Matching With An Au Pair: What Kinds Of Photos Really Help an Application?

by cv harquail on September 7, 2016

As I’ve been writing the forthcoming ebook of AuPairMom’s Secrets for Interviewing Au Pairs I’ve been thinking a lot about the many small details in applications that seem to make a big difference to Host Families.

The CameraReadyAuPair, below, must have been reading my mind, because she’s asking some of the same questions I’ve been addressing.

8474815902_ec82527a89_mSpecifically, because we know that many candidates “stage” or set up photographs to use in their applications, what kinds of photos make a good impression?

And, whether or not photos are staged, pre-composed, or candid — what kinds of photos do we really want to see?

Dear AuPairMom — I’m applying to be an au pair and am at the stage of my application now where it’s time to upload photos. I do have previous Childcare experience (more than 200 hours) but did not take a whole lot of photos during this time.

I do have around 4 or 5 good photos I can use of me caring for children, they were not staged but they are not photos where we are ‘playing’ or doing anything other than smiling at the camera together.

I’m wondering —

What kinds of photos are considered ‘staged’?
It having “staged” photos always a bad thing?

Since candidates with my Agency can also upload up to 20 pictures….

What other photos are appropriate for me to upload without children?

Pictures of me (like natural headshot style?)
Pictures of my area I live in?
Pictures of meals I’ve cooked? Pictures of my cat?
A group shot of my family?
Pictures of me on my previous travels?
Or one picture from each of those categories??

I’m not sure if that’s what host families want to see or if they would think it was weird I have those random photos?

When you begin to speak with potential families through email later on are you then expected to send through more photos and if so should I then holdback on sending some previous photos?

Do host families want to see 20 photos like you’re allowed to upload or are they happy with 5, 10, 15 etc? Thanks! ~CameraReadyAuPair

Image by Rowan Saunders on Flickr

{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

SDaupairmom September 7, 2016 at 11:04 am

I would want all of the childcare photos (I don’t care if those are facing the camera or not), one of your face, and then maybe 1 from each of the above categories. I don’t need 20 pictures, but maybe 8-10

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HMof2 September 7, 2016 at 11:58 am

I try to glean something about the AP from the choice of pictures he or she chooses to include and equally important, exclude.

What turns me off is when the AP includes a lot of pictures taken during the same event such as 5-7 pictures, of AP working at a daycare with the same group of children, that appears to be taken all within 10 minutes of each other – it is redundant and leads me to think that the AP wants to do the bare minimum and fill up the album quickly (quantity versus quality).

I also suspect an AP’s driving ability if she includes a picture of herself at the wheel. The picture only proves that she sat in a car with her hands on the wheel at least one time. By choosing to include such a picture instead of mentioning somewhere in her profile that she commutes to work by car daily, or she traveled on an overnight trip by car last year etc., the AP is trying too hard to demonstrate her driving skills that she really doesn’t have. I feel the same way about video clips of driving. Clips showing how other cars are all passing the AP car or AP driving 10 feet down an empty driveway or street tells me that she is a new driver. I am not sure if that is the AP objective – using video to show how little driving skills she has. I tend to think the video or picture is to show that she is an experienced driver but these videos and pictures usually give me the opposite impression.

If AP does not have at least one picture with family, I wonder about her relationship with her family and her attitude about being part of a family and how does that translate into her attitude with the host family.

I like to see pictures that were taken unplanned, taken over years (not mostly on the same day). They don’t have to be with kids. Certainly on special occasions such as birthday, graduation, wedding, travel etc., photos were taken that could be included and show me a little of important events in this AP’s life and who were the people with her. I want the personality of the AP to come through in her picture selection. If she is sporty, then including pictures of doing a variety of sporty activities tells me that. If she likes animals, include them. If she is an introvert indoors risk-averse person, then the absence of outdoors adventure seeking pictures will tell me that. Again, it is more about the choice of pictures and less about the pictures themselves.

Videos are great. I like to see how the AP personality comes across and her level of verbal English. I watch for whether she reads from a script or recite from memory or tries to express herself naturally even if it means a fumble here or there. I am turned off from videos where the background music is louder than the AP’s voice. This gives me the impression that she did not make enough effort to check her work and fix problems. I am not interested in an AP who wants to just get by with the minimum quality of work. To me, this translates to an AP who will not have initiative and enough care about her work.

Each HF will be attracted to different things so just be yourself and include pictures that paint a whole picture of who you are. Don’t worry about including pictures that you think HF will like to see because each HF is different. Some may care about pictures of your cooking while other HF don’t really care. The goal is to find the HF that fits well with you.

Bottom line, I like to see about a dozen pictures – but quality pictures, not just 10 pictures of the same thing – and video is a plus.

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WCO HD September 7, 2016 at 12:22 pm

Many agencies give APs a lot of input on what they should include in their profiles. I strongly suspect that the driving photos/videos are there in many cases because agencies tell the APs to put them there. Our first AP talked to us about the pressure her agency put on her to include certain things in her profile or say things a certain way because ‘that’s what HFs want to see.’ I am not saying they encouraged her to lie by any means, but just to emphasize certain things that the agency deemed important, whether the AP deemed it important or not. That’s why the interview process is so critical in getting beyond the basics that are in a profile because it might not be a very good reflection of who the AP actually is, but instead may reflect more what the agency tells them will attract the most/best potential HFs.

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NoVA Twin Mom September 7, 2016 at 3:12 pm

We had an EXCELLENT au pair tell us that she prepared a video of her own composition – and was told by APIA that she was *not allowed* to use it because it did not fit their “formulaic” requirement of what a video should be. One thing I’m pretty sure she said APIA insisted be in the video was that her actively driving! Kudos to the au pairs that get a friend to video them driving up or down their driveway or small road in order to make a driving video as safely as possible!

She showed us her “real” video and we loved it – but were grateful that she wasn’t allowed to use it. Everyone else would have wanted her if they’d seen it!

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AlwaysHopeful HM September 8, 2016 at 6:35 am

I have had au pairs point me to their off-site videos, hosted elsewhere online. It’s great becase those tend to be more reflective of what the au pait really wants to convey about himself or herself. However, it could backfire! Let’s just say that judgment is key…

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WestMom September 7, 2016 at 1:22 pm

Yes: one spontaneous photo of you alone (not cropped from a group shot), spontaneous photos of you with happy kids, loving photos of you with family member (grandma?), photo of your family all together, photo of something personal (your room, cat), photo of you doing something interesting (sport, playing music), photo of something you created (cake, art, craft)…

No: glamour shots, too much makeup, duck faces, staged photos with kids (worse if all taken at the same time), photos showing you come from wealth like exotic destinations (Bali) or expensive hobbies (horseback riding), more photos of your friends than your family, bad photos that are blurry or uninteresting, too many photos of your country or village (this is not a travel guide!)…

I wouldn’t care much for a photo of you driving, unless it is a picture of the car you actually own!

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German Au-Pair September 7, 2016 at 4:22 pm

Wait, no to photos of you doing horseback riding? I mean, yes, it’s an expensive hobby but caring for a horse means taking care of another being much stronger tahn yourself, getting down and dirty, learning with another being, improving self awareness, not being afraid to get your hands dirty…I know a lot of riders and none of them would be counted as “coming from wealth”. Especially because it’s an expensive hobby it usually also means you learn how to hold back and save in other areas of your life.
I know that horseback riding can be a bit different in the US with the kid getrting there, climbing an already prepared horse, riding and going home again. I never owned a horse but I did grow up with them. We learned how to take responsibility very quickly and had to work hard for our goals of imrpoving ourselves. We cleaned the horse, got the heavy gear on, cleaned their stables, fell off and got back up…I’m sure there are entiteled riders here, too. But most I know work hard for their luxury both financially and emotionally.
Just wanted to put that out there :)

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WestMom September 7, 2016 at 4:32 pm

German AP, this is only one example. But when I see a candidate in a full dressage outfit, it tells me she is not coming from working class (and probably not even middle class), which is what I prefer to look for in a candidate.

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Exaupair September 15, 2016 at 5:21 pm

When APs turn down host families because they are working class it’s appalling, when HFs do it however…just my 2c.

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Mimi September 15, 2016 at 6:24 pm

I’m not sure if you misunderstand WestMom, but I believe she is saying that she prefers a working class AP. We also look for APs from a similar economic background so that they don’t have unrealistic expectations about our living situation. An AP who engages in any expensive hobby is likely to be weeded out by HFs that know they can’t support it in their household. Although I agree that it may seem discriminatory on the surface, it’s part of what makes or breaks a match (which IMO is the bigger issue).

HRHM September 15, 2016 at 7:00 pm

Um, There is no such thing as a “working class” Host family” Any family that has $24000 or more in disposable income to have live in help is not “working class”. Perhaps you misunderstand the meaning of the phrase. In the US working class is defined by less educated people in manual or service industry jobs. Their income is generally 30-60 thousand dollars per year.

And most of us who have a preference PREFER working class APs because they tend to have lower luxury expectations and show more gratitude (at least in my experience) Upper class APs come from homes where they have domestic help and may not be accustomed to BEING the domestic help LOL.

Exaupair September 17, 2016 at 4:55 pm

Just noticed that my statement makes little grammatical sense…anyway, no, I didn’t misunderstand, it’s quite obvious that economical background of the HF shouldn’t be a deal breaker for any au pair, otherwise they are entitled and not suited to do this job. Host Families on the other hand get a pat on the back when they write off people from certain backgrounds without getting to know them.
The key to finding a great match is getting to know one another, at least it’s how it should be.

NBHostMom September 7, 2016 at 4:48 pm

@German AP, I must admit I hold the same stereotype as WestMom regarding horse riding, again, especially when the photo shows a sparkling clean AP candidate in full on dressage / jumping outfits. I’d respond much better to a photo of a photo showing a dusty AP lugging riding gear or cleaning a horse. Also, the text you provided about learning hard work and sacrifice would be great to see in the application.

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Should be working September 7, 2016 at 9:31 pm

I am known on this blog for rejecting candidates who include horse pictures. Maybe someone who is a dedicate rider would be a great AP. But we all have our own “proxy” symbols for how we select APs. To me, horses are: not children, expensive to ride, an activity that is far away from where I live, and not a people-oriented activity.

I might be missing out on great candidates because of my “horse filter”. And all of my filters probably remove from consideration people who would have been good APs. There is nonetheless the need to narrow things down and imagine what is a proxy characteristic for what I find important in an AP candidate.

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Aupair Paris September 8, 2016 at 5:17 am

I might be off base here, but I’m not sure it’s so much “people who do x, y, z hobby” as “people who include that hobby in an application”. I went horse riding every Saturday as a kid. I did jobs around the house to pay for it, and got a lower rate because I came in early and mucked out the stables and helped the younger kids’ classes. But because I was so busy working to pay for it, I don’t have a single photo of me on a horse. I didn’t have time to take photos! When I was on a horse, I was riding or learning to jump, or off on a hack, and when I wasn’t I wasn’t taking photos of that either… (Plus, I rode in majorly scruffy jumpers with my jodhpurs and hardhat, so it wasn’t flattering.)
Which is to say, it’s not necessarily a “no to horse riders” as a “no to people who think a pictures of them all dressed up and on a horse is an accurate representation of their personality”.

Same way on dating sites I used to write off people who mentioned Kerouac or Hemingway or (absolute worst) Bret Easton Ellis. I wasn’t trying to write off all people who read and enjoyed those books, but I wasn’t interested in people who would define themselves by them, or who thought that kind of lit “said something” about them…

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Schnitzelpizza September 8, 2016 at 5:44 am

Just wanted to back up German Au-Pair real quick ;)
Where I am, horseback riding is also not considered a hobby for “wealthy people only”. Most people I know who do have a horse or are involved in horseback riding are not more than middle class. A whole load of friends and colleagues are into horses because of the area we live in. Some have their own horse but many do some type of “horse sharing” where somebody owns a horse and then allows others to ride it in exchange for taking care of the horse a few times a week, sometimes sharing the cost.

One of my colleagues has a horse, always had horses and her daughter grew up horseback riding and vaulting. My colleague is a technical assistant (her father was a farrier), her husband worked for an insurance company (now retired), her daughter trained to be a travel agent. They’d probably be considered smack dab in the middle of middle class here. They still go horseback riding together on weekends and have done extensive riding vacations.
A friend has been very involved in horse back riding forever – both her parents are teachers. She spends a huge amount of time (and money – that she is earning herself) on her hobby. I am sure, had she been an AP, you would have had one of those “sparkling clean AP candidate in full on jumping outfit” pictures in her application, because she is really proud of what she is doing. And those “sparkling clean” pictures from tournaments come with a lot of dirty and sweaty work that those five minutes of sparkling clean do not capture.
A friend from school who was working class (her mother was actually unemployed due to health issues) and lived in what was considered the worst area of town back then (all low income families, many on social assistance) did horseback riding. She “paid” for lessons by working as a stable hand and by teaching children how to work with horses and how to ride horses. She was a natural both with horses and children and would have made a wonderful au pair.
My SIL used to do horseback riding, her mother is a housewife / SAHM (four children), her father is an automechanic.
My (single)mom always wanted me to take up vaulting because classes were cheaper than my swimming or gymnastics lessons.
One of our former PhD students was a semi-professional jockey (she is now a professor but comes from a solid middle class background)! Another one is into combined driving (I think it is called English), you wouldn’t know if you hadn’t seen his CV.

When I interviewed for the job I have now (adminstrative assistant) I was asked if I had a horse. No idea how my salary would cover that (which was actually my answer – no, I did not want the job) but it’s so common here, even for working class or lower middle class people, that it just popped up.

Should be working is of course correct. Everybody has their “proxy symbols” and I am sure that for many people horseback riding is a “wealthy sport” but if you look at rural or small town Germany (or even the smaller large cities)… it isn’t. My “too posh sports” would probably be golf or hang gliding or parachuting and tennis, definitely tennis. So it’s definitely good that different people have different criteria they look at and every pot can get their chance to find their lid.

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AlwaysHopeful HM September 8, 2016 at 6:25 am

Interesting. I skip past horse riding pictures (and especially people who list riding as a hobby in the written application) less because of the wealth aspect, and more because it’s not something we’re going to be able to accommodate here. My sense (could be mistaken ) has been that people who ride are passionate about horses. I also see it as a really time consuming endeavor. There are no stables reasonably close to our home, and I don’t want an au pair who’s going to start out disappointed.

In contrast, there are lots of golf courses nearby, and my neighborhood has a tennis court, so I would be happy to see an au pair who lists either of those.

As for pictures, I study them closely. I look mostly at faces. I want to see kids shots and family shots as well as friends shots, but what I’m looking for is facial expressions, cheerfulness, genuine affection and personalilty. Similar to the poster above who saw a great au pair on paper who never smiled in a photo, I declined to consider a perfect on paper candidate who did smile in her photos, but whose family video showed a pretty unhappy lot. Personality is everything to me, and personalities are influenced by the people closest to us. If no one around seems happy, I don’t want to take the risk that your own smiles were just manufactured for the camera, and you are actually generally just as sullen. As far as friends, I want to see you with the person you view as your best friend, because I want to see your personality through that person.

Spontaneous shots are not so important to me, because they can be hard to come by (you can’t control whether someone will happen to catch you having a great moment). I also like as many photos as you can squeeze in, but it’s okay if you don’t have many, as long as the ones you have show who you are.

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NoVA Twin Mom September 8, 2016 at 6:40 am

This –

“less because of the wealth aspect, and more because it’s not something we’re going to be able to accommodate here. My sense (could be mistaken ) has been that people who ride are passionate about horses. I also see it as a really time consuming endeavor. There are no stables reasonably close to our home, and I don’t want an au pair who’s going to start out disappointed.”

is why we tend to “dig deeper” if we see a lot of horse pictures. The au pair stipend will NOT support horse back riding on a regular basis in our area – though you might be able to find an occasional Groupon for a 2 hour trail ride. That’s not going to satisfy someone that has independently ridden horses for years. While we don’t dismiss candidates that just list horse riding as a hobby (my theory is that the candidates are presented with a list of potential hobbies and “check all that apply”) we don’t want to see their host family letter being half about how much they enjoy horses.

We’ve found out later that some of our best au pairs have worked or attended the same horse camp in their home country. But while the one that was a counselor listed it as past experience with kids, neither one spent the majority of their letter telling us how much they loved horses.

WestMom September 8, 2016 at 8:35 am

Always Hopeful- The irony is that we do live close to a stable, so if we ever had an AP who liked to ride, it would have been easier to accommodate than say joining a soccer team or swimming.

Thought the reality is that ALL sports and hobbies are expensive here (at least in my area)! I just signed up for swimming at the local JCC and it’s $900 for the year. Martial Arts is easily $130 per month. I can’t even tell you the cost or riding at the stable but I assume it’s unthinkable on an Au Pair salary. The only sports I have found to be affordable in our area have been the low end gym w/o air conditioning, using the sports facility at the school they register at, or joining the county pool. And all these options are of course not the most convenient, so it’s been a lot extra gas to cover.

German Au-Pair September 11, 2016 at 7:39 am

Clearly everyone has their own critera for a reason and I’m not arguing against that. I just wanted to offer a different perspective on the topic so maybe if there’s a great candidate a HP with this critera can at least dig a little deeper.
I never did the shiny part of the riding business but if I had, I would also have included a picture in my application. Especially on the higher levels it definitely shpws dedication and willingness to work hard and, more importantly- empathy.
I had two photos of me with horses. A selfie with the horse I cared for (my HP actually had that framed for me when I came!) and one dirty and happy on a friend’s horse. I even mentioned the horse I cared for in my video when I listed hobbies.
I would argue that to a real horselover mentioning this hobby in an applicatiion that asks for your personality, it’s not bad judgement but crucial. While I’m not involved with horses anymore, at the time I was it was a big, important part of my personality and has also made a big, real difference regarding the way I work with children. That alone would be a reason for me to include it -without the horse-experience I never ould have been able to work with children.

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Hostmom (now LCC) DP September 12, 2016 at 10:23 am

I’ll also point out that there may be host families that are specifically looking for an au pair with riding experience or who loves horses. (Maybe they live on a farm or ranch and they want someone who will ride daily with the kids.) So while horseback riding pics may be a turnoff for some families, they may be exactly what other families look for as they scroll through pics! Bottom line, I think it all comes back to the idea of using pics that give a full picture of who you are and what you care about. That gives the best chance to actually MATCH with a family that will be compatible, as opposed to being PICKED by a family based on a sales pitch that doesn’t necessarily reflect your true self.

As the saying goes, “there’s a lid for every pot,” and I think there’s also a “right host family for every au pair” (and vice versa). IMHO, finding that right fit should be the goal.

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Sydney mum September 7, 2016 at 8:43 pm

To be fair, exotic holiday destinations are very subjective. I looked at an AP who’s family went to Dominican & Cuba. From my part of the world that’s an exotic location, but she was from Canada & apparently that’s not unusual at all.

So OP, if you have a holiday in your photos, mention it in your profile if it’s a place that people from your country commonly go. It’s worth explaining a few of the photos & what’s important to you about them, why they say something about who you are.
If you make an effort to visit grandma every week even when your family aren’t there and that is why you have a photo, then we want to know that!

HPs, if your potential AP is from Australia or NZ, then Bali is one of the cheapest overseas holidays they can do. Very very common for young people to go to Bali & SE Asia. Maybe she/he is still worth considering!

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WestMom September 7, 2016 at 10:07 pm

I don’t think exotic vacations are subjective. Some vacations are just more expensive depending on where you live… If it’s the same time zone and hemisphere as your home country, then it’s probably not exotic.

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CozyFarmHM September 9, 2016 at 11:56 am

Relatedly: Pictures of you in dressage? No. However, pictures of you taking care of a horse. Absolutely! We have two horses, and I know how much work they require. Mucking out a stall on a regular basis shows me that you are willing to get dirty, be reliable and do hard, messy work.

Our flame out/homesick AP had pictures of her on horseback and told me that she loved horses. Not once did she actually go out to the horse barn or to the pasture, which is a favorite activity of my youngest.

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Anna September 7, 2016 at 1:50 pm

Good advice above. Also no photos of you drinking or holding an alcoholic drink.
Also photos of you touching/hugging multiple young men turn me off.
No professional glamour photos of you lying on the floor in seductive poses.
This is not a joke, I’ve seen them all.

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A Host Mom September 7, 2016 at 2:29 pm

I only glance at the pictures, but I’m always looking for (1) pictures with kids at different times or at least wearing different clothes, LOL, (2) family pictures and (3) cheerful faces. It is important to me that everyone looks happy. It is also important that I do not see pictures of you (1) drinking, (2) smoking, or (3) intentionally looking sexy, because all of those scream “party girl” and that’s not what I’m looking for.

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Should be working September 7, 2016 at 2:30 pm

This may sound absurd, but I don’t want to give candidates advice on what photos to use, because I WANT to see their least-calculated self-presentation!!

I realize this is likely a good AP candidate asking good questions here in the best spirit, but I personally value the photos as a chance for the candidate to show her/his judgment as to what would be important to an HF and how s/he is in real life.

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TexasHM September 7, 2016 at 3:31 pm

Totally agreed with SBW. I think a candidate should decide what to include and I look for candidates that seem genuine and whose photos align with their profile. If I read they are a sports junkie but see no sports photos then I wonder why. If all the photos are super posed/canned I wonder why. If they seem spontaneous and are of loved ones and hobbies that align with the profile then thumbs up. As is often said here there is a lid for every pot so you should do your best to be GENUINE and HONEST and that includes in your profile photos. Should who you really are upfront and you are far more likely to find a strong family match than if you try to sanitize/cater to the cookie cutter – you will get lost in the noise or picked perhaps for a perception that is not you. If you are obsessed with cats – show it. I bet there are families that are obsessed and have a hard time finding a cat lover. If you love Harry Potter – show it.
Think of it like this – if you had to make a photo collage to represent who you are, what would you include? Do that. I like as many pictures as possible and I look for personality but I also don’t look for childcare experience so pictures with kids mean almost nothing to me but might to another. Again, show who you are and what you are passionate about and it will work itself out!

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WarmStateMomma September 8, 2016 at 6:19 am

Agreed with SBW and TexasHM: show who YOU are and that will increase your odds of matching with a family that is a good fit for you. The experience of living with an American family can vary wildly. Think of all the families you know with kids in your country – aunts and uncles, neighbors, teachers, etc. How many of them would you actually like to live with for a year? There are 300 million Americans and we’re 300 million individuals leading 300 million different lives. How will you connect with the one who will be a good fit for you if you don’t show who you are? Chance? Not a safe bet.

I also don’t like telling candidates to leave out the bad driving clips, duck face photos or bikini modeling photos – those are a useful filter for me.

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NoVA Twin Mom September 7, 2016 at 3:32 pm

I too prefer spontaneous photos with happy kids- even if they happen to be related to you.

I’ve seen applications where au pair candidates explained that their worksites with children did not allow them to take photos of the kids, and they instead showed the “end result” of kid-related activities, then included pictures of themselves with cousins or other relatives to show that kids do like spending time with them.

Overall, I don’t want to give too much advice either because I feel like the pictures show what the candidates think is important enough to want to share with a prospective family. Do remember, though, that the pictures are supposed to reflect you and your likes! If an outdoorsy-active family sees pictures of a candidate hiking, canoeing, downhill skiing, etc – they’re going to think that this is something you enjoy. If you are including pictures of the first time you ever skiied, and you hated it so much you will never do so again – you may want to include that information. You could spin it positively – “My friends trying to teach me to ski – it didn’t go well, but we had a lot of fun!” – but include something indicating that this is not your favorite thing to do. Otherwise you might get invited on a really expensive ski trip and expected to enjoy yourself!

The biggest thing that struck me this round of interviewing was that we had one candidate that looked great on paper – but never smiled in any of her pictures. I understand that Americans can be seen as excessively friendly and smiley – but we’ve had au pairs from that country for years, and they normally smile in pictures. When they’re not making “sexy” faces. But they don’t generally look UNhappy in pictures, and that was the case with this candidate.

Candidates get to PICK which pictures they give to the agency, so why pick a bunch of sullen-looking pictures … unless you truly never smile? We just couldn’t get past the idea of having someone that was NEVER happy in our house for a year, so while she may have been a great candidate in person, we didn’t interview her.

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German Au-Pair September 7, 2016 at 4:36 pm

As a former Ap who LOVES pictures I agree with the: don’t take too much advice but just be yourself. I know an Ap who made an AMAZING video that showed her personality so well. Another one thought so too and copied the video (down to her misspeaking! No joke!) and it just felt wrong. Be yourself. I like to laugh at myself and I’m goofy so I did include photos of me and my brother laughing our a**es off while doing the video. I did staged photos of me and the kids and also of me and my brother but I did them in a way that meant something to me just I like I take ALL staged photos. I have staged photos of me and the children while reading a book. Yes, they are staged but we were actually reading a book before we staged the photo to go with it. We staged photos at the lake -we had never been at this particular lake together but one of my fondest memories with my brother are at a lake (which we couldn’t easily get to for those photos.)
Don’t think about what you think a HF wants to see but think about what YOU want to show them of you. Do stuff that means something to you. You don’t want them to think you are super fun and outdoorsy when you’re not. Don’t photograph yourself with your friend’s library to come off as smart if you actually don’t like books. I included a photo with my grandma on Christmas because I LOVE Christmas and I’m really close with my grandma. I didn’t think about whether or not a HF would find that redudant because it was important to me. That’s what matters.

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Sydney mum September 7, 2016 at 8:48 pm

Great advice GAP!

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NBHostMom September 7, 2016 at 4:44 pm

One thing I love seeing is a small explanation to go with each photo, such as “me with Child Xyz who I babysit every weekend.” When this is done I find myself referring to the photos when looking through be written application to match photos. I makes the application much more personal.

I also love photos that help share APs personality…. Love to cook? Show me your favorite meal? Play sports? An action shot or team photo. Pictures with kids are great, but I also want to see pictures of other things/people/places that are important to you.

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HMof2 September 7, 2016 at 5:53 pm

I also enjoy reading the photo captions. Shows an AP who is willing to put forth the effort and take the initiative, instead of leaving the caption as IMG_935.

Photos should show the meaningful things in your life and should complement the rest of the profile (not contradict it). If you have a quirky side, show that. It may not be every HF cup of tea but there is a lid for every pot, and gives you the best chance for a successful match with a family who is interested in you for who you really are, not the persona that the agency wants you to create.

It’s a shame that agencies try to persuade the AP to write profile and make videos based on formulas that they perceive to yield greater success, instead of encourage APs to just be themselves.

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SA_Au Pair September 8, 2016 at 2:05 am

As someone who had found a family using a third party site (to a different country) and has talked to a lot of families I found working with an agency very different. I pretty much just ignored some of the things the agency said to include (like the video of me driving because I don’t have a car and I really didn’t want to sell people dreams). it can be difficult to be authentic when the agency keeps telling you what to say, how to say it and wants pictures of you surrounded by millions of kids. I included pictures that best portray who I am and what I do on a daily basis and before I even started I told the agency that I will only include pictures of me with my siblings and my little cousins (I have a problem with people going to daycares and taking pictures with those kids usually without the parents’ permission). I have thousands of childcare hours, I have experience with kids from pretty much all ages and I know what it’s like to stay up all night with a baby who’s running a fever; so if a family looks at my profile and goes “she didn’t include a photo of her swimming” they’re more than welcome to move on to someone else who best meets what they’re looking for. As much as I want to match with a family, I don’t want to lie about who I am and what I’m capable of in order for that to happen. Just be yourself and the rest will fall into place.

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DC Twin Mom September 8, 2016 at 9:19 am

When I look at photos, I am wary of the girls who always are in the same pose/facial expression or who consistently crop out particular aspects of their body. Applying to be an au pair is not a beauty contest, and it sends up a red flag to me that the au pair either doesn’t realize this or is too self-conscious and insecure to just put their whole selves out there.

To me, a girl who is super self-conscious about how they look is going to have a lot of other insecurities as well…that I don’t want to import.

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Anna September 8, 2016 at 3:17 pm

True. A lot of au pairs just show their face and hide their body behind others etc.
Usually they are obese or very overweight (my agency lists height and weight on the applications), but from the photos you can’t really tell that, they are edited so masterfully.

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DC Twin Mom September 8, 2016 at 3:32 pm

Sometimes, and sometimes I think they are just uncomfortable with anything other than a particular look. As a host mom- I really don’t care if you are overweight or whatever, but I DO care that you are ashamed and so self conscious that you can’t bear to send photos of yourself. That’s the red flag.

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oranje_mama September 8, 2016 at 3:09 pm

Confession: I make quick decisions of whether a prospective AP is in or out of the consideration pool pretty much on photos/video alone. So, yeah, pretty important.

I agree with the tips above:
– I too am wary of the horseback riding photos
– Any “glamor” shots / excessively posed / etc are deal-breakers
– Authenticity. Be yourself. I’m not looking for anything in particular, but like to see that you have an interest/hobby/passion and are interested in more than shopping or hanging out
– Video is really important. If you are just going through the motions, I eliminate you immediately.

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DC Twin Mom September 8, 2016 at 3:39 pm

Yep- me too. Actually 100% true. If I were advising prospective APs I’d recommend:

1) High-quality photos. If your phone has a crappy camera, use a regular camera or borrow one from a friend.
2) Show off your life- I love the photos where girls are doing their favorite sport, showing off their school or favorite local cafe. I’m less interested of photos of you on your vacation to Ibiza– that doesn’t tell me much about you.
3) Show me a variety- one with your family, one with the kids you work with, one of you on your basketball team and one of you with your best friends.
4) Show your personality. Are you an extrovert? Be silly and goofy. Are you an introvert who loves reading books? Show me your favorite reading nook.
5) Enough with the peace signs everywhere. Just smile and look engaged.

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AP in Australia September 9, 2016 at 12:49 am

I don’t mean to be rude or disrespectful in any way, shape or form, but I do have a follow-up question: You say you are wary of the horseback riding photos ,but then you mention authenticity and being yourself, showing your hobbies, passions etc.

For me personally, horses are a huge part of my life. I started riding when I was 4 and stuck to it for now over 15 years. I have my own horse and worked hard around the stable because it is something I want to do for the rest of my life. That doesn’t however mean that I grew up spoiled, doesn’t tell you how wealthy or poor my family is and also does not label me as a person who isn’t aware of the fact that I might not be able to ride as much as I normally have while with my host family.

So now, according to many hostmoms on this site, I am supposed to leave out something that plays such a huge and important role in my life while looking for a hostfamily? I learned huge and important life lessons at the barn, met some of my best friends there and spent 4-6 days a week with horses for 15 years – so no, I would definitely not leave out something like that just because some people might judge me for having a hobby that in the US is more expensive than other sports (but then again, aren’t all sports expensive in the US?).

I am happy that I mentioned horses while looking for a host family (no agency) and am now in an area with tons of horses, my host daughter rides and I have horse studs, stables etc. all around me and can spend my free time there.

As I said, I am not attacking anyone, just asking for how those two statements go together.

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SA_Au Pair September 9, 2016 at 5:52 am

I personally found some of the comments contradictory. Be yourself but don’t show me this or that because it says this or that about you but…be yourself. I find it weird to tell someone to show you who they are and what they love doing and in the same sentence say “but I don’t want to see this and that”. I honestly think that I’m not for everyone, families are looking for a particular kind of person (the same way I’m also looking for a particular kind of family) so reading some of these comments about horses and duckfaces really doesn’t bother me one bit. AP in Australia: by being yourself you managed to find a family that has similar hobbies to you and is the right fit for you, and at the end of the day we all just want the right fit. If a family doesn’t want to see pictures of you doing something you love for whatever reason then they’re just not the right family for you and that’s that. I’m sure if there was a conversation about why au pairs turn some families down there would be families who are offended by the reasons; no one likes to feel like they’re being judged. I included a picture of myself when I was about 3 years old and if some family doesn’t want to see that for whatever reason it’s fine, there are other au pairs out there. You can’t please everyone.

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WestMom September 9, 2016 at 6:10 am

Exactly, you can’t please everyone. ‘Be yourself’ still stands. If you are a vegetarian, don’t pretend you are not. If you ride horses, be proud or it but know that moms looking for candidates from working class families will probably pass (just like I would pass if you were underage),

Let’s be fair here. This is like dating. Both APs and families may pass because of criteria the other side may found questionable or not disagree with.

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SA_Au Pair September 9, 2016 at 7:45 am

I agree. I don’t take it personally if a family passes me over because of something in my profile. Everything I’ve put in my profile is there because I’ve made a conscious decision to put it there, it’s a little glimpse into who I am as a person and if someone doesn’t like it…well, that’s life.

2 kids and a cat September 9, 2016 at 8:16 am

Per my post below, I need information in the application that’s going to let us know if someone won’t be comfortable in my home. We’ve worked really hard to make our dossier a lot more transparent about the type of family we are so I appreciate a candid, truthful representation of self on the candidate’s part– yet, I do think that there are certain markers of overall immaturity which suggest an au pair would struggle to be successful in any family. When I was looking for a rematch au pair, I noticed a lot of my no-go criteria in the photos which circumstantially confirms my suspicion.

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2 kids and a cat September 9, 2016 at 6:00 am

I like to see what looks like sincere and authentic – but that still doesn’t mean you’re the candidate for us. We’re an active, eco family and I need an au pair who can comfortably live with that. A background in horseback riding could show that you’re good with time management and dedicated. But, in the States it’s terribly expensive and requires a lot of time from a parent – so it’s fair for potential HP to want to screen out APs who may be demanding in ways that the family can’t accommodate. Horses are just a proxy in this discussion.
A lot of my criteria have come up, but I want to echo that the most useless photos are the clearly staged driving, cooking, and 10 shots with kids in the same outfits.

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Should be working September 9, 2016 at 2:14 pm

AP in Australia’s comment shows the problem with this entire thread: Different HFs look for different things, and have different proxies for how they judge an AP. Certainly an AP should include horse photos if s/he is into horses. It might mean that some HFs exclude her/him. But some HFs will exclude her/him for any bunch of reasons: nationality, age, sibling ages, hairstyle, gender, photos of xyz, apparent command of English, not enough photos outdoors, not enough photos indoors, too many photos of friends, not enough photos of friends…who knows??

APs: Definitely don’t get overly focused on the advice of these very few HPs on this blog that reaches only a small proportion of HPs (woe are they who don’t read it!!). HPs select in very different ways! It’s not about getting selected, it’s about matching with a family with whom you are a GOOD FIT. So yes, be yourself in your photos/videos, because getting to the USA is not the goal (for most), it is having a good YEAR with your HF.

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Hostmom (now LCC) DP September 12, 2016 at 10:33 am

Yes, this exactly. The goal should be finding the BEST FIT, which you will only do if your profile shows your true self. (I tell host families the same thing with regard to their profiles. Setting up unrealistic expectations on either side is a surefire recipe for rematch!)

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GitHM September 8, 2016 at 3:59 pm

Everyone has had great input on the photos to include. I also like one photo of the candidate, one with friends, a few with family, the others showing hobbies and interests.
I value the videos much more than the photos because it’s the first chance I get to evaluate their English. Although they may be staged, I enjoy seeing videos of candidates interacting with kids one on one and not in a classroom setting. Whether it’s kids they took care of, or relatives, I like to get a glimpse of their body language, comfort, and expression with the kids. A video clip I still remember well was one of the candidate cutting a young child’s fingernails.

I’ve learned now that I do like the driving videos. In fact, next time, if I like a candidate, I’m thinking of requesting a video of them parking a car, driving down a street at 30 mph, and turning onto another street. Then at least I’ll know they can somewhat drive.

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WestMom September 8, 2016 at 5:29 pm

One quick note about the videos… I do like videos, but I think videos do not showcase everyone equally well. Some people are simply more expressive and spontaneous and can give out a certain vibe, while others might be more introverted and uncomfortable in front of the camera and give another vibe. Both might equally not be telling of potential talent as an au pair.

But as far as videos go, please catch my interest in the first 30 seconds! Too often I see candidates’ videos going like ‘Hello future host family! My name is Emilie and I am from France!’ and then show me 2 minutes worth of Eiffel tower pictures. Really, I don’t care about the French map and the local attractions! I can Google where you live! Show me who you are, be spontaneous, make sure we can hear you well, don’t read your text, make sure you understand what you are saying (too often it is clear someone else translated or wrote their text), and please find something interesting to say! Candidates have no idea that most of them all sound the same ‘I love children’, ‘it is my dream to go to USA’, ‘I am open mind’. Those of us in serious interview mode can’t weed the wheat from the chaff when you they are all saying the same generic things!

Imperatives in videos: Candidate driving is a huge plus. Also I like other people talking about the candidate, like ‘Emily always makes me laugh and makes the best apple pie’. I love those.

Oh, and find a good soundtrack that represent you, but that is tolerable for the families also. But don’t drown your voice with it. And don’t crazy with the animated titles!

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German Au-Pair September 11, 2016 at 8:01 am

The entire “I love working with children and want to spend a year with your family in the US” is coached and even mandatory by the agencies (I registered with two and both wanted it.) Terrible.
I included my little brother who then spontaneously said “This is the best sister ever” which sounds sooo staged but really wasn’t.
It was my video that my HM noticed first and I loved doing it. I included little sections with slideshows matching certain topics and also included little video sequences that represented my brother and I’s relationship. All in the same outfits of course because you simply don’t have unstaged photos of you doing homework or tickling your little brother but even the staged photos/videos represented the real life, which is what I think is really important. I even included us playing karaoke :D
The video is a fantastic chance to show what is important to you.

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txmom September 9, 2016 at 11:59 am

I haven’t read the previous comments, so this might be redundant. I really poured over the photos/videos before requesting interviews. This might be judgmental, but I ruled out everyone who seemed to have on tons of makeup. I looked for women doing sporty/active things in their photos. I looked for at least one nice family picture, bonus points for informal photos with siblings. I also scrutinized friends in photos. Our current AP had a pic with her mom, just having finished a charity race together. That showed me that she’s active, willing to train and work hard for something, that she doesn’t place huge emphasis on looking perfect all the time (she was comfortable showing a post-run, sweaty pic), and that she has a good relationship with her mom. That picture meant more to me than all the pictures of her taking care of kids.
I also like seeing pictures of her home. It gives me an idea of what her lifestyle is like. I remember looking at one profile of an AP from the south of France. Her home was basically a palace and she had lots of pictures on a boat…I knew that she would probably balk at having to clean her own toilet. :)

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OP September 9, 2016 at 10:39 pm

I’m the original poster of the question. Thank you for all the excellent advice and information. Everyone’s different answers shows that one set of photos might be great and what one host family is looking for while another host family looking at the same photos might think that au pair is not the right one for them and their family.

I just have one part of my question that no one has mentioned and that is if the agency allows you up to 20 photos do you prefer that she actually upload 20 photos? Is 5 photos too little?

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American Host Mom in Europe September 12, 2016 at 4:11 am

For me, more is always better. If a candidate has two photos that are portrait style /face shots, and one of them out with friends, and one at graduation with mom and dad, and that’s it, I’ve learned very little about her. So it doesn’t have to be all 20, but you want to show enough of your personality.

I also get annoyed in photos by the following:
– Multiple group photos that aren’t captioned, where I can’t tell which person is the candidate
– multiple photos where the candidate looks completely different (eg short purple hair in one, long blond hair in one), so I can’t tell what the current look is

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FirstTimeHM September 10, 2016 at 10:43 am

For me I like to see the future AP doing something sporty because we as a family are quite active, and I like to see that an AP isn’t afraid of getting sweaty or getting her hands dirty. If you’re a scout, please include that, for us it’s a huge plus since two of our kids are scouts as well.
For me it’s quite important to include a headshot as well, we like to see a face next to the application, but no duck faces please. A funny photo with kids does wonders as well, please don’t stage it too much. It doesn’t have to be a perfect photo but I like to see the child being relaxed and interacting naturally with you.
Family photo’s are a must, either with the entire family or you with your parents or siblings. If they’re staged for this occasion, that’s a red flag. Pretty much everyone with a good bond with their brother/sister will have a selfie of doing something together, AP with sister on a shopping trip or AP with brother biking/playing frisbee/swimming pool, AP with mother or father doing dishes after christmas dinner (always a lot of fun in my family, we each sang a different christmas song together).
A picture of your room/house is a nice to have, a room shows quite a bit of your personality.
If you play an instrument in an orchestra, those are really good pictures as well. All our kids play an instrument and it takes practice and dedication to get to a level when you can play in an orchestra in our country.
If you play chess, please mention it. Photo not necessary but nice to have if you regularly play tournaments.

All these activities tell a lot about the AP and I try to look for hobbies that fit in well with our lifestyle. Horse riding is not negative but I look for mucking out stables as well. It’s simply about perspective. If you research your desired location look into the costs of your hobby there. If you’ve got a hobby that is very expensive there and not in your own country, mention it, or mention how much you’ve worked to be able to do that (I love an AP that works for things she wants to do and doesn’t rely on her parents to pay everything).

My absolute turnoff pictures are the ‘next top model’ type of pictures with loads of make up, duck faces, party picture with drunk people and pictures with kids where it’s clearly staged and all about the AP.
No pictures of hobbies or family is a red flag, just as having only a few very staged pictures of you with kids.

For my pictures is just a part of the application, I always read the letter first. But the letter and the photo’s need to match, they must show the same person.
After all, it’s about matching and no good match ever was based on misrepresentation.

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ChiHostMom September 10, 2016 at 10:56 pm

My advice is to take pictures that are you. There are families who love horses (and those that don’t), there are families who don’t care about duck faces and those that do, etc. etc. etc. If you as an AP are honest about who you are and the family is also honest about themselves (since we get pictures too) that will help.

My APs have often mentioned that many families have just as curated a set of pictures as many APs do. Just like we as host families want authentic pictures, so do the APs.

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Old China Hand September 11, 2016 at 8:29 am

I ignore the photos because our ap candidates all go through the same local agency and thus have basically identical spreads on cheesy paper with heart stickers. Swimming, driving, cooking, playing with kids, a family dinner, maybe some friends… But no sense of personality.

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Exaupair September 17, 2016 at 5:06 pm

In my online profile I have included:
– a photo of me in the woods walking a dog
– a photo of me with a group of friends
– a photo of me with family in a pub
no children that weren’t relatives, because I had NO real child experience, and even though those photos would only tell HFs that I live in the country, have a dog and enjoy drinking, I got few emails in my mailbox on day one!
This was just a website, so probably Families are also less picky, but even I had some luck.

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Suburban Samurai September 28, 2016 at 12:55 pm

When trying to decide how to present yourself (not lying, of course–just choosing what to emphasize), you have to take into account the conflicting and almost contradictory things host families are looking for in an au pair.

-We want someone from a different culture, but who shares our values.
-We want someone who is fun to be around, but who doesn’t spend too much time having fun.
-We want someone who is used to hard work, but they must know how to swim and drive, which are proxies for unusual wealth in many parts of the world.

So, when you choose your pictures, ask yourself what message you want to send with it. Then caption it so the message is explicit. You never know when something obvious to you (Keeping horses is a ton of hard work!) carries a completely different cultural message (Only spoiled princesses ride horses!).

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