“Matching With” Versus “Selecting” an Au Pair: What’s your perspective?

by cv harquail on August 12, 2016

Writing about the AuPair interviewing process, I’m getting a little philosophical.

I just wrote this section (below) about the difference between “selecting” and “Matching with” an Au Pair. 7604470670_18218429cf_m

  • Am I crazy?
  • Do you make these sorts of distinctions?
  • Is this how you frame the process yourself?

What am I missing?  I’d love your ideas.

“Matching With” or “Selecting” an Au Pair?

Some folks like to think of this whole interviewing process as a “selection” process — like you’re looking at a line up of attractive boxes on a shelf, and you just pick one. In a “selection” process, almost all the power and the momentum is in the hands of the Host Family.

At AuPairMom we like to think of it differently. We see it all as a “matching” process — once where both the family and the Au Pair candidate take an active role in learning enough about each other to decide whether or not this is a relationship they both want to make a commitment to.

With “matching”, if both parties feel positively about each other AND the relationship, that’s a good thing. With a “match”, you can recognize that the other party is terrific and at the same time conclude that the relationship isn’t quite right. 

If one party doesn’t feel like there is a “fit” between them, it’s not a rejection of the other party. The candidate isn’t “rejected” and there is nothing wrong with him or her if the Host Family decides to pass. Similarly, the Host Family isn’t rejected or bad or offering a crummy situation if a candidate declines and interview or a followup.  When there’s “not a match” its easier to move on than when someone is “rejected” or more gently “not selected”.

Wonderful Host Families and Fabulous Au Pair Candidates talk with each other and still decide not to match all. the. time.  That’s how a “matching” process works. That’s how we commit to relationships.

It’s a subtle difference, I know, but it helps us frame the whole process in a more affirming and optimistic way.

Image: Matching outfits by Lovinkat on Flickr


German Au-Pair August 12, 2016 at 4:09 pm

Definitely! Look at this blog alone…I’m sure there are several HMs on here that I think must be amazing HMs, whose opinions and viewpoints I greatly appreciate and who I’m sure are a wonderful match for some lucky AP. With some of them I’m also sure we wouldn’t be a good match for a variety of different reasons that don’t make either party bad, just not right for each other.
Wording matters.

Fortysomething HM August 12, 2016 at 4:17 pm

I agree completely! I don’t think it’s just semantics either. Whether you call it matching or mutual selection, it HAS to be a two way street.

I tell all my prospective APs during interviewing/emails that they need to be selecting us just as much as we are selecting them. If they are not asking hard questions of us (and not about perks – but about us as a family and about the job), I will cut them loose, and I have done that many times.

With my former AP (rock star) and my current AP (it’s early but so far so great), I was the first person to snag their profiles (CC). After some back and forth to confirm we were both still interested, I recommended that they go talk with other families, and I released their profile so they could do that while we continued to talk. I need to know they have compared us to at least a few other families before any of us can know that they are indeed selecting us too.

TexasHM August 13, 2016 at 9:06 am

Completely agreed. We tell the candidates multiple times during the process that if they don’t think for whatever reason we would be a great match that is ok just please let us know! We take a lot of time interviewing and I wait until they start pushing us to match. Until then we can and will talk for days or weeks, however long it takes for both sides to be 100% sure. We also make sure they’ve not only talked to, but turned down for whatever reason other families (I do ask the reason and it needs to make sense to me and not be just perks of course). I don’t want any regrets or buyers remorse so we give them every opportunity to bail out. It’s worked great for us!

SA_Au Pair August 14, 2016 at 8:29 am

For me the “selection process” and “matching” is one in the same thing. At the end of the day host families and au pairs decide that they’re a good match and end up “selecting” or “choosing” each other out of all the people they might have communicated with. I don’t necessarily think that host families have all the power in these processes because au pairs can turn down a family for whatever reason. I completely agree with fortysomething HM that it has to be a two way street; and whether one calls it a matching process or a selection process, it works if/when both parties are honest/clear from the get go about who they are and their expectations.

WarmStateMomma August 14, 2016 at 10:35 am

It depends on the AP’s country. My APs have said the agencies told them they aren’t allowed to reject a host family. I tell candidates that isn’t true, but supply outstrips demand. The reality is that APs form some countries don’t have the luxury of “matching” and they’re reluctant to give signals that it might not be a good match.

My family isn’t for everyone and I would be impressed with an AP who could articulate why she thought we would be a good or bad match for her as an individual. One said she didn’t think she had the driving skills we needed and I respected her honesty.

SA_Au Pair August 14, 2016 at 11:38 am

Agencies can put pressure on au pairs to match as soon as possible, which eventually ends up putting au pairs in situations where they’re not happy (or host families not being happy because the au pair lied about her driving skills etc.). After feeling like I was being pushed in a direction that I wasn’t comfortable with for the sake of matching with a family as soon as possible, I put my foot down with the agency I’m with. It got to a point where I felt like I wasn’t being true to myself by having to make my profile look like everyone else’s out there. I’m believer that the “right” family will take me as I am, and if that takes months then so be it. I guess it just depends on the person, how quickly they want to match with a family and the country they’re from.

WarmStateMomma August 14, 2016 at 12:37 pm

@ SA_AuPair: I think you have the better approach and completely agree that APs and HFs are better off when everyone is as honest as possible. We all have to live together and that requires a much finer balance (and more caution) than a regular job.

NZ HM August 14, 2016 at 6:22 pm

@WarmStateMomma – great question to ask toward the end of the interview process: Why do you feel you are a good match for us and why are we a good match for you? Convince me why you will be a great aupair for our family.

I will add this to my list right away!

Aupair Paris August 14, 2016 at 1:07 pm

I think matching is by far the better way to go about it, but I think most APs feel like they’re being selected! I worry about APs not thinking they’re allowed to match, rather than just accepting it when they’re selected. When I was au pairing for my second year, I saw a family I knew go through an awful rematch process with their AP. That AP was so unhappy with the family. She had only genuine complaints – and they were legitimate too – she wasn’t just homesick or negative. She left really quickly, and we all understood why… But I’d known that family’s AP the year previously too. She’d had similar complaints, but they’d seemed to roll off her back. She would complain about it affectionately, rolling her eyes, while her successor would be near tears. It was a real shame, because the family was (mostly) lovely, and both the APs were too. They just needed someone thick-skinned and resilient, whereas in year 2 they got someone sensitive and empathetic. It ruined the second year for everyone, caused a young woman to feel despairing and miserable far away from home, and meant a family struggled for childcare after rematch.

It must be really hard with host parents to be completely honest with themselves about their family’s failings though. Bad enough for an AP to be like “well, I take things to heart, and I’m not the tidiest person… I’d need a family that weren’t too blunt, and didn’t mind clutter!”. A HF has to think that way about their children! It’s better for everyone that a family can say “L has behavioural problems, and a tendency to scream and hit. We’re working on it, but an AP needs to be able to be firm and resilient” or “T will sulk for hours if you don’t speak to him in exactly the right way when he’s upset. We need someone who’s able to be sensitive to the way he’s feeling.” – but it’s really hard to be able to think so objectively about the negative points of your own children. (Not to mention yourselves: “HD is such a joker that he’s made three APs cry with his sarcastic comments…” <- genuinely a family I knew.) Being self-aware enough to make a truly good match is so difficult.

New to This August 18, 2016 at 3:03 pm

When our AP arrived, I’d been a full-time stay-home mom for six months — I had NO trouble identifying and elaborating at length on the headaches involved! I suspect it will get harder with subsequent matching processes, since I’m (thankfully) not as immersed in caregiving anymore. On the other hand, I’m now much more aware of some of the ways in which we’re difficult to live with (I turn out to be more territorial about my kitchen than I’d anticipated, for example), so maybe it ends up being a wash.

We’ve been really fortunate with our current AP that none of what we didn’t know to disclose about our household has turned out to be a problem for her, PLUS she finds the kid much easier than I ever did. But on the matching vs. selecting point, I do think that some of our quirks certainly fit the idea that it’s about who you fit with, rather than how desirable either the HF or the AP is in any “objective” sense — and, therefore, that we can look at any self-understanding we gain as helping us make the right match again, rather than as a detriment to our ability to attract candidates. We’d be a great family for someone who doesn’t like (or never learned) to cook!

As for sarcastic jokers, maybe it’s a good thing the AP hasn’t met my grandmother yet — my grandmother often gives compliments by stating the opposite, in a way that those of us who know her recognize as blatantly facetious (“Well, that child is so UNHAPPY all the time, I don’t know what you must be doing to him!”), but even after years of my translating for her to HD, he still has a hard time internalizing the intended spirit of all her “mean” remarks. I’d worry a little that deeper language and cultural barriers might just reinforce the confusion!

Aupair Paris August 18, 2016 at 3:16 pm

Mmm, and I was in France too. If you’ve never heard a confident, affluent French man making funny, funny jokes about your shortcomings… It can be so harsh! And yet you know (or sincerely hope) they’re teasing and they’re showing they like you by including you but… Grim. My grandma does exactly the same thing as yours, by the way. When I got my A-Level results, she asked my Mum how she’d managed to raise such a slow, unsuccessful child. Since I was busy obsessing about a 1-2 point drop in a particular module result (which did not even change my grade), I did not take the comment in the spirit in which it was intended!

I like the idea that your family’s “shortcomings” can actually be a good way to refine your matching strategy. Who is it on here who has a “dare you to match with us” email, or something like that? I definitely think being up front about it has to be more effective.

CO Host Mom August 15, 2016 at 1:31 pm

I so agree with the concept of “match”. This isn’t just an employee – this person will be living with you and taking care of the most important people in your life.

I also like agencies that allow the potential APs to talk to multiple families so they don’t feel pressured into a situation.

I do have a question – do all agencies work in a way that the family makes the initial contact? Are there any agencies that allow you to post your family’s bio/needs and see if there are potential APs that would proactively reach out to you? I am not talking about the websites where you try and meet and then come to an agency to reduce your fee. Thanks!

SA_Au Pair August 16, 2016 at 7:44 am

As far as I know there isn’t an agency that allows au pairs to initiate contact with host families(I compared CC, APC, & Great Au Pair before choosing one). That’s why when some au pairs have been waiting for MONTHS for families to contact them they go with the very first one that does despite not being a good match. Au pairs can only see the profiles of the families that have contacted them and that’s about it. It can sometimes make the whole process feel/seem a bit one sided.

Seattle Mom August 16, 2016 at 4:24 pm

In an ideal world, I agree 100% that it is a matching process, not a selection process. And I think that the biggest mistakes I have made have involved matching with au pairs who don’t really convince me that they are a good fit for my family. They just had no objections to anything I said (and I told them all the truth!) and they fit my criteria. I think I might have been able to find better matches. But I don’t know.

Sydney mum August 23, 2016 at 12:05 am

AP2 & maybe AP4 (still settling in) have been like that for me. Unfortunately we were running out of time in both cases & just had to go with who was available.
In Australia the lack of AP visa means that APs arrive at any time of year & sometimes can only stay for 3 months. We as a family need an AP so we have to take what we can get. I do think that if we could have looked for longer (and managed with no childcare) that we would have found a better fit both times.

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