When Interviewing Au Pairs, What’s In Your First Email?

by cv harquail on October 2, 2016

How do you present your Host Family when you’re introducing yourselves to Au Pair Candidates?

It’s tough to strike the right balance between selling the appealing parts of your Host Family Situation so that you draw applicants towards your family, and being realistic enough to deter candidates who’d be a really poor fit with you .

8640665403_e05d4a10a9_mBack in January, SeattleMOM wrote about being “rejected” by 10 candidates before she actually found someone who was really interested in her family’s particular situation.

She wondered if she was writing too much about the wrong things and scaring candidates off with her very first email.

“Should I start with the very bare basics, get them to at least respond with a “yes tell me more” and then hit them with the rest?”

What do most Host Parents do?

Asks SeattleMOM:

Could we see some examples of Host Families’ first introductory email to Au Pair candidates?

Image by Lauren Rushing on Flickr




Minnesota Transplant October 2, 2016 at 1:01 pm

When matching the first time, I sent somewhat long emails to each candidate where I introduced our family and asked the au pair questions, only to get rejected before they looked at our profile. It was frustrating and time-consuming. Many times I wouldn’t get a response at all. I suspect that most au pairs take one look at our location (not NY or CA) and see that we have four children and reject us for one or both of those reasons alone.

I’ve refined my approach over a couple rounds of matching and now send a short introductory message via WhatsApp that is upfront about our location and family size. I use WhatsApp when possible because I know that’s how many young people communicate, at least the Europeans, since that’s who we match with, and I can see when the au pair has read my message.

My message now looks something like this:

Hello! We’re a family of six from (city and state the au pair has never heard of) and we are looking for our next au pair for (date we need au pair to arrive). We came across your application and were impressed with (whatever it was that caught our eye and enough to show we read the application). Please take a look at our profile and let me know if you’d like to talk more. If not, please let me know and I’ll release your application. We look forward to hearing from you!

Chicago Host Mom October 3, 2016 at 9:11 am

This is the same general email we send. I also mention that we have had au pairs for nine (or however many) years so they know we are not rookies.

Minnesota Transplant October 4, 2016 at 8:01 am

That’s a good idea to mention we’re an experienced host family. We’ve had very good experiences so far and although none of our au pairs had heard of Minnesota prior to matching with us, they’ve all fallen in love with the state.

Dorsi October 3, 2016 at 11:15 pm

Ugh. I can’t imagine 4 kids in the match-machine. We do the “we have three kids and we live in this really cool city you’ve never heard of” – and so many people reject based on that.

Minnesota Transplant October 4, 2016 at 7:45 am

Dorsi, yes, matching when you have four children is rough. Combine that with a cold climate and it’s even more challenging. We’re with Cultural Care, which doesn’t give host families vision to how many children an au pair is willing to take care of, and doesn’t allow first-year au pairs to specify a location preference, so a lot of time is wasted contacting au pairs who would never consider our family in the first place.

DCauapirMom October 2, 2016 at 2:48 pm

We started doing something new this time around. I only tell them that we live on the east coast and have more than 1 child, and when we need an au pair. And then I ask them what their preferences are for a good match (location, age of children, number of children) – and what things would NOT be a good match. Sent 6 emails so far, and got 3 responses (all of which have been pretty diferent from each other).

Anna October 2, 2016 at 3:13 pm

We have been rejected by several au pairs quickly. It is hard not to take it personally! Here’s the thing though, I feel like some au pairs have a very specific idea of what they imagine this year to be for them and sometimes my family just doesn’t fit the profile. When we get rejected without an interview I write back, “Thank you. Sorry we didn’t get a chance to chat and learn more about each other. If you don’t mind, could you share with us what it was that made it clear we were not the right fit as a host family for you?” Nine out of ten times, they’ll respond. For us, it is almost always that we have too many kids (four) and occasionally it is because of the city where we live seeming ‘too small’ (i.e. not NYC or LA). I can’t feel bad that they rejected us for those reasons!

This is what I write in my first email:
“Dear ____,
My name is ______. My husband and I are looking for a wonderful au pair to welcome into our home to share their culture and help care for our four amazing children aged 8, 5, 4, and 3.

I sent you our profile via the online portal through [whatever agency]. After you have had the opportunity to review it, please let me know if you would be interested in setting up a Skype interview with us. We are excited to learn more about you and your interests to see if you might be a good fit for our family.

[Here I usually comment on something I saw on their profile video or in their letter that caught my eye. This makes it more personal and lets them know you really studied what they had to offer.]

Please contact me if you would like to talk!

txmom October 3, 2016 at 11:51 am

That’s pretty much how ours read. The letter in our profile is pretty specific to what the goods and bads of matching with us are, so I keep the email minimal.

txmom October 3, 2016 at 11:53 am

I forgot to say that every au pair we contacted agreed to skype with us. I’m not sure if that’s because of the email/profile combo or more likely because our au pair only has to work 25-30 hours a week and we travel frequently.

Dorsi October 3, 2016 at 11:17 pm

I have to imagine it’s because you don’t say, “we need an Au Pair for 40-45 hours per week and the hours will be irregular and include weekends and evenings) like I do. I can’t really blame them.

txmom October 4, 2016 at 9:23 am

Our letter does say that our hours are irregular and she will be working every other weekend (long days). We haven’t had anyone turn us down for that. I think the perks of less total hours and travel outweigh the negatives. We are upfront with both…if you can’t work long weekend days, and have your schedule change frequently, you’re not the au pair for us!

massmom October 2, 2016 at 5:06 pm

We keep it very light for the first email. I always mention something specific that we liked about his/her video or application, and then provide a couple of sentences about us, the age of our kids (and perhaps an interest they might have in common with the au pair), and where we live. Then we invite them to take a look at our family profile and contact us if they are interested in speaking further. We spend a long time on our host letter and profile, which are both quite detailed about our needs and expectations, so I don’t feel the need to lay it all out in the introductory email. We’ve always gotten good responses. Almost everyone has followed up wanting to Skype with us, even if they may have a couple of questions or reservations that they want to review in more detail.

HMof2 October 2, 2016 at 11:46 pm

Most of the time, we initiate the first email. Once in a while after we put them on hold, the AP would send us an email before we had a chance to. We keep the first email short. We almost always get a response back. From those responses, about 85% want to Skype and the rest tell us it wouldn’t be a good fit and give us a polite reason. Our first email is like this:

Hello AP,
We are HM and HD. We read your profile on Agency website and find it very interesting. We have # boys and # girls.

We would like to learn more about you and see if we could be a good match for each other. Please take a look at our family profile and let us know if you are interested in learning more about us.

We look forward to hearing from you!

HM and HD

ExAupairNowHM October 3, 2016 at 11:26 am

That’s pretty much what we do. Very short and I asked them to look at our profile and essay and let me know if they are interested in learning more about each other.

American Host Mom in Europe October 3, 2016 at 11:22 am

We use Great Au Pair, so have a lot of information in our profile for candidates to read. It is a bit of a sales approach, but totally honest. So most candidates will have seen all of that first. Then if I see a profile I like, I send a message on GAP like this:
* * *
Hi NAME! I saw your profile and favourited you, please have a look at our profile. I’m American, my husband is Swedish, we live in the countryside in southern Sweden, and our adorable 7 year old boy/girl twins and 8,5 year old daughter are bi-lingual, and used to spending time with au pairs. We’re looking for someone to start in January and stay with us for a year — maybe it will be you?. We’ve completed the interview on the website so you can read quite a bit about us.

Have a read through our profile. I look forward to hearing back from you (click the Interested button!). If you’re not interested, please let me know by clicking the No interest button. Feel free to write with any questions you have for me.

Thanks and look forward to hearing from you!
* * *
I used to write a lot more, but sometimes I just got folks clicking the Not interested button, so I’ve stopped wasting my time. If there was something specific in their profile that caught my attention and created a connection, I mention it at the beginning. I find about 80% of my APs have initially chosen me (rather than the other way around), so I don’t spend a lot of time any more on this.

Quirky October 3, 2016 at 11:32 am

Pretty similar to the intro emails others have posted. I went a bit longer this time around as I wanted to make sure there was enough in the intro email to attract or deter candidates (esp. the three kids part and at least a preview of the tasks our APs need to do day in and day out). Our host family letter is also quite detailed.

We are looking for our next au pair through APIA to arrive in the US in mid September or early October at the latest. I’ve just sent an interview request through the website, so you should be able to read our host family letter and see if you would be interested in talking further with us.

My family lives in [suburb], Maryland, which is just outside of Washington, DC. My husband and I have three kids — Son, 14 years old, is starting 9th grade (high school); Daughter, 11 years old, is starting 6th grade (middle school) and Daughter, 8 years old, is starting 3rd grade (elementary school) in the fall.

Both my husband and I work full-time. Our kids are good-natured, cheerful, and affectionate, but also active and loud, so our house is very busy.

The kids have after-school and weekend activities such as music lessons, rowing (crew), rock climbing, and horseback riding. We rely heavily on our au pair to get the kids ready for school and pick them up from school, drive them to their activities, supervise homework, do the kids’ laundry, and keep the kids organized.

We have had four au pairs so far. We have really liked having au pairs living with us and have welcomed the opportunity to get to know them and have them be part of our family. Please look at our profile and let me know if you’d like to talk further. I look forward to hearing from you.

ChicagoAttyHM October 3, 2016 at 12:04 pm

Mine is even less detailed than these!

“Dear X, we are the Y family, and we are looking for our next au pair to begin in [month]. We liked your profile and thought you could be a good fit with our family. [Sometimes I will mention something I liked in specific, but not always.] Please read our family profile and let me know whether you would like to email with us, or whether you would like me to release your profile. I look forward to hearing from you!”

We do get quite a few rejections–almost always because our profile makes clear that we want the au pair to speak German with the children. So I do not want to waste a lot of time with introductory emails that might come to nothing.

DMMom October 3, 2016 at 1:32 pm

We use pretty much the same e-mail, but I do try to write something that connects our family to the girl: interests, sports, location, etc. Also, I put a lot of pictures in our profile of the kids, pets, our town, and actiities. And keep it short and simple initially.

We live in a pretty unknown and cold location, but usually I get about a 90% response rate. I think that many times it’s about making a connection, versus recieveing either 1. a form letter or 2. an e-mail that is so large and intimidating that they are worried about not understanding everything.

HMof2 October 3, 2016 at 2:37 pm

We are the opposite when it comes to pictures, putting just a few in our profile. 1 picture of each child, 1 group kids picture, and 2 pictures of the HM & HD together. We have shared additional pictures of the local area, the house (outside and inside of the living areas and the AP room) but only when we have already agreed to match. Often, we send pictures of the different local roads in the area so the AP has a sense of the kinds of roads here. Once, we also sent a video of driving on the main roads that the AP may drive on because the AP was a newbie driver and a bit nervous about not knowing what roads look like, the amount of traffic, and overall experience of driving here in our area. Usually the AP doesn’t ask for more pictures. We offer it.

Our profile contains the basics about us without an abundance of details. We tend to share more during Skype and email our handbook (which is a detailed 38 pages and counting). We opted not to share too much on our profile. We are concerned about the profile appearing intimidating, overwhelming, and scaring the AP away before we ever meet them on Skype.

After both sides are interested, we send out a 2nd email with 15-25 open-ended questions when scheduling the first Skype and ask for her answers back before the 1st Skype. Some questions are general and others are specific follow up questions to what the AP wrote on her profile to show we really read her profile carefully. A few APs emailed back that they appreciated our questions because it demonstrated that we were really interested in her through such careful reading of what she wrote. In addition, we also send a set of 25 personality questions that ask for quick (a) or (b) answers. Initially, we were concerned asking an AP to answer a total of close to 50 questions before even Skyping would scare them away. So far, no AP has refused to answer. It it a considerable investment of time for APs to write out answers to 15-25 open-ended questions. The answers also signal to us how serious the AP is about the program and us. The quality of the answers show through when the AP took care to answer versus just did the bare minimum.

AlwaysHopeful HM October 4, 2016 at 8:31 am

I send a more detailed initial email, describing a little bit about our town, our family structure, my child’s personality, etc. I give a very brief description of the job, and also mention in the email what from their profile made me think they may be a good fit. I ask a couple of basic questions, and invite further discussion.

I tried a shorter, more plain vanilla email during one search and found that the response rate declined, so I switched back to the longer message. It doesn’t really take any more time on my end, because it’s largely cut and paste. The benefit is that the au pairs who respond have a glimpse of our family’s personality, even before digging through our entire profile.

We’re gearing up to start searching again (yech– I really hate searching), and I will be taking a close look at Texas HM’s process. I really love how detailed and methodical it is!

A little off topic, but for those US host parents who have been interviewing recently, have you noticed any apprehension from au pairs about coming at a time when there is so much in the news painting America in a bad light (such as terrorism, police brutality, the presidential election, violence during protests, racism and xenophobia, etc.)? During our last round of interviews some au pairs commented on America’s gun obsession, and how odd that seemed to them, but it didn’t seem to affect their desire to come here. I wondered if the more recent news was having any effect, and whether it is something folks address affirmatively, or wait for it to come up (if at all).

HMof2 October 4, 2016 at 9:14 am

Over the summer, our then AP told us that her family was concerned after hearing news about recent mass shootings. With our last round of interviews, a few candidates said that their family was concerned about them wanting to come to US to be AP (from traditionally low/non-existent gun countries) because of all the guns they hear about. The AP still want to come to the US despite their families’ concern. The topic of violence comes up as it relates to their families being concerned for their safety but I can see that families will be concerned regardless since we are talking about a young person going far away to live with an unknown family in a new country. As a parent, I would have general nervousness, too, even if the country is considered “safe”.

Maybe agencies have recent data on whether applications from certain countries went down recently and if it is correlated with unfavorable events in the US. We will never know if any candidates ended up not going through with the US program or decided to be AP in another country.

NoVA Twin Mom October 4, 2016 at 9:18 am

We haven’t had an au pair express concern, but one au pair did ask, a few months in, where we kept our guns.

We don’t have any.

She thought that since my husband was in the military (now retired) we would have guns. That opened a discussion about how not EVERYONE in the US has a gun, regardless of how television may make it sound.

Mimi October 4, 2016 at 10:01 am

We have seen an increase in the questions about guns in our area and even who we expect to vote for in the upcoming elections. On the on hand, it’s nice they are trying to stay informed, but on the other hand it’s distracting. The Austrian AP candidates are more empathetic, given what’s going on with their presidential election.

Soon to be mom of three October 4, 2016 at 1:32 pm

Our Au Pair (who will be joining us in February from Germany) asked us about guns in the home and, generally, gun laws where we live (Midwest). I thought it was a good question but I’ll ask the same questions re: firearms in the home when my kids are old enough for play dates without me. I explained gun laws where we live and that we (nor any of our friends or family who live in town) have firearms in the home.

TexasHM October 4, 2016 at 3:46 pm

Being in Texas we get questions every round from prospective APs about guns. We also tend to get “you ride a horse to work EVERY day?” “I’m not interested in your family because I want to live in a city” (keeping in mind we are in the middle of DFW with 7M+) and I can’t make this stuff up “do I have to buy boots and a hat and wear them every day to live there?” Sigh.

I’m fine with pretty much any question as long as they are seeking to understand and open minded (empathy and open mindedness are two of our required AP traits we interview for).

Our intro letter in the agency system and first email is posted on the Interview guest post I did last year so I won’t bore y’all again but basically we talk about things at a high level in our letter more about the area and our history of hosting and then I email them questions first round trying to get a feel before they know everything about us.
Honestly I’d be fine with 90% turning us down upfront, saves me a bunch of time! I’d rather that than they drag along with us and see if they think they can tolerate us/our situation.

Every round it’s PAINFUL but then when we get another rockstar/lifelong family member it’s worth it. Lot of investment upfront and every round I ask myself if it’s worth it – the interviewing, the on boarding, the nerves before arrival, the goodbyes and yet here we are still! SeattleMom be your awesome self, don’t worry about turning off candidates, be authentic and it will likely take more time and rejections but you’ll get not only the cream of the crop but great fits for your family!

CO Host Mom October 5, 2016 at 4:34 pm

We also live in a state that most AP’s haven’t heard of and definitely isn’t on the top 5 list. Our LCC recommend we address it in our host family letter and in our into email “Reasons why X is a great place to live”. It seemed to really help. We had several candidates write something to the effect of “I had never considered/heard of X but when I saw the things you listed I became really excited.” We live in an area that is very close to the mountains. We actually posted a picture we took of a trip to the mountains as a cover page and several of the APs commented on it and said it made them want to learn more about our family.

I know it’s hard not to take the rejections personally, but trust me, you’re better off.

Good luck!

Host Mom X October 6, 2016 at 6:49 pm

We are of the “dare to match with us” variety – we’d rather get a 90% no-response rate than tons of responses from candidates who won’t work out for us anyway, either when we actually interview, or when they get here! So we do the following short email, and we attach ALL of our handbook documents. In the end, we’re a family who has done much better in rematch over the years than “straight from abroad”, so who knows? (We are in a desirable AP city, but have three kids; unfortunately, because of the desirable location, those who SHOULD be scared off by three kids sometimes aren’t.)

We are ______[names with pronunciations], and we have three young children — _____________[names and ages]. We live in _______[name of East Coast city APs like to come to, with a well-known fact about it]. You can read more about us and our family in our ___________[au pair agency] profile. We would love to speak with you on Skype if you would be interested in our family. We are looking for an au pair to arrive in ________[month] – we see that you are available beginning in _____[month]: please let us know if you would be interested in coming ______[month we are looking for].

We enjoyed reading your profile – it seems like you are ___________[positive descriptions showing we’ve read the candidate’s profile]. You must be very _____[adjective] having ___________[something candidate has done]. We know that being an au pair for our family is hard work, but we feel that we are kind, generous people and we try to be good and flexible host parents.

We are attaching some more information about working for our family to this email. It is a lot of information, but we wanted to share it with you so that you will really know what it would be like to take care of our children for 45 hours a week. If, after reading this information and looking at our profile, you think you would be interested in talking to us about being our au pair (and you are okay with arriving in _______[month]) please send us an email and let us know, and we will set up a time to speak to you on Skype.

Frankfurt AP Boy October 9, 2016 at 4:01 am

I used to write emails on behalf of one HF after I left. In this case it was slightly different to the USA because of the high demand for native English speaking au pairs.

The profile was very comprehensive anyway so I kept the message fairly short:

First paragraph was saying how great the candidate is and how her interests are similar to the kids’ interests or how great it is that she has so much experience – trying to also describe more about the family while relating to the candidate.

If their profile said they like big cities, I’d talk about that. If they liked the country, I’d mention the surrounding area. I’d then ask if she had any questions and say we’d love to get to know her better. In many cases, I’d also need to clarify their availability. I’d then ask some questions. The best candidates I’d ask straight away if they are available to Skype.

American HM in the Netherlands October 9, 2016 at 4:46 am

We keep ours pretty short too although we try to give enough information that if someone is not interested they won’t waste our time with an interview. We give the following information:

-Where we live
-The name and age of our daughter
-Our names
-How long we are looking for someone and our approximate starting date
-That our daughter has special needs with a question as to whether they are willing to look after a chlld with special needs?
-A very brief description of duties (we are looking for someone to help our daughter get ready for school, watch her after school and do light household chores with most weekends off).

gabs December 7, 2016 at 3:53 pm

I get excited when I see an email from a host family taking about them (a long email) I think this is the best way in which we can get excited when reading those emails!

Recently I was sad when the HM in the first email asked me “where are you from?” and I was like “didn’t you read my profile?” (of course I didn’t write that, it was a thought). The agency told me that as they are interviewing many Au Pairs they can forget the countries or mixed them and I felt sad ’cause I didn’t feel important for them, lol. (I didn’t match with them btw)

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