Should Your Prospective Au Pair Talk with Your Current Au Pair?

by cv harquail on October 12, 2012

When you are trying to make sure that your potential new au pair has a realistic understanding of what to expect of your family, it seems like it might be a great idea to have the potental au pair talk with the current au pair.

Of all people, your current au pair knows your family, your routine, your expectations, your neighborhood, and can see it all from the perspective of an international exchange person. So what’s not to like about the idea of having the two talk?


Um, plenty.

If you have a current au pair who is only so-so at the job, who is a poor communicator, who has anything other than a positive attitude towards life, or who resents the idea that someone might take her or his place, you might want to avoid having the current au pair spoil the picture for the incoming au pair.

And really, how complete does the au pair’s information need t9 be? If your current au pair hasn’t made an effort to make the year an adventure, can she really present to a new au pair the full spectrum of opportunity an au pair yeatr with you might offer?

Assuming that you have an ‘okay but not great’ current aupair, you might consider trying to put some limits around what the two talk about— for example, ask your current au pair to focus on the day to day tasks, or the personalities of your kids.

And, tell your potential au pair — the the nicest and most discreet and unblameful way possible — that your current au pair has some limitations or personal issues that kept her from having the best year possible.

Other thoughts? How have you managed situations like the one below?

Dear AuPairMoms,

We are about to complete our year with our first au pair, and are in the process of interviewing for our next au pair. I recently spoke with one women who we really liked and will probably match with.

During our conversation, she asked to speak with our current au pair. I am going to agree to give her our current au pair’s contact information (once I get our au pair’s permission of course), because I can see the appeal this women has of hearing what she will be “getting into” with our family from someone who is currently doing the job.

But I do have some reservations. I am sure it will be weird for our current aupair to talk to her replacement. Also, she was a so-so au pair, just doing the basics, but never went beyond unless I explicitly spelled out what she need to do and then micro managed the situation. Because of this, we did not extend with her, although I talked up the seeing-another-part-of-the-country-during-your-second-year so much that I never had to officially have the I-can’t-take-this-for-another-year talk.

I guess it also comes down to I am just not sure what our aupair will say….. I would like to hear from other host families if they routinely have their current au pair speak with their future au pair. Is there anything that they do to try and make this work well?

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summerx October 12, 2012 at 11:14 am

We have always let prospective au pairs talk with the outgoing au pair. Now, we don’t allow this until we are confident that we are going to select the new au pair. If during the interview process the new au pair repeatedly asks to talk to the old au pair, that is a red flag for us to move on. The old au pair won’t be here when you are, so you need to be comfortable with US, not her.
There is definately some inherent risk, because you don’t know what they will say. We have been fortunate and have had good experiences with all of our au pairs, so there wasn’t too much worry on our part. However, we still prepped the outgoing au pair with the idea that we wanted her opinion of what the new au pair will be like. I always mentioned that I would hope that having a replacement who was good for the kids would be what she (the outgoing aupair) is most concerned about. We genuinely do look for feedback from the outgoing au pair regarding her perspective of the new girl. What were her questions about? Was it about the kids, family and living with us or was it where are the best parties, bars, etc. Not that I feel that those questions aren’t important, I just don’t want them to be the questions at the top of the list.

Should be working October 12, 2012 at 11:32 am

I would not have a so-so au pair talk to a prospective au pair. It’s too fraught.

We have had a different problem. Our last AP was SO great. We love her and stay in touch. She talked to our incoming AP and her evaluation was part of the process. The incoming/new AP, however, is not as good. She is frequently contacting the old AP for advice, for comparison, for consolation, and it is in my view too much. I think I prefer more of a clean slate model.

I would not give a prospective AP the contact info for our current AP, but one I have spoken to has asked for the contact info of the previous AP. I hate to reproduce the TMI model that we have now. On the other hand, I think the current AP’s frequent need for contact with the old great AP reflects more her own insecurity, and for the next round we will look for a more secure personality in the AP.

newhostmom October 12, 2012 at 11:43 am

Uh oh – I hope my experience isn’t what you had! I’ll watch out for over-reliance, although I’ll admit I have no idea how much (if at all) they’re talking to each other.

newhostmom October 12, 2012 at 11:42 am

We just went through this in choosing our second au pair. We had a great first au pair. Before I began looking for our second au pair, I thought about this issue a lot. My main reservation, oddly, was that our former au pair thought we were great, and we really were on a lot of common host parent/au pair issues. But you know why we were so flexible and open? Because our au pair was awesome. She was more than willing to go above and beyond. The kids loved her, she really liked being helpful, she was respectful when asking for what she needed, she was engaged with the kids at all times and never complained about working, she was flexible on the few times we needed her last minute.

In return, I completely trusted her. As an example, in the beginning, we had her ask if she wanted to have friends over. Not that we ever said no, but she needed to ask first. But as the year went on and we got to know her friends and understood that she wasn’t going to take advantage of us by turning our house into the party house, we let up on it. We trusted her to only let good people in the house and to not go overboard.

Another example is our flexibility on the schedule. She totally got that we needed her to work when she was scheduled. She was never late, never complained, pushed through if she had a cold, was always energetic and ready to engage with the kids. So in return, when she asked for a day off here or there to travel, we were happy to find back-up plans or take off of work ourselves. When she asked if she could take an evening course for two months that started at her normal end time, we happily adjusted our scheduling for that one night a week so she could be at class on time.

Anyway, all this to say that yes, we were really flexible, open and trusting. But that’s because our au pair went similarly out of her way to help US. I’m afraid that the message from former au pair would be “these host parents will let you do anything!” but not the part about how we expect a lot from our au pair too.

But anyway, we ended up offering right up front to prospective au pairs that they could speak with our former au pair. And actually, it ended up being a good way to weed out some of the candidates. There were quite a few who oddly asked for her contact info right from the initial email I sent. And a few more who asked for her contact info in our first Skype conversation. We had had a few emails and two Skype conversations with the au pair we ultimately chose before I finally offered “would you like to speak with our former au pair” and she was definitely interested. They emailed – I have no idea what was said – but she chose us and we’ll see if it causes problems.

Emerald City Host Mom October 12, 2012 at 1:26 pm

This is a different situation than most jobs. I’ve never gotten to talk to an employee I’m replacing (if I’m replacing someone). I have gotten to talk to potiential co-workers (and almost always ask to at the end of an interview).

I would most definitely not want a prospective au pair to talk to a so-so au pair, particularly if the so-so au pair wants to extend and we do not.

We were in the same situation as newhostmom. Our first au pair was outstanding and did go that extra mile.

What ended up being really nice about her talking with candidates was that when she did talk to candidates she gave us her opinion and let us know what the potential au pairs asked about if she thought it would be a concern for us. She let us know that one candidate was very concerned about being able to skype with friends and family back home during working hours, which would be a no-no for us. So we were able to easily identify that she would not work for our family.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 12, 2012 at 10:18 pm

I know that my experience differs from most other HF. The Camel, my special-needs teenager weeds out the good-time party girls from serious candidates who love children and are interested in traveling and meeting new people. However, our “dare to match with us” (not my phrase, was it Calif Host Mom’s?) letter is daunting. The Camel herself, while cute and personable, is daunting because she is a medically fragile teenager in diapers (and yet we’ve hosted 8 APs in 11 1/2 years, so it can be done).

And so, any candidate who expresses an interest in interviewing with us is given the outgoing AP’s email, so she can ask “Can I really do this?” What are they like? We’ve handed out emails to so-so APs with whom we chose not to extend, we’ve handed out emails to fantastic APs who turned bitter at the end, but mostly we’ve handed out emails to fantastic APs who were ready to go home (some extended, most chose not to).

Why? Because we’re not a perfect HF (although some APs apparently told our LCC we were), and because The Camel is not for everyone. I’d rather an outgoing AP exposed our warts, because then I’d know the incoming AP was a serious candidate.

I know that some HF have had problems in the bitterness of the outgoing AP extending to the incoming, but in my experience, incoming APs are not stupid. They can read between the lines.

With few exceptions, we have had a conversation 6 months in asking the AP to consider extending with us. When her extension paperwork arrives in the mail (usually around 8 months), we ask again. If the answer is still “No, I want to go home” (and it usually is), then we ask for her to participate in the interviewing process, but vetting candidates who write/Skype her. Her opinion counts, but her first choice (and ours) is not always available. So be it. The right candidate usually says yes (meaning that the AP is mature, solid, and has a successful year with us).

Since I am on AP #8, if I think a candidate matches the personality of a previous AP, I contact that AP and ask if she would be willing to be a contact as well. I have hesitated, now, to give out emails for 1-3 because they cared for my kids when they were so young that their experience wouldn’t be relevant to a candidate preparing to care for teenagers. That is rapidly becoming the case for APs 4-5 as well.

Latina October 13, 2012 at 11:26 pm

That’s a very interesting point: the incoming au pair is not stupid. When I talked to the former au pair of my HF, she was very frustrated because she wanted to extend, but she lost her passport in a club and had to come back.
Obviously she was complaining about everything during the interview, and she described every chore like imposible (‘driving is tooo hard in USA’, ‘kids make tantrums every hour’, ‘they don’t like au pairs, they only want to be with their parents’) and she repeated million times how sad the family was about not having her extending.

However, talking to her was helpfull at the end, because she could give me information about schedules, family’s tastes, and other things that didn’t depend on how able she tought I was for the job. (Well said: how better she thought I was for her job).

MidAtlantic Host Family May 19, 2013 at 2:28 pm

I discussed this with our outgoing au pair and she said they all find each other anyways. Assuming she is right, it is probably better to be open and more in control of the contact. For example, provide contact information, etc., so your information is not getting posted on public web sites in attempts to find out more about you.

I also believe it helps make the outgoing au pair part of the process and more likely to be constructive/helpful when it happens.

WestMom October 13, 2012 at 10:20 am

I think this question has everything to do with how satisfied you are with your existing au Pair. Of the four we have had, three have been amazing, and one so-so. We do ask strong AP candidates to speak with at least two of our past stellar APs. Not only does it help them get a better sense of life in our family and the type of relationship we foster, but it also helps me with the screening process (candidates might be more candid with their contemporaries…).

When the so-so AP was still with us, I did ask her to briefly ‘connect’ with a candidate, but at that point, we had already decided to match with her so it was not going to affect our decision. I was also concerned that NOT offering to connect with our current AP might be perceived as trying to ‘hide’ something…

Busy Mom October 13, 2012 at 12:25 pm

We have been very fortunate to have had very positive experiences with 2, 3 & 4, so have offered up all of them as references to the new AP. If an AP asks early in the process about speaking to former APs, I tell her that I’ll be happy to provide their contact info as we get further into the process. I want to respect the time of our former APs and pretty much only give out their contact info once we are very serious about a candidate. If we end up not having a so-so experience with #5, I think I would be frank and say that it has not been the best year, but offer 2, 3 & 4 as references. Or, I’d say that she is welcome to speak with #5, but I would like her to also speak with #4. It’s never been awkward for us to have the current AP speak with the interviewing one because all were clean & neat ends (2 & 4 went back to school, 3 already used her extension year with us).

Twin+1Mamma October 13, 2012 at 12:34 pm

We are welcoming our first AP very soon, so for obvious reasons we couldn’t really offer her a talk with the previous AP but we did, however, ask her if she would be interested in talking with our current babysitter. It’s not the same as an AP, so of course she can’t tell much about the living conditions or anything like that but I know she talked a lot about our 5 year old’s interests and little ways of doing things but when it comes to us she wouldn’t be able to tell much more than if she was paid on time, the correct amount or if we were rude/took advantage of her in any way.

We are crossing our fingers and hoping that this will be a superstar of an AP!! If she is, she will definitely be there to weed through them next year or the year after that.
Have any of you had an interested AP candidate and then after talking to your current AP, they’ve backed out? That would be an interesting turn of event and I would be pretty curious as to what my current AP tells them.

AnnaAuPair October 13, 2012 at 1:15 pm

One of the main reasons I, as a future AuPair, would want to speak to the current or former AuPair(s) is this:
The way the hostfamily describes itself might not be how it actually is. I unfortunately had an experience like that with my first hostfamily: they saw themselves differently from how they were – which in the end resulted into rematch because I was looking for how they told me they would be.
A current or former AuPair could give that “outside” view of how life with the hostfamily really is.
Unfortunately there are the downsides you already mentioned. So I guess it really comes down to the current / former AuPair(s) you have. My second hostfamily more or less let me pick my successor because they trusted me and I also helped picking and talked to the other two AuPairs that came afterwards.
One of the main reasons was this:
The new AuPairs would come from my country so I could speak their language. A lot of times future AuPairs practice what they say in front of the potential hostfamily – but they are less guarded with someone their age and who speaks their language. This way you could better eliminate those who try to be someone they actually aren’t.

NJ Au Pair October 13, 2012 at 1:15 pm

These are all interesting responses. However, whether you allow/dissuade/approve/condone the two au pairs to speak ahead of time, does address one simple truth. The reality is that contact between the two can and will be made if either party is resolved to reach the other via social media and of course with the help of other au pairs.

Need ideas for a fun name October 13, 2012 at 1:19 pm

This is very topical for me right now. We are in the process of finding AP3. AP1 was the dream that keeps us coming back for more. As part of the selection process I did have her interview AP2. She expressed some concerns after her interview. I felt some time pressure to get AP2 selected so I didn’t take AP1’s concerns seriously enough. I am betting you know where this is going. AP2 was a bad match and put us into rematch a month ago. The rematch process has not worked for us so we are finding an out of country match and starting over. This time I am giving this process the time it needs, AP 1 will interview any “finalist” candidate and if she has any concerns I will take them VERY seriously.

EC October 13, 2012 at 6:11 pm

I think that there is an interesting point to be made here. I was an au pair with a great family for a year. They asked my opinion about the person coming in after me, and I expressed some reservations about the girl in question. Sadly my host family did not take on board the things I had concerns about. My replacement left in less than a week.
I would definitely say that it can be very useful if you have had a really good au pair to have them be part of the interview process.
I would also say that if a family I was interviewing with was reluctant to let me speak to a former au pair, it would be a red flag for me in choosing whether to match with that family.

Need ideas for a fun name October 13, 2012 at 8:38 pm

Yep, you are right. If it makes you feel any better, the reason I didn’t really listen as well as I should have to AP1 was that she was so stellar. She was freakishly mature, smart and self possessed for her age. When she told me after her interview that she though the future AP2 wasn’t as confident and self possessed as she was it struck me that no one really would be. That said, I will listen very carefully this time around.

Alex October 13, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Same thing happened with me & my HF. I was with them for 2 years, and when it was time for me to come home they wanted me to talk with the AP they were more interested in as my replacement, so I did. We talked quite a lot and I told them I didn’t think she was as outgoing or confident as I am, nor did she have the same kind of experience with multiples I had, but they decided to go through with it. New AP arrived, she was very sweet, I got to “train” her for almost two weeks. After only a few days I told both of them (My Host Parents) that she wasn’t ready, she was so young and inexperienced that I honestly feared for the safety of the kids. HM said she still wanted to give it a try because it was too much of a change for the kids, that they’d talk to her and let her know she needed step up and do the job. A month after I got home she collapsed. She couldn’t handle the kids, the stress, being away, etc… They now have someone who they say ‘is closer to me’ and even extended with him.

I knew I was right, even though I told her it wouldn’t be easy. My HPs are fantastic, and so are the kids, but some girls think being an AP is just about getting on a plane, going to the US, watching over some kids, getting a car and going to Starbucks. Well, it’s not just that, is so much more and you have to be emotionally ready because kids need your 110%, they expect your best and that is what they should get.

EmmieJane October 15, 2012 at 3:26 pm

I relate to this as well. I had a fabulous au pair; she raised some concerns about the au pair candidate that we selected. I understood where she was coming from, but in the end moved forward because I thought this new au pair would meet our needs at this time. Our new au pair (4 months here) is not a disaster. I don’t envision a rematch situation, but she is definitely not as strong as our former au pair, and I have some disappointment. Our former au pair was right on with her concerns and I regret not listening more.

jessie October 13, 2012 at 10:30 pm

hiii!!! im in process to become aupair in aupaircare ..i very glad to know you ..because i saw that you wrote and i try to find someone host family that already has experienced with aupair program before

best jessica medina

Beatrice October 13, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Hi, everyone! I came to CA and my lovely host family two months ago. Now, my situation is a little different from most – my dad is American. This means that I hold dual citizenship and didn’t require a visa to go to the US. So I found my family privately, not through an agency, simply for the reason that I can’t get an au pair visa when I have an American passport. So for me, it was very important to get all the info I could on prospective host families, since rematch wasn’t an option. Scary!

Needless to say, I was in plenty of contact with my host family’s current au pair at the time. She gave me lots of insight on the family’s routine, and more importantly: about the kids. It’s hard for host parents to see how kids act around their au pair when they’re not at home. Without the insight my predecessor gave me, I would have walked into a job where I believed the kids to be angels most of the time, which is far from the truth. Now I chose this family with completely open eyes, and so far I haven’t encountered any unpleasant surprises!

However, S was a great au pair from everything I’ve heard. For me, her input and tips and tricks before I got here were fantastic. But like people have already said, I expect it’s very different if the leaving au pair is less than stellar…

au pair October 13, 2012 at 3:54 pm

the problem is, if you don’t let your future au pair talk to your current one, the new au pair thinks right away that you have something to hide. And if you are a good family the current au pair can’t say anything bad about you. And like someone already said, we are not stupit, we can read between the lines. If a former au pair would tell me: you know your schedule is crazy, you can never use the car etc. then i would first ask myself, did the hf tell me about the crazy schedule and the car, if yes, is that a problem for me? no. it might be for her, but not for me. You know what i’m saying?

if you can’t get her on “your” side even tho the current au pair talks to her, than she probably isn’t the right one. You can also tell the new au pair, that your current au pair wasn’t the best match for your family. WE understand that. Really. My friend talked also to the former au pair ( she was a bad one, rematch etc.) she told her horror stories about the family. my friend chose the family and extended with her. good luck to all of you!

and by the way, its very easy to find out who your current au pair is. the online au pair community is HUGE! i have 200 au pair friends on fb i don’t even know, but we are all au pairs so we are automatically friends:) ( not really:))

HRHM October 13, 2012 at 4:15 pm

In our case, we avoided giving the candidate AP3’s info because she hates us. No we were not locking her in a closet or withholding food and stipend. We had the nerve to expect her to work during her year with us and when she didn’t do more than the bare minimum, we plainly told her that we could not give her a good recommendation to AP for another family.Boy, was she pi$$ed! So in the end, we gave out AP2’s information, so there would be someone to talk to, but not everyone can remain objective when their feelings have been hurt.

amy October 13, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Thats true! I totally agree with you. In cases like that, you should not give her her contact information. I think its great that she was able to talk to your second au pair.

Dorsi October 14, 2012 at 3:36 pm

With APC, there is a virtual “Au Pair Room” that shows an Au Pair all of the local Au Pairs. As soon as you have matched with a new Au Pair, she shows up (to your current Au Pair) as a local. So, AP #1 knew who AP #2 was and they were FB friends within a week of us matching. They were not from the same country, so I don’t think they exchanged emails, but they certainly might have. I didn’t really want them speaking — I felt that Ap#1 didn’t do as much around the house or activity as she should have been doing and generally had a bad attitude. I didn’t want her to convey things like: “you don’t really have to clean the kids’ rooms or pack their lunches — nothing bad will happen to you.”

FormerEuropeanAu-Pair October 13, 2012 at 3:55 pm

The first thing that came to my mind when reading your post was:

“Well, I guess it’s only fair for us APs to talk to the former AP. The HF talk to our reference-families too.”

However here is what I experienced:
HF 1 was VERY different from what the former AP had said. Turns out, she wanted to leave but was asked not to leave, until a new AP was found. End of the story: I went into rematch 6 weeks into the year.

HF 2 turned out to be great, regardless of what the AP had said. She had warned me not to match, however since I was in the country I decided to meet the family, matched with them and have since been back twice for the whole summer and visit regularly.

HF 3 had never had an AP before me, so I matched without speaking to the former AP and it worked out fine.

HF 4 was a “so-so” family :P even though the former AP had assured me they were more than great.

The AP in HF 5 wanted to go into rematch, but assured me the family was nice. I decided to match and we got on very well and I am still in contact and go back to visit every so often.

Even though most of the AP had a different view on the HF, I always valued the fact that I could speak with them. I would be very concerned if the HF would not let me talk to their last AP. It is quite a big step to leave your own country to live in a HF in a new country and to talk to someone who might even speak your native language helps a lot.

If I was a HM and had my so-so AP talk to my incoming AP I would plainly tell the incoming AP. If the incoming AP is good, she will know not to believe EVERYTHING that the outgoing AP says, if she isn’t you will have trouble with her regardless of what your outgoing AP told her ;)

IF your outgoing AP was good and IF you value her opinion and IF she is any good at judging people, she might be a great help in your screening progress. I have acted as a reference more than once ;) and in two cases I could tell that the AP would not last more than a week or two.. (the HF matched anyway and I was right in both cases)

BoysMama October 13, 2012 at 6:34 pm

This is a lot easier to say when you have had four Au Pairs and can pick and choose which contact information to share, but I feel pretty strongly that in most situations (ie NOT the situation where “the AP hates us”… been there) it is in the best interest of both parties to connect them. We are about to take our fifth Au Pair, and our lengthy email conversations right from the start were always very straightforward and honest (“dare you to match with our family”)… even about our relationships with each of our previous Au Pairs.

Of the two we seriously considered this time, the email conversation went something like this – “We have had four Au Pairs. One was excellent, one good, one bad and one awful. We won’t put you in touch with the rematch AP and here’s why… lied, stole, irresponsible etc. The good APs will be happy to talk to you, we are close with them and their families and they care about finding a good match for us almost as much as we do. When you contact Excellent, here is what you should know about her – she’s energetic, happy, responsible, honest, reliable etc. When you contact Bad (I did not use that word, something more like “poor match for our family”) here’s what you should know about her – she was low energy, irresponsible, was not able to take initiative etc.

Also I will say it again even though APs have written it here… These APs WILL find one another via the internet, more quickly if we forbid them to do so. And even if they don’t, it reflects poorly on us as Host Families if it appears we are hiding something. Remember it is a vulnerable position for them too, yes it’s our home and our children and that’s our priority, but it’s her life too and she deserves to know what she is getting into. “I’m going to lay out all of our dirty laundry for you right now, and if you are still interested, please lay yours out for me. Then we’ll see if we can honestly connect and have a great year”. I went a little overboard about how wild my boys can be to be safe, and got back some astounding personal information that really made me feel connected to and trusting of our incoming Au Pair based on that conversation alone. I told him I don’t think there should be any surprises for either of us once he arrives.

I always felt really good telling potential APs “please find out everything you can about us from every perspective so we can be sure we are a good match.” Not because we are a perfect family… they don’t expect us to be. They just hope we are being honest just like we hope of them.

Newhostmom October 13, 2012 at 7:17 pm

Forgive me my lack of creativity here (and I’m only 29 so I feel like I should know this!!), but how would a potential AP find and contact your former APs knowing only the host parents’ names? We happily shared our former AP’s info, so it’s not an issue. I just don’t get how that would be so easy. Thanks for enlightening me!

amy October 13, 2012 at 8:58 pm

Because they know your name. What au pairs do is, go on facebook, look for the group who is called, au pair care in south carolina ( or whatever state they are looking for) then they post: does somebody live in this area? 10 girls respond, next question would be do you know family …. 1 au pair responds, yes i know their current au pair. Au pair askes for name and thats it. Sooo easy.. People have found me that way even tho i use a fake name on facebook. The au pair community online is sooooooo big!!

Alex October 13, 2012 at 11:16 pm

This is true, APs know each other (and even who they’re working for) without having ever exchanged a hello. It’s all about social networking and friends.

Dorsi October 14, 2012 at 3:47 pm

When an Au Pair has your email address, then they can find your FB profile. Most Host Families are friends with their AP, so the new Au Pair can sort through your friends and often find the current Au Pair. There are ways to block this (though, as pointed out above, they really can find each other with very little help. I just looked at a FB group for APs in our major metropolitan area. My AP was not there — I am pretty sure she is not on FB — but her best friend was. So, it would be easy for an incoming Au Pair to find her.)

I actually think that the current crop of applicants that I am interviewing would never look up the current AP. They seem blindly enthusiastic, positive and uninterested in details. “Whatever you eat is fine! Whenever I work is fine! Whatever your children like to do is fine!”. However, this will be our first transition where they will have the same language, so I am hoping the current Au Pair can give me a little more information about them.

For Host Families — as soon as you have an email address for the au pair, search for that on Facebook. It is a faster and more reliable way to find them — as many people use partial last names or nicknames to make themselves a little harder to find. Au Pair Applicants — lock down your profile before you apply (if you don’t know how, ask someone) — there is no good that comes of me seeing your bikini shots, party shots, and 200 different sexy profile pictures.

Newhostmom October 14, 2012 at 8:27 pm

That all makes sense. Thanks! I have a Facebook profile, but it’s not searchable. My list of friends is also only viewable to my friends. So it didn’t occur to me that anyone could see someone’s friends on Facebook having not been friended. But I get the thing about the au pair groups.

German Au-Pair October 14, 2012 at 9:52 pm

A little OT:
The “Whenever I work is fine” and all that might show that your potential au pair has very little knowledge about what is expected of an au pair.
I think that many girls who are “open for everything” don’t know themselves as much as they think and therefore don’t know if they are actually capable of handling certain situations.
If you have easy going, friendly children and an easy schedule, that might be find, but if there are challenges in the work the au pair will have to provide, you might want to look for someone who has a clearer idea of who she is and what she wants.

HRHM October 15, 2012 at 8:05 am

I agree. I actually would pass on the AP candidate who doesn’t have specific questions and seems to be “ok” with everything. I need an AP with a backbone to help care for my kids. In addition, no one is ok with everything and eventually, she will resent you for not reading her mind and making her happy. In these cases, I think the AP is just desperate to get to the US.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 15, 2012 at 9:10 am


I have had several intelligent, hard-working APs who when DH and I pose the question, “What do you like to eat?” they reply, “Everything.” While we are trying to tease out whether or not they can stomach our high fiber vegan-vegetarian diet, I think they are trying to portray themselves as flexible as possible and willing to fit in with us. I wonder if they are coached to portray themselves as willing to any situation, when in reality, HF might want a more realistic portrayal.

I agree with you, some of my best APs have been those who did not present themselves as so flexible as to appear mindless, who gave real opinions, and were explicit about what they wanted from the interview process. It was the ones who hadn’t thought about what questions they wanted to ask, or who wanted to appear more flexible than they really were who needed to talk to our outgoing APs.

Someone else posed the question have you ever had a candidate back down after communicating with an outgoing AP. I have, but I don’t think it was anything bad that the outgoing AP said about us. Once again, I’m in a very different situation than most of you, becuase The Camel requires a lot of work and dedication. I’ve had a couple back down after learning from the AP what the job entailed, and that’s fine with me – I want to match with a candidate who is serious about childcare, because I know no matter what DH, I, and the outgoing AP tells her, she is still going to be in for a shock when she arrives (not becauase the work is that hard, but because it is so different from what anyone could imagine).

Alex October 15, 2012 at 7:01 pm

I’m pretty sure the “coaching” does happen. Agencies have a lot of input in what you should say or not during interviews, and if the future AP is not very confident in herself and her own attributes and abilities (as well as her challenges) she will most likely say what she’s being told to. Before becoming an AP I took care for about 5 years of a child with certain disabilities, so when I was filling my application I marked the “are you willing to work with Special needs children” but my agency recommended me against it because it might be “too much” for me. Of course I didn’t hear them but, you see, some girls don’t know exactly what they want and they will do whatever the agency tells them to for fear of never being selected.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 15, 2012 at 9:14 am

I have experienced this directly. Each year DH and I send out about 100 “Dare to Match with Us” emails to potential candidates in the hopes of finding 4-6 qualified women who want a telephone/Skype interview. I can’t tell you how many times over the years my new APs have been told “I was contacted by your HF.” Fortunately, none of the other candidates we’ve actually interviewed have ended up in our cluster.

Tristatemom October 15, 2012 at 9:41 am

We let our last, very good AP, speak to the incoming AP after we decided we would probably match with her unless current AP had any reservations.
I just wanted to point out one more thing: it also matters where in the cycle you are with your current AP. We tend to match 4-5 months out with the new AP. At that time, current AP is very comfortable in her role, has made friends, feels at home etc. Her presentation of us seems a lot more positive and objective. The closer we get to the current AP’s end of the year, things become a lot more emotional etc. and current AP may give a more skewered view.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 15, 2012 at 10:05 am

We are similar to you. When the extension paperwork arrives at the beginning of month 8 we often sit down with the current AP to give her a final opportunity to extend (or inform her that we won’t be offering her the opportunity). If she chooses not to extend, then we begin the search process immediately – it now takes me about 45 minutes to update my profile, notify my LCC, and get the ball rolling. While we matched with our first AP 10 weeks before she arrived, I don’t dare attempt that again!

Emerald City Host Mom October 15, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Our first au pair ended up being right on the line for time. We had made a match 4 or 5 months prior to our start date and she was denied her visa. We really lucked out with a stellar au pair, but hope to never go though that last minute surprize again.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 15, 2012 at 1:53 pm

AP #3 had her visa denied, but was willing to pay for the 1-hour flight back to the city with the consulate. We armed her with letters promising her return to her native country, and the agency coached her on how to answer questions. The second time was the charm. She was worth all the effort – calm, loving, vivacious and inquisitive (and it was she who saw the piece of metal coming through the back of The Camel’s neck that led to emergency surgery – fortunately before infection set in). She was also the AP who refused a telephone interview with us until she had interviewed with 3 other families to make sure we were really “the ones.”

Emerald City Host Mom October 15, 2012 at 3:45 pm

At one point she was ready to go back and try her case again and we had written letters for her, but I think she may have been intimidated and the agency might not have been particularly helpful on her end. At the time we were hearing on our end that she wasn’t the only one (from that agency) which made me wonder if they got someone new that didn’t know how to get things done there, or if there was someone new at the consulate office.

Anna November 12, 2012 at 9:19 am

I had an au pair who got her visa denied twice, second time despite a very good letter I have written for her. Some countries now are very hard to get a visa from, and once you are denied, the chances get even slimmer.

Should be working October 15, 2012 at 2:12 pm

A tangential question: Is it crazy to match 9 months in advance?

Back story: we are in month 3 with our current au pair, who is so-so and I’m not sure what will happen (had a car accident, got a boyfriend, is a bit less engaged). Perhaps uncoincidentally in psychic terms, I found myself on the agency website and saw a profile for next summer’s match that I really liked. I didn’t realize that clicking for more info would trigger the whole matching procedure (agency changed the system since last time) and so we ended up in contact.

She seems great. But is it insane to match NINE months before arrival? And, side question, she has no younger siblings. I used to think younger siblings was a dealbreaker but I’m starting to think that calm, mature attitude and loving parents is more important. (3 out of 4 au pairs so far had difficulties with parents, and it showed.)

newhostmom October 15, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Could this new au pair come earlier if your current one didn’t work out? Otherwise, I’m not sure about matching nine months in advance. Seems like there could be so much on both your sides that could come up. That’s if the au pair would even want to match that far ahead – she may want to take her time and make sure you’re the best match.

Incidentally, our one awesome au pair was the youngest of four, but did have a great relationship with her parents. Our new au pair is the only child of divorced parents, but seems fabulous so far.

Should be working October 15, 2012 at 2:24 pm

New AP candidate could not start before mid- or late-summer. If this one didn’t work out I might consider going AP-less just to regain enthusiasm (as per the HM mojo thread sometime back).

I feel like I have come up with algorithms for concrete things to look for in an AP, but I always come back to the line that I think TACL gave us: Hire for attitude, train for skill. Maybe those factors that I thought were the reason for the good attitude in previous au pairs (namely siblings and work experience) were results of the attitude, or unrelated and coincidental.

newhostmom October 15, 2012 at 2:51 pm

We went AP-less for a while in between and I think it did help get some of my energy back. It’s a good tactic if you can swing it, I think. And I totally agree on the “hire for attitude, train for skill.” Although sometimes it can be hard to suss out the attitude too.

JJ Host Mom October 15, 2012 at 5:45 pm

We’re going AP-less for a while after a bad stint and it’s helping. I’m starting to forget the awful parts and remember how helpful it is to have another adult in the household. And my 4 year old kids have asked twice when we can get another au pair, so apparently the series of rematches didn’t faze them and they’re just remembering how nice it is to have an au pair friend. We’re in the middle of a remodel and have nowhere to house an au pair at this point, but I think it’s likely that we’ll try again after the remodel is done.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 15, 2012 at 8:29 pm

I went AP-less while we gutted our home to put on a handicapped-accessible wing for The Camel. We went through 25 nurses in 11 months, including 5 who failed to show up for shift (I’ve written about this elsewhere). My typically developing child hated the afterschool program. We were all happy when we could welcome an AP into our home again.

Sometimes a break helps everyone reset the clock. The other trick is not to rush into any decision. I push back on the agency all the time. They work for me, not I for them. I ask for things my way. I warn headquarters every year – “Remember me, I’m the pain the butt, but I’ve never gone into rematch and I’ve been paying your fees for x years, so work with me!”

Taking a Computer Lunch October 15, 2012 at 8:25 pm

I think one of the other HM who posts here matches pretty far out – she considers that she’s getting organized APs who think in advance. For me, that’s too crazy, I’d rather push back or go into rematch. So much can happen between month 3 and month 8 – although if your AP is disengaging in month 3, then it sounds like you need to have a chat. My guess is that she wouldn’t want to leave the boyfriend and might pick up the slack a bit.

Should be working October 15, 2012 at 8:32 pm

Yeah, she’s remaining absolutely dutiful but it’s just that she is more into herself. It’s not even a matter of job performance per se. It’s more a feel that she is not ‘one of us’ as our last au pair was. Not sure I want to urge her to try to be more ‘one of us’ because I don’t know that I like her company that much.

The matching with the next au pair actually has nothing to do with this one possibly not working out. Even if this one ends up leaving, I don’t want to get onto a fall/winter match schedule so I would only take a new AP whose year ends in summer.

The real question is whether it is crazy to match 9 months in advance at all, regardless of the current AP’s so-so-ness.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 16, 2012 at 7:04 am

AP #7 was introverted, quiet and kept to herself. It was clear that she enjoyed being part of the family, but didn’t participate in the way that more outgoing APs had. I’m an extrovert, and felt drained by the amount of energy it took drawing her out – learning what she liked and didn’t like, trying to figure out what to buy for her as gifts, how she spent her day. She was, however, in her own quiet way, a fantastic AP. She got my kids to do what needed to be done without shouting or raising her voice. We only had to ask her to do things once and they got done. (AP #8 is not so good at remembering to do what we ask or to consistently ask the kids to do the things that need to be done on a regular basis, so the gifts of AP#7 are more apparent now.)

You need to sort out whether or not disengaged equals not doing her job or just quietly doing what is asked of her.

And yes, if you think your next candidate is a good match, then go ahead – consider it her reward for being organized and getting her application in early.

Busy Mom October 16, 2012 at 7:46 am

That HM who matches in advance would be me! With 4 of 5, we’ve matched in March/April for a late Aug arrival. In March, there are a relatively small number of candidates on APC who are looking for a match 4-5 months out. (I don’t look at the ones who are available immediately because I’m looking for the ones who are planning in advance and because I’m a compulsive planner myself and I like to have it wrapped up…)

Still, I think that 9 months would be too far out for me. I find that our needs change every year because kids change, schools change, activities change. I would have had difficulty projecting last November what I need this school year. Once we’re well into the school year, I have a better picture. Plus, perhaps my work situation would change and I’d know more about that 4 months in advance vs. 9.

TACL – I hear you on the “to consistently ask the kids to do the things that need to be done on a regular basis”. New AP is good at remembering the stuff she needs to do, but not so good at reminders about things like practicing instruments, putting away shoes, etc. I don’t know how much of it is that she forgets or that she’s reluctant to remind them (two are teens). Either way, it does make me much more appreciative of former APs.

Should be working October 16, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Busy Mom, teens mentioned again! Why have I not noticed this fact before?? I want to hear more about how the good APs have dealt with teens and how you screened for that!

Aupair09 October 19, 2012 at 1:29 pm

From an Aupairs Prospective

I matched with my Hostfamily 6 almost 7 months prior to my arrival Date. It was perfect timing for me because I need
to get things organized ahead of time (at least the importat stuff!). I had my finals coming up and didn’t have to worry
about finding a great hostfamily anymore and I was able to completely focus on studying and graduating from highschool.
While matching this early was a big comfort for me, I probably would not have matched any early than that.
And I do honestly think 9 months is a bit too early, just because there are so many things that can change on both sides
during this time. Most aupairs (at least from europe) are usually just finishig highschool – what if she realizes that her grades aren’t good enough and she will fail. She might (for good reasons) decide to repeat her last highschool year and therefor postpone her aupair year. She might meet a guy in the next couple of months and decide she can’t leave him behind. Now I know there is always a risk that something might happen to change the aupairs mind, but I think it’s more likely to happen when the arrival date is still months away, because it’s just not constantly on your mind.
And maybe something might change on your side as well.

I would be open about your concerns with the prospective aupair. Just tell her: “We really like you and think you would be a great match for our family. But we worry that it’s a bit too early into the year to make this decision. We would love to stay in contact with you and get to know you better. And if nothing changes on our or your end we would like to revisit this decision in 2 or 3 months.”
There aren’t a lot of families looking for aupairs to start next summer this early, so it’s unlikely that she will match with a different family anytime soon. And if she really likes you guys and honestly wants to be your aupair she will wait.

My 2 cents on matching early in general:
I think the key is keeping in touch on a regular basis. Make sure your aupair knows you are still thinking about her and looking forward to her arrival. Don’t worry about what to write in an email, it really doesn’t matter, she will be happy to here from you anyhow! Ask her how school is going, how her exams went or what her plans are for the next months till her arrival. Send pics of the kids or ask her to skype again. Use the time to get to know her even better.
My hostmum and I emailed about once every other week and it always made my day hearing from her. Most of the time it was just a 2 or 3 line email or “only” pics of the kids but it reassured me they were excited about my arrivel and still happy with their decision to choose me as their new aupair.

newhostmom October 19, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Thank you AuPair09 for taking the time to post this – your comments are really helpful.

oranje_mama October 16, 2012 at 11:47 am

We just matched with our new AP last week for a Dec. 30th arrival date – so about 2.5 – 3 months out. I think matching further in advance would require a summer start date – can’t imagine the AP who wants to wait 4,5 or more months for a fall/winter/spring start date. This was just our 2nd time through matching and I think mid Sept/Oct timing for searching/matching was just about right for Dec. 30th start date.

We decided that we wanted our current, good AP to talk to our finalist candidates, but only AFTER we’d vetted them through email & Skype on our own. We framed it to prospective au pairs as “this is your chance to ask any questions that you want to.” An interesting piece of information from our AP was to find out what kinds of questions the prospective AP asked. We ended up choosing (in a close call) the candidate that our current AP preferred (she happened to also be my 1st choice & my hubby’s 2nd choice). Current AP noted that her questions centered mainly on family personality especially the kids. To me this connoted seriousness about the job & not just a desire for a fun year abroad.

Because of our awkward timing (hoping to break this cycle! a questions for each of the prospective APs was whether they would consider extending for 6 or 9 months if all went well on both sides), and our insistence on a German (for language reasons), we had to give on age, driving experience, and live-away-from-home experience. The reality is that by October, the Germans left in the pool are (1) mainly 18 yr olds who graduated high school in June & had hoped to find a host family to start in summer/early fall, (2) older 19/20/21 yr old “aimless” types that have been doing little jobs here and there since having graduated high school 1.5 or more years earlier, and (3) “random” types who’ve done one type of higher education and decided to change fields or similar. I’m sure there are some gems in category 3 but it’s harder to suss them out. In category 1, I find I am also looking for “attitude,” not skill. Looking for someone who is motivated, has goals, is achievement-oriented. Also who has activities/interest beyond shopping. Participation in a sport a plus. Kind of like what you look for in college admissions, ha! In a previous thread, someone mentioned that they consider AP’s high school grades. I can see that (although I did not do this).

I’ve actually driven in Germany and I’m familiar with what it takes to get your license there, so I feel like for this country, I’m willing to take my chances on less driving experience – although we definitely probe hard on how much actual driving practices they have.

Newhostmom October 16, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Question for those of you who match 2-3+ months in advance – how much do you stay in contact after matching and before arrival and what do you talk about? We had 8 weeks after matching with #2 before arrival, and I was never sure how much to email or Skype and conversations were kind of awkward after a while.

Should be working October 16, 2012 at 12:57 pm

I have always matched at least six months prior to late summer arrival. I like getting the organized types, as TACL noted. And I know that they really want to be an AP, and don’t just come up with that idea when they realize in May that they are done with school in June. Once we match, we are in email contact every 2 weeks or so. It’s a little awkward but the APs really appreciate it. A few lines now and then, try to remember to ask how their exams are going, or if they have any vacation. Just small talk.

So since I’m a 6-month early-matcher, and even once matched 7 months in advance, 9 months is not so extreme for me.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 16, 2012 at 8:55 pm

I have standard emails that I now send out (I’ve been hosting for 11 1/2 years). For example, two weeks out, and it’s the “I’m sure you’ve been wondering what to pack” email to reassure the incoming AP that we provide the bulky towels and sheets, and to warn them to bring some old clothes because The Camel – well, she’s affectionately called The Camel because she spits when she fears that she’s going to choke. I also acknowledge at this point how hard it is to say “See you in a year” to friends and family.

I don’t feel a need to stay in constant contact, but do want to restart the conversation from time to time. It’s probably less frequently than SBW for most of the summer, gaining in frequency as the arrival date nears.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 16, 2012 at 8:58 pm

OM – my first LCC encouraged me to look at candidates who had sport, musical instrument, or some other experience that required them to persevere – she thought those candidates knew that they had to work hard in order to achieve.

Future Au Pair October 16, 2012 at 10:06 pm

About matching early…I am an au pair who is going to australia. I actually decided last January that I want to become an au pair. I started looking into the process, found a website I trusted, looked into all the information I would need and actually began looking into families seriously by March. At that point I wanted to start in January, upon talking with families and even emailing some who were currently looking to let them know in advance that I would love to keep in touch, I found a family.

The family I found was looking for an au pair to start last June, I really liked the sound of their family and they were not sure how long there au pair would stay for. We began emailing and even skyped in April-May. We have continued to keep in touch, talking about our lives and families. I have because of them, money, flights etc, decided to match and am in the process of arranging everything.

I find that matching early worked out well for me because I am such a planner, and found a family that I have become friends with. I think that in the long run being able to continue a conversation with this family for so long already will benefit us during my year with them.

So after my long rambled post, I hope that you enjoy the extended time chatting with the new au pair and do match with her.

MeMe October 16, 2012 at 10:11 pm

Speaking as an au pair I cannot tell you how much comfort I took in speaking to the outgoing au pair. I cannot tell you how many weird stories I have heard from other au pairs and when you’re about to leave your entire life behind to live with strangers it’s nice to hear how things work out. It probably helped that the outgoing au pair loved the family, so much so that she and I are still in contact and email regularly.
Having said that I didn’t really take her advice in regards to how she did her job, personality wise we are very different people and that comes through in how we deal with different situations, and my hosts seem very happy about that.

Au Pair Australia October 18, 2012 at 2:10 am

Letting our new au pair speak or meet our previous au pair has advantages, yes, saving time to train the new au pair for example, but can have more disadvantages , the previous au pair may be an influence positive or negative, depending on her experience with us or our children, the best is to start from scratch, let your new au pair have a new experience with your family without any influence

Fille Au Pair October 20, 2012 at 6:29 am

Is always useful for the new au pair to speak with the previous one to get advise about how to handle a difficult situation as she already knows the family, for example, if the new au pair finds difficult to discipline the children, the other AP could give her some tips she did

I was an au pair October 28, 2012 at 12:52 pm

I was an au pair for 2 years some time ago, and I did not een think to ask my prospect host families to talk to their au pairs (bad move). Because when I match with my first host family andgot into their house I realized how much they lied to me. To not make this post too long I just gonna say that I had to rematch 3 weeks after I arrived home, and that the LCC had to take me away from them because she was afraid something could happened to me. That hos family got kicked out the program for what they did to me, and good thing my LCC was always proactive and really good at finding me anothe host family in her cluster ( BEST HOST FAMLY EVER, I STAYED 2 YEARS WITH THEM)… I was their second au pair and they actually suggested me to talk to their au pair so I could decided if I wanted to be with them, she told me awesome things that were true and when I was about to finish my 2 years they asked me if I wanted to talk to their match, I did and she has been with them for 1 year and a half..

Au Pair Australia May 19, 2013 at 10:43 pm

It depends how was the relationship with your last au pair, it can be a good idea if the au pair was happy, but even if there was a good relationship au pairs do not always open themselves and tell to their host family what they did not like, and they may tell it to the new au pair and you could have ignored during all this time something she was not happy that she never mentioned

Taking a Computer Lunch May 20, 2013 at 10:00 am

DH and I try not to go into the AP room, unless invited (an alarm clock sounding endlessly while she’s away, a window left open in a thunderstorm, or something that could potentially damage our property, would be the only reasons we would go in). We don’t snoop. So, when a candidate or a new match says she wants to see the bedroom, I tell her to arrange a Skype date with our current AP. I would never, ever, Skype and show a candidate my AP’s bedroom (nor would I show her mine)! (This year I will try to remember to photograph the room just before the new AP arrives, although it will look rather stark.)

Host Mom in the City May 20, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Funny that not a single one of the candidates I’ve ever interviewed have asked to see the room. I think I’ll take a picture of it when our current AP moves out just in case for next year.

CA Host Mom May 20, 2013 at 4:13 pm

None of ours have asked to see the AP room either, but after our last AP left, I did take a picture of the room and the incoming AP seemed really excited to get to see it before she arrived. I think most would probably want to see it (I would!) but are just shy to ask.

Momma Gadget May 20, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Only our first AP asked to see pictures of both her room and her bathroom. We now automatically send these along with information on our area to any candidates we are seriously considering.

Host Mom in the City May 20, 2013 at 4:47 pm

I think I’ll do this now too – hadn’t occurred to me! We’re just about to begin our search for au pair #3!

Taking a Computer Lunch May 20, 2013 at 6:07 pm

I had one candidate refuse to match because the room was in the basement. Didn’t matter it was practically brand new (only one AP had lived in it and we had put on addition with an ensuite bathroom). Most of the APs ask sooner or later what to bring, so now when I send out my “You’re probably packing” email, I tell them not to bring sheets or towels, etc.

HRHM May 21, 2013 at 10:39 am

You would think that an AP wouldn’t mind a basement bedroom – the darkness makes it easier to sleep until noon on the weekend! LOL

Taking a Computer Lunch May 21, 2013 at 11:01 am

This particular AP was from Brazil and was concerned that she was going to find it colder and darker. And while some of my APs have slept until noon on their days off, many find that life under The Camel is not so easy (we do keep her out of her room until 10 or 11 on the weekends, but then we let her back into to play – and she is noisy). Because the handicapped accessible suite is right about the AP suite, it may be private but it’s not quiet. We’re in and out all a couple of times each night turning on and off some life support equipment that our special needs child doesn’t need during the day when she’s awake. While we try to be quiet, occasionally a toy is left in our path, so there’s a dual explosion of the sound of the toy kicked across the room going into action and the sound of a parent’s curse.

Host Mom in the City May 21, 2013 at 11:14 am

Our AP room is on the same level as ours and the kids. I have mixed feelings about it, but we have no other space. It’s not a lot of privacy, the kids can be loud, she can’t watch loud movies or anything after bedtime, etc. But on the other hand, it’s bug-free and gets lots of light. It feels like a real room. The basement AP rooms I’ve seen are generally very private and mostly quiet (unless you’re stomping around right above). But most have very little windows and not a lot of natural light, have that basement feel to them, feel tucked away from the family, and of course there are the bug/water issues with basements sometimes. So there are pros and cons with both depending on the house.

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