Interviewing Au Pair Candidates: One at a time, or a few at once?

by cv harquail on July 20, 2009

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?200907200924.jpg

Which process do you prefer for reviewing candidates?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

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.


NJM July 20, 2009 at 11:02 am

This entry couldn’t come at a better time–we’re deep into sifting through our latest round of applications right now. I can’t wait to read others’ responses!

We just switched agencies, going from the “help yourself to the entire database” (which I suspect doesn’t actually show *all* the apps at any given moment) to one that provides access to a few at a time, at least until you start interviewing. I think I actually prefer the first agency’s approach, but we had such negative experiences with that agency and with our LCC that it was time for a change.

I think the biggest change is that now that we’re interviewing for our third au pair–1st a disaster who lasted four months, though we should have asked for a rematch by the fourth day (now we’re hopefully a little wiser, especially thanks to the advice on this site), the 2nd a rematch who’s been much better but not a superstar–is that we’re much more aware of red flags than we were just a year ago.

Best advice I can offer, besides repeating CVH’s very wise words: Facebook and Google are your new best friends. I can’t tell you how many “maybes” went immediately into the virtual trash bin once we took a look at what else these au pairs have put up online. Even when a candidate’s Facebook complete profile is closed to non-friends, I think you can get a pretty good sense of who a potential AP is just by looking at her and her friends’ profile pictures.

Hula Gal July 20, 2009 at 1:20 pm

We prefer the system we have now which is to look at the entire database and select for ourselves. I don’t like the idea of someone else being our gatekeeper to applicants. Only we can truly know what we are looking for and we can screen the wrong ones out pretty quick. I might always be wondering if there was the perfect au pair out there but the contact at the agency just didn’t give her to us to consider for whatever reason, you know?

Talliecat July 20, 2009 at 1:24 pm

Our agency is one of the “help yourself” kind which works well for us. We had worked with the ‘one at a time’ and it was kind of frustrating but they did pay for the phone calls. By the way, make sure that you check what kind of international phone service you have before interviewing. I was shocked to have a 600 dollar phone bill after interviewing 4 au pairs for about a 1/2 an hour each~! I do like the idea of facebook and I tell the au pairs I am interviewing to add me as a friend and that way they can look at photos of the kids etc. If you don’t want them on there any more you can delete them. I think it is best to go with your gut instinct. My husband was the one who chose our first au pair candidate after I told him that she was ‘too shy’. He felt she would be moldeable ( sp?) Well she had some serious emotional problems that began to surface and essentially had a nervous breakdown because her anxiety was so bad. Lesson learned :)

Anonymous July 20, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Question for those that have agencies that refer multiple candidates or allow you to surf their database: have you ever felt competition from the other interviewing host parents? Did you ever lose a candidate because they picked some other family over yours? Just curious as this is what I’ve heard, but not sure if the risk is real. I really don’t like our “one at a time” system.

Anonymous July 20, 2009 at 4:08 pm

What my girlfriend suggested works very well. I make a list of people I like and send them my updated standard letter about who we are and what we are like with photos. I invite those who are interested to contact me by phone and/or email.
This way, I know that everyone who writes back to me is already interested for some reason ( even if it is just location ). We go from there.
I like the total data base access because you never know who else might be out there that some agency rep might have missed.
The downside is that not everyone has convenient access to email.
However, I am mainly interested in Germany and France where many people do have email access. This system has worked really well and I have had great good luck. Yes, other people are competing for the same aupair but I must say I write a nice letter and all of the aupairs who read it will have it in mind when other people talk to them. One candidate told me that she told two other people that she wanted to think about their offers because she was in touch with me.
One time, a candidate told me she was interested and then, I found out that she had placed with a family in Southern California. I was annoyed but just as happy to have that happen so early in the game.
I also ask my LCC to read all of the profiles I am interested in and she is very happy to do that. A couple of times , she pointed out things I would not have noticed as a problem ( a boyfriend in Florida , for instance or a desire to live and work in the US for the rest of her life ).
Like I said , this has worked like a charm for us.

NJ3mom July 20, 2009 at 4:13 pm

We used an agency that had the “one at a time for only 3 days” approach, but this didn’t work for us (I wanted HF to conference call and his schedule didn’t always allow it, plus, we thought it easier to compare one-on-one) . We asked the agency to release 3 candidates at a time for a day or two, and then called all 3 applicants. From just the paperwork, we eliminated some immediately from each “batch” (we repeated this process three times). It worked much better for us. I agree that facebook was a useful tool also.
Regarding competition: I was initially worried about this, but I looked at it from the point of view that if the AP chose another family over ours then the match would certainly not have been a good one anyway. Our agency told us that one of our AP candidates had been “pulled” from another applicant family’s file, but I didn’t know whether this was true or not.

Anonymous July 20, 2009 at 4:40 pm

I have a question – how do the agencies you work with know who makes a good match for you ? Do they do this primarily on the basis of which nationalities you prefer ? Or do they have some other criteria ? I am a little leery of the promise that they looked through all of their candidates ? I find that a little hard to believe, especially in the summer months when the pressure is on.

MominPA July 20, 2009 at 7:25 pm

We did the “they look for us” because they knew what we wanted and then we did the data base approach. For us, the database worked so much better. I had so much frustration after I was told during a rematch period (rematched because the aupair had left our youngest home alone and asleep to go to Starbucks with a buddy) that there simply was no one available in country our out who would work with four childen. I would simply have to wait. The wait turned into 3 months and I had to locate the girl myself through GreatAupair.

After that experience, I went to the database approach and literally looked at every application that met my minimum criteria. I read and read. I left nothing to chance because this was about my children and what possibly could be more important!

There were a few that were pretty scary – the one that was a shoplifter with a couple of car accidents and a gluten allergy that was hoping this would not impact her chances – Or the party girl that worked in a bar and was covered in tatoos and asked me if we had local bars she could moonlight in at night – The one who loved dancing so much that she was an Exotic Dancer!, but also apparently loved children… – The one who was just going out to a party with girlfriends and could I please call back another time because this was an important party? she also had a great facebook page –

The important thing is that at the end of the day , I was the one who did the choosing and learned the ins and outs of what was done on these applications and I got to know these potential aupairs on my terms. I found two great ones and have been very glad I put in the time and energy!!!

The stories have also been fun to tell…

NjMom July 20, 2009 at 8:09 pm

I have been using the “one at a time” agency for two matching rounds now but I’m thinking about changing. It worked well enough at times when I was super busy at work as well as pressed for time in matching because both girls had told me they would extend and then changed their mind at the 9 or 10 month mark. This time I expect to have more lead time (good au pair, but she definitely wants to go home after a year).
So, here is my question: How much lead time do you need to get a good new au pair when you’re using agencies that send multiple candidates at a time? My AP is leaving mid-Feb. which I think is a bit of dead time and I would prefer not to do Latin American girls again. Is six months too much? I feel like I’ve heard stories of people starting the process 6 months out … maybe I should email this separately but it seems fairly relevant. Thanks in advance!!

Ann from NE July 20, 2009 at 9:33 pm

Because I have specific linguistic criteria, in addition to others, I have to do my own searching then bring the candidate to a US agency as a pre-match. I started 5 months in advance for the 1st au pair and 9 months for the 2nd. (This was good because we probably lost 2 months due to lack of overseas interviewers from both major US agencies in the home country. She had to travel to another country to complete the agency interview). I use as a “database” and that country’s local version of Facebook (I post a free ad in its foreign jobs and nanny sections; also “friend” the candidates so they can see my family photos etc). To anyone who contacts me I send a 1 page “job description” as an initial screen via email; then if they are interested in knowing more I send our family profile letter (probably about 5 pages) that we’ve submitted to the agencies via email (it also describes her au pair job description, our daughter, our home, our city, recreation opportunities). If she is interested beyond that, then I set up several phone interviews – first one with myself in local language, then second with my husband in English.

StephinBoston July 20, 2009 at 10:00 pm

I’ve had a different experience, used both the “full access to DB” and the 1 on 1 matching and I’m a huge fan of 1 on 1 matching. I give my coordinator a very specific list of things I want and tell her not to bother putting non matching candidates in my box. I really like the simplification and I also like not having to deal with a ton of girls who want the warm weather when we are in cold New England :-)

NjMom July 21, 2009 at 6:29 am

Yes, to be fair to the 1 on 1 matching, there are some definite pros. Not competing with anyone (I had lost good candidates in the past over stupid stuff such as getting their own car or a country club membership); concentrating on one person at a time, etc. However, I felt that the system did not work nearly as well as the agency says. They were not giving you your perfect match, just someone who at least meets the baseline criteria (pets, allergies, etc.) The rest is up to you.

PA Mom July 21, 2009 at 9:02 am

I have done both the open selection (see all the then available candidates and interview a few at a time) and the “one at a time” where the Agency selects. We’ve had 4 APs – 2 through each process. Our conclusions are that the multiple APs to interview at a time isn’t so good for us – the girls have often interviewed with several families and we’ve lost girls to other families in that process. One the Agency guilted into accepting their match because they’d lost their prior AP – and she was the “back up” from the family’s view. Others because the girls then start to select on location or promises and not just on personality matches. The one at a time helps the family to be honest – is this a candidate I’d select or am I just stringing her along until I find a better match. Same for the AP. Also we’ve found that if you have a good matching person – you get a great AP. We asked to switch matching coordinators after the prior person didn’t get us – and the first person she picked was perfect. That’s happened twice – so working with someone who “gets” your family is wonderful. Let’s hope it continues to work. When the match is good – it’s a magical year. We like this year’s AP so much and didn’t think it possible that we could have 2 such good matches in a row. I should mention that I interview our candidates for over an hour. I want to “know” the girl a while – and in 15 minutes you really can’t judge a person. A second call helps as the AP is usually a bit nervous and excited herself. Remember she’s just a teenager or 20 year old who could be your daughter or niece. Once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll find the system that works for you – again very personality driven.

As for a good match – make sure you “connect” with the person helping you with the matching and you’ll get there.

Anonymous July 21, 2009 at 10:26 am

We have the access to the whole database method, and it worked well for us. As mentioned by someone above, we email multiple candidates at once with an updated family profile, and a little more about us. Then I ask the AP in the email to review our family profile and to email if she’d like to set up an interview time. We didn’t have any particular criteria – didn’t care about age, swimming, driving, infant specialized, stuff like that – so we had probably 100 profiles to search through. Emailing ahead of time weeded out girls who didn’t want to come to Colorado, didn’t want to work with three kids, wanted a 9 to 5 schedule (we require evenings and weekends), etc….

Once they confirmed they were interested, I would arrange a time to call them within the next few days – and if they had regular email access, I would usually exchange a couple more emails with them prior to the phone interview. Setting up a specific time for an interview call meant both DH and I, and the AP were prepared and ready to have a good conversation. We interviewed over a period of about 2 months. I probably emailed 30 candidates, and had phone calls with 12 to 14 of them before we picked someone. Our current AP selected from that process is beyond incredible and has just extended for a second year.

Also, for the families concerned about competing with other families – I’d say, let go of that. If an AP is going to match with a different family because they have a bigger house, nicer AP car, country club membership or whatever…then that probably isn’t the person you want as part of your family. A truly wonderful AP will match with you based on your family and the connection you all have – not what kind of cars you drive.

Anonymous July 22, 2009 at 1:57 pm

One problem with matching too early is that the aupair may change her mind and drop out or accept another positon ( with another family in another agency ) and your agency will have no control over
that. Just as there are families who register with a couple of agencies, aupairs do it , too.
Selecting someone very early gives you piece of mind but I think that sometimes it interferes with the children really bonding with the current aupair and lots of people I know like to have their kids have some imput into the selection process ( mom is the controlling vote on this , though ).
Around three months prior to arrival is a good time to start and most agencies will start nudging you around that time anyway.
The Agencies won’t let you surf their websites and they won’t send you a group or an individual until you actually sign on but you can surf Great Aupair anytime you want.

Anonymous July 22, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Our agency starts the process 4 months in advance. You can look on the website to get a brief intro about the au pairs but then you request their profiles in your HF “folder” and they sent you applications. I also did a search on the database for agency as well as the above for more candidates.

PA au pair mom August 11, 2009 at 9:36 pm

We use an agency that typical does the “one at a time” matching system. Last year when we were selecting our first AP, we didn’t know that there were other options. We selected an AP who was ok. not great, but not horrible either. This year when it was time to select another AP I simply asked the agency to allow us to have 2 candidates at a time in our account.

they made one our primary match and the other a secondary match we could only keep for 24 hours. We could change the secondary to the primary, or eliminate any we weren’t interested in.

I was much more in tune to what I wanted and needed this time around. I had specific criteria, in ranking order, so the coordinator was able to automatically weed out a lot of candidates which saved me countless hours of sifting through applications that were going to go nowhere.

after 19 candidates, about 100 emails and 4 phone interviews we have selected the (hopefully) best AP for our family. She arrives on September 4th.

Anonymous February 7, 2010 at 9:08 pm

Hello I am a girl who wants to be an au pair and I already hand out my application and I’m hoping they call me the Host Families. Last week I received an email from a host mom, in which she presented and talked about their children. In that email, she asking me if was interested in its family. I replied to her immediately that he was interasada in your family. The host mom called me a week later, the interview lasted about 10 or 15 minutes and I really liked a the host mm. That same day she asked me more questions via mail and I also asked to her some questions.
The next day the host mom asked me more questions about how to handle a difficult situation, he would do if he had a flat tire, etc.. which I answered. This time I didn’t asked her no more questions waiting for him to give me your opinion on what he had replied in your last email. two days after she sent me an email telling me that it had not heard from me, and he had already been placed with an au pair. That really hurt because I loved to the idea of being her future Au pair. I think that it corresponded to host mom asked if I wanted to be her next au pair and not to myself proclaim as her new Au Pair.

Please give me your opinion, what did I do wrong?

NoVA Host Mom February 7, 2010 at 10:38 pm

You may not have done anything wrong. It was a job interview. And you were likely not the only person being interviewed. You may have given great answers and had a great feeling with the HF, but so might someone else. And maybe the HF just felt they clicked better with someone else. It may have had nothing to do with your answers. Just keep trying, be honest and be yourself when being interviewed. It will come.

Comments on this entry are closed.