The process for interviewing, selecting, and matching with an au pair candidate differs for each agency. Some send you one candidate at a time, some select a handful of candidates for you to consider simultaneously, and others let you have pretty much free run of their data base. But, if you had a choice, would strategy would you prefer?
Our agency limits the number of applications a family can view at a time . The agency we’ve used gives host families a few candidates’ profiles (selected through basic preference criteria), and each time you reject a candidate they add another one to your portfolio. This keeps your number of candidates to 4 or 5 tops.
This process has worked well for us, since we very quickly reject anyone who doesn’t fit our finer-grained criteria (e.g., hates dogs, likes to party, has been treated by a mental health care professional, etc.). Thus, we get our portfolio refilled pretty quickly. And, if it isn’t filling quickly enough, I call up the agency and pester them.
We interview more than one candidate at a time. It can sometimes be hard to get a candidate on the phone, or get her to return phone calls and emails (for lots of reasons, many reasons having nothing to do with her qualifications as a potential au pair). And, even after an interview or two that have been going well, you or the candidate can conclude it isn’t going to work, and then there’s not only all that work gone to ‘waste’ or you start running low on time.
We like to have more than one "in the hopper" since the dropout/rejection rate is so high for us (we get pretty picky). If we did one at a time, it could take us months to find a candidate that we think is a good match!
I think, on average, we’ve looked at about 20-30 candidates’ applications, and emailed/conversed with probably 4 – 5 candidates, before finding a match.
One downside to our process is that it can get tiring to look at so many applications. They all start to look alike, and DH and I have a hard time talking about the various candidates because it is hard to remember which name goes with which application! And, it wastes a lot of paper to print out applications to read off-line (which I do for my DH to make it easier on him). Also, after interviewing 4 girls, it can get tempting to just take then next one if she seems okay, because we just get worn out.
Don’t settle, and don’t give up!
It is important, no matter what your process or how many applications you look at, that you keep your full criteria in mind. Don’t "settle" for someone because you’re getting tired of the process!
Take heart, and know that somewhere, among all those files, photos, and essays, is a candidate who will fit well with for your family.