now we look for independent Aps) but some HFs might want a new ‘child’/an AP who wants a Mom and Dad and wants to be a sister to the kids not an aunt. So there’s a fit for everybody.

Other topics APs should ask:
“Please break down my schedule and show me approximately how many hours is driving, doing kid chores without the kids in the house, helping with homework, making kid meals/lunchboxes, waiting on the kids in carpool lines or at the waiting room of the ballet class, versus active hands on babysitting where the kids are in the house with me and I am responsible for them as the only adult versus time where I will be assisting the HP with the kids where I am not the only adult in charge”. Let’s face it, some APs love being with kids 45 hrs a week and may be best matched to a home with homeschooled or pre-school kids, some APs like running errands and cooking and organizing Kids stuff and doing a few hours of homework and like driving around the community meeting people. Those Aps will be better off matching with busy School Age kids who need to be driven to Soccer, Music, Karate etc where the AP has a chance to meet other families, kids, APs, sitters, and members of the community. Ask questions to find out how your 45 hrs would be distributed.

“please give me examples of how many nights a week the family will sit together for dinner [many APs are disappointed to learn many HFs have so many soccer, sport, school, tutoring and other events they don’t all eat together often]”
“is AP required to eat with family? did your past APs eat with you? Were you upset when they selected to go out with friends on evenings/wends instead of hanging with you and the kids?
“what did HP eat for dinner last few nights/what did HK eat/what did AP eat” [some HF will be insulted if you ask this, I would love APs to ask this so we can illustrate our lifestyle:)]
“did your past APs attend kids school concerts or events – were they invited by you? were you upset when they declined ?”
“please give me examples of what your last APs did during the day while Kids are out at School”

“Will I have personal use of Car while kids in School/on weekend”. Please summarize your car rules.

“Do you need me to get an American License because of your Car Insurance or Local Law rules? Do you pay for the fees the License office charges?”

“Can I drive the Car out of the local area/take it for weekends [most families have local area rules and car curfews so be sure you understand that upfront so you are not upset upon arrival”

“How many APs live within 1) 1 mile of your house; 2) 5 miles of your house; 3) 10 miles of your house and what agencies are they from [if there are lots of local APs you will have lots of people to carpool with, rent cars and share hotel rooms with fro trips etc and lots of social opportunities as APs from various Agencies meet up locally typically”

“How many miles from your house is Starbucks, Bookstore, Big Shopping Mall, Bowling, Movie Theater, Gyms, or whatever interests you” [This will give you a sense of the local area – suburbia/rural/city etc. Also google earth the address so you are not surprised later]

“What are the local bus companies the APs use for weekend trips [so you can check out their websites for prices, options etc]

“What local places did your past APs take the kids to [for example maybe they go to story time at the Library, or Dance Classes, or Kids Jazz – these answers give you a sense of the HF and HKs interests as well as the flexibility the prior AP had]

“did your prior AP usually eat with you? If not, do you know why?” [maybe the prior AP was always out when off work, or maybe the prior AP was on special diets or had her own kitchenette where she preferred to cook, or maybe this is a busy HF where the kids are older and out at soccer training and everybody grabs a sandwich on way home or something – either way it give you an idea]

“are you in contact with your prior APs a lot”

“which AP was your Kids favorite and why”

“can I bring international and other overnight guests to stay at your house”

“what food is typically in your fridge that is available for the AP to eat”

“what is the public transport like in your area? please send me the name/website for the service/tell me how much a ticket costs” [even if you have personal car use you may want public transport if you are going beyond the area the HF permits you to use it, or you may need to make your way to the airport or Amtrak or Long DIstance Bus station on weekends for trips and there may be nobody to give you a ride so it is good to explore options so you are not stranded. We know APs who had never any car access (never) and there were no public buses within 2 miles walk and for them, it was key to have other APs in the area who could drive them around so explore backup transport options]

“do your APs work Christmas Day”

“How many weekends per month did your last AP work/What part of the weekend did she work”

“Do you give me a schedule showing my hours or do we play it day by day? [I suggest only pick families who hang up a schedule that more or less approximates your hours so you have a good idea of your work hours about a week in advance, not day by day. YOu may think it is OK to wing it but it will leave you frustrated and unable to plan outings with your AP friends and it is VERY important to get out of the house and meet other people. It gives you and the HF a valuable break. It is good for homesickness too]

“What countries were your past APs from? Why did you select those APs? What were your favorite and least favorite things about them as an AP and member of your household? Give me an example of a conflict with 1 of them and how/if you resolved it. Which kid liked which AP the most and why? What problems did past APs say they had with the kids and how did HF help them with that?”

“What times of day/year/week are available for me to take classes for my 6 Credits?” [APs most families with School Kids will need you to take your classes during the school year when their kids are in school; most families with pre-school kids and working parents will probably want you to take evening or weekend classes so sort that out in advance so you are not upset when they refuse to let you do a class that will cause them to miss work]

“What are the schools that are near your home that will be OK for me to attend” [APs American traffic can be bad so it will not be practical to go too far from home to take a course. Ascertain which schools are near the Kids School or HF House that are feasible for you to attend. Also check what types of courses there are – ask the LCC of your Agency. There’s no point setting your heart on Course X only to realize it is at a time of day or location the HF could not accommodate, screen in advance of matching]

“At what times of day can you hear noise in my room carrying from other parts of house” [Example if the playroom is next to your bedroom and you sleep lightly and the kids get up at 5 on Sunday mornings to play War or something… maybe you want to understand that in advance:)]


NNTexasHM May 22, 2014 at 8:02 am

You have just shown there is no way an Au Pair can have “no questions” of a host family.

I love this list. We just had an Au Pair (to be fair she was an Au Pair for 2 years, returned to her home country and was reapplying so she knows more than the average prospect) ask a ton of great questions. Some were covered (private bedroom, bathroom, car use) but I would add:
1. I need x number of days to sit for exams would you be able to accommodate – GREAT to get that clarification up front.
2. How have you handled conflicts with other Au Pairs (this is our 4th time) – that allowed me the opportunity to express what has not worked in the past with some Au Pairs and bring out the fact that we had a rematch and why it happened.
3. How many weekends would I be expected to work – although it clearly stated it in my schedule it gave me the chance to explain “We have relatively light hours so without 2 babysitting nights (Thursday and Sat) it simply doesn’t make sense to have an Au Pair. Our agency heavily promotes that benefit and for us it is the main reason to had an Au Pair vs. a Nanny”
4. Where is your LCC? GREAT question – I took it to be trying to figure out how closely aligned with the agency am I and / or how close is her nearest support contact. Important!
5. How many APs do you know in your agency? I thought that was interesting – she might have been asking me how well I personally know APs / am I aware or interested in the AP community? I thought it was a good question, regardless.

I’ll ask our current Au Pair if she has any suggestions. She is always advocating for Au Pair not to rush to find a family as well!

Caring HP May 22, 2014 at 11:47 am

BTW some HFs have a FAQs booklet they sent to really interested/ing candidates after initial interview and they include the topics above and elsewhere in this post and other questions other APs asked them in the past. I think i will start doing this because some agencies and LCCs and APs get scared of a million page handbook but if it is phrased as FAQs “here’s stuff other APs asked us and we would like to share with you for your information” then it still gets the purpose accomplished and seems nicer .

I would be worried if a HF does not want to share info and if an AP does not bother or have the nerve to ask. If she is afraid to ask questions she might be afraid to speak up if she sees an issue in your house (for example if she suspects a cousin/peer is bullying your child during the year); or if she has no interest in the answers she may or may not be making the right decision in selecting your HF.


CA Host Mom May 22, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Good point – our Handbook is quite long b/c I include things like:
– pictures/graphics (to make it easier/more fun to read),
– a table that lists all of the typical traffic fines for violations in our state (you’d be amazed at how many APs are shocked at the fine associated for rolling a stop sign)
– a lot of step-by-step ‘how to’ instructions for the appliances that they might not use all of the time

But in looking at our handbook as a whole, it seems really huge, and I don’t send them the whole thing because I am certain that it would overwhelm them. Sending information in an FAQ format to the AP is a great suggestion!

TexasHM May 22, 2014 at 12:23 pm

This is such a GREAT idea. Although I am a little conflicted because I have kind of been using it as a screening tool. My awesome APs loved the detail in the handbook and read it multiple times and asked questions. The APs that go oh man – big handbook no thanks are not ones that would be a good fit for us anyway because the handbook has info and explanations for whatever policies we have, its not just a list of rules but has advice and examples from previous APs as well on handling things like vacation, car usage, etc.

WarmStateMomma May 22, 2014 at 3:18 pm

My handbook has sections on caring for my child, using household appliances, etc. I would send the section on caring for my child to a prospective AP so they can see what I expect and think about whether that’s a good match. Ditto for household policies (car has a curfew; AP does not). But I’d probably hold back the appliances section – it’s useful at the right stage but probably not important to someone who is not definitely coming here.

Emerald City HM May 22, 2014 at 1:10 pm

I kind of like the idea of sending out a FAQ to kind of get the general feel of the family and rules. While the answers to most of those are found in our handbook, I’ve realized some of the answers have to be derived from the handbook or could easily be missed.

Should be working May 22, 2014 at 1:12 pm

I like the idea of an FAQ format too. But that means a big re-write or re-do/summary of our 28-page handbook. I suppose I could isolate the important stuff and copy it over into an FAQ sheet. Or I could have my personal assistant do that—-HAHAHAHAHAH!! (crazy-delusional cackle)

Should be working May 22, 2014 at 1:16 pm

OMG It just occurs to me….can I ask my AP (who usually works 35-hour weeks) to do the FAQ thing and update our manual?? I mean, why not? Whoa, I like this idea.

TexasHM May 22, 2014 at 1:17 pm

SBW I just laughed so hard, your first comment here was almost verbatim what I was typing – delusional cackle joke and all! Lol.

Emerald City HM May 22, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Now I wish we didn’t have the need to have our au pair work the full 45 hours…

CA Host Mom May 22, 2014 at 11:49 am

Great list! Thanks for sharing all of this!

caring hp May 22, 2014 at 10:38 pm

Sure u can have your AP do a drafr. Many outgoing APs enjoy leaving tips and papers for the incoming AP.
APs often have time while sitting at kids ballet lessons, carpool, or while kids are asleep to work on things like this. 1 of our prior APs made a phone directory and local tips booklet for new AP on her personal non-scheduled time. Another cleaned the car from top to bottom like a detailing service while waiting on the kids to finish a sports class and also another day reorganized the car GPS to make it easier for new ap. So even if they are already scheduled 45 they may do it during these scheduled down times. Their feedback might be a helpful perspective.

TexasHM May 21, 2014 at 11:08 pm

We have 90% of that in our family handbook which we send as a part of the matching process – awesome APs love it, partiers and flakes hate it we have found so its partly a screening tool. :) But – some of these are GREAT points that I hadn’t considered – handbook rewrite #281…and I was trying to keep it under 20 pages! :)

Mimi May 22, 2014 at 5:30 pm

Same here. I send the full handbook to our best candidates before we finalize any match with but use an abbreviated version of expectations before we have our first Skype interview. We cover all of the usual questions and most of the unusual. There is still lots of room for us to expand when having an interview/conversation and our final Skypes usually include a house tour.

aussiemum May 22, 2014 at 12:15 am

I did not choose one french lady as our aupair, as she had someone off camera “coaching” her answers in French during my Skype interview,. This was somewhat unsettling – so my tip is if Mum is sitting in on your interview, introduce her, let her say hi, but then conduct the interview yourself. And do not have conversations with anyone in a language the HF wont understand, as then the HF is unsure then who is actually answering questions and will distrust the process.

And of course be honest, and ask lots of follow up questions by email. I don’t like to skype over and over, as to Europe from Australia the times of day possible are my busy times after work. It puts a strain on my schedule trying to fit several sessions in before matching. Its probably easier to America as you are in the same hemisphere at least! But if your HF doesn’t want to skype lots, they might just be busy not hiding anything.

I always try and pick girls (sorry bropairs, I have daughters only) with relaxed attitudes who have done volunteering, so absolutley include those experiences in your cv,and use photos of you doing things with kids not the glamour shots at your graduation. I find it easier to pick personality from natural photos, not posed ones with a lot of make up. Being able to see your eyes helps that too, side on shots I don’t find as useful.

Think about what you like to do with children, what you get out of children. Communicate that in your cv and the interview. Parents don’t want their children looked after by someone who just wants a visa and accommodation. Personally, after having an aupair I suspected was not particularly into kids, the ability to play is important. From your point of view, if you don’t like to play with kids, you are going to have a long boring year just supervising them, and rethink whether you should pick any family with kids under 10, teenagers will probably suit you more.

Remember you have to live and work with the HP for a long time, misrepresenting yourself is going to create stress in your life at a later date, when your HF realises you were not 100% honest, or puts pressure on you to deliver on what you “promised”.

When you get to your Host Family, remember they have hired you to make their lives easier – I find girls who have been mothered a lot exhausting as they are more dependent on me, need a lot of instructions, and I feel like I have another child instead of an adult support person. Of course we are there for you when you really need it, but try to step up and be a grown up in your every day life and how you conduct yourself in your job. Your HF will be grateful when you do things to try and make their lives easier without having to be reminded – read that manual, things will go more smoothly with your HF then. They wrote if for a reason, so follow it!

Always Hopeful HM May 22, 2014 at 12:33 am

I’m in the process now of matching for fall. These are fantastic! I would add: be clear, specific, and descriptive in your answers. Think about the question behind the question, and try to cover that, too. For example, in response to the question “what types of chores are required of you at home, a typical (not good) answer would be “I help the family with all of the household chores.” A better response would be “everyone in our home is responsible for contributing to the household duties. So, for example, I am responsible for keeping my bedroom tidy, removing the household trash and watering the plants. My brother typically tidies the kitche and bathrooms, alto ugh I have also done those on occasion. Our goal is always to maintain a reasonable level of cleanliness in our home. We don’t like for it to be dirty, but our family reserves time to get out and enjoy life as well, so it is not a problem for us if the house is not absolutely spotless. My brother and I also cook the evening meal for the family one night each per week. My night is generally Thursday.”

The other thing I would recommend is to re-read your own profile, and to affirmatively point out to the potential families spots that are embellished or incorrect, particularly if you were

Always Hopeful HM May 22, 2014 at 8:02 am

Oops! Should say: especially if you were “advised” to fudge. HFs are more likely to understand and be sympathetic if you clear these things up now.

MKEmom May 22, 2014 at 8:51 am

We are in the process of rematchung. Our current AU just told us she need to leave early because this whole time she has been interviewing back home for internships. Well those start at the beginning of the school year. Her contract was supposed to go through Oct. I wish we would have known that upfront. Clear communication is key. This is our 4th year being a HF and it’s been such a rollercoaster.

oranje_mama May 22, 2014 at 4:25 pm

I’ve had pretty good experiences with matching so far (2 successful matches, and hoping the 3rd will turn out successful too).

The one I really learned my lesson on: I had one AP who wanted to go back and forth on email extensively. She had a huge – and I mean HUGE – list of questions. Everything from the availability of bike/run paths nearby, to location of swimming facilities, religious practices, location of churches, feelings about discipline, on and on and on.

I liked this candidate and invested literally HOURS in responding in writing to these questions. Send off my last response and then . . . radio silence. About a week later she turned to “unavailable” online. I eventually got a one line: “matched with someone else.”

Of course, it was her prerogative to match with someone else, but that was an incredible disregard for MY time spent in answering her questions. I learned my lesson – I do not spend too much time on any one application. My first email is a quickie (along the lines of: we are a family of four, kids ages, location. please read our family letter and let me know if you are interested in an interview). (The family letter has a lot of information). If I don’t get an answer within a set amount of time (eg, 2-3 days), I reject the candidate and move along. If the candidate comes back with interest – I will ask a few very basic questions in writing (special diet- which is a dealbreaker for me – and date available) and I’m willing to answer a few (2-4 questions from the AP in writing). After that, it’s interview time. If we continue to be interested on both sides, then I’ll invest in more written Q&A. But never again will I write a whole BOOK answering questions for someone who was clearly in the final stages with another family!

SingleHM May 23, 2014 at 5:19 pm

I found that many AP candidates ask the same questions.

I saved my answers after answering several times and now I cut and paste …with a little ‘personalization’ if the question is slightly different. It saves me TONS of time!!

Multitasking Host Mom May 22, 2014 at 5:04 pm

#8 Wait for the one.
I thought a lot about this point. And I do agree with it to a certain extent. I want to match with someone who knows what they are looking for in a host family and truly thinks we are the right family for her/him. I always ask towards the end of the Skype interview (if I think the AP would be a good match with us) if they have had a chance to talk to other families, or if they want the chance to talk to more before making a decision. But this go around with matching, I got a little burned by this though. I asked two different au pairs if they wanted to match with us, both asked if they could have a week to decide, and then exactly 7 days later told me they matched with another family instead. So after several more interviews of APs, when I found someone else to match with, I told them I needed an answer within 48 hours. After 4 weeks of looking for a new AP, time was now getting short!! Luckily, she told me the next day that we were the family for her, and frankly looking back she is probably a better fit for us than the others APs we asked to match with anyway. It always seems to workout. I do still agree that APs should talk to more than one family, but the “not nice” part of me wants to say wait for the one…as long as it is me! :)

Always Hopeful HM May 22, 2014 at 7:50 pm

Another– in responding to questions, don’t just recite what’s in your profile. The HF has already read that and now wants to learn MORE about you. Repeating what’s already been said will make you seem scripted and insincere and will prevent the HF from being able to get a real sense of your personality and English skills. Folks who repeat what I’ve already read (often word for word) move pretty quickly off my list.

Always Hopeful HM May 23, 2014 at 3:44 pm

I love it when an AP candidate prepares a video that is straightforward, easy to hear, a provides a glimpse of his or her personality. The ones that show a little creativity without being over the top really catch my interest. I often look at the video and pictures first, before deciding whether to review an au pair’s profile. I get really frustrated with the ones that have loud music or wind sounds (filmed outside) drowning out what the AP is saying. Same for the super-creative AP “ads” or or two words followed by a bunch of photos. While the videos may be clever, I’m interested in whether the au pair has the English skills, personality and characteristics that will fit with our family, not in the au pairs video editing skills. Have fun with it, but remember the purpose!

JenNC May 25, 2014 at 10:05 am

For host moms looking right now are any of you using aupaircare? There is a candidate there that was my second choice and I can’t believe she hasn’t been scooped up, she interacted well with my other aupair via Skype, my aupair really liked her, she has a child psychology degree, lots of experience and has been working real job with long hours. I really liked her a lot but compare and contrast ended up choosing my first choice. Anyway just thought I’d throw it out there. Jen

Always Hopeful HM May 25, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Hi JenNC, I am looking now with APC. What was great about the candidate?

Always Hopeful HM May 25, 2014 at 1:10 pm

Oops– I should be more clear. Her credentials sound great, but was there something in particular that made her stand out?

JenNC May 25, 2014 at 2:18 pm

She was very outgoing, very personable, was eager, she showed maturity in that she had a job in which she had to sign a contract and she let me know that she was waiting to resign it based on my decision , but that if she signed the job contract she would be obligated to fulfill it. This I thought was admirable and showed an attitude of completing jobs or tasks and holding herself responsible to others. I interviewed a lot of women, and literally it came down between her and my choice, she was easy to talk, interacted well with myself as well as my aupair via Skype, she asked important questions, she had good English, I knew if she came she would make friends easily and be social. I can share her name privately if you like, or I can tell you specifics to help you find her, she is from Colombia, she is 24, she has a psychology degree of sorts, her first initials are Jo and last A. She is pretty pleasant has a lot of child care hours, and if you choose spanish speaking probably easy to find. Her job contract must be coming up again in August cause that is her availability. Jen

JenNC May 25, 2014 at 2:50 pm

Always hopeful HM I prefer candidates who are a little older, 23 and up, with educations, and those who have been working real time jobs. They need significant amount of child care hours over 2000, several years of driving, as well as driving on a weekly basis. Now I have determined I prefer aupairs who are the elder sibling, not the baby, and ones who don’t have 9-5 jobs, because my house isn’t 9-5 mon-Friday. They have to swim and be able to communicate to me how well they swim because we have a pool. I have found their are some real gems from Colombia , you just have to find a girl right for your family! Jen

Always Hopeful HM May 25, 2014 at 4:11 pm

Thanks! I’ll check her out. She sounds very similar to a candidate I considered (she matched with another family). Her last initial was G, though. One addition was that she seemed very sporty/ athletic/ willing to get dirty, which is essential with my sporty/ athletic/ loves to get dirty 7 year old son!

Summer B May 28, 2014 at 1:05 am

Awesome post! So helpful for Au Pairs and Host Families!

The only thing I would add would be to #6 -“Give Feedback to the Host Parents” Make sure to always send a ‘Thank You’ email to the Host Family for their time and for the interview!

FormerAuPairToBe June 3, 2014 at 3:31 pm

I am decided to go back to the U.S for another try on the Au Pair program. And all the comments are going to be really helpful!
On my first year I was matched with a family in a week, we talked a lot but a lot of thigs were unclear to me. I’ve never even seen my bedroom before hand, I only asked about the car policy after I was already placed with them, which was a big problem when I got there. I lived in a California suburb, on the top of a hill, where no public transportation could reach (I ended up walking 1 hour to the bus stop, or paying US$20 for a cab to get me to the Bart Station), I imagine I spend a lot of money just by doing that. I regret not showing my concerns before, and also not speaking up (I was 18 y.o, just graduated HS and was afraid of going into a rematch). I did have some angels there, that could drive me some places (not all the time, they have their lives too) but when I matched I was so desperate to find a family that I picked the first one that came up and seemed good enough (don’t get me wrong, they were amazing people, and I never told them exactly how upset I was being trapped at home and I love them until now, the kids are my sweethearts and I miss them like crazy) but I should have talked to them before, come to terms, and things like this.
So I just wanted to come here to thank all the HMs and Au Pairs that are commenting on this, because I’m taking note of it all for my next try!!!

anna former au pair June 16, 2014 at 5:40 am

What a great subject, I’m currently preparing my application to go as an au pair to NZ and realize matchning has changed a lot since my last go around (9 years ago). I’m 30 now so the US is not an option, and I decided I wanted some more recent live-in childcare experiance since I have decided to pursue a career as a live-in nanny after studying to become a teacher and working a few years.

I would be interested in learning what you tthink are important questions to adress when having another adult live in your home- I am going to be much more the same age as my host parents this time. Do you think the host parents will feel awkward about this? Naturally I am looking for more of an exploderar or order relative role rather than a big sister role. ..

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