Send an Excerpt from your Family Handbook to Prospective Au Pairs

by cv harquail on March 19, 2013

In my house we have a saying:

“Fewer, better things.”

This advice is to keep me from buying those $2.00 sequined rabbit statues at Target when I already have ceramic bunnies that will make perfectly fine easter decorations thank you very much.

This advice also works for the family handbook selections we send to prospective au pairs. Send fewer, better pages.

For a while now, we’ve been suggesting that host families send a copy of their family handbook to the au pair candidates we’re considering. The handbooks give specific, explicit information and they also communicate a bit about your family’s overall style. This is good, since the better these candidates know your family, the better they can evaluate whether they’ll be a good fit.

Notice that I say “the better they know your family” not “the more they know about your family” … when we’re in the process of selecting an au pair, we often work on the assumption that ‘more’ information is ‘better’.  But for a candidate who is reading material written in his/her second or third language, and who may be looking at materials from two or three families, sending a candidate your whole (long) family handbook make overwhelm them.  Instead of giving them enough information to make a good decision, it may seem like TMI– in a bad way.

West Mom recently reprised this concern, and shared the details of her new plan:

Aware that our family handbook had grown very long, I made a change this year. I split the guide into two parts: One to give to the Au Pair before matching, and one with all the inner workings of the gig, (that was) most relevant on arrival.

The 1st Part contains:

    • Schedule,
    • Benefits,
    • Responsibilities,
    • Family life,
    • Transportation (inc. car access/responsibility) and
    • Family Rules (inc. out of town guests…).

I want to make sure the contract is crystal clear before we match with a candidate. [very important point]

The 2nd Part contains the stuff that is handy once she is actually in our home: Contacts, Phone rules and instructions,Home/appliances instructions, Meals expectations and Ideas, and Fun things to do. I’ll probably copy the car stuff in there too, since we always seem to need a reminder on that topic at some point during the year.


Teknologi Terbaru March 20, 2013 at 12:52 pm

thanks bro…
its helpfull..
Berita Teknologi Terbaru

Busy Mom March 20, 2013 at 3:50 pm

We split our “handbook” in this way as well. However, the part send before we agree to match (after 1st skype) is 24 pages long! It’s structured in Q&A fashion, so is more easily digestible than 24 pages of straight bullet points. But it’s dense and crams in a ton of information!

So, it would be difficult to describe it as an “excerpt”, but it’s extremely comprehensive and detailed.

Sections include:
-Responsibilities (kid related & the few house related ones our APs do while on duty)
-Schedule (lots of details including mention of sick kids, snow days, images of our color-coded google calendar and the weekly narrative I provide to accompany the calendar (who gets driven/picked up where/when/by whom)
-Vacation (We don’t travel with our APs and we require them to take vacation when we do, so I know many of the dates during the matching process)
-House rules (e.g., no shoes in house, no candles)
-Food – both what we like our kids to be fed and what we will buy for AP
-Computer use (anyone else get one of those lovely letters from the cable co. regarding pirated downloads?)
-Car use
-Education options
-Odds & ends: taxes, payment details, privacy

Before getting to the first skype meeting, I cover a lot of the deal breakers (on both sides) via email.

Basically, the 24 page document separates the wheat from the chaff. We are an exceptionally (one might say compusively) organized family and our handbook reflects that. If they don’t like it, they won’t like us! And, I have not had an issue with any of our APs being able to read it. Then again, we require an AP with very strong English skills.

I find that covering so much detail before matching reduces the number of misunderstandings. Not only do I email it, but I also talk through it and answer questions about it.

NYCAUpair March 20, 2013 at 9:05 pm

My HM sent me copies of the families schedules over an average 3 week period. When I got here I was glad to see she didn’t send me the manual because it’s huge and could potentially be off-putting to awesome candidates and I would have probably been put off. I asked about the “house rules” during matching so I didn’t need to know all the smaller details.
7 months in, I love it here, my host family are amazing and do everything they can to make me feel happy and included. Maybe i’m just lucky

CA Host Mom March 21, 2013 at 5:08 pm

I like the idea of splitting the handbook, or pulling out key sections. I struggle with not wanting to send too much detail upfront, because a lot of it won’t be relevant until the AP gets to our home and it could be quite overwhelming.

I like the point that Busy Mom makes above … “We are an exceptionally (one might say compusively) organized family and our handbook reflects that. If they don’t like it, they won’t like us!” Sounds like a great way to weed out potential APs that might not be able to operate within such an organized situation.

For families that might not be as organized or structured, maybe there is not as much value in sending a whole bunch of detail ahead of time. I am not sure that I sent enough detail this last go-round. Only time will tell I guess … :)

Multitasking Host Mom March 22, 2013 at 3:38 pm

When we interview prospective Au Pairs, we try to be very clear about what they are getting into if they match with our family. We use the “Dare to Match” philosophy. So, I do agree that sending the handbook, with all of its information about the host family, is important. But this post also makes a good point about the fact that this document is not in their native language. I want them to read all of what I send them, so they can truly know what their daily life will be like here. It does make me worry that if I send too much they might be so overwhelmed that they just skip it. This go around, after our first Skype interview, I did send the AP we liked the best (and eventually matched with) about 10 pages of our 20 page handbook. I picked out the sections that pertained most to their daily schedule and specifically about the children. It was a big plus, in her favor, that during our second interview, she asked many specific questions about the information from the handbook.

Emerald City HM March 22, 2013 at 6:37 pm

I’m frequently torn on what to send and what not to send. Particularly when the au pair candidate asks a question that is covered in the handbook with a yes, but.

For example, we’ve had candidates ask if we take our au pairs with us on vacations. We have a “depending on the circumstances” clause that’s sort of complicated. It’s not really, but it’s hard to express. I don’t want to leave a good candidate with the sense that we will always take them on vacations and pay their way, only to be disappointed when she gets here and finds out that while we do frequently do this, if it’s truely going to be a vacation (not working, possibly visiting her friends instead of being stuck with us) for her we would ask that she cover some of the costs. Also, quite frankly, when we go to visit family for a quick weekend it’s sometimes easier for us to just do that alone, but if she would truly want to come with us, then we might ask her to pay for some of it because of the necessity of renting a car at that point because we can’t all fit in my MIL’s car.

I feel like ours really does kind of paint a big picture and by only sending out a few things, they can’t see the whole package, for better or for worse, if that makes sense.

I also tried to keep things in simple bulleted statements that might translate easier and really tried to avoid using idioms. I might need to look at it again, because I didn’t think about idioms until this year when our current au pair was talking about what she was learning in her ESL class.

Lynn Andre May 7, 2013 at 5:40 am

I run an Au-pair agency here in UK,I am adverting a list of Job opportunity to work has a domestic staff i.e housemaid,Nanny,Driver,Gardener,we have a high rank of host families who are interested in employing you with a favorable weekly payment of £1500 GBP pounds with a good accommodation. If you are interested forward to us: Full name, Phone Numbers,age,sex,Country of residence.

You can contact us by sending your Cv/Resume to via the email below.


WestMom May 7, 2013 at 7:56 am

This looks fishy. You don’t have a legit Web site? Au Pairs beware, I would not trust anyone promising this much money and asking you to send info to a random Yahoo address…

Au Pair in Australia May 22, 2013 at 12:19 am

Dear West mum

thanks for sharing your ideas to include in the family handbook as you are so right, it gets bigger and bigger each time and the simpler we can keep it the better

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