Interviewing Rematch Au Pairs: Special Questions?

by cv harquail on August 3, 2016

How to Interview Au Pair Candidates is the #1 topic that people search for on AuPairMom.

This week, I’ve been hard at work on an eBook that can offer all the ideas in one place and one package.  It’s insane, trying to pull together (as much as is humanly possible) the wisdom that’s accumulated here over the past 9 years.

It’s so interesting to see the comments and concerns that appear over and over, like “All the good ones get snapped up before our second Skype call!“, and “Don’t panic, don’t settle!“.4854218970_bab6a3b020_m

What’s crazier to discover is that there are actually a few issues that we’ve never had deep discussions about.  Unbelievable!   I’ll be raising some of these issues in the next few weeks.

Here’s one of those questions —

What special questions do you ask when you are interviewing Rematch AuPairs?

We all know that in rematch situations, there are usually more sides to the story than there are characters in the story.  The information that we get from the Agency will likely gloss over some issues. The information we get from the Host Family — if we’re able to connect with them — can range from “accurate” to “as kind as possible but vague” to “blameful but trying not to be bitter” to “no wonder the Au Pair left!”

And from the Au Pairs themselves, the information can feel hard to trust. We know that Au Pairs in rematch are under pressure to rematch within two weeks, so they are motivated to present themselves well.

When you actually get the Rematch Au Pair on Skype, Hangout, or the phone, what do you ask about? 

When you’re looking at transition documents, what do you look for?

How do you read in between the lines to assess the philosophy, perspective, and attitude of a Rematch Au Pair?

 

I’ll open another post for Interviewing Extension Au Pairs: Special Questions?

 

Thanks in advance for your insights.

 

Image by Bethan Phillips on Flickr

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

DC Twin Mom August 4, 2016 at 11:27 am

Rematch au pair interviews are in many ways much easier than overseas interviews. Logistically you have time zones and better English skills on your side. More importantly, the AP knows what the job is about, and they have gotten over the hurdles of culture shock and they have a track record. They know what they are getting into now, and by rematching they are really committing to being here for the remaining part of their year.

The other good aspect about rematching is that you now have more insight. You can see the documents, but more importantly, this is where a great LCC can make or break your match. I’ve had some wonderful LCCs who could either read between the lines better than I could or could give me the skinny after talking to the corresponding LCC.

Ok, questions. For rematch APs you can really go deep.
After some intro conversation:
Tell me about why you rematched?
What has been the hardest challenge you’ve faced as an AP so far?
What have you learned about what kind of family you want to be placed with?
How do you feel about living in XXXX? Do you want to move or are you happy where you are?
Tell me about your relationship with your current host kids? Do you enjoy their ages?
Were you homesick at all? How did you get through it?
What have you liked/disliked/found surprising about life in the US?

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momo4 August 4, 2016 at 12:51 pm

I have only had to look at rematch APs once, after our 2nd AP decided that being an AP just wasn’t what she really wanted to do after all, and at the time I was a still very inexperienced HM and I found it all immensely stressful. The agency we were with at the time also did not allow us to speak with the HF at all, so I felt I was really not able to get a full picture of the situation that lead the AP into rematch. We did ultimately match with a nice girl who stayed out the remaining 9 months of her year with us, but I can’t help but think it had more to do with luck rather than clever interviewing.

10 APs later, if I had to interview for a rematch AP here is what I would really want to know, ideally from both sides:

1. Who initiated the rematch – AP or HF?
2. Why was rematch initiated?
3. In what ways was the HF/AP different that you expected them/her to be?
4. How did the HF/AP make you feel when you were with them? What kind of person/people did they seem like? How did they treat you? Were they cheerful? moody? Distant? etc.
5. What was the schedule like?
6. What were the family rules? Curfew? Car use? How did you/the AP feel about the family rules? Did the AP abide by them?
6. What were the AP’s responsibilities? Did you/they struggle to manage them? Were you comfortable with what you were being asked to do?
7. What was your/the AP’s relationship with the HKs like? Will you miss them? Will they miss the AP?
8. What kind of family/AP are you hoping for?
9. Are you talking with any other families right now? Have you agreed to match with anyone yet? (This last may seem strange but I have, over the years, wasted hours of time interviewing APs who have actually already decided that they want to match with another family but are either hedging their bets in case the family changes their mind or just hoping to be chosen.)

The re-match AP we got worked out, but she seemed traumatized by her experience with her first family and this came up over and over again in conversation. She had really loved the three children she was caring for, and was sent into rematch (as far as I could tell, not having talked with the HF) because the HP were in the process of a bitter divorce, and the AP was caught in the middle. I always felt she was mourning the loss of the relationship she had with those children, and although she took great care of my daughter, I always felt her heart was still with the other family.

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Should be working August 4, 2016 at 4:05 pm

These are fabulous questions, Momof4!!

What is the worst thing you can imagine the previous HF saying about you (and they will probably say it to me, since our agency gives me their contact info) and how would you respond?

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Jennc August 4, 2016 at 4:45 pm

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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NZ HM August 4, 2016 at 6:36 pm

Even if, or maybe especially if, they initiated rematch:

What was the best thing about your current host family/ what did you like about your situation/ host family?

ie. what’s their general disposition/ outlook on life and ‘bad’ (unsuitable) situations…

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Taking a Computer Lunch August 4, 2016 at 10:04 pm

I’ve never matched with a rematch AP – the venn diagram of special needs willing (much less APs with actual experience with children who have special needs!) who can actually drive is usually zero. Nevertheless, I have housed plenty of rematch APs in the last 15 1/2 years and I can tell you – HF who are interviewing rematch APs are generally lousy at asking questions. I think momto4’s questions are fantastic. But also – take our your general questionnaire that you use to interview out-of-country candidates, and ask those questions, too! While knowing if you’re about to acquire a land mine of an AP is useful, she could be the best candidate in the world and still not be a good match for your family’s personality.

Even if your agency does not permit HF/LCC interviews, ask the AP for the contact information. If she would prefer that you not speak to her HM, then ask for contact information for another HF in her area that knows her story or the LCC. Ask your LCC to contact her LCC. Don’t be passive – it’s your money! Remember, the agency works for you!!

I once housed an AP who was being abused by her family (she was trapped in the house while a tween slept in, but her shift didn’t start until the child woke up – leaving her no time to take classes, etc.) because the AP program was not what the family needed – they needed a full-time live-in nanny. The AP was really bossy, so we knew she wouldn’t be a great fit for every family – but she did deserve an opportunity to match with family that would be able to follow the rules. I’ve also housed rematch AP’s who needed to go home – including ones that stole money and goods from my AP. None of these women would have been in my house, expect some fantastic APs asked nicely if their friends could stay for a few days. (The last rematch AP was in my house for more than 2 weeks – and my LCC arranged for me to receive credit with my agency.)

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Mom2Jack August 5, 2016 at 12:03 pm

We have only looked at rematch candidates once (after our au pair of 2 weeks thought an 8 year old’s melt down after a long day at the beach was a sure sign of bad parenting and called the agency to say so!) I spoke with two candidates and one family. The 1st HM kept calling me to add on complaint after complaint – left the pool gate unlocked, couldn’t mange 4 kids, couldn’t stick to a schedule. The HM’s behavior just struck me as odd and the LCC confirmed that the HM’s stories were completely one sided private swim instructor forgot to relock gate, expecting to bathe the baby upstairs and entertain 3 other children downstairs at the exact same time, etc. The family sent the girl away so she decided to take a trip on a bus and staying in hostile so we never had a chance to connect. But the experience did teach me to trust my gut and to verify HF comments with the LCC.
We spoke to one other girl (we matched and she became ap #4). Coincidentally, she was someone that I had some interested in before we match with the disaster ap. In my desperation I saw that as a positive sign. Also, when I called the house phone to speak with her, the HD was very pleasant and seemed to be nice to her on her way to the phone. He was a widower who gave the ap a good review but did not want to be contacted. I interviewed like I would an OOC ap but asked about rematch. She had initiated, after only a few weeks, because there were a lot of issues related to the Mom’s passing and an HD who was uncomfortable with a young woman in his house. The HD’s exit interview comments confirmed the AP’s version of things and the LCC, who the ap went to live with, gave a glowing review. So we decided to go for it – and a had a good, not great, year. But ap was very happy to have a HM and didn’t care about the benefits she gave up (own car, free gym membership) plus she got a better location and one easy school aged child. Plus we got an ap that already had learned to drive an automatic and plenty of driving experience.
Now I know that good rematch aps will really appreciate a good situation. So I’d say interview hard, take advantage of the ease of the process (minor time differences, LCCs perspective), contact the HF if possible (but consider that you may only be hearing one side of the story.)

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Cristina August 8, 2016 at 5:22 pm

I rematches twice – one worked out fairly well – she had 2 families where there was not a good fit. The first family due to rule breaking the second because there were 12 year old triplets and one of them with special needs became inappropriately attached to the Au pair and the family and the Au pair mutually agreed to rematch. She ended up staying with us for 5 months and while she had committed to extending we agreed not to hold her to the agreement as she just never clicked with the few Au pairs in our area. We still think back fondly of her and she was very capable.

The second was a disaster – could not learn very basic concepts, would agree with everything but then I realized she was ‘yessing’ me while barely functioning couldn’t complete very basic tasks and in the end her inability to make basic common sense decisions or even learn a consistent way to do things was just too much.

The difference was in the first case the LCC with whom she was living have her a great recommendation and could vouch for her situation and driving ability. With the second, the LCC barely knew the girl and couldn’t tell me much. I should have spoken to the family (my agency allowed it). I guess my advice is definitely try and validate the story and understand the issues that led to rematch.

In talking to other candidates I have learned some times the AP may not understand the reason for rematch! They may attribute it to one incident where the family sees a pattern of behavior. There are many good rematch Au pairs out there but you have an opportunity to get more informed answers about the Au pair’s interests, goals – try and do the same about the situation that led to rematch and ask for people who can vouch for his / her character.

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