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.
Just 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: