Step-By-Step Guide to Au Pair Matching, by TexasHostMom (update)

by cv harquail on July 24, 2017

TexasHost Mom’s post, sharing her step-by-step process for contacting Au Pair Candidates, is one of our most read (and most appreciated) posts on AuPairMom.

We love her clarity, and not just because sometimes we really just want to execute a good routine rather than obsess about what to do next. Long time readers know that TexasHM is super-rigorous. They also know she’s been pretty successful at finding Au Pairs that fit her family well.

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When TexasHM emailed to offer an update of her process, I whooped  “YES MAY’EM” in my best Texas accent, and wrote her right back.  Results, below.

Texas HM is often asked why she takes each particular step, so in this update she explains — broadly — what she’s looking for at each point in the process.

When I asked her why she’d changed her process since it has been so effective, she explained:

 

I created this process — and have stayed rigorous — because getting lazy (or desperate or overconfident or all three) is what led to our one flameout Au Pair.  I’ve realized that I HAVE TO follow this process to keep the rose-colored glasses in the drawer.

Otherwise I fall in love with each and every candidate and want to minimize or even overlook the gaps between what they can offer and what we need!

Yep, falling in love is easy to do as we read through those profiles. And all those cute photos with babies and kittens.

 

 [[ Note to Au Pairs: Here’s your version of TexasHostMom’s advice!
Improving the Matching Process: 10 Things I Wish Au Pairs Would Do by TexasHM]

Here’s TexasHM’s step-by-step matching process:
  1. Send email template #1:
    – Be sure and list your arrival date.Mention in both first sentence and last sentence “let us know what you think. If you are not interested in our family for any reason that is ok, please let us know so we can release your profile immediately so we can both move on to finding our match!”This round is open ended questions all about the AP to determine if AP’s goals/expectations align with our family/area/situation.

2. Review email #1 answers and decide go/no go:
I am looking for high level deal-breakers like vacation plans already made we can’t accommodate, unrealistic AP expectations, our personal deal-breakers like smoking, weak driving, lying etc.

 3. Send email template #2:
(open ended questions that drive more at personality and how they think to see if they could be a good potential roommate and what their “normal” looks like – clubbing, drinking, birthdays, traditions, how adventurous they are etc.)I also send a detailed area email that includes links to places our APs frequent (church, university, movies, mall, etc), places we usually go (festivals, state fair, church) and a chart with the average high/lo temperatures for our area across the year so they can evaluate our location, their potential college, etc.

4.  Review email #2 answers and decide go/no go:
– I’m always looking for deal-breakers but this round is more about “fit”.If the most adventurous thing they have ever done is “wear a costume to school on a costume holiday” then they would be terrified in our home but if it is “running off with a friend on the fly to a music festival in a different country and having a stranger pierce their bottom lip in a tent only to have it get infected, end up in the hospital and still years later be angry that the ER doctor made them take it out to save their lip” then we are not the match for them (both true answers btw!)

 5. Skype session #1, light topics that won’t stress them out:
(they are always SO terrified – keep that in mind). Asking questions about their profile, favorite foods/movies etc, conversational to gauge English proficiency and personality, have kids make brief intro to see how they interact, ask them to connect on Facebook on the spot so they can’t make changes, mutually decide go/no go – if go, offer handbook.

 6. Do an online search of their name and check all social media photos/posts:
As best I can, I want to check if these seem to match their profile and answers?  If so and no red flags send handbook, ask if they have questions and if they would like to continue to talk, if so, ask if they want to talk to former APs.

7. Connect candidate with former APs and send former APs the candidate’s entire profile and answers from first 2 email rounds.

8. Get feedback from former APs if they offer:
– What concerns do they have?  Gaps they see?  Vibe they got?  Types of questions the candidate asked?

 9. Skype session #2 – discuss in more detail:
Handbook questions (if any), how conversations went with former APs, if still go then talk with kids (leave AP alone with each kid for longer and see if they can engage/connect/are generally great with kids).  Ask them how they feel about potential match, if they feel ready to make a decision or need more time/want to talk to more families etc first, if ready to match then ask to send challenge email (e.g., we like you very much, can we send you some candid concerns?)

10.  Send Challenge Email:
– List all concerns, no matter how small, that might flare up during AP year, reminders of any rules that might grate on them and miscellaneous smaller things we want them to agree to (flu shots, no perfume in house/cars, modesty, etc).

11. Review Challenge Email responses – watch reaction closely.  
Do they fight for it?  Do they agree with you about the concerns and give up?  Do they get upset?  Do they give you confidence they are invested 100% or does their responses make you less sure?I find their reaction is exactly what you will get when you give them constructive criticism during their AP year.  The rockstars don’t write off your concerns, are able to put themselves in your shoes and see your intent (prevent rematch or a bad fit) and they appreciate the candor, accept it and then tell you how they are going to ensure those things are not going to be a problem during their term.   Decide go/no go with DH (full review of all emails, profile and notes), if go, schedule final Skype session.

 12., Skype #4 – AP talks with DH:
If he thumbs up then we offer match (I briefly turn camera off then back on for them to see kids holding signs that say “please match with us”).

Once they’ve accepted, I notify agency/click link on website. Going forward, we stay in touch and send custom google map, first week schedule and online driving course for them to review before they leave for orientation.

 

 

See also:

When should we send our Family Handbook to our incoming au pair?

Help Your New Au Pair Pack: 5 things to bring, 5 things to leave behind

 

 

Image:   Sound Advice by GroundReport on Flickr

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

massmom July 24, 2017 at 3:49 pm

I love Texas HostMom’s list! I can tell that au pairs that arrive to her house know exactly what they are in for and what to expect. We do many of the things on her list, but in a different order. I prefer to start with a quick Skype, which I tell the candidate will be brief. I know within 10 minutes whether this is someone I’m interested in speaking further with. If it’s going great, we extend the conversation to 45 minutes. I just prefer to get a sense of the candidate’s personality and their English level, and I like to see their spontaneous responses, not ones they may workshop with others or consult with a translation source to put together. Then we do a second Skype where we introduce the kids, and often a 3rd Skype where we give a tour of the room, and offer to meet their family. I don’t really like email as a communication medium. I think this works for us because we’re a pretty relaxed host family, and also because we always get au pairs from the same country that my husband is from. So we know what to look for in terms of schooling/family background, and we can clarify some things in the AP’s native language. Different processes can work for different families, but I totally agree that being diligent about sticking to the process and criteria that has worked well for you in the past is crucial.

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Aspie Mom July 24, 2017 at 7:15 pm

Our process is similar.
Our email template includes deal breakers. Arrival date. My son is autistic. My daughter is loud no matter the emotion. We cannot have perfume use in our house due to allergies. Of course, we also highlight the reasons our town and family are amazing. I’m hoping that after the email exchange the au pair will know we aren’t a family that will be a good match with a party girl, but we are also kind, fair, safe and we will strictly adhere to the rules of the program. I won’t lie. We get a lot of rejections, but the people who stick it out past the first email are usually resilient candidates who are up for the challenge our family will present.

We have 2 Skype calls at a minimum. My husband is involved in every Skype call. We definitely keep the first one light and evaluate English skills. We don’t invite the kids to this one unless we already have a really good feeling.

If we are still interested we send our family handbook, ask them to review it before our next call, and ask them to contact our past au pairs. We don’t ask our au pairs for their opinions on candidates unless they see a red flag.

Skype session #2 is the hard questions about difficult situations and we get the kids involved. My 11 year old autistic son has 3 questions he asks every candidate.

We might do some emailing back and forth and allow some time for everyone to reflect before asking to match.

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MoreCoffee July 25, 2017 at 11:14 am

Thanks for posting! So timely for us, as we start searching for our third AP…

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HMAdvice July 25, 2017 at 1:36 pm

Good ideas! I love the personal touches at the end. I also agree with massmom on the point about skype. My preference is to skype first too because of the reasons mentioned above. I have had email responses that candidates obviously had help on. Also I feel like the candidate opens up a little more if you just have a friendly conversation. Sometimes you know right away if you just aren’t going to be a good fit. For me, the quicker I can figure that out the better so it is worth it for me to invest the 10 minute conversation to figure out if you want to keep talking to a candidate.

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Frankfurt AP boy July 26, 2017 at 5:04 pm

Wow quite daunting from an au pair point of view. I think there has be a balance between trying to get as much useful information and accepting there many things are unknowable by merely interviewing someone. I really hate the idea of being interviewed by an “industrial psychologist” when it comes to applying for au pair jobs – “Aha! His favourite colour is orange and if he could choose to be any animal for a day it would be a lion! Shame… we are definitely looking for more of a navy blue Eagle type”.

Saying that though: I like the list. I think it has the balance right. As an au pair with many years of experience with kids, I particularly like the idea of challenging questions at the end. It really gives me an opportunity to call on some of my experience which you really wouldnt be able to demonstrate in a casual conversation. I also love it when families do something cute as a way of accepting you as an au pair. The mum from one job I had made a video of her telling the kids I was coming and them running around the house cheering so excited about it.

I have a couple of things to add in regard to what au pairs like to see at an interview:

1) Involvement of the kids – it is always a really bad sign to me when the parents are interviewing you and you can see the kid in the background completely clueless of whats going on. Some of them don’t even know they are getting an au pair. It is such a great feeling when you know the kids are excited and it feels slightly off if the kids arent involved in something that will affect their lives. As TexasHostMom says, it is also a good opportunity to show how quickly you can build a rapport and also how open the kids are to the idea of an au pair if they havent had one before.

2) Involvement of both parents – as with TexasHostMom, it is quite common that the dad only appears at the end. To me, it is better if they speak to you earlier on. An au pair should play an important role in the family, why doesnt he want to get to know you first? Is it perhaps because there is always a distance between the parents and the au pair so it doesn’t really matter whether you get on or not? Maybe not, but it is a thought that crosses my mind when one parent isnt involved.

3) How you were with your other au pairs – maybe its a confidence issue with me but I actually don’t like to hear too much about how great the au pair was. It makes me worry that the children are going to find it difficult to accept someone new. I do like to hear though about how they found things in general. I also like to know if there were any problems. I don’t contact old au pairs unless the family says it was a positive experience but I like their contact details to be offered anyway.

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TexasHM July 31, 2017 at 11:28 am

To clarify, my DH is generally more involved in the process than just the Skype at the end but I put that step in there to make sure that they get alone time to chat 1:1 whereas most of the time he walks in when I am chatting with the AP or the kids are around or on our lap, etc. I want our potential AP to be comfortable with both of us, not just me so I make sure its a defined step and that we don’t match until they’ve had some time to connect.

I keep him posted every step of the process and forward him the emails and review messages and I tell the APs all about him too so by the time they talk they both feel like they already know each other. It is easier (and because I am a control freak and the harder one to “sell”) for me to be the coordinator/point of contact. If I had to coordinate every step with DH as well not only would he tell me to match after one conversation :) but it would take me months to get through all the steps! Anyway, point being he is involved.

Frankfurt boy I understand your point about having the kids involved but perhaps a counter thought. I try to do most of the screening before getting the kids involved because I may talk to dozens of candidates! We try to keep it casual too because often times there are a couple of candidates that we are seriously interviewing so we don’t want drama with the kids if we pick one over another or they get attached before we have made a decision so we keep it casual until much closer to the end and even then, we tell the kids we are considering them not that they are the next AP. Even so, the last two rounds my kids started begging us to match with the candidates we did match with, so even keeping it casual and toward the end they still get excited and attached in the process. We have had a couple times where the match didn’t happen for whatever reason and the kids were super disappointed and asked if it had something to do with them (of course not!) so like everything else, it is a balance. Plus one round I had them talk to many candidates and they hated it. They all blurred together and they weren’t excited and didn’t care who we picked anymore so there is a part of keeping it novel for them as well.

This process is daunting and not for everyone but its worked for us! Posted originally just because I wished that someone had given me ideas on how to tackle the process when I was new! There is no right or wrong. You just need to think about what you need to hear/know/see in order to make the best decision for your family and then figure out how to cover those bases.

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