Interviewing Extension Au Pairs: Special Questions?

by cv harquail on August 3, 2016

A companion question to the post on Interviewing Rematch Au Pairs: Special Questions?

With Extension Au Pairs, the number one question I’d have is — Why aren’t you staying with your current host family?

2984322125_246e9cfa38_mI can think of a million perfectly acceptable reasons for wanting to have a different family for an extension.

Seeing a different family, a different part of the country, and otherwise maximizing the variety of ones au pair year experience would all make sense to me.

And I’d be a *total sucker* for that kind of reasoning. Really easy for a motivated au pair to fool. <sigh>

What questions do you ask of an Extension Au Pair to get a real sense of what the au pair has learned and what s/he’s hoping to move towards?

image by Dan Barbus on Flickr

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

NoVA Twin Mom August 4, 2016 at 9:47 am

Not really a question, but my “wish” when considering extensions is that they be honest about their geographical wishes. If the only way they’ll extend is if they end up in California, there should be some indication of that in their extension paperwork. If they’re TRULY open to any area, then have a way to indicate this as well. I realize that LCCs will likely discourage this narrowing of their focus, but every year I contact one or two extension candidates only to be told that they’re not interested in Virginia – and it’s even worse when they wait two or three days to tell me! If you don’t want Virginia, tell me immediately.

All fair – and I might have felt the same in their shoes, “if I can’t have California I’ll just go home” – but I wish that there was a way to weed them out in advance.

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A Smith August 4, 2016 at 11:29 am

I wish I’d asked more questions to get a better sense of entitlement and/or willingness to work the system. As a first-time host family, (re)matching with an extension au pair means that we have less experience than the au pair – which should generally be fine, unless you end up with an au pair who tries to take advantage of that imbalance. I’m not yet entirely sure that’s the situation that we’re in…but there are some troubling indications that we might be. I think we assumed that someone seeking to extend would already understand/get that this is hard work, including a steep learning curve with any new family/kids. We’re hearing more than I expected about the idea of more perks to “make up” for challenging aspects of the job and to keep the au pair from leaving. It makes me wonder about whether extension au pairs are generally more open to the idea of choosing to enter rematch, or if it’s just the one that we picked.

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WestMom August 4, 2016 at 11:32 am

With extensions, it’s important to understand what their current situation is like (schedule, benefits). It might seem silly, but it can be tough shoes to fill if the previous family only used 25hrs per week, no weekends, fancy vacations, dedicated car. Not to say that it can’t happen, especially if the family as other less tangible benefits to offer (easier kids, no curfew, welcoming family, better location, etc.), but be aware that an extension AP will always have a host family to compare to. And perhaps for that reason they are much much much more picky than OOC APs.

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Anna August 4, 2016 at 11:34 am

“Why are you not staying with your first family?”

and also asking the same question to the host family. I expect the answers to be different, but it is still very informative.

Asking the first host family “what qualities that the au pair didn’t have are you looking for in the next au pair for your family?”

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Quirky August 4, 2016 at 11:35 am

This isn’t directly an answer to the question, but my philosophy on screening extension APs is the same philosophy I used to apply to hiring nannies and after-school sitters: talk to the references (here, current host family) first before talking to the AP.

For our most recent AP search, I looked at a bunch of extension APs, and skipped all the way down to the current host family form (and former HF forms if there were any). For those APs who got glowing reviews on the forms, I called the host parents of the AP extension candidates I was interested in, and then if I was still interested in the AP, reached out to them via email. There were a couple that I’m very glad I skipped over — not all host families are willing to be totally up-front on their forms (as short as they are) but they were very willing to share their experiences verbally. There were also a couple of APs that I was very sorry not to be able to discuss matching with, as they were such rock stars that they had already lined up new families!

NoVA Twin Mom — I hear you on the geographic issue — the extension APs I was looking at who’d already spent a year in the DMV area or even generally the Northeast or mid-Atlantic seemed not interested at all in being in suburban MD for another year. I can’t blame them but I definitely appreciated it when they were very upfront about it without any delay.

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NoVA Twin Mom August 4, 2016 at 2:40 pm

I contacted an extension candidate a few months ago that had spent her first year in California. I thought – well, she’s already IN California, she says she wants to experience another part of the US – so Virginia would be possible. Right?

She did respond fairly quickly – to say she didn’t want to leave California.

Apparently she meant she wanted to see another part OF CALIFORNIA.

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Seattle Mom August 5, 2016 at 2:50 pm

I’ve contacted extension au pairs who wrote on their forms they were interested in seeing “the west coast” and then in their response to me they said “but I meant California.”

Argh!

But to be fair, my one extension au pair that I hosted found me on a third party website and got in touch with me because she really wanted to come to Seattle. She had some friends who were au pairs here, and she was Asian and we have a very big Asian population so she felt comfortable.

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hOstCDmom August 4, 2016 at 1:18 pm

Do you have an American boyfriend/girlfriend?

If an AP is staying for a relationship with a boy/girlfriend in the USA, I want to know.

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hOstCDmom August 4, 2016 at 1:26 pm

And how have you felt about meeting people in the US who are a different race, religion, LGBTQ etc. this is very important to me because I want a AP that shares our values (open, accepting, non discriminatory and non judgmental world view), AND we typically had APs from a CEE country in which I used to live (language reasons), and which is very homogeneous, and which, unfortunately, can have a narrow, nativist to outright racist mindset. Thus, I ask all prospective APs questions in this vein, OOC or rematch or extension. But if extension, I want to know what was their experience in the US with diversity and what they think about that experience.

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momo4 August 7, 2016 at 12:04 am

I would also ask how long they’ve been together with their BF.

Two of my former AP’s friends got new BFs shortly before the end of their year. They had not originally planned to extend and their families had already matched with their successors at that point.

Personally I would be very reluctant to match with an AP who had a new BF. I would be worried that (understandably) the BF was the real reason for extending rather than a real desire to be an AP for another year. A new and untested relationship is a shaky basis for extending, and if the relationship doesn’t work out I could easily be left with a very sad lonely AP who now wants to return home. Not a chance I want to take.

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Taking a Computer Lunch August 7, 2016 at 8:40 pm

I agree. I have personally counseled my AP’s to stay if they have something they need to finish that they could not do in their home country (e.g. perfect English; earn University credit for practicing a skill – singing, photography, swimming; travel). Staying for a boy/man is the wrong reason – and quite frankly, it puts a lot of pressure on a relationship that might be too fragile to withstand it.

I’ve said this before. If you’re going to extend with an AP – make sure she has a strong group of friendships outside of the AP experience – that she will not be left high and dry once all of her AP friends depart. Make sure she has concrete goals on which to work – perfecting English, learning a new skill – something outside her relationships. If she’s feeling the “magic” of the AP year – then it all might come crashing down once her besties return home and she’s left to forge relationships with incoming APs.

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New to This August 8, 2016 at 3:03 am

All the past discussions on the dos and don’ts of extending made it a lot easier for us to feel confident in our decision-making process when the time came to make a decision about extending with our current au pair. We were very comfortable with her motivation (continuing to improve her English — the same thing that’s been her focus all along, so there’s a reassuring consistency there), with the outlook for her social life (a large circle of friends that has continued to evolve steadily as other au pairs arrive and leave, and no boyfriend factoring into the decision), and with our own continued enthusiasm for the match (we’re not just trying to dodge another interview process — we really couldn’t imagine a better caregiver or housemate). Many thanks to you and others who’ve laid out your own insights and experiences clearly enough to provide such usable road maps for the rest of us!

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momo4 August 4, 2016 at 1:33 pm

I can only speak from the perspective of a HM who chose not to extend with an AP and then had to speak with prospective HFs about the AP. It was AWKWARD.

The AP in question was very sweet, and truly loved children, and really wanted to stay with our family.
We nearly sent her into rematch multiple times, and if I weren’t such a total pushover I would have. She couldn’t cook at all, not even pasta. She seemed to move in slow motion, and as a result could not manage the kids laundry, tidying up, or anything household related. She couldn’t keep track of the kids stuff either, and multiple important items were lost (phone, winter jackets, favorite irreplaceable toy, etc.) She got into online dating and got involved with all sorts of losers including a drug addict with multiple psychiatric problems leading to much drama and anxiety on my part. She started dating the divorced dad of one of my daughters friends who was 25 years older than her, and basically stalked another divorced father at the school which made for a great deal of social awkwardness. And none of these issues got any better in the year she spent with us. In sum, I really couldn’t recommend her as an AP, except to say that she was a sweet person who really loved kids. So that is what I said.

I was torn because if I were the prospective HF I would really want to know the full truth, but I also didn’t want to completely throw the AP under the bus either. I did tell the family that household work was a struggle for her, but I didn’t really get into her interpersonal trauma. The family did actually match with her, apparently their former AP had shown no interest at all in the children and had seemed only interested in finding a way to get to the US so she could party in NYC, so their main concern was finding an AP who would really care for the children and they didn’t really care as much about the household stuff. As is so often said here, there is a lid for every pot.

What I would say though, is that if you really want to know about the AP ask the HF directly and ask specific questions about the APs abilities and personality. I have no doubt that there are many angry unhappy HFs who send APs into rematch and would be happy to tell you all the ways in which the AP didn’t live up to their expectations, but if a HF kept an AP for a whole year but doesn’t want to extend with them there is probably a good reason. The reason may have nothing to do with the AP personally (no longer need an AP, now need an IQ AP, etc.) but listen carefully for telltale pauses and qualifiers because the family may truly wish the AP well even as they do not want to extend with them.

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Taking a Computer Lunch August 4, 2016 at 9:49 pm

I think it’s okay to say, “She caused a lot of drama in our lives and that’s why we chose not to extend with her.” Put it on the HF who telephones to ask further.

Out of 12 APs, I’ve only had one rematch, and one with whom I wish I had gone into rematch on her 19th birthday when she failed to yield at a stop sign and nearly totaled the “AP car.” We had one AP, who was great with The Camel and lousy with the rest of us. When she hadn’t gotten her driver’s license after 5 months, our LCC counseled us to stop asking her to get it, and then to use her failure to obtain it against her at 8 months when she wanted to extend. We did. She never drove well, and after the snowiest winter in our area in decades, she lost all the driving skills she had gained. DH was still testing her skills at month 9! She eventually extended with a family that didn’t need a driver. If a prospective HF asked me why I chose not to extend, I discussed her good points, but the lack of initiative on learning to drive as the breaking point.

If you are considering an extension candidate – do not match without talking to the HF or the LCC. If the AP won’t give you that information, have your LCC call the AP’s LCC and get the background story. Don’t be passive. (And if you’re currently hosting an extension AP who’s attitude is questionable, it’s not too late to ask to communicate with her former LCC – and to get some motivation tips from your current LCC!) A good match is a good experience – a great match is a fantastic one. A lousy match eats at your craw!

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Anonymous in CA August 7, 2016 at 11:22 pm

I think TACL hits the nail on the head with “Don’t be passive.” I think it’s easy to go into panic mode when interviewing – the time pressure, a matching coordinator who places new profiles in your account every day then calls you to see how the interviews are going, the worry that you’ll “never” find someone who will match well with your particular child – for me, I find myself losing my voice (when I need it most). And then I become passive and I suddenly find myself letting go of qualities that are important to me, either because I am not finding it or because I’ve once again swallowed the pressure from the matching coordinator that I’m being too picky.

Our best au pairs have been rematches who have appreciated us for following the rules, paying regularly and on time, virtually no weekend or evening hours. Our extension au pair (1st year with another family) lasted only part of the year. I did speak to both the prior LCC and the prior HM and they both glowed about the AP. At the end of the day, in some situations, I think APs are sometimes one way with the first host family, and they might be entirely different with the next host family. In our extension AP’s case, she was just “done” with being an AP and really wanted to get on with her life…which she was fervently hoping would continue to be in the U.S.

Bottom line, I think you can ask lots of questions, but you have to have that something that tells you in your heart and in your gut that this person will fit into your family.

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Jennc August 10, 2016 at 8:34 am

Accidentally put on rematch …… Here are thoughts for those about extension ……We had an aupair who wanted to extend in the U.S. But didn’t love our location, had a hard time making friends etc. so she chose to extend but trying to find another family , Murphy’s law would have it , once she made that decision her social life took off and then she regretted her decision . We quickly found a new aupair and the decision couldn’t be undone. I knew she liked our family and wanted a similar experience , but every family and situation is different , so it is often very risky for an aupair to change families , if they come from a house without a lot of rules, curfew etc and then the new family is strict it can quickly go down the drain. Families considering an extension aupair should be very up front about rules, car use , curfew prior to match because many repeat aupairs won’t work well with stricter rules than the first year. This can help the family and aupair avoid a bad match. We only take aupairs in mid twenties , they have to be “adults” I don’t have a curfew but I have expectations and they know all this up front. They always have a car and I don’t use “with holding ” car as a punishment as I’ve heard other families do. I treat the aupair as an adult and expect them to act like one . I’ve had no major issues and really no minor ones either . I’m flexible and easy going , so if you got one of my aupairs in extension and you are complete opposite yikes , I would expect an unhappy aupair and family.

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