Texas Host Mom’s 12 Step Au Pair Matching Process (guest post)

by Texas HM on June 6, 2015

Here’s TexasHM’s step-by-step matching process:

  1. 1. Send email template #1 (open ended AP questions)
  2. hiutwigReview email #1 answers and decide go/no go
  3.  Send email template #2 and area links/info email (our explanations and area)
  4.  Review email #2 answers and decide go/no go
  5.  Skype session #1, review AP application and ask Skype questions list, mutually decide go/no go – offer handbook
  6.  Send Handbook, ask them for go/no go to Skype again
  7.  Skype session #2 – discuss handbook, if go then briefly intro kids/get vibe, if go then offer them to talk to past APs
  8.  Candidate talks to former AP(s), ask AP and previous APs for go/no go to Skype with kids/DH
  9.  Skype #3 with kids/DH, ask them how they feel about potential match, ask to send challenge email (e.g., we like you very much, can we send you some candid concerns?)
  10.  Send Challenge Email
  11.  Review Challenge Email responses and decide go/no go, schedule final Skype session
  12.  Skype #4 – Offer Match, if accepted notify agency/click link on website

 

{ 62 comments }

TexasHM June 6, 2015 at 1:59 pm

First email to AP candidates:
(Purpose: to figure out what plans/expectations they already have and get to know their thought process/goals for the AP year – whatever is important to you, put in here. If you don’t care if they smoke or what religion they are, take those out and put in what you are interested in or what you think might impact your experience.)

Dear (AP candidate),

I am a host mom looking for the next awesome au pair for our family. We have had three wonderful au pairs, two extended with us and our third asked to extend but then got an amazing opportunity to go to New Zealand so we were so excited for her and are now looking for our next family member! I have a few questions for you before we start Skype-ing. I want to make sure we have clear expectations on both sides and several conversations before discussing matching! I noticed on your profile that you seem to be (fill in why you liked their profile here). We would love to learn more about you to see if we might be a good match. If for any reason you think we would not be a good match for you that is totally ok, but please let us know right away so we can release your profile! We are looking for our new au pair to arrive ___________ but we do have a little flexibility. If that timeframe doesn’t work for you please let us know how close to that you could come and we will see if we could make it work!

What would the perfect host family for you be like? (# of kids, ages, benefits/amenities)

What are your expectations of your host family?

What would your ideal schedule look like as an au pair?

Have you lived away from home before? If so,where and how long?

Have you ever been to the US before? If so, where did you go, why and when?

Do you expect anyone to come visit you while you are in the USA? If so, who/when?

Where/how do you want to spend your vacation time in the US? Do you already have plans?

What do you want to study while you are in the US?

Do you have a particular area of the US you would want to live in? If so, where and why?

What do you think will be the most difficult thing about spending a year in the US as an au pair?

What do you know about (your state)? (Your city)?

Can you tell me a little more about your religious views? Do you want a family that is active in a church? Do you plan on going to church in the USA?

What do your parents/boyfriend think about you joining the au pair program?

Do you have any plans for after you return from your au pair year?

How often do you smoke?

What do you normally do on the weekends/in your free time?

Do you have an au pair video? If so we would love to see it!

I would be happy to send you more information once we get more detail from you. I want to make sure you feel like you can honestly share your answers instead of being guided by our information. Please feel free to ask us any questions you would like too and if you are not interested in our family that is ok just please let us know right away so we can release your profile for other families to see and so we can move on to finding our match as well.

Thanks in advance!

TexasHM June 6, 2015 at 2:06 pm

Excerpt from email #2 template:
(Purpose – explain why you asked the questions you asked, explain your expectations, ask any clarifying questions if needed and send round #2 questions). I DO change this up for each AP response as needed – responding to their answers but also making sure I am covering our topics. This is the last one I sent:

Dear ,

I appreciate your honest feedback. We believe open and honest communication is THE most important factor in having a successful au pair year!

Smoking would be a deal breaker for us but that doesn’t sound like an issue with you. No one in our family smokes and we don’t want anyone smoking in our cars/house etc ever. We have multiple family members with asthma plus it stinks and is gross!

I ask about church because we are a Christian family and we attend regularly and we would want YOU to be comfortable with us. We don’t make anyone go and we don’t track attendance or anything, but we do attend a “mega” church and every Tuesday night they have a program for young adults (20-30s) and all three of our APs have LOVED it and met lots of friends there so I mention it more as a resource for our APs to extend their social circle and to make sure you would be comfortable living in our home. You are always welcome to attend (just like you are when we do any family activity) with us on Sunday mornings but not required (just like any family activity). We don’t follow a special diet, have problems with makeup or clothes (as long as you remember our daughters see everything and you are a role model for them). We pray before meals and at bedtime, we have scripture and crosses decorating the walls in our house and we discuss religion with the kids regularly so as long as you are comfortable with that, we won’t have any issues! We believe that a person’s faith (or lack thereof) is a personal journey and people can’t and shouldn’t be convinced or pressured. We have had previous APs – two were ex-catholics and didn’t attend church at home but ended up loving it here (they said it was more like an interesting christian rock concert here) and one was what we would call an Easter/Christmas catholic and she too ended up liking it and attending when she was here and joined the church softball team (there are a lot of sports and activities at our church). We almost matched with an atheist last round so it’s less about the AP’s religion for us and more about if they are going to be comfortable in our home and will they not interfere with our teaching our children (like telling them God isn’t real would not fly).

We have had great relationships with our APs. I have let them borrow my clothes for special events, they have cried on my shoulder over boys and we laugh and gossip like sisters sometimes. We like it that way. Our kids are bonded to these girls forever and our first AP lives close and visits us regularly and we message with the second and third AP at least every few days. In fact our first au pair got married to an American and stayed here and she is actually pregnant and working as our nanny until we get a new au pair! We have been making lists of baby names and looking at baby clothes and she asked to use my youngest’s middle name as her daughters name! :)

Our AP has a busy and hard job but we are an active family that truly loves our APs with all our hearts so we would like to think that they get back what they put into the program with us. Our AP is ALWAYS welcome to go with us ANYWHERE we go. If she doesn’t want to go, that is completely fine too. We have never had an issue with this and if we progress we would let you talk to our previous APs to ask about this and any other questions you have.

Important for us – an AP that represents our values (inc morals/religion) to our kids when we are not there and is a true family member. Someone flexible with a positive attitude that works hard and plays hard. Someone that appreciates our efforts and realizes you get what you give in this relationship. Someone that wants to go to the girls dance recital and my sons Super Bowl football game but also is independent and does things on her own and makes friends and makes an effort to get a lot out of her experience. Someone that has goals and makes plans and is open minded to try new things, be spontaneous and not afraid to share ideas.

We try to go on little “adventures” when we have time and we have lots of family traditions (state fair of texas – largest in US every October, ICE! exhibit at christmas hotel in November, university Easter celebration every April, July 4th Bash at the lake, family Halloween costumes/trick or treating and Fall festival, etc) and some weekends we take a break and just have kids sports and go see a movie or ride bikes or swim in the pool and have friends over. We do occasionally stay overnight on a weekend trip. Like Labor Day this past Sept we went to this awesome resort in other city with a waterpark and our AP had a blast. We also go camping with boy scouts at least once a year and visit family/friends for a long weekend or this year we have run up to a city called XYZ for spring break and then we went on a spontaneous weekend trip there and then went with my husbands entire family there for Thanksgiving!

I travel for work and have traveled extensively for pleasure so when my APs ask I am able to help them a lot with travel planning, saving money and tips. We also have several travel books, magazines and I get travel guides for the cities I travel to so we have a big basket of brochures and info that the girls often use to help plan their trips. Our last AP did a great job with planning and in nine months did Boston, San Francisco, Atlanta, Branson (with us), New Orleans, Florida/Disney (with us), DC and she went with us to San Antonio like I said in the fall. I think its so great that she maximized her experience – most APs don’t!

A few more questions!

What ages of children are you most comfortable with?

What was the most difficult part of caring for children? What do you like most about taking care of children?

Children do not always listen to their parents or their au pair. What will you do if my child just won’t listen to you?

What do you think children most need from an au pair?

On a day when school is closed (i.e. bad weather related), what kinds of activities might you plan with the children?

Would you be willing and able to help with the children’s homework?

How would you react if the child says “But Mommy and Daddy let me watch TV after dinner,” even though we told you the children are not to watch television after dinner?

What would you do if one child wants to play outside and another wants to stay inside?

When something bothers you how do you normally try to resolve it?

How do you deal with stressful situations?

Have you talked to other host families? If so, how did that go?

What do you think makes you a great au pair candidate?

How do you normally get to new places? GPS?

Would other people say you have a good sense of direction?

What type of vehicles do you normally drive? (Size, type)

Have you ever driven to another city on your own (more than an hour away)? How often do you do something like that?

How often do you go clubbing?

How often do you drink?

TexasHM June 6, 2015 at 2:14 pm

Skype sample questions:
Usually Skype #1 I start very casually and go through their application (question about them having asthma as a kid, what they did in a particular job, why they said X on their letter, etc) and these questions below are used if we still have time after that and then during Skype #2 we talk about the handbook and then I cover the rest of these:
What are some of your favorite foods?
What are your favorite foods to make?
How did you decide on (X college they attended)?
Was big was it?
How does the grading scale work there?
What kinds of grades did you get?
What were your favorite subjects?
Do your parents like their careers? What did they say when you told them about the AP program?
What are some of your favorite movies? Books?
What are your future career goals?
Do you have right on red permitted in your country?
Flashing yellow turn arrows?
How many lanes are usually on the roads? Highways?
Do you have center turn lanes? Side turn lanes?
Have you ever driven a larger vehicle like a truck or minivan? Do you think it would be an issue for you?
How did you learn to swim?
Have you ever swam in the ocean?
What is your favorite color?

TexasHM June 6, 2015 at 2:20 pm

Sample challenge email – personalized for each AP based on all my yellow flag notes during the process. Purpose: downplay perks, set expectations, have AP address my concerns

Dear AP,

We like you very much and while we do joke around and have a lot of fun, we are very serious about who we ask to become a member of our family and be responsible for our most precious gifts in the world.

So, I would like to tell you very honestly about my concerns and discuss a few minor topics and give you a chance to process all this information and respond. (No rush.)

1. Driving – My husband and I believe (based on experience) that every au pair needs some help learning how to drive here. Now, you have more experience than AP2 did and probably about the same as AP3 and they didn’t have problems but AP2 also took the online driving course before she came and practiced everyday and AP3 learned in France which is very similar to the US and its very hard to get a license there so I am honestly not sure where you will be in the spectrum of driving ability but I have heard from other (her country) APs that it really doesn’t take long to adjust and that generally your country APs are strong drivers (which we need!). Also, we believe that some things can be taught and some cannot. Driving can be taught and we are prepared to invest in helping you. If we decided to match, we would send you an online driving course to take before you arrive. We generally limit driving area (our city only) and type (no highways, etc) until after we have practiced with you and feel comfortable that you have mastered it. We don’t want you to have limits but we find it necessary until everyone is comfortable. First its driving with us, then its driving in the our city area only (no highway), then our city with highway, then we expand from there. We would be clear about where you could go and how you would progress to less limitations if you were interested in doing so. (There is so much nearby our home that two of our APs were not motivated to practice highway driving so never mastered it and just caught a ride with friends if they wanted to go downtown clubbing or whatnot.). Do you have any concerns about all this?

2. Homesickness – You are very close to your family (which is great), it will be hard to be away from them for one year! We even had a mature au pair crumble under pressure from her parents and homesickness and she had lived away before. AP1 struggled at times, AP3 did not really but she also had a shorter term with us, she had already lived away from home a long time and had a career (ER nurse) and her mom/sister, boyfriend and best friend all came to visit in that time! I know you lived away from school but you’ve never left your country – how would you handle/manage homesickness?

3. Boredom – I am sure there are things you want to see and do but because your English is so good we want to make sure you have goals. Every au pair has difficult days and it is a lot easier to stay positive and focused if you have specific goals whether that is college related, work related or personal. You are obviously motivated, our concern is more around how you will stay motivated after the newness of everything has worn off! You said yourself you hate being bored, there are some boring days as an au pair and sometimes the routine can get monotonous. Over time, the challenge and excitement will wear off and while we do love adventures and travel we can’t/don’t do that every weekend or all the time so it will be up to you to seek out things of interest and make plans and not become complacent. Do you think that will be an issue?

4. Swimming – as stated before we have a pool and my parents live near the beach in FL. My kids are fish and LOVE the water. I don’t expect an au pair to be lifeguard certified and I am crossing my fingers that by the end of summer our youngest will be able to swim on her own but we still need to know that our au pair is a strong enough swimmer that if they hit their head jumping in or passed out or got into trouble somehow that she could rescue them. Especially with 3 kids at once its important that the au pair not only be vigilant (as I am sure you would be) but very comfortable in the water because if something needs to be done there is no time for hesitation/nervousness. Do you have any concerns about this?

5. Childcare experience – you have not previously had a scenario where you were caring for kids as a full time job and definitely not three kids at once! :) It takes a great deal of maturity, organizational skills, patience and determination. They are great kids but even great kids have their off days and difficult times. It can be exhausting, frustrating and maddening at times but you have to be resilient and keep your cool and not take it personally. They can occasionally say something rude or mean to get attention and while we want to know immediately and will handle it, you have to know that they don’t really mean it and that sometimes kids try things to mess with us! DS told AP2 once she wasn’t a real family member (not what he meant – he meant she had a different last name) and DD1 told AP2 once that she liked AP1 better (she was mad at her) and DD2 asked AP3 once if she could go home so AP2 could come back (she was 3 and didn’t understand how the program works) so as you can see, you have to have maturity and thick skin to be an AP! Do you have concerns about watching 3 kids full time? Would you be able to be strict with them when needed? How would you manage the off days/comments they might throw your way?

6. Animals – its obvious that you love animals and that is great, but as you know we only have a bird. Our first AP lives close by and has dogs and my friend that has an AP has two dogs and our AP and kids are always welcome over there but I know that’s not the same as having animals in the house. All three of our APs really missed their dogs while they were here. The kids are welcome to play with dogs but I would prefer they not play with cats because I am HORRIBLY allergic to cats. Dogs I can tolerate as long as they are not in my face so the kids can play with them and as long as I am on medicine (I am all year round) and they wash their hands or change clothes if needed then I am ok but cats would really mess me up even if it was only on the kids clothes! We have several ideas for getting more involved with animals (volunteering for example). Do you have any questions/concerns about the bird or lack of other animals in the house?

I know we have asked you 100 questions and that our interview process is extensive and can be hard on you but the great news is, we have found that if we talk about all of our expectations and your expectations in advance it really helps the process and we do not want to end up in rematch and I promise neither do you! (Ask AP3 about that sometime!) We are looking to make a very serious decision and that takes time and effort. We are going to be investing at least one year in spending time teaching you, taking you places, introducing you to people, places, ideas and you will teach us just as much, if not more! The great news is, if we decide to match you would know that after all this researching and interviewing and questioning that we think 300% you are the only AP for us and that the match will be successful. If we are not 300% convinced, we will not match both for your benefit and ours. We are very committed to this program and we really believe that there is “a lid for every pot” meaning a great match out there for every family and AP and that’s what we all want!

A few other side notes:
We prefer that the APs wear one piece swimsuits when with the family/kids. I am not the swimsuit police but that prevents wardrobe issues (the girls are still learning to swim and grab onto everyone), prevents the AP from being embarrassed (americans are more conservative so you might get unwanted attention) and errs on the side of modesty for our kids (as a role model). Same thing when going out, if you are wearing something revealing please cover up around the kids. Again, not the AP fashion police, just trying to set an example for our girls.

Some of the APs here often like to compare notes about families “I can’t believe your host family has a curfew on the car?! You are 21!”, “your host family has rules and you are ok with that?” – by the way I don’t personally know any host families that don’t have any rules and ours are modeled after what the majority of families do and what the agencies/host mom blogs suggest as best practices for having a smooth year. We don’t want to be unfair, but it needs to prevent headaches and frustration on our part too. You will also hear “your host family brought you to vacation city with them for Thanksgiving?! my host family left me at home alone” and “your host family is the only one I know that treats you like a true member of the family” so you see it goes both ways. The APs all want no rules but all the family perks. Grass is always greener, etc. You can feel free to ask AP3 about this (or anything else), just letting you know it will likely happen because it happened with all of our APs in some capacity. How do you think you would handle this?

Also, the other APs tend to dislike/judge our APs if they spend their vacation time on trips with us. Funny, once they see all the pictures they are suddenly jealous. Plus our APs don’t work AT ALL on family vacations. Many APs go on vacations with the families and its paid for but they are working all the time and don’t have any freedom to enjoy the places. AP3 just had this happen with a friend that went to Disney and came back very disappointed because she worked 14 hour days the whole time and didn’t ride a single ride! We try to be as generous as possible but we are not rich. Do I wish we could pay for everything for all 5 of us plus AP on all family trips? Of course! Is it feasible for us? No. We try to cover as much as possible but we are honest upfront and give the AP all the info so they can make their own decisions. For example, AP2 went with us to CA/Disneyland/LA/San Diego for 11 days, we only counted it as one week of her vacation (vs the 7 working days it actually was) and she only paid for plane ticket (I got for her for cheap), Disney tickets, her meals out at restaurants and we covered everything at the house/hotel and pizza, transportation, stuff like that so she ended up getting that trip for less than $800. She still talks about it. None of the other girls have done CA for less than $2-3k, even though their trips were much shorter and they shared hotel rooms with 3-5 other APs! Memorial Day weekend in vacation city cost AP3 $120 TOTAL for 4 days of attractions, eating out, condo, etc and $30 of that was one show ticket! I could give you several more examples or feel free to ask the APs – in June we went to FL and Disney and again, only counting as one week vacation for AP3 and she got 10 days in Florida and Disney for approximately $600 plus meals – not bad! :)

We invite our AP to lots of events around DFW. We try to cover as much as we can but generally, if its over $10-20 we ask the AP if they can cover their expenses. Again we would cover transportation and all that, but if there is an event ticket that’s $25 we give them the option to go or not. It probably doesn’t sound like much but we also eat out at restaurants regularly and always pay for our AP and I don’t know any other families here that do that so every bit adds up. So we might be stingier on events but more generous on eating out, I don’t know, we do our best. The only reason we do this at all is because that allows us to do more travel and trips and events. If you imagine the $800 from the CA trip from AP2 and the $400 I think she spent on the Florida trip we took (again 10 days but only counted as her one week vacation) plus all the numerous events we do during the year it was maybe $1500-1800 out of pocket for her for all that but we also likely spent about $1000 in meals out on her during the year plus the cheaper activities we covered plus gifts and perks during the year I think it ends up being a wash. We always tell the AP in advance what the activity is, if we can pay for it or not and how much it is. They get all the details and make the decisions. Sometimes they go, sometimes they don’t. If you have a better idea on how to handle we are all ears! We are flexible and over time this is just what the previous APs preferred. If the AP wants to pay for all their meals out at restaurants we could probably cover all events and activities with the family for the year but my guess is they get the better end of the deal by far with us paying for meals out. :)

We provide a smart phone but the APs pay for a data plan if desired. Its $25 a month for 2GB of data. There is free wifi at the house so they use this data plan mostly when they are out and about and that is just what the three previous APs have wanted so if you want to try something different we are open to ideas. We have unlimited minutes and texting so you wouldn’t have to worry about that ever. They use it when the girls are in classes and at sports practices mostly. That also gets them apps on their phone like WhatsApp that they use to connect and chat with all the au pairs in the area and send voice messages to everyone back home, they can also check Facebook and message and respond to emails while they are out.

We get flu shots to protect ourselves and the kids every fall and expect our au pairs to get one as well (we pay for it). Is that an issue for you? We will also ask that you visit all your doctors before coming (including dental and vision – even if you haven’t had issues in the past) because healthcare is very expensive in the US and the agency health insurance is more for emergencies and not general care. We have had 3 APs come and fail or almost fail their vision tests at the driver’s license office and had to pay for eye exams or new glasses here. Let us know if this will be an issue please.

We expect our au pairs to keep our kids safe, to get them to their activities on time or early and prepared (proper attire, gear, etc), and to enable DH and I to work by effectively managing and performing your work/tasks/duties during your scheduled hours. We are always happy to help but we don’t micromanage and we expect that you are another adult coming to live/work in our home and we will treat you as such. What are your expectations of us?

Please think about all of this and let us know what you think and if you have any additional questions for us.

TexasHM :)

Didi June 12, 2015 at 11:19 am

TexasHM, this is so amazing. Good job on being so open about your needs and what your family has to offer.
Would it be ok with you if I used some of the questions/email excerpts on my blog, to show au pairs in matching process what can they expect? Or even hopefully you writing Open Letter To Au Pair Guest Post?
Thank you,
Dijana
dijanaw @ thefunnynanny dot com

TexasHM June 12, 2015 at 11:35 am

Hi Didi,
I would ask this not be shared but I am happy to connect offline and write an open letter or share more generic process/answer questions. I will email you. Thanks!

AlwaysHopeful HM June 6, 2015 at 2:53 pm

As others have said before, this is an awesome system Texas HM! Something I’m curious about (for anyone, really): Do you describe the process to the au pairs you interview, or otherwise let them know they are approaching go/no go points? Also, does the discussion at “no go” get more detailed as you get further along in the process?

TexasHM June 6, 2015 at 4:05 pm

So great question AlwaysHopeful and to be fair, I just organized all this after our current match. I have always used templates and had questions and handbook and whatnot, I just hadn’t sat down and created a flow. And while I was putting it in order I thought I should add decision points at each stage to make sure I hold myself to the process. The one rematch we had I overrode a lot of my process and I want to make sure I don’t do that and settle ever again. This way I am reminded to ask myself (and them) several times along the way how I am feeling about everything and if it makes sense to continue.

In the past, I have alluded to a process (even email #1 says several rounds of conversations and Skype before matching) but now that I have one I might share a summary with APs that get past Skype #1. I say that because honestly, probably 90+% of them are gone after step 4 (read email #2 answers). I used to Skype after reviewing email #1 answers but after doing that and asking more questions I realized a lot of them I wouldn’t have talked to in the first place if I had just asked a few more questions so that’s when I flipped and sent a second round before Skypeing. Has saved me tons of time and awkward Skype sessions and now me and the kids and former APs don’t get bogged down with several candidates. Only two spoke to my former APs this past round and honestly, if I had talked to our current a little sooner (she was on a family trip for a week which delayed our conversations) then I likely would have only had our current speak with them. I want to find out as quickly as possible in the process that we aren’t going to be a good match.

Honestly, the last few rounds of interviewing as long as I told them what the next step was in the process the candidates seemed fine. I almost don’t want to tell them the process because I don’t want them checking things off in their heads. The ones that are misleading me or not that serious about our family – I want them to think that I might literally take forever to decide. :) Plus then if I decide to add a step or extra Skype session I don’t want to feel like I am going off script or have them be surprised.

As far as does go/no go get more detailed as we go along? I don’t think so. A lot of these are pretty easy. If they read the handbook and don’t agree with the car curfew that is a pretty easy no go. If they smoke – no go. If they talk to the former APs and the former APs have solid concerns – no go. If they Skype with the kids and it’s awesome – easy go to continue. If they love the handbook and it’s clear they actually read it – easy go to continue. If they decide they don’t think it makes sense to continue – easy no go and I try to remember to ask every couple rounds what they think about us and if it makes sense to continue (highlighting that it is as much their choice as ours and its ok to say no go).

My DH doesn’t even really get involved until step 9!!!! Right before that Skype I sit down with him (usually we meet on our lunch breaks) and I show him their profile, all their emails (answers to template 1 and 2 and any correspondence after as well), read my notes from Skype sessions 1&2, read the notes from the previous APs and tell him how it went with the kids on Skype. Then he Skypes with them and knows what’s been covered and gives his feedback. If there is a candidate I love, odds are I have been talking about them around the house and he has an idea before we sit down but it’s really a focused conversation around everything they have shown in the process. I tell him all my yellow flags and give him an idea what I am thinking for the challenge email and he tells me any other he thinks I should add, we sync again after Skype to edit and then that goes out. Once we get the responses I review with him again and then we decide to match or not.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 7, 2015 at 4:11 pm

It’s great to see another family’s interviewing process. Mine differs so much from you (but then I have The Camel to weed out the good-time party girls and the ones who don’t really want to take care of a child with special needs for me).

Our process takes a long time because DH and I do want to work together. No initial dare-to-match-with-us email goes out until we’ve both reviewed the application and agree that she could potentially life with us. For every 10 applications I review, I might send that initial email to 1 or 2. For every 10 emails I send out I might get one person who is interested.

At that point we release our current AP’s email (although quite frankly there are so many AP groups out there – it isn’t hard for potential candidates to get the lay of the land with us), as well as the previous APs who have expressed willingness to communicate. We try to interview at least 4 women and tell them to interview other families (we’re with APIA). At the interview stage, I want to know that they’re curious enough to have already contacted my current AP and like to see that they’ve reach out to one of her predecessors.

DH and I Skype/telephone together, so we can both hear the AP’s answers. It can take us several weeks to have enough time together to interview everyone. Invariably our first choice matches with someone else. At some point we start comparing all the other candidates to one single woman we are interviewing. At that point we know we’re ready to match.

What we’ve learned over the years – not to let a candidate push us into matching. Any candidate who starts telling us that she’s considering other HMs and we need to match a decision has an agenda (one wanted to live with us because her favorite garage band lived close by – a horrible reason to match with us – it was a difficult year for everyone).

What do I do differently? We’ll, I’ve hosted 11 APs with APIA, so I play the loyalty card, reminding HQ that I’ve paid out a lot of money in AP fees. I annoyingly remind them that I pay their salary. I want to see applications immediately after they’ve been vetted and entered into the system. Even though I don’t have an infant I do get to see IQ candidates (although, frankly the one IQ candidate with whom we matched after our kids were no longer infants was our only rematch). I warn them ahead of the time that I’m a demanding pain-in-the-neck, but that their reward has been the 10 APs with whom I matched successfully – including the 3 who extended.

Don’t panic when matching. Don’t settle. Find the best candidate for your family, and when you can’t, demand that HQ help you!

Multitasking Host Mom June 7, 2015 at 8:01 pm

“Don’t panic when matching. Don’t settle…”
TACL, Your last few lines are great advice! Next time I am in the matching process, I am going to write that down and place it somewhere that I can see it every day. It normally takes me about a month to find an AP that will work for my family (mostly due to only looking at special needs willing APs because of my kid’s issues plus I am really picky), but I always have to keep down that feeling that I am not going to find someone, and should just pick the next AP who looks good enough. Remembering that advice will help me stay the course until we find a great match for our family.

WorkingMomX June 6, 2015 at 5:31 pm

I think this is a wonderful process. You are clearly someone who can screen au pairs well. The screening piece is critical – you simply cannot (or should not) invite someone to live in your home and care for your children on the basis of a 10-20 minute phone/skype call. Even more important – it’s clear you treat your au pairs well. The involvement of prior au pairs lends SO much “street cred” to your family.

I wish more families like yours hosted.

dorsi June 8, 2015 at 2:12 pm

I screen applications carefully and ask a few pointed questions of candidates via email before doing a brief Skype call. I have never spoken more than 20 minutes with an applicant. I’ve done this long enough to have matched via a telephone call. We have had 6/7 Au pairs successfully complete a year with us. I like hearing about others’ processes, but I disagree that responsible host parents need to have such involved matching. We have very limited number of candidates (due to job location, number of children, schedule). If I did more extensive screening, I doubt I could find a candidate. On the other hand, I pick good raw material, manage expectations, and usually have great years.

TexasHM June 8, 2015 at 3:01 pm

Dorsi, I agree with you actually for the most part. However, I don’t think most of us (myself included) share your talent in picking raw material and therein lies the rub. At this point (being more tenured in the program) could I trim this process down – possibly but also keep in mind many of these steps take seconds. I can get through this entire process (and have) in a day and a half with a motivated candidate. If they were really motivated and it was a free Saturday (do those exist?) I could do it in hours. So it’s less about the time and more about the vetting and for me, I fall in love with profiles and candidates so I really needed something to help me stay focused and not skip vetting out or covering important topics. This is the cliff notes version of my process – 2 email rounds, skype me, send handbook, skype me/kids, offer former AP contact info, skype DH, send challenge email. I also like to keep the Skype sessions to 30 minutes or less. I also tend to be a pushover after they arrive so I really need to draw all the lines before they get here!

If you don’t mind sharing, I would love to know what your “few pointed questions” are! I would also love to know how you pick good raw material!

WarmStateMomma June 8, 2015 at 4:01 pm

I hate being The Enforcer in person and started using the interview process to convey demanding expectations and ask hard questions. I let my pushy litigator side handle the interviewing and setting expectations. Then I get to welcome the AP with my friendly personal life side.

We do almost everything over email, though, due to language difficulties.

Seattle Mom June 10, 2015 at 6:22 pm

I also have the same issue with “falling in love” with candidates and need to keep my checklist in mind and make sure they meet EVERYTHING on it. There are a few things that are “nice to have,” but the basics all have to be met. And I can’t ever tell from an application alone. I need to make sure to ask good questions.

One difference I have with your process, that I’m going to keep, is that I skype a lot sooner. I used to do email question rounds, and I found that I could love someone on paper and then when I skype with them I rule them out pretty quickly. I like to save myself the time, and skype sooner because it eliminates a lot of candidates. If I like them on skype I just have to hold myself accountable to asking a lot of follow up questions by email. Of course the one problem with skypeing soon is that the au pairs tend to expect a decision soon after skypeing- they see it as a final interview. I just have to manage expectations, and let them know we will be skypeing again and I will have email questions.

AlwaysHopeful HM June 10, 2015 at 6:47 pm

I have the same issue with email vs, skype. Email takes so much more of an effort for me that I end up getting really invested along the way. Then if the skype callis is a fizzle, I feel so deflated AND it’s harder to communicate the rejection at that point, because it is more about vibe than anything else. So I’ve been going to skype earlier in the process. I think it would help me to keep my skype briefer and lighter than I have, though. I tend to go through a checklist of questions then, and between having a ton of questions, wanting to keep it conversational, and the awkwardness of language barriers, I have very rarely been able to keep a Skype call under 1 hour. Exhausting!

TexasHM June 10, 2015 at 9:28 pm

So alwayshopeful that’s actually why I created the first two email templates. (Because I was skypeing and it was wearing me out). This way I can cover a lot of deal breakers early and email 2 is a template response I rarely change so those two rounds are AP effort not mine. If they get through those then I invest in a Skype call (because they see that as a final step as many have said) and then if they back out or we pass I haven’t invested that much and I tell myself that the AP while more invested, hopefully learned some things about what she truly wants in a match and her goals for the next family she speaks with (please don’t burst my bubble). ;).

AND since I covered so many questions before skypeing I can keep the Skype call lighter and more fun/casual and not feel like I’m sacrificing my process because I already know she meets my criteria and now it’s about vibe/fit. AND since I literally spent just a few minutes sending email templates and reading responses I don’t feel as bad about being honest and cutting them loose because I haven’t invested hours in them already. Plus you’d be amazed how many don’t make it through the first two rounds so that’s tons of time saved!

NZ HM June 11, 2015 at 8:45 pm

Same here. We used to start with a skype session (it is strongly suggested by the agencies here to do skype interviews) and found it very time consuming and stressful. Asking loads of questions meant calls were usually at least 1 hr long. The time difference always makes it difficult to find a suitable time (we look for German APs and we are 10 to 12 hrs ahead of their time, i.e. it’s either early in the morning here / late at night there, or, if we want to talk during our evenings we can usually only do weekends because the APs are often not available during their mornings during the week).

So we adopted an email first approached, similar to TexasHM’s, and always include breaker questions in the initial emails to weed out the unsuitable. And as TexasHM mentioned some drop off of their own accord because they don’t want to be asked so many questions or feel the process is taken too long.

For us, the other advantage of asking questions by email is that they are easier to review. In a skype interview you can certainly get a better feel for someone’s personality and see if you click, but when both sides might be a bit tense or nervous it’s sometimes difficult to remember all the answers. When I have them in writing I can put them all together and send them to my husband for review. I can put different candidates’ answers next to each other in a table and come back to review later.

Over the years, I’ve put together a catalogue of 60 to 70 questions which I’m happy to share (found here and elsewhere on the internet, some suggested by agency, some from our experience). I don’t use them all for every candidate and leave room to custom tailor later emails and skype interviews specifically for each AP.

BeachMom June 6, 2015 at 6:51 pm

I think it takes courage to expose your process. Kudos for that. This is a little more than we do, but I appreciate every family is different. My question is that a lot of these e-mails seem very wordy. The majority of au pairs I’ve interviewed have had limited English and would struggle to digest this level of information. Although, I would guess this good way to screen for English comprehension.

TexasHM June 6, 2015 at 9:15 pm

Honestly on the English level if they can’t understand it in writing at least they can google translate or have a friend review and get the points. If they can’t get it from this (part of why we do so much in writing) they definitely won’t get it from a Skype conversation! Yes its wordy (that’s just me) ;) but I’m really trying to explain in detail with examples to try to help the comprehension, not hurt it! We encourage them to take their time and answer all the sections (anything they miss we resend) so we make sure it’s covered (just like we go through the application and handbook during the process too). Nobody gets here and says they didn’t know what they were getting. In fact the last three were surprised and said “wow it really is exactly like you said except you’re a lot more generous and laid back than you let on” that’s the biggest compliment I can get.

I don’t want the AP that will match with a family in less than 24 hours (I see it all the time). I want the AP that sees this process and says “this is smart and I am going to be living with/trusting these strangers and I need to give this time/thought and effort”. I’ve had APs look at email one and say they want someone “more laid back” – good luck! We have this structure for the APs benefit more than mine.

valnyc June 7, 2015 at 6:05 am

Awesome! Thank you for all the details that go along with the process. I love that screening can be made consistent with these tools/guides.

Anonymous in CA June 7, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Thank you TexasHM! It is soooo helpful to see someone else’s process. I think it also helps to create realistic expectations right from the beginning and sets a tone right away…a tone of, “we take this seriously, it’s a real job, and we care about the AP a great deal, so let’s get this right.”

QUESTION to anyone who’s reading…would it matter to you if you were the first and only family a candidate talked to? Or would you want the AP to have talked to other families before deciding if she wants to be in your family? Any thoughts / experience are welcome!

AlwaysHopeful HM June 7, 2015 at 3:40 pm

I prefer when candidates have spoken with other families. Bonus points if they’ve decided against other families, because it suggests that that have an idea what they’re looking for.

One thing I love about TexasHM’s system is that it makes clear that in her family this is much more than a job. That is the balance I try with such difficulty to convey. I don’t want someone who is just going to be really good at the caregiver job — I want someone who’s going to be really good at fitting in with and appreciating our family with all its foibles. TexasHM reminds us here that in order to find that, you have to really be ready to lay out who you are and what that will look like for the AP.

I have tried both methods of more detailed emails before skyping and brief intro email then right to skype. Neither works perfectly for me– i find both approaches exhausting (although using a template email may relieve some of that). In the times I’ve emailed first, I’ve found myself growing attached to candidates more quickly, and often being underwhelmed by the skype call.

Hmm. Lots to think about. Hopefully current AP will be here for a long while and I’ll have plenty of time to think about it!

Multitasking Host Mom June 7, 2015 at 7:47 pm

I would prefer that potential APs have spoken with a few families. I think it gives them a sense of what host families are really offering (as opposed to the high expectations that are sometimes in place.) It also shows me that they are seriously weighing the pros and cons and are looking for a situation that they both want and that they can handle. Also, I worry that if we are the first family they have talked with that they are picking us just because they are not sure if another one will come along and thus agree to anything.

That being said…I think this works better with agencies that allow the APs to talk to multiple families at once. We recently switched to an agency that has exclusive matching and while that does have many advantages for me as a host family the one draw back is if you let a candidate go so they can talk to other families it makes it harder to get that potential AP’s profile back.

Now our worst AP took us because we were the first and only family she spoke with and just wanted to come here as an AP no matter what. She was totally overwhelmed once she got here. But I also feel like I failed too, since we were first time host parents and didn’t truly know what questions to ask and what to look for in an AP. (Wish we had TexasHM steps to follow then!) Fast forward several years, our last AP (who was absolutely a perfect fit for our family and great with my kids) only spoke with us (we were lucky to see her profile the first day it was available) and even when we asked her if she wanted to speak with other families, she said no since we were the right family for her. I also felt more confident in my AP-selecting-skills now that we have been hosting for a while, so I also knew she was a great match and was picking us as a family for all the right reasons.

Anonymous in CA June 7, 2015 at 8:11 pm

Thanks everyone!. I figured it would be good for her to talk to other families to have a frame of reference. Multitasking Host Mom, your perspective and experience are really helpful. If we get to that point with the candidate, I will ask her if she WANTS to speak with other families and provide her with that opportunity, but I won’t REQUIRE her to do so. She will at least then be able to make a decision with her eyes wide open. And I will have to trust that if she’s a good fit for our family, she won’t jump at the first family with a mansion and lots of cars! And if she does, she wasn’t the right AP for us. :-)

Returning HM June 7, 2015 at 8:43 pm

Because we use CCAP and we match with male APs in February, for the past three years, we have been the only family that our selected candidate has spoken with. In all three cases, I encouraged them to go onto greataupair.com and just browse and get a sense of what was out there. One of the APs did, but the others were well enough connected through FB to other APs that they knew a good situation when they saw one. Also in all three cases, I offered to release them so they could meet other families before matching with us, but all three declined. I think it was important to all of them that I was concerned for them that they not make a rushed decision in picking us. This showed them both that I was thinking of them (and got our relationships off on good notes) and that I was willing to risk losing them to make sure that they made an informed decision. So in your case, I would offer this to her but if she doesn’t want it, then don’t force the issue. Good luck!

WarmStateMomma June 8, 2015 at 2:33 pm

We are hosting AP#3 and she’s stellar. We pre-matched and she never spoke to another HF.

I would respect an AP who was mature enough to turn down another HF if the reason was good, but I haven’t heard of that yet among the candidates I’ve interviewed.

TexasHM June 7, 2015 at 5:08 pm

We insist that the candidates speak with other families. Luckily the last couple of rounds the APs had already talked to others and could explain why they didn’t match/didn’t think it was the best fit. I want them to have some interactions with other families to be able to get a gut feel for what they are looking for.

I was just thinking about the street cred comment and I have a question for the APs (or HMs) on here. This last round AP2 for us was in the middle of training for her new job and had limited access to email/Skype but still very much wanted to be a part of our process, so she wrote a “Dear TexasHM family AP candidate” email just talking about how its a hard job but she loved it and how much she grew and what it was like living with us. She did a great job of not sugar coating but also pointing out that with the right attitude almost anything is fixable. I am wondering how AP candidates might view a letter like this. (I can share if it helps)

I am just wondering if I should have all our APs write something (couple paragraphs) and then send that in an email as a part of our process at some point although at the same time, I don’t want to “sell” anyone on us via our happy ex-APs either. Thoughts anyone?

BearCo Momma June 8, 2015 at 9:03 am

Our process is not that refined (yet) and we haven’t been doing the program long enough to know how effective what we’re doing is (and it radically changed from year 1 to 2 !) , but my emails back and forth with candidates are very similar to yours and are also very “wordy”.

One candidate who I ‘loved’ very much – based on her video and email responses – ended up matching with another family while we were in the middle of my ‘process’. When asked how long she had been talking to them (we had been emailing about 5 days – had not skyped yet), she said that they had contacted her on Friday and she ended up matching with them on Sunday after 2 skype sessions. I asked her if she could tell me why she chose them – to help me – and she said that it was partially because they were in California and had only one child (infant) and she thought that would be easier for her, but also she said she found my emails overwhelming and said it was very hard for her because her language wasn’t that good (her words – it seemed very good to me). The way she worded it, it still sounded very sweet and kind and I felt kind of depressed afterwards and questioned my whole process. But when I read my own words now in black and white, it probably was for the best.

I do have this nagging feeling though that all the “good ones” go very quickly and I lose them because I take too long to match and then they get snapped up by other families. I wonder if this will be less of a problem (if it even is a true problem and not just in my head) when we don’t need IQ anymore – we generally looked at extraordinaires – because the demand won’t be as high?

(To be fair, we did get a great AP in the end – not an extraordinaire but in my opinion could have been – but it took a LONG time to get there and I feel like we lost a lot of other potentials – and time – on the way)

JJ Host Mom June 8, 2015 at 12:29 pm

BearCo Momma, I’m one of “those other families” in CA that au pairs jump ship for and trust me, the ones who abandon an organized and caring host parent for someone they’ve barely met who has a seemingly easier gig are no big loss for you. At this point we’ve dropped out of the program because we keep getting candidates who look great on paper and interview great and then fizzle out when they get here. I know it must be frustrating and the grass is always greener but if you’re eventually finding candidates who end up being great, then I’d say your system is working and I’d stick with it.

JJ Host Mom June 8, 2015 at 12:31 pm

I realized after posting that last bit that the “just barely met” statement is misleading. My process is every bit as long as Texas HM’s process but it doesn’t really matter what I say – they hear “California” and agree to anything. Then they change their minds when they get here and realized I was serious but then it’s too late. If I could remove California from the equation I’d do it in a second.

Host Mom in the City June 8, 2015 at 1:28 pm

This doesn’t sound like your process is an issue at all! Au pair that chose California and one “easy” busy based on two Skype phone calls (and admitted all that to you??) – sounds like you dodged a bullet!

Host Mom X June 8, 2015 at 2:21 pm

The “good ones” do of course go quickly, but here’s a somewhat heartening story about one of those quick-going good ones, meant to show that us host families aren’t ALWAYS losing out:

Last time matching I was super-obsessed with this one candidate who looked AMAZING on paper, on video, in her photos (okay, I will admit I was a bit too influenced by one of her photos – it was a self-portraity sort of photo that made her look thoughtful, smart, responsible, caring, artsy, etc.; not exactly sure how one photo said all that!). She had prior au-pairing experience with 3+ kids close to my kids’ ages (in Europe – two summer au pair gigs; those candidates always seem to get snapped up the most quickly); great academic ambitions; said all the right, thoughtful-sounding things in her intro letter and in the answers to her questions.

Of course she wrote back that she had already matched when I sent her an intro email (our intro emails are now “dare to match” types – they are pretty simple and just introduce ourselves, tell them we have a hard job but are kind and flexible people with great relationships with our past au pairs, point them to our online profile to read more about our family and our city, and then direct them to read the 6 attached documents – about 15ish pages – comprising our handbook, and that we’ll expect to discuss it and to answer their questions in a Skype interview; as you can imagine, we get a lot of dead-air in response to those emails!).

Fast forward to when we were in rematch a couple of months ago. This AP with whom I had been obsessed was in rematch too! I seized on that photo again right away. And her rematch profile seemed perfect too – was an AP for four young children, host family had no complaints about her childcare (though it appeared she was barely two weeks in), thought she was lovely; there was just a driving issue (and we don’t need a driver). So we reached out to her ASAP, sent her the dare to rematch with us email with the whole handbook, and scheduled a Skype interview. Less than a minute into the interview I realized I had obsessed over this “good one” for nothing. She was a total space cadet, seemed not to realize what she had gotten herself into, what she was looking for, what she wanted, or anything much at all really. Turns out she had never actually cared for 3+ children on her own. The prior au-pairing gigs were more exchange student/mothers’ helper gigs. And her current 4 children gig was her + outgoing AP + another nanny + stay-at-home-mom; she said she never had more than 1 child to watch on her own at a time.

There are “good ones” out there for all of us. Though ours seem to only come to us out of rematch! (Our first AP using our “dare to match” approach was our only fresh-from-abroad AP yet who “stuck”.) Luckily our latest terrific rematch AP has just extended with us, so we won’t have to worry about our terrible AP-choosing track record for quite some time yet. Whew.

Seattle Mom June 10, 2015 at 6:31 pm

Thanks for sharing this story. I feel like every time I find an AP who looks amazing on paper they don’t give me the time of day- I have to assume that they know how great they appear, and they are going for a particular location and/or rich family. It’s good to know that the ones who look amazing on paper aren’t always so. Hey, if they were really that amazing they would recognize what a cool family we are to live with :)

TexasHM June 8, 2015 at 9:46 am

BearCo Momma, you just illustrated the main reason I really think that families in AP less AP desirable geos (not CA/NYC/DC) really need to use an agency with exclusive matching. You can still see all the candidates you want and reserve 3 at a time, but when you have a candidates profile they can see you and only you. In our experience, this has resulted in candidates actually reading our profile, asking more questions and truly seriously considering us OR cutting us loose immediately (the candidates that will only live in San Fran for example) versus stringing us along because they don’t want their profile blocked from others.

Don’t beat yourself up about the candidate that got away, I think her telling you that she chose the other family because they lived in CA and had one kid says it all, who knows you may have dodged a bullet if you followed the entitlement thread. ;)

Plus I will echo TACL’s genius as mentioned in this thread: “Don’t panic when matching. Don’t settle. Find the best candidate for your family, and when you can’t, demand that HQ help you!” The one and only time we did this (took very long to match with a smaller agency and I settled and put through an OK candidate) it resulted in a disastrous rematch that I am still getting reminders of 6 months later!! There are awesome candidates out there, get another HM to check in with during your matching process to help keep your emotions in check and lend a second set of eyes or if your DH is really sharp and can tackle that – enlist him! My DH has too much confidence in me and being in sales, I can be convincing ;) so I need someone that can weed through my pitch and knock me upside the head occasionally if needed – OR I could create a very defined, formal matching process that keeps me reined in – now you know how I ended up with 12 steps! ;)

Host Mom in the City June 8, 2015 at 1:40 pm

We had this happen too. Our au pair arrived and was absolutely overcome with homesickness. All she did was Skype with her family (initiated by both her and her parents, who would call and text her multiple times a day), who were encouraging her to give up and come home all along. She finally decided to return home after a little over a month. We were so relieved, because she was obviously miserable and not willing to put forth any effort.

We always offer to chat with the parents under the guise of “if my daughter was moving half-way across the world, I would want the option to talk to her hosts too,” but have only had one au pair take us up on it. We do ask lots of questions about how their parents feel and how they will deal with homesickness. Unfortunately, everyone always seems to say their parents were a little scared at first, but now supportive.

Would love to find a way to screen for homesickness. Just seems like such a waste to me to spend the money on the agency fee, get all prepared to leave your home for a year, move across the world, and then completely not make the effort to acclimate. Not to mention that it was a huge pain and expense for us.

Host Mom in the City June 8, 2015 at 1:42 pm

Ooops this was supposed to be a reply to ILHostMom’s question about interviewing parents.

Host Mom X June 8, 2015 at 2:26 pm

I wish there was a way to screen for that too – a huge waste and emotional and money investment for everyone involved. But our last AP, ending in rematch, seemed utterly surprised by her own homesickness – she said she just never could have guessed that she would have reacted this way to being away from home. (And she had been living away from her parents for years, so it was a culture-shock kind of homesickness.) I feel that we ought to all know ourselves better than that – but maybe we can’t.

TexasHM June 9, 2015 at 9:44 am

Culture shock is a beast. Everyone will get it in some capacity and in my opinion, there is no way to screen for this in advance. There is a reason that companies that place ex-pats usually do extensive orientations and pair up new families with tenured ones and make a point to give them lots of education and materials about it. I firmly believe it hits every AP in some flavor and I also believe that coping strategies and awareness help. All of us are reassured a thousand times a day by our social interactions going exactly as we expect. To remove all normal social cues and live with strangers halfway around the world is a shock to anyone, the key is how/if they can adjust. As someone who has lived in another country you will never know just how unsettling this is until you experience it for yourself. I did ok because I have a good sense of humor and could laugh at all my mistakes and the country was in the UK so I could speak English and it had plenty of similarities to the US. Losing all social cues, being surrounded in a foreign language (we just don’t speak other languages like many other countries do) full time and learning a new job is a high order. Impossible to know if they will crack under the pressure until they are drowning in it as much as I would LOVE to be able to screen for this! It doesn’t matter if they have lived away for 10 years, that’s completely different than losing all social cues and familiarity.

WarmStateMomma June 9, 2015 at 4:45 pm

AP#2 told me at the end of her year that she didn’t have culture shock or homesickness during the year, but she was exceptionally unflappable (in a cheerful way, like Kimmy Schmidt). AP#1 was visibly depressed the entire last 4 months of her year, though.

Fingers crossed that AP#3 doesn’t go through culture shock.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 10, 2015 at 6:49 am

Culture shock and homesickness are a given – each AP reacts individually to it, and some are emotionally strong enough that they don’t show it explicitly (but once you understand that the symptoms include sleepiness and negativity towards new situations, you might recognize it).

Like TexasHM, I lived abroad in an English-speaking country for a year, but even I had to deal with such changes as sizes of clothing and the way they were sold differed, differences in diet, and making a life for myself in a new country.

While you cannot stop culture shock and homesickness, sometimes if you help the AP identify it, sympathize, and encourage her to go out and make a life for herself, it ameliorates the effects it has on her. I always tell my APs that the second hardest day of their year is their first day after orientation, when they wake up in my house alone – because the hardest day is the day I drive them to the airport and say goodbye.

ILHostMom June 8, 2015 at 11:07 am

Do any other families ask to have a short conversation with the parents before matching? We added this as a step in our process after one girl got here and was so homesick that she left after 6 days. We saw that her parents were totally encouraging her to just give up and go home. She literally showed up and would not stop skyping with her family. Only her sister was saying “they are a nice family with nice kids in a great area. you will not get this opportunity again. stick with it.” So now we like to ask the parents themselves if they think their daughter can handle it and gauge how supportive they are.

Multitasking Host Mom June 8, 2015 at 11:34 am

We have had the last two APs ask if we could talk to their parents. Their families wanted to “meet” the family that their daughter would be staying with for a year…something I would probably also do in their situation. But this was normally done a couple weeks before they were to arrive at our house…not part of the matching process. I do ask when I am interviewing potential APs what their families think of them coming here, but the answer one way or another is not a deal breaker for me. But if it is important for you to talk to an AP’s family, why not? If it makes you more comfortable with the match, go for it. I still ask questions in my interview process that are due to what I experienced with my so-so AP. I think most host parents are influenced by both the bad and the good that they experienced before.

Mimi June 8, 2015 at 12:11 pm

We always offer to speak with their parents but don’t ask to include the parents in our interviews, even though we include young APs in our search. We expect that they are adults and may be insulted by that kind of request. We definitely ask about how their parents feel about them leaving for a year and the best matches have included something to the effect of “they support me and are concerned that I will find a good family/situation and be safe/happy.”

We have Skyped with incoming APs and their parents after matching but before their arrival (sometimes incidently, sometimes intentionally) and we take the opportunity to talk about how we take the responsibility of their daughter very seriously and are excited to be including her in our family.

WarmStateMomma June 8, 2015 at 2:48 pm

Thanks to some advice on this site from TexasHM and others, I offered to answer any questions our lead candidate’s parents had. I added a couple of sentences about our long relationship with others we’ve hosted and that I still email with the parents of our foreign exchange students. I did this by email and the candidate (now AP#3) responded by translating a few sentences from her parents thanking me for being thoughtful and for considering their daughter. They said they really supported her decision to participate in the program.

I think it helps the parents feel comfortable that we see their child as someone else’s child and not just a child care provider, while also respecting the candidate’s autonomy (because we are not interviewing the parents or asking for their permission to host their child).

American Host Mom in Europe June 27, 2015 at 7:12 pm

My last AP, after I made her an offer (and was pretty sure she’d accept), turned me down because of some concerns her mom had raised. I wrote her back a letter addressing her mom’s concerns, and offered to speak with her mother. Apparently, she printed out my email, took it to her mom, and they both decided I would be a great host mom for her. And we had a great year together! I always offer if there seem to be any concerns.

TexasHM June 8, 2015 at 11:28 am

That is tricky territory. We had an AP with unsupportive parents that had a successful year with us and extended for another. Our rockstar ER nurse’s mom had been an AP in Spain and was adamantly against her daughter being an AP in the US and she was amazing (her mom came around after visiting and meeting us). AP2’s parents were unsupportive but it didn’t become an issue until she extended and her dad had health issues. Had we eliminated any of them we would have really missed out. We have also seen several sets of parents come around and become supporters. The key factor was more the APs maturity/goals/drive and having a support system outside of their parents (AP1 it was supportive fiance, AP2 it was close friends, AP3 it was supportive long term boyfriend). We tend to just ask the AP directly about the situation. What do your parents think about you going to live with strangers halfway around the world? What did they say when you told them about the AP program? What are their fears? Our APs have been very candid. We also ask them how they feel about that (their parents fears/reactions) and how they think that will impact their experience.

The trouble I have with asking to Skype their parents is 1 – we have only had one AP whose parents could speak English well enough to Skype with us at all, 2 – APs are adults and I find it patronizing to ask to speak to their parents, 3 – I don’t know how useful it would be. Meaning are they really going to say they don’t support their child and don’t think they can do it?

The last couple of rounds we have done this instead. Immediately after matching I have written a short email to the parents and sent it to the AP and asked them to forward it. Here is the last one I sent:
Dear Mr and Mrs AP parent,

First of all we would like to commend you on raising such a bright, hard working, active, fun, humble and genuine daughter. She has so many qualities that are very rare in this world today and we strongly believe that is a testament to your parenting and can only hope that one day our children grow up to have even a few of the qualities she has! AP is a gem and has a radiant spirit. It is clear she is very special and we are honored that she has decided to join our family for her au pair year! In fact there were several moments during this process where she seemed too good to be true so I am sure there are questions we asked her several times just to make sure she was for real! ;)

We are parents ourselves and can’t imagine watching our daughters become au pairs one day so its important to us that we reach out to you again and make it clear that we understand she is your precious, irreplaceable daughter and you are always welcome to contact us at any time and you are welcome to come visit! If you have any questions for us we are an open book and happy to discuss anything else that would help ease your mind about your daughter living with a family she hasn’t met in person halfway around the world! :) AP talks about you all nonstop so its clear how important all of you are to her and therefore we wanted to reach out again and thank you for helping to mold her into the exceptional person that she is and we have no doubt she is going to be a huge blessing to our family and can’t wait for her arrival!

This has been very well received the last couple of rounds. Current AP asked if her parents could Skype with us during the matching process (of course) and they actually interviewed us! That was a first! They are close and she values their advice so she wanted to make sure they were seeing what she was seeing and could weigh in on the best fit for her skills and personality. I couldn’t help myself and asked her if they were making the decision for her (because my yellow flag went up that maybe they called the shots in her life) but when I saw how hilarious she thought that question was and the fact that her parents did not want her to do the AP program in the first place I realized my fear was unfounded (and validated now that shes here).

Unfortunately there is no test for homesickness/culture shock tolerance. We had an AP whose parents were VERY supportive and she was still a mess and burnout rematch. She had the biggest support system of any AP we have had and it didn’t prevent her from being in WAY over her head and miserably homesick/culture shocked. At least your AP did you the favor of leaving in 6 days. Because ours had the support system telling her she committed to a year and how good she had it our situation drug on and even after major safety issues and finally pulling the plug we were being asked for 10th/11th/12th chances. :(

Seattle Mom June 10, 2015 at 6:43 pm

I guess another factor is how influential the parents are on the AP’s decisions. If she is not used to doing anything against their will then their lack of support can be more devastating to an AP’s motivation to stay. A young woman who recognizes that her parents are just worry worts and has demonstrated an ability to go against them in the past won’t have a problem when her parents tell her she should give up and come home.

I’m speaking from personal experience- my parents were pretty opposed to me joining the Peace Corps, up until I actually left, and it would not have mattered to me what they said. I was going, and the fact that they didn’t think it was a good idea made me more determined to complete my 2 years. I think it shows a certain level of independence when an AP does something their parents don’t agree with, and that can be a positive in the right person.

JJ Host Mom June 8, 2015 at 12:24 pm

This is so great to have all of this written down Texas HM. So helpful.

The interesting contrast to me between my process and your process is that my process is maybe 70% how qualified the au pair is to look after my kids, 30% how well she’ll fit into the family. Whereas yours seems the opposite. And we’ve chatted before about how in the past I’ve almost exclusively screened on fulltime childcare experience whereas you don’t even look at childcare experience.

It seems to me like your au pairs are fantastic family fit which doesn’t surprise me based on your interview process. Could I ask you candidly, how well have they done with childcare? Have they needed a lot of guidance or picked it up? Have they been naturals at it and did it seem like they liked being with kids, or not?

Thanks again for sharing, this is super helpful.

TexasHM June 8, 2015 at 1:08 pm

Hey JJ, so in the Skype step when I mention the kids/vibe I am looking to see if they can connect with my kids over Skype (its hard for their grandparents to keep their attention on Skype so if an AP can engage them I know we will be off to a great start there). Throughout the process I look for a love of kids and general common sense/safety awareness and being a natural with kids but really I can teach someone the rest. I can teach someone a schedule, give them activities and ideas of things to do with the kids, and CCAPs orientation does a great job I think in preparing them from a childcare perspective (AP showed me the online courses she had to take before getting on the plane and then the materials from orientation with special small groups and sessions around the ages of the kids they were caring for – iE how to engage teens, how to manage preteens, etc). A smart, hardworking, great attitude AP can master this job in a couple days and we have seen that 3 times now.

AP2 very little childcare experience – barely had enough hours and it was babysitting single other kid. She came into 3 kids full time (just turned 8, 5 and 3 then) and yes she asked for advice about toddler tantrums and rainy day activities but she figured it out and was fantastic. AP3 again barely enough hours to qualify but very smart and was an ER nurse so NOTHING rattled her. My kids fell into step behind her day one and that was that. She sometimes asked if she was doing well with my youngest (then almost 4) because she had ZERO under school age experience but that was her own insecurity talking, my youngest was glued to her! There is zero doubt in my mind that any of our APs would have taken a bullet for my kids (even the rematch). In fact I am pretty sure all have said as much at some point in their time with us. This is honestly the reason we tried again after striking out so horribly. My APs LOVE (past, present, future) my kids. They hug, kiss, chase, tackle, tickle, belly laugh and cry together. We are family.

We will only match with APs that can engage kids. That’s why I plop mine down in front of the computer. Even our shy french ER nurse got them making faces and talking about the sports they were playing. I think she was actually better with them than us on Skype! Even our burnout was loved by my kids. In large part because she never told them no but again, she was very sweet and engaged them.

I had a candidate I really liked once facetime with my current AP (before I had put the kids in front of her) and my AP said the AP kept trying to talk to the AP vs my girls and couldn’t even get a sentence out to them and didn’t ask them any questions or make an effort to get them to talk to her. She just kept telling the AP how cute they were. Pass.

AP1 got my timid baby to smile at her right away, AP2 had a silly faces contest with mine, AP3 like I said asked them about their sports and that merged into silly face making, AP4 called them each by name on sight and asked them specifically about things that interested them (in the handbook email I send) and somehow that turned into singing a song and making faces. If it’s natural it’s natural, forced is forced. I won’t make my kids sit there so we can tell pretty quickly which way it’s going to go.

Something that just dawned on me too JJ – you mentioned the 70/30 split, that’s funny because (sorry everyone here goes the propeller) if you think about it, they only spend 27% of their time doing their “job”. They spend 33% sleeping (assuming 8 hours a night) which leaves 40% of their time awake, off duty and living in your household which is a lot more than they are working. Our first AP became a pain as a roommate (did a fantastic AP job) and we were miserable. We finished the term because she did a great job but the stress she caused us as a roomie was insane and we won’t tolerate that again. So you are right, I am selfish in a way that I look for someone that me AND my kids LOVE and then train them to do the job and that appears to be working for us. I liked (didn’t love) our last match with tons of childcare experience and that’s the only one that ended in burnout.

Sidenote – twice I have released candidates I really really liked because I wasn’t sold that she wanted us and only us (vs geo or desperate to get to US). First one I was right and she said “ok thanks no problem” and then a week later asked me to help tell the agency her profile was stuck in another family’s profile. Pass! The other wrote me a very long email about how sad she was to hear that and told us all the reasons she thought we would be a great fit and why she thought we were the only family for her. We put her back in the process. We didn’t end up matching and I am not recommending anyone jerk around APs but just saying, if you really aren’t sold that they want you and only you for good reasons (vs CA or one kid or car or both/all) then you could try cutting them loose and see how they react. This is when you get to go/no go and you can’t decide. It should be an obvious yes or no. Undecided equals no go.

Host Mom in the City June 8, 2015 at 1:45 pm

Agreed on the last point – I would never, ever match with an au pair who wasn’t absolutely certain we were her family. Our au pair that left after a month was oddly non-responsive after we offered her the match. I think in retrospect (her English was awful) that she didn’t understand what we had said and also that she wasn’t sure she even wanted to be in the program, but at that point I was totally in “matching sucks – I just want to get this over with!!!” mode and settled. Never ever again.

JJ Host Mom June 8, 2015 at 4:12 pm

TexasHM reading this post I had an “aha” moment. I finally get what people say about au pairs being more of an exchange program than professional childcare. You’d think that I’d have figured that out before 6 years of hosting, but it took me this long because I kept thinking “Well, why can’t I get an au pair who wants to do an exchange but is also a childcare professional?” And therein lies the rub.

I’ve been trying to hire for experience and then train for personality. Everything I’ve ever learned about management and hiring knows that’s wrong but I’ve been doing it anyway. Head meet brick wall. I also realized in reading your last post that I had very little experience with childcare until I had newborn twins in front of me and you betta believe I learned quick, as all parents do. And now if I do say so myself I’m a great mom. So childcare is something that can be learned with the right personality.

I know you’re right that I can turn people down. I’ve done it and only once did I have regrets. But I also find it really hard to do. What you said above fits me too – I tend to really fall for au pair candidates right away and that makes cutting them loose really hard, especially when they are genuinely excited too, albeit for the wrong reasons. (But it can be really really hard to ascertain what their reasons are when they’re saying all the right things.)

WarmStateMomma June 8, 2015 at 5:58 pm

@JJ:

We had a really great year with AP#2 and she had no child care experience before she arrived. She worked in export sales, actually. Current stellar AP has a degree in applied math and has her required child care hours but earned them between when we pre-matched and when the agency made her profile available in the system. IMHO an intelligent person with a good attitude is going to perform better by week 2 than someone with more experience than brains/can-do spirit.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 8, 2015 at 8:21 pm

Everybody’s mileage differs. Me, I want someone who has some experience with children who have special needs – and I don’t care how much they differ from my own. What I don’t want is to match with a “special needs willing” candidate who is so weak on paper that she’ll match with any family in order to come to the U.S. So far we – and The Camel – have been extremely fortunate.

My current AP talks to The Camel as if she understands – when the AP is off duty. That’s pure gold in my book – because The Camel, as retarded as she is, knows “her people.”

While many of you want – and can ask – for APs to treat your children as you do – my reality is different. Right now The Camel has 22 teachers and therapists at school. No one is is going to treat her like I do (including DH!) – and that’s okay. I want an AP mature enough to own her care (and after 15 years I can recognize and appreciate that). The AP who sits like a lump on my couch – not interested. The AP who owns the job and gets the work done, even if I would do it differently, totally has my appreciation.

And that gets to the bottom line. I really do believe that there’s some right for everyone. One person’s mediocre rematch candidate is someone else’s rock star (most of the time – occasionally a melt down is a melt down).

Host Mom in the City June 9, 2015 at 8:29 am

I’m another one that matches for childcare experience first and then looks for personality. The two times I matched with someone I thought I really liked and decided to overlook their lack of childcare experience had no idea what to do with the kids once they got there and it wasn’t just taking them to the park, didn’t understand that kids can be really challenging and didn’t have the skills to deal with any of the challenges; and this is key – I am personally a terrible coach. If you’re a great coach, I can completely see being able and willing to teach this stuff. I am personally not.

I want someone who knows exactly what spending 10 hours a day with kids is like; someone who understands what to do when a child is not listening and that it’s developmentally normal; someone who knows what activities are appropriate for kids of difference ages; etc. The three times I’ve gone with APIA extraordinaires, I’ve been thrilled – they need no coaching or training, completely “get” kids and childcare, and are my equals in terms of a parenting partner. The two times I’ve gone with non-extraordinaires – my miserable nearly-au pair program-ending year and my quick rematch.

I think what TACL says is key – this is obviously what works for ME. But as with anything, your mileage may vary :) If you’re a new host parent and you know you’re not going to want to do a bunch of coaching – you might not want to discount the importance of finding someone with a lot of childcare experience. And I should say – true childcare experience, not faked and/or occasional babysitting or “taking care” of your sibling for 20 hours a day, as I’ve seen many a times count as hours. Not “I realized I wanted to be an au pair, so I did a quick volunteer position in a daycare for two weeks.” But actual long-term experience and education. But also, not just education – a child-related degree with no experience probably just means the candidate went into that field because they had nothing else they wanted to do and it sounded fun, but they’re not really all that into children. Happened to me too :)

SKNY June 9, 2015 at 6:53 pm

Mmmmm… This one is hard. My favorite au pair was a lAwyer with 200 hrs of babysitting with her nephews (who were really left in her house from 7-7 every day from moment they turned 3mo. Thought it was a fake experience, but she was fantastic and actually taught me a thing or two.
Unfortunately I cannot go with the real experienced au pairs. Those never want to come to my house due to awful location. (Rural area, no other au pair on cluster or within 1.5hs).
Just beware of non experienced who only laugh with kids and smile. All she would do was smile and laugh. Come to find out she had no idea how to interact, and what I thought was her being shy, was just her not even liking kids. Worst experience ever

Seattle Mom June 10, 2015 at 6:52 pm

I once chose an AP who I thought had great childcare experience because her mom ran a daycare out of their house when she was growing up. How could she not be a kid person? Turned out she was borderline autistic and would go catatonic after 5 minutes of engagement with other people. She didn’t really like kids. She enjoyed bossing my kids around, not playing with them. She also cleaned my house until it sparkled, so energy and work ethic were not the issues. She lasted 6 weeks in my home.

Since then, I’ve been MUCH more skeptical about the childcare experience (though it has to be there, for me) and MUCH more interested in how well the person listens, asks questions, and answers the questions asked. And I watch how they relate to my kids on skype- if they can’t engage them at all, they are out.

My current AP has no babysitting/nannying-type experience. She had worked full time as a teacher (special ed and early ed). I was a little concerned about how this would pan out, but I went with my gut based on her personality and apparent maturity. And when she skyped with my kids, she had them talking to her.

JuJu June 8, 2015 at 9:23 pm

I just wanted to thank Texas Host Mom for documenting her process and sharing it with the group. It is so nice to be a part of a group that is supportive and willing to share information, ideas, and knowledge to better our families and our relationship with our Aupairs. Many times, my style differs from those on this site but, I truly believe I am a better host mom for reading this blog and considering what folks have to say.

On another note, I think it would be helpful to have more sample Aupair manuals on the site. I am willing to share mine and I would love to see others as well.

NZ HM June 11, 2015 at 8:52 pm

I really like the TexasHM process aswell and have been using a similar approach for the last few times we have been looking for an AP.

One thing that we increasingly found important is not only the answers but the questions the candidates ask (do they ask questions? what type? How many?) and I have pulled out of a potential match even after several weeks of interviewing because the AP didn’t ask any questions. In the past we haven’t put much weight on this put found that a person who is afraid to ask, or doesn’t want to know anything, via email is usually a lot worse in person and it will be difficult to establish a relationship if they don’t want to know about you, your life, etc.

Most recent match said she was very happy to see that we had so many questions and asked a whole bunch herself. She mentioned that she spoke to many families who only wanted to know: when are you available and how long do you want to stay? – Maybe a reason why many matches fail…

Mimi June 11, 2015 at 9:21 pm

We pass on those that don’t ask questions, especially since there are things we leave out of our emails/info to give them an opening. If they don’t seem to have anything to about, I question their commitment to finding a good match versus just getting to the US.

Boston Area Host Mom June 29, 2015 at 12:29 pm

After being through 2 recent rematches, our current au pair is fabulous! She is a perfect fit for our family and even though she has only been with us for one week it seems like she has been here much longer, and that’s because she is such a good fit with our family. I’ve had au pairs for many years and this experience just reminded me that when the match feels right, it is right, and things go much smoother. If you start out having problems with your au pair right from the start, rematch sooner rather than later and save yourself a lot of grief. The right au pair is out there, you just need to find her. I love the advice someone on here gave, “Don’t settle and don’t panic!” I kept that in mind when I was in this rematch and the advice worked!

cv harquail June 29, 2015 at 1:29 pm

Proving that ‘the third time’s a charm’? You are so right– don’t settle and don’t panic. I hope this is the great year you, your au pair and your family deserve!

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