Interviewing Au Pairs, Have You Parents Ever Offered a Host Family Reference?

by cv harquail on September 25, 2016

Does anyone offer a reference to the Au Pair candidates they are interviewing?

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While every Au Pair candidate lists at least two references that Host Families can email or call, I’ve never heard of Host Parents offering references to Au Pair candidates.

This seems to be a vestige from the days when it was assumed that Host Families “chose” and Au Pairs “accepted”. 

Offering the candidate a chance to talk with a former au pair or even a babysitter is one way to put a little more information in the hands of the candidate. We do something similar to “offering a reference” when we give a candidate the contact information of a previous au pair or encourage them to talk with our current Au Pair.

But, does anyone offer a reference as a matter of course?

(True, a candidate can easily search the web for info about you, check you out on LinkedIn, and look up your address on Google’s street view to see if your house is pretty. But that’s not the same as hearing about you from a neighbor– even if the neighbor is your best friend.)

Offering a reference can be a nice gesture. Does anyone do it?

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Frankfurt AP Boy September 26, 2016 at 2:55 am

I think all three of my HFs have offered that I speak with previous au pairs. If they hadnt I would certainly have asked. It is the best way to identify what the challenges might be in the family – generally former au pairs are more likely to honestly describe how the kids behave.

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American Host Mom in Europe September 26, 2016 at 3:09 am

We use GreatAuPair, rather than an agency (there is no agency where I live), and in our profile we specify that candidates are welcome to contact any of our past au pairs, and we will provide contact details. I actually quite like it when they do, as then I get the scoop on the types of questions they ask and what my au pair thinks of the candidate…but few actually take advantage of this. Probably 2-3 times, out of 12 au pairs across almost 8 years. I’m actively in touch still with 10 of our past au pairs, so it is no problem (even covering multiple languages, if someone wanted a discussion not in English), and I actively encourage candidates I’m serious about to speak with our current or a past au pair.

Au pairs – I’m curious – if you don’t take advantage of talking with a previous au pair for the family, why not??

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Aupair Lauren September 26, 2016 at 5:50 am

On talking with my host family I have matched with they offered and gave me the contact details of three of their most recent aupairs and their LCC.

However if they hadn’t of offered I would of asked. It would kind of be a red flag for me if a family weren’t able to give some kind of reference from outside of their family.

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Multitasking Host Mom September 26, 2016 at 6:21 am

When we narrow our search down to the final one or two next au pair candidates, we always ask if they would like to speak with our former au pairs. I want to make sure they know what they are getting into with our family!

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SA_Au Pair September 26, 2016 at 7:02 am

Talking to the family’s former au pair(s) is an absolute must for me, there is information that you’ll get from the au pair that you just won’t get from the host family. I’m interested in knowing what kind of experience the au pair had with the family, what the kids are like (because some families only go with “Johny is happy and well behaved” and don’t mention that Johny has occasionally hit the au pair(s)), what kind of relationship did she have with the family and most importantly how did the family deal with conflict/problems/misunderstandings. I wouldn’t match with a family that has had a couple of au pairs and refused to let me talk to even 1 of them.

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NoVA Twin Mom September 26, 2016 at 7:59 am

Once we determine that we like a candidate enough that we would offer to match, we ask them to contact our current au pair to talk. We don’t move forward until they do.

Our current au pair gets to feel like she’s part of the process (they want to be sure that “their” kids will be well taken care of!) and the candidate gets to ask “real” questions about us. We don’t ask our current au pair to “report” on the candidate, but they usually share information anyway.

After our first rematch (many years ago) we found out that the only question she’d asked our at that time current au pair was where the local bars were. Rather telling. Our current au pair (fabulous) asked about where she could take classes. So we’ve learned that we can get a good early “read” on a candidate’s priorities based on what they ask our current au pair.

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NoVA Twin Mom September 26, 2016 at 8:01 am

We only hesitated once to let our current au pair talk to a candidate – when we rematched after an au pair lasted only three and a half days at our house. Instead, we had the candidate talk to one of our former au pairs, explaining that we were in a rather messy rematch and would rather have them talk to someone with whom the year had worked out. We fully realized that the candidate could have found the rematching au pair on her own, though.

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HRHM September 26, 2016 at 11:53 am

As NoVA mom does, we wait until we are ready to make an offer and then connect the candidate with our current AP. We consider that conversation part of the interview process for her and for us. If she would decline to talk to our current AP, that would be a red flag for me. We also offer contact info for a couple former APs. They are likely less useful re: the actual job (the kids change so much year to year) but good for the overall vibe of the family and pleasantness of our home.

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Aupair Paris September 26, 2016 at 8:28 am

My first (undeniably abusive) host family offered two references – one au pair who had been there three years previously and one who had recently stayed only during the summer holidays. The former gave a glowing reference, and the latter a bare bones “the family exists and have two children and live outside of Paris” one. I still really want to get hold of that first girl and ask her what on earth she was thinking!

The second (wonderful) family only offered one, but it was their current au pair, and she was encouraged to answer all my questions and talk to me at great length. This was much more effective.

I’d be really suspicious of a family who didn’t offer a reference at all.

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Chicago Host Mom September 26, 2016 at 9:07 am

I guess we are the odd man out. We have had ten au pairs (all great except 2) and we have not connected candidates to our current or prior au pairs. We still speak and Skype with our prior au pairs, I send them christmas presents and they visit when they are in town. Our thinking is that the references the au pairs have to provide are essentially worthless because they are usually not employers and more likely teachers or family friends who will write glowing reviews or you wouldn’t ask them to give you a reference. So, we feel like entering into the au pair match is a leap of faith for all of us. It is a big leap for the au pair who is leaving her family, but it is also a leap of faith for is adding a family member who will help us raise our kids. So far we have not had an issue with candidates declining based on that. I understand the other perspective and we talk it over from time to time and think about whether to change our approach, but I have to say it has worked for us.

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HMof2 September 26, 2016 at 10:06 am

I also do not put any weight on the references from OOC AP candidates because these references will all say good things and many have language barriers and would be difficult to contact. However, for in-country AP rematch, I check references from current or previous HF (if more than 1 rematch) and LCC. I have to read between the lines because there always seem to be an unknown back-story that skews what the reference says. It takes a lot of prompting to get some references to open up and others will throw the AP under the bus in the first 30 seconds.

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SA_Au Pair September 26, 2016 at 10:28 am

I get where you’re coming from. Most of us ask for references from people we know will put in a good word for us. I think that the position that au pairs are usually in is that we’re usually expected to ask families for contact details and if families provide them without us having to ask we’re expected to follow up and contact their previous au pairs. There are families who stop being interested when they realise that the au pair they’re talking to hasn’t contacted their former au pair or families stop considering you because you didn’t ask them for their former au pair’s contact details. I’ve spoken to former au pairs who have had to use Google translate because they didn’t speak English and some of my questions were never answered, I’ve also had former au pairs who have been all “everything was perfect, the family is perfect, the children are perfect and the family and I have never had to resolve anything”. I’m usually hoping that host families will give me the real picture about their family, the good and the challenging; I’ve spoken to A LOT of families and not one of them has told me “like everyone else my children have good days and bad days. Sometimes Lucy throws tantrums and screams when she doesn’t get what she wants”. Some conversations with former au pairs have helped me discuss certain things with the family and some have been no help at all.

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NoVA Twin Mom September 27, 2016 at 7:46 am

We actually DO say something along the lines of “like everyone else my children have good days and bad days. Sometimes Lucy throws tantrums and screams when she doesn’t get what she wants”! We then ask the candidate how they’d handle it!

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HMof2 September 26, 2016 at 9:56 am

We offer AP candidates the choice to speak with current or former AP, if they don’t ask first. We want to be transparent and like APs to ask to speak with current or former AP. We want future AP to have questions and be selective. If an AP has little or no questions, it shows lack of interest in us and we feel this person’s goal is to just match with any family who will take her first.

What is interesting is our last AP. From her perspective, she did not want to talk with any future AP until AFTER we already matched with her. Her rationale about talking with future AP before match is official … if after future AP talks with current AP and then either we, the HF, or the future AP declines the match, then there is suspicion on her about what she might have said that caused one side to change their minds (and she gets “blamed” for the match not working out). She thought if the future AP declines us afterwards, then we would be suspicious of what she said and our relationship would change and become awkward for the rest of her months with us. She also thought the same of the flip side – if we end up not matching, then the AP candidate would “blame” our AP for her not getting matched. We were not concerned about anything she wanted to share but it seems that she was concerned. Are there other APs who feel this way, too, and rather not communicate with a future AP until after match?

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TexasHM September 26, 2016 at 12:41 pm

Interesting. Makes me wonder why she was so worried! At a certain point in our process (over halfway through) we offer current AP for a chat (IF current AP is excited about being a part of the process, if reserved about it then we would do it later but so far all of our APs really wanted to be involved). I do ask current AP not to share some perks of our situation (that we travel a lot more than most HFs, that we give bonuses at certain times of the year and a raise in year two, etc). I do ask current AP to be completely honest (including the bad) because it doesn’t do anyone any good to sugar coat things and they’ve all handled it really well. When new AP arrives they say it is better than previous APs described and that’s a much better place to start a relationship that feeling like you were sold or bait and switched!

After we are very far along in the process (90% done) we offer them to speak to all of our previous successful APs (4 total) and we get their feedback. Since those APs have moved on in life and had a baby, gotten a job as an international flight attendant and work in a rural part of New Zealand they are both harder to reach in general with timezones/obligations and their feedback is dated because they haven’t lived with us for at least 2-4 years at this point. They are offered more as a sign of transparency and to show that we are serious about our APs being lifelong family members and having a relationship after the term.

We also at some point offer up the LCs info although I don’t think any prospective AP has actually ever reached out. They tend to hear from others that the LCs are on the HF side or useless, both rumors tend to discourage them from reaching out/valuing their feedback. We also have one AP that did not work out at all. We discuss it with serious candidates after they have talked to all our previous APs and offer to answer any questions they have, encourage them to ask our previous APs about it (two were here when everything transpired) and we do say we will give them her name but given her actions at departure she may not respond or if she does, it could be heated to prepare them but our last two matches just asked intelligent questions about our reasons for rematch and then said they had no interest in reaching out to her. It probably helps us that all other APs were successful and asked to extend and that she didn’t even make it three weeks and was sent back to her home country by the agency but it is what it is and I don’t want them to hear it from someone else (couple of APs are still here that met her and she tried to trash us). Full disclosure, no surprises!

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HMof2 September 26, 2016 at 2:07 pm

This AP was also worried that if she tells us that the AP candidate seems good, and we matched with this new AP and then turns out badly and we go into rematch, she did not want to feel responsible for giving us a positive review for an AP that didn’t work out. This AP worries about a lot of other things, too. Of course, we don’t base our decision on if our current AP likes the new one.

We also do not have new and current/former AP connect with each other until we are towards the end of the match process. Some candidates ask to speak with AP right away and we would postpone until we are sure this candidate is a finalist for us.

To remove some of the feeling of worry, we told this AP that whatever she and the candidate talk about is confidential and between them. We will not ask for her opinion of the candidate, will not ask what they talked about, what the candidate ask her etc. We just want the candidate to have another person who can answer questions about our family, what it is like to be an AP, live in our community etc. It is really a benefit for the candidate and does not factor into our decision since we will not ask anything about their communications. This AP was still reluctant to talk to candidates until after we match. Oh well.

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Aupair Paris September 26, 2016 at 2:24 pm

Actually, this kind of happened to me! Being in Europe it’s easier to go for visits and things – my HF had a habit of inviting the new au pair to stay for a week, explore Paris and get to know how things worked with the old AP, before beginning. I got to know the new AP, and told the HPs she seemed great, and then she ran off within a week and flew home due to homesickness when she started. I felt absolutely terrible and completely culpable, so I kind of see where your AP might be coming from…

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WarmStateMomma September 27, 2016 at 9:51 pm

We don’t offer up LCC info. We’ve never met our LCC before matching.

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Frankfurt AP Boy September 26, 2016 at 5:07 pm

Honestly, if I were to apply again for an au pair job, I would be suspicious if a family said they had a great relationship with their au pair but he or she didn’t want to talk to me. Maybe I would understand the situation if the host family said she was an extraordinarily nervous person. It is a little odd to me.

Just to add on to what I said previously… although I normally ask for a references from previous au pairs, if the family said they had a bad experience with an au pair then I wouldn’t ask for it then. I could completely understand why a family wouldn’t give a reference in that situation and I wouldn’t ask. I suspect other prospective au pairs are similar to me: contact with previous au pairs is useful but not essential.

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spanish aupair September 26, 2016 at 10:50 am

Hi
If my Hfs had aupairs i always asked to talk with them,when we are more or less sure about match, also usually when i offer mime (aupair in Europe always So didnt use agencies), if they refused to give contact details i would think twice about match.
I was once surprised when a HM that never had an aupair the chance to talk with her and her husbands boss, what i didnt do as I wasnt confortable calling their boss.

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DMMom September 26, 2016 at 11:17 am

We routinely offer contacting with the prior Au Pairs, but not until we are down to the last 1 or 2 candidates. I don’t want to burden past Au Pairs with a ton of people. However, I don’t think that any of our Au Pairs have ever contact with past Au Pairs before matching and most of the contact was about what clothes to bring, where to take classes and what gifts to bring the family.

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Batmum September 26, 2016 at 11:57 am

We are in Europe and we don’t use an agency so we don’t have the same back up as the US system. Aupairs can quit and go home more easily as they are not bound by agreements. so its important for us and any potential aupair that they have a very clear idea of what they are signing up to. I don’t want to go through all the interviewing and searching to have a girl leave after a couple of weeks because she doesn’t like living in the countryside or doesn’t understand the realities of caring for young kids. I do strongly encourage any candidates to talk to previous aupairs. To be honest if they don’t make contact with any current/past aupair it makes me question their commitment and maturity if they cant be bothered finding out about the job and living arrangements that they are applying for.

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Should be working September 26, 2016 at 1:49 pm

In late stages of matching with a candidate we give him/her contact info of our best previous au pairs. And we ask the previous au pair to emphasize how strict we are, how housekeeping standards are high, etc., although that is not actually true except for the first few weeks—although we wished the housekeeping standards remained high…

The previous AP also reports back to us her/his impressions of the candidate. This is important and helpful.

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au pair in NZ September 26, 2016 at 3:25 pm

When I was looking for a family, I got to the skype stage with maybe seven or eight families… but I never really felt liked I clicked well enough with any of them! I talked to a few of their past au pairs, but they all seemed really distant and separate from their families (which isn’t the kind of relationship I wanted). If they didn’t offer to connect me with a past au pair, I definitely asked. I never actually skyped my current host mom (we talked on the phone once for maybe an hour) but we both really connected and she asked me that night to be her au pair. I was the first au pair, so I didn’t have any reference for her (however I did ask her prior to that if she was a serial killer…jokingly, of course…I was satisfied with her answer and she certainly got a chuckle out of that haha). My HM asked me for references, but never actually contacted them. I know this sounds silly, but I truly think you have to go with your gut instinct sometimes? It’s not like a reference will ever reallyyy say anything bad about you… Still with the family almost two years later and HM and I are best friends so guess that leap of faith worked out pretty well!

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Mimi September 26, 2016 at 6:32 pm

We always offer prospective APs to chat with current or past APs and our LCC, but also not until we are at the final stage of our decision and have narrowed the field. Once one AP didn’t do this and she was a later rematch AP.

I ask for an overall impression of a prospective candidate, but unless the current/past AP has a concern, whatever they discuss is between them. Our APs know to be honest about life with us and many of our previous APs have befriended each other and visit each other, both here and at home.

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massmom September 27, 2016 at 1:28 pm

If a candidate asks me to speak to a prior AP prior to matching, we’re happy to provide their contact info. But if they don’t ask, we don’t. It is helpful to get feedback from the previous AP, but nothing has ever turned up in those conversations that was different from what I expected. I’m also a big believer in gut instinct!

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oranje_mama September 27, 2016 at 1:44 pm

We ask our current AP to interview our top candidates. We listen to her impressions, but make our own decision of course. We don’t tell our current AP any particular questions to ask. We’ve gotten good feedback this way. One AP noticed that one candidate was much more interested in the children (personalities, any challenges, etc) and the other wanted to know more about time off/traveling and had few questions about the children. This reinforced a decision we were already arriving at.

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Mom2Jack September 27, 2016 at 3:31 pm

We too provide current and past au pair contact info once we have come close to making our final decision. We do this so the au pair can learn all about our family from the au pair’s perspective. We want to make sure that the au pair has all the facts before she chooses us. All but one of our 6 au pairs has contacted our current au pair and past au pairs. The one who did not contact our au pair before matching had difficulty reaching our first au pair due to travel plans.
I do know of a case where the current au pair became FB friends with the potential au pair and learned that he had two full sleeves of tattoos that he had not disclosed (and always covered during Skype) – this would have been a problem at the swimming pool that they belong to. This information lead them to make a different choice.

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WarmStateMomma September 27, 2016 at 9:47 pm

Our first AP wasn’t a good fit and we did intentionally did not allow for overlap with AP2, or put them in touch with each other. AP2 had a blog about her year with us and offered to post a solicitation when I was hitting a wall looking for her successor. She then sorted through the applicants and recommended only one. We are now 18 months into our experience with that AP and we still feel lucky to have her. Next time, I will ask APs 2 and 3 for help recruiting again – or at least to vet the applicants.

There is a giant cultural gap between my family and the APs we recruit (Mandarin speakers) so the former APs are key to providing me with a good read on the candidate and providing the candidate with a realistic idea of what it’s like living with my family as an AP. (Well, realistic about the downsides anyhow. I tell candidates we need all 45 hours plus flexibility, but it’s only 30-35 hours most of the time. We also have car rules that get relaxed when I get comfortable with the AP’s skills.) These two APs have my complete trust and I can’t imagine choosing the next AP without considering their feedback.

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Dorsi September 28, 2016 at 11:38 am

I don’t offer previous AP contact information, though I will give out 1 or 2 if asked. I like to undersell the job (hours are long, you work all the time, it’s really, really hard). I don’t want an AP to undermine that – “Oh, it’s not too bad, she’s actually pretty flexible, the kids are not usually all at home at the same time, it’s easy!”

I think my biggest screening criteria is objective evidence of hard work. Speaking of which, its that time of year where I am scaring away candidates left and right. I switched agencies last year because none of the candidates at APIA would answer my emails, now I’m back to the opposite problem.

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CanadianAuPair October 6, 2016 at 11:58 am

This totally might be the difference between au pairing in the US and Europe, but when I was looking it definitely seemed that there were more families than au pairs (or qualified ones) and therefore most seemed to be willing to give out past contact information, its very common. Personally the few families who were not willing stuck out and were immediately crossed off my list

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HRHM October 6, 2016 at 4:23 pm

In the US, there are FAR more families than there are Au Pairs. Still a smart AP will ask for references, just as a smart family would.

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hOstCDmom October 8, 2016 at 4:29 am

There are more families than APs in the US? My impression was exactly the opposite.

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