Au Pair Applications: What would you *really* like to know about an Au Pair Candidate?

by cv harquail on March 17, 2013

There are only so many questions you can ask a potential Au Pair candidate in an interview.

It took us only a few posts about interviewing candidates to come up with over 318 questions!
(Well, maybe not that many. But it was a lot.)

Even if we were able to ask that many questions, there would still be things we’d wish we knew about a candidate before we matched.

Au pairs have similar concerns about what questions to ask, and about what information they should share in their applications.

I receive about two emails a week from au pairs asking what specific topics parents think they should cover, above and beyond what the Agencies tell them to share. For example, just this week I got an email from an au pair candidate who wanted some general advice about what information she should should offer.

She writes:

Along with the information I have seen on the site, I would like to know what kind of information is most important for you. For example: two years ago I took a first aid course at Brazilian Fire Department. But I don’t know how relevant is that for you.

Host parents, are there any things that seem relevant to you, that you’d like au pairs to share in their applications?
Along with the ‘regular’ stuff, what specifics would interest you?

Au pairs, thinking back about when you filled out your applications, are there any things that you wish you’d shared or that you’re glad you shared?


See also:

Interviewing Au Pair Candidates: Every Question you’ve ever recommended we ask

Choosing the Right Au Pair, Expert Advice from CalifMom
Interviewing: What questions should Au Pairs ask Families?
Finding Good Au Pair Candidates 1: Best Practices for the “1 at a time” system
5 Ways to Assess an Au Pair’s Driving Skill when Choosing an Au Pair


Owl magnets featuring vibrant artwork by Lauren Alexander. Available for purchase on Etsy. Would look cute on anyone’s fridge.


Taking a Computer Lunch March 17, 2013 at 10:08 pm

I can’t speak for everyone else, but as a very blunt American, I want candor. I want candidates to answer my interview questions openly and honestly. While I understand that everyone wants to put their best foot forward, sometimes it results in disastrous matches.

Candidates, be yourselves! Don’t try to be someone you’re not. If you don’t know how to cook, say so. If this will be your first time away from home, be honest! If your Mom does all the housework so you are able to study for your A levels, don’t pretend you help. If you’ve done a little bit of babysitting but have never watched a child for 8 hours, then tell your interviewer.

I’m not looking for set answers. When I interview I’m trying to gauge what the candidate can bring to the table. If she’s not honest, then we have trouble on our hands. If an AP lands in our home and she’s never changed a diaper, never cooked a meal, never turned on a washing machine, and never been responsible for anyone other than herself, than I’d rather know that before we match than after she gets off the plane.

I firmly believe that almost every AP candidate has a good match out there – but if she’s not honest about who she is, then she is not going to find it! (Sign me, feeling a little burned…)

HRHM March 18, 2013 at 8:50 am

” firmly believe that almost every AP candidate has a good match out there – but if she’s not honest about who she is, then she is not going to find it!”

Realistically, you and I both know this isn’t true! There are plenty of applicants out there who should NEVER be APs. Which of course is why they lie, fabricate, obsfucate and stretch the truth. I can’t think of a single family that would willingly and knowingly take a princess with no experience, Mom who does everything, sleeps 20 hrs a day, etc. There are WAY more APs then there are HFs for a reason. The overseas agency is obviously getting paid by the head to recruit whatever and whereever they can. Until that changes, the candidates will continue to put forth whatever they think we want to hear in hopes of getting into the States any way possible. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard (from my AP and their friends) how they take the first offer, because if it doesn’t work out at least they are already here and they can just rematch.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 18, 2013 at 9:32 am

Sure there are, but I don’t think that it is MOST of the candidates out there. Yes, those without true work experience may need job coaching, but that doesn’t mean they won’t end up having a successful year.

I admit that I see a much more limited pool than most of you, since I can only look at special needs willing candidates, and from that I do my best to limit my contact to those who have some sort of experience in being with people who have special needs. DH and I gravitate toward Extraordinnaires as well. In my experience 5 out of 8 APs – the extraordinnaires are more than well prepared to handle an AP year successfully – balancing work with pleasure.

My best regular AP refused to interview with us until she talked with three other families. She had already read our handbook, she had already communicated with our current AP, and she had the confidence to make the best decision for her rather than match with the first family with whom she had communicated – which was us. We had a great year together.

Didis March 18, 2013 at 9:50 pm

it goes both ways. I have heard many times from my friends au pairs all the things that their hosts said or promised and it was lie.

Basically, the more you talk to the person, there is better possibility to discover how sincere they are

AmyT March 18, 2013 at 2:32 am

I totally agree TACL … Honestly is great.
I want to know what the aupair has done in terms of school, community/church and part time jobs.
I want to know about their hobbies. I really like to know what they have done with kids before! I have a 3 step aupair recruitment process, which is quite OCD but I am that way inclined!

sassylassy March 18, 2013 at 11:35 pm

Would love know more about the “3 step au pair recruitment process!”

AmyT March 19, 2013 at 3:38 am

Sure thing SassyLassy

– before I skype aupairs I have a general email chat with them, about our family, why she wants to be an aupair in New Zealand, and what kind of family she would hope for. I then organise the skype date and send her a number of behavioural (i.e. tell me about a time when) questions so she can prepare her answers in English! These questions cover things like conflicting priorities at school, dealing with squabbling kids, cooking a meal from scratch, doing something fun with the kids etc.
– then our skype covers those questions, and a general chat.

If that goes well, we will send our handbook, and arrange a skype with our current aupair.

Stage 3 is a Skype with host dad and me. Before this we send ore questions, this time they are ‘what would you do if …’ questions. They are all about how to deal with different child-care situations that might arise, they are all very real day to day situations.

IF those three stages go well then we will be at offer stage. At this point she can meet the kids, and I offer to meet her mum/dad if she wants so we know the family feel happy about us. I try to only let the kids meet an aupairs once we are all happy and agreed on each other, otherwise they would get a bit upset about all the possible aupairs!

Its fairly thorough, but I find sending the questions ahead of time really helps us to have a much better conversation. Before I did it the conversations I would have felt quite stilted. Hope that helps!

A B C Au Pair March 22, 2013 at 12:48 pm

I understand how you do it and why, but I had two families interviewing me that way and I had to say No. I knew the kids were going to be my first priority, so I wouldn’t match with a family if I don’t know the kids… Just seeing the kids running behind the mom was not enough, I needed to talk to them, to connect. The family with which I came, they talked to me twice on Skype and then they brought the kids, and we connected immediately. After a few more conversations they asked me if I wanted to match with them. It was perfect! Another family interviewed me and the kid was there from the beginning, and that was very sweet! But, as I said before, I know why you do it, and I agree that the kids can get upset if they talk to a lot of au pairs :)

American HM in Europe March 18, 2013 at 5:23 am

When they have child care experience (especially for instance in a preschool), I want to know what THEY PERSONALLY have done, not what the school program is. I get tired of asking “what activities do you like to do with the children” and being told “here is what a typical day is like in our preschool” as that tells me NOTHING about their interests, preferences, strengths, etc. I also fine I really have to dig to get specific answers on things — I guess this follows from TACL’s “be yourself” point — I think candidates are worried about saying the wrong thing, so instead they are vague. When you tell me you like to do crafts, tell me SPECIFICALLY what you like and have done with children.

I also am really interested in what my au pairs will be like as a person, and find the “I like to shop and hang out with my friends” answers to what they are like and like to do not terribly useful (other than being a potential red flag, as we aren’t near shops and they won’t start with friends here until they go make some!).

I guess those are more for phone interviews (or email, which I do one or two rounds of before telephone calls) — I’m not sure what a US au pair agency application is like. But I think the more an au pair candidate tells me about 1) what she is like as a person, and 2) what she has done with children, the better chance there is of me deciding we might be a match.

And in preparing for a phone interview, think of questions!! When I talk to someone who has no questions, it worries me that they aren’t really interested in children or the job, just want to travel and experience living somewhere new.

And finally, in writing about your driving experience, be honest! If you have had a license for two months and never driven since you got it, say that! I see a lot of applications (on where the box is ticked to indicate licensed driver, but then in the detailed questions, the candidate write that she is enrolled in a driving license course or planning to — this is not the same thing!

spanishaupair March 18, 2013 at 6:25 pm

I have to say about the prepare questions and no have questions, sometimes at least in my case is simply nervous and too much info that you can make a 20 question list that when you get to the skype/phone call, the first one i mean them you are more confident, that you forgot almost all of them, specially if your english level is not really good that you have to manage all the info you get, answer family questions and see if they have answer already or not your potential questions…. And i have been an aupair 3 times and enjoy the work and what kids give you, of course i will lie if i say i dont enjoy the travelling part of the program, but i like both things the job part and the free time part and finished in love always with my HK and enjoying the time with them

WestMom March 18, 2013 at 7:36 am

Agreed with all comments above… Be yourself!

There are a few specifics I would love to know upfront (Note to agencies: I would love see that on the mini profile without having to read the entire Dear Family letter! ) Specifically: Do you have any professional experience working with kids? (camp counselor, coaching, etc.), What is your major? How many years of driving experience/how often do you drive (APC puts that upfront, which is great).

In the Dear HF letter, I am looking for clues about motivation and personality. Specifically: Why do you want to come to this very desirable location? (red flag-‘ I have wanted to live in the USA my entire life! I love your culture and way of life! I visited your city last year and can’t way to go back!’) What do you want to do when you go back to your country? (red flag- no clear direction, mentions of possibly staying longer than one year) Who are the important people in your life? (red flag- only talking about friends). Having a unique hobby catches my eye! Our current AP can juggle :)

I also agree that the candidates’ questions are so telling. One candidate last year asked me in her first email reply how many vacation days she would get and if she would have access to a car. Next!

3kids1dogHM March 19, 2013 at 4:39 pm

How interesting that it’s a red flag for you for someone to say they’ve always wanted to come to the USA – it is an example that families are looking for different things since this excitement was something that we liked.

We’re in the early period with our first au pair and so far it’s fantastic! I think overall what worked well is that she gave us a sense of who she is in the letter, video, and on email. We truly went with our gut – there was something about her that we were drawn to in her personality.

So I agree with others that the letters that aren’t formulaic and let their personality shine through help make good matches. It’s not about getting the job, it’s about finding the right match so everyone has a great year.

WestMom March 20, 2013 at 6:47 am

Yes, we avoid candidates who seem to have an obsession with the USA. It seems common with girls from France, where we pool ours from. I checked a candidate on Facebook the other day, and her entire profile was a mosaic of Americana: cowboys, statue of liberty, football, empire state building, Abercrombie, Starbucks, etc… it literally scared me.

I worry for two reasons: 1) I want the candidate to choose us because they want to join OUR family, not solely because we live in this country (note that I often pool from international sites, outside the agencies), and 2) I don’t want to be the enabler for them to stay here indefinitely. I especially worry about that with girls who have been here before, or who already know people in our area.

Obviously when we work with agencies, we deal with candidates who have specifically chosen to come here, and I appreciate their eagerness. But I always screen about why they want to come to our area, and if they already know people here.

Host Mom in the City March 20, 2013 at 8:01 am

I think my caution with the overboard “I am obsessed with the US” stuff is that I’m afraid when they arrive here, they’re going to realize that it’s just another place to live. I love where we live and there are definitely going to be lots of fun trips for au pairs between our proximity to multiple major cities, but in the end, the vast majority of the days here are just going to be regular days like you’d have anywhere. I’m looking for someone who wants to come for the experience, to learn and grow, to really get immersed in the culture. I’m not looking for someone who thinks every day is going to be straight out of a movie.

German Au-Pair March 24, 2013 at 12:16 am

That is not true! Or maybe: this doesn’t have to be true.
I’m in my extension year and I still enjoy every single day here. I enjoy driving to the store and seeing the sunset which seems to be so much prettier here. I enjoy seeing the nature, I enjoy the friendliness of the people. Every day. I still get excited about things that are very cliche America (that said, I’m not all gooey about the US…there are things I don’t like and I think I am realstic about most things…but I do still get excited about many things.)

I had always dreamed of coming here, because I’m big on movies and I love speaking English. But I was realistic about how life would be and I didn’t want to go to a specific part of the US. THAT’S what I would watch for…there are au pair who will ONLY go to a specific part (like NYC or LA).

Valnyc March 18, 2013 at 8:43 am

Hi AmyT, what is your 3 step process for interviewing ap candidates? These are helpful tips for getting beyond the general, vague responses. Thanks!

AmyT March 19, 2013 at 3:40 am

Hi Valnyc, I have answered this up above now, hope it helps!

Busy Mom March 18, 2013 at 8:58 am

I find the host family letters that APs write to their families to be highly repetitive and almost formulaic. I assume that the APs are given a template or example on which to model their letter and they end up sounding all too similar.

The letters in which the AP’s personality shines through (because she breaks with the formula, delves into more detail on a favorite topic, reveals her true passions, is honest about her weaknesses, trumpets her true strengths, mentions things that are unique about her) are the ones that stand apart to me. When I review my kids’ writing, I frequently ask “why?” to get them to add more details. Ask yourself that question as you write your host family letter. If you mention that your university major is Nutrition, also write about why you chose this and what interests you about it. It’s absolutely okay to say “I majored in Nutrition, but am no longer certain I want to pursue it as a career. during my AP year, I plan to make a decision about what to do next.” Don’t simply write “I like to knit.” Talk about when/how you learned, what you enjoy making and who you make it for.

To that end, the potential AP should mention the first aid course – not only is it something unique about her but it also is relevant for being an AP.

There are no ‘right’ answers because every family is different. For example, WestMom’s red flag “I have wanted to live in the USA my entire life! I love your culture and way of life! I visited your city last year and can’t way to go back!” would not necessarily be a disqualifier for our family.

Above all, be honest.

Seattle Au pair March 20, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Most letters probably look alike, because most agencies tell the girls what they have to write about.
Tell a little bit about yourself, tell a little bit about your family, your interests, your experience with kids why you want to be an au pair.
Most girls have no idea what to write, so they follow that.

kat March 22, 2013 at 7:44 pm

i wonder how long do you think the letter should be? and whether writing about why one liked to knit ( as in your example) is something most families would like to read in the letter? to me it sounds a bit too detailed for the first introduction?

Busy Mom March 22, 2013 at 10:29 pm

kat, the knitting was just an example. I’d like to know about the au pairs hobbies, but in more detail than just a list of activities. A list – as in I like to shop, travel, knit and exercise – doesn’t give much sense of personality. I’d prefer more detail about each activity because it reveals more about the AP and it’s simply more interesting to play. “When I have time, I enjoy going shopping on weekends with my three best friends. We love shopping for bargains together. When I was 12, my grandmother taught me how to knit. I knit when I watch TV and have made hats for all my friends and family. My current project is a blanket.”

When going through the match process, I do a quick screen for important critera. If candidates pass that, I read the letter. But, after one reads five in a row, they just start to blur together. So, do something to make your letter stand out. Add details.

Momma Gadget March 18, 2013 at 10:19 am

After the first time we Skype with a candidate and we are seriously considering them, I send out a list of 5 more indepth questions that I want to discuss with them the next time we Skype. Questions that are important to fitting in with the needs of our family.
I take the time to write up these questions because I know it is hard being put on the spot and in a different language, and to give the candidates an opportunity to really express themselves. We hope that these questions are the jumping off point for a deeper conversation, and a deeper understanding about what being an AP in our family means. I am always shocked at how many candidates barely take the time to read them never mind really consider what they are being asked.
We know that the APs who take the time to consider and even prepare examples will take our concerns and needs of our kids seriously.
So to answer the topic more directly- I would like the candidates to consider and answer the questions they are actually being asked , not just throw out a scripted general reply .

CA Host Mom March 18, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Excellent point about the challenge of answering (in depth) questions, over Skype, in a second language … we struggle with how much we actually get out of the Skype calls, but I think it is really important to have them so the AP candidate can see us, our kids, and we can see him/her. We also save the tougher questions for follow up in email.

German Au-Pair March 24, 2013 at 12:22 am

Actually, I really liked that I talked to my host parents on the phone. Was so much easier for me than skype because you don’t feel like they watch you when you’re thinking or just being nervous.
I only skyped with them to get to know the kids.
Every person is different, but for me this was SO much more pleasant.

TexasHM March 18, 2013 at 10:25 am

I agree with Busy Mom that the comments about loving the USA and always wanting to live her are not a red flag for us either. This is almost word for word what our current AP said and she’s so fantastic that we are afraid she may ruin us for all future APs! I guess I don’t understand what we expect them to say about why they want to come if not that they want the US experience/culture, etc. Our first AP also said it and while our experience wasn’t perfect with her she did love our kids, work hard and we extended.
As far as things I want more flavor on: are you a strong swimmer? I’ve seen this one blow up on a few families. Yes or no on can you swim doesn’t cut it. Yes – meaning if your cruise ship was sinking and you had to in order to survive is very different than being a trained lifeguard. Also open water is very different than a neighbors pool once a year. We have a pool, so do our friends and we vacation at the beach. I need to know if I will have to rescue her, if she could rescue one of my kids or if she could rescue me. :)
Medical history – I’m beginning to wonder if they tell them to fudge this. Our last AP checked no on current medical conditions and then after she got here we found out she had all kinds of issues. She said “I didnt think it mattered because it was months ago”. If you have any recurring medical issues (allergies, digestive problems, asthma, etc) PLEASE be candid about it. Very frustrating. Had she told us upfront we could have discussed it and been prepared, in arrears it’s infuriating. The health insurance is not great. They need to know unless they get the plague or hit by a bus it doesn’t do much. And don’t lie about birth control. I will not assume you are promiscuous. There’s a dozen reasons girls are put on birth control and that doesn’t affect my decision but if you can’t have a candid conversation about it or at least disclose it I will wonder what else you are being less than candid about.
This is obviously not all I look for, but my fellow HMs did a great job covering the other areas above (driving, childcare experience, household contribution, etc).
Another random thought on driving – I’ve found experience to be useless in this category. I had an AP that drove daily for 8 years that could hardly get out of our neighborhood and even after almost two years never earned highway driving privileges and our second AP didn’t own a car and just got her license a few months before coming and she’s an excellent driver. Just like you have friends that are still terrible drivers at 35, I think APs are the same. I’ve found the brighter girls can learn and adapt to our driving laws quickly and the others continue to struggle in spite of their endless experience on paper. We now screen for self motivators and judgment/intelligence and that seems to have solved the driving dilemma for us!
Agreed on special interests/talents/hobbies. Helps APs stand out and could be a huge asset. Our current AP plays guitar and piano and is teaching my husband and kids – HUGE!!

Taking a Computer Lunch March 18, 2013 at 10:32 am

My first LCC told me to look for candidates who played an instrument or a sport. Her theory was that candidates who learned that skill required perserverance would work hard to become good APs. For the record, that has not paid off in my case 100% – but all of my APs have pursued a hobby or interest during the course of their year – outside of hanging out with friends and shopping.

Host Mom in the City March 18, 2013 at 2:53 pm

I agree about disclosing health issues that could affect the family and your ability to do your job during the year (I would want to know about any severe allergies or maybe debilitating cramps or something like that – are you going to be totally out of it and unable to work once a month or all spring or something?), but for me personally, if you take birth control (whatever the reason), I don’t know that that needs to be shared.

Thoughts on what health issues or medications need to be on the application?

Dorsi March 18, 2013 at 3:12 pm

The health forms that accompany the application make me think that I have the whole picture — but usually they turn out to not be true (medications that aren’t mentioned, etc.) I really would like to know everything you have been treated for in the last few years and what meds you are on. It’s nosy (so are the questions about religion), but better than the false sense of security from a “healthy” doctor-signed, untrue form.

taking the heat on this (again) March 18, 2013 at 3:17 pm

We’ve had a few posts on the topics of anti-depressants and food issues, i.e. bulimia/anorexia and I always say no, no, NO.

If a person is dealing with any of the above then they are not appropriate candidates for the au pair programme.

I ask every perspective au pair if they have any issues of this nature whatsoever and I urge them to be honest even if that means moving on.

I am very candid about it when interviewing – it is one of my make or break questions. Of course they answer is always no but I follow up in an email saying that I would not be willing or able to be responsible for a person who was dealing with their own issues and I would not like to have this brought into my home and ask that they respect this.

I make it clear that my family is not the family for you and I have zero tolerance on this issues.

I make no apologies for this – this is how I feel and I feel that I am right.

Host Mom in the City March 18, 2013 at 3:45 pm

I agree that eating disorders or other mental issues should be disclosed. And again, certainly anything that would affect your job performance or that could be made worse in a particular living situation. If you have a peanut allergy, a host family would need to know (obviously – they would need to be willing to be peanut-free). If you are deathly allergic to pollen and you can’t function all spring, then there are probably going to be geographic locations that are not going to work for you. And although not health-related, I don’t think asking about religion is nosy at all – are you a very religious potential AP or a very religious host family? Then perhaps a not-at-all religious host family or AP might not be the best for you? These are all crucially important things that will make for a good or terrible match.

I guess I was just reacting to the birth control post. Because I personally truly would not care to know if you were or were not on birth control on the application. Same with “I got a UTI two years ago” or “I had bronchitis last winter.” I guess there’s no harm in sharing all of this, but I wouldn’t necessarily think someone was a liar if they didn’t share that they were on birth control and then I found out they were. But really I don’t mean to start a big issue – just purely reacting to the birth control thing.

In a related topic though, I did ask my AP to share with me what medications she was on when she arrived if she was comfortable – if something happened to her while in my care, it’s good for me to know what she’s taking so I can tell the ER.

Dorsi March 18, 2013 at 4:34 pm

While a single episode of bronchitis is not likely relevant, a few visits every winter for to a doctor for bronchitis, means (to me) that the AP either can’t take very good care of herself, has some kind of chronic lung problem, or runs to the doctor (and likely doesn’t work/attend school) every time she has a cold.

TexasHM March 18, 2013 at 9:52 pm

I only mentioned birth control because both of my APs were on it to help control cycle issues and both were told not to disclose it on the application (check no on medications box) and I don’t agree with that. They both also worried about getting that medication here and had many questions about how to bring large quantities (because they were candid we helped them navigate this). They both told me a lot of girls lie even when asked for fear it looks bad. That’s why I mentioned it.

kat March 22, 2013 at 7:56 pm

does that include situations where someone was put on AD during some diffucult times in the past? like a death in family or something?

taking the heat on this (again) March 24, 2013 at 8:19 am

@ kat, that really depends, what was the reason behind the depression, how far in the past was it, how long was the person on ADs for, how bad did the depression get (i.e. mild to moderate or full on, i.e. can’t function) and how did the person eventually overcome/deal with it?

Being an AP is extremely hard work both mentally and physically and it takes so much out of you. You need to have it to give in the first place.

I personally would not allow any person who has had mental health issues in the past be my au pair and in providing an explanation for that statement I will try to be as sensitive as I can.

As an Au Pair (normally) you are alone, unsupervised, unsupported and 100% responsible for the care of my children while you are on duty. I need your judgement to be 100% focused on my children and their well being. I need you to be clear-headed and fully alert and not fighting your own internal battles.

As an au pair you are not working in a daycare facility/kindergarden where there are rules/guidelines coupled with guidance and supervision and where there are safeguards in place. If something goes wrong in an au pair setting it has the potential to go disastrously wrong.

I also would not like to expose my children to behaviours that they cannot understand and are not capable of dealing with, i.e. an eating disorder.

There are rules that say that persons with mental health issues are excluded from the programme. These rules are there to protect all parties.

Pokermom March 18, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Our last au pair confided in me that her doctor told her that she didn’t need to mention that she had some issues, because they weren’t significant. I was shocked. She had meningitis as a teen, but she gets bad headaches every year on the anniversary of it. She is also prone to headaches because of it. She also had some issues with anemia. Given that we have an active household I could see where she was getting worn out and I would have liked to know that ahead of time. It wouldn’t have kept me from matching with her, but it would have allowed me to know why she was getting headaches and to make sure to watch the headache threshold! I think the medical forms are not entirely accurate. There are plenty of things you should disclose that wouldn’t automatically disqualify a person from being an au pair.

A B C Au Pair March 22, 2013 at 1:01 pm

When I applied with Cultural Care, I mentioned that I took medication for a thyroid problem, and they made me erase it and told me not to tell that to the families, because that way I would never march. Ha! I told them I didn’t want to lie, and they said it was not lying, it was just selling myself so I can get a family fast. I insisted that that seemed relevant to me (cause they made my hide a lot of other things that I kinda agreed were not that important) and then they told me I didnt seem prepared enough to be an AP. Then I went with Au Pair Care and they told me not to hide anything and to write everything that seemed important to me, so I match with a family who will like me, my personality and my common sense and not my perfect version of me. MUCH BETTER!

CA Host Mom March 22, 2013 at 1:37 pm

That’s horrible … We are a CC host family and I have heard the same from a lot of APs (that they were coached about how to “sell themselves” which meant … LYING.) I understand that there could be some things that don’t seem significant, but telling the truth is really important for many reasons. I doubt that it is a problem that is just experienced with this one agency, but it leaves me feeling really uncomfortable as a HP.

As an example, the last story that I heard (from the AP herself) was that the CC representative in the APs home country helped her find a place where she could BUY A DRIVERS LICENSE! She did, and she’s a terrible driver, and she admitted this to me in a conversation when she was talking about having not passed her state drivers license exam three times in a row! Eeesh …

Returning HM March 22, 2013 at 2:14 pm

So interesting – in our experience it was APC who told the APs to lie about their previous psychiatric issues, their eating disorders, their lack of driving experience, their smoking (one AP told her that the APC rep changed her answer from yes to no in front of her with the same threat that she otherwise wouldn’t find a family), their lack of actual childcare experience, etc. That was why we left APC and have been a happy APIA family since (soon to be CC, though, because APIA is sadly not bringing in any male APs as of yet).

I guess there are “bad apples” in the intake offices of more than one agency….

German Au-Pair March 24, 2013 at 12:31 am

Returning HM, you’re right. Had the same experience with APC. They would have made it incredibly easy to fake a lot of childcare experience, they told girls who clearly stated they were not up for it that they’d better take special needs if they want to find a host family. They told au pairs to lie about their driving experience because “driving in the US is easy anyway”.

PauliAP April 3, 2013 at 4:25 pm

I agree. I had signed up with CC the very first time, and indeed, they would tell me EXACTLY what to write on my application. For example, if I only liked cats and dogs, they would make me write that I liked mouses, birds, cats, dogs, every kind of animal. Or if I was into volleyball, i MUST be into basketball, football, and all sorts of sports. I was very dissapointed with this agency because of so many other things.

Amelie ex-aupair March 19, 2013 at 3:42 pm


I didn’t understand what you said about birth control pills. You mean you want the prospective au pair to tell you she on the pill?

And, if so, why do you consider this to be important?

(this is an honest question, I really just want to know)

Amelie ex-aupair March 19, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Ah, ok, sorry, I hadn’t seen your answer.

JJ Host Mom March 18, 2013 at 11:55 am

Childcare-related: I want to know what parts of childcare are hard for the au pair, and how s/he handles those parts. Goodness knows that childcare is not easy 100% of the time and I want someone who recognizes that and has tools to deal with the more difficult parts.

I want to know about the au pair’s plans for the future, and how being an au pair fits into that. Most au pairs don’t plan to do childcare for the rest of their lives, so I’m not expecting to hear that, necessarily. But if, for example, she wants to go into international business and needs to know English for that, then that would be nice to know. And further on that topic, I’ll want to know what specific things she’d like to do while here to work towards that goal. Maybe English classes, maybe making friends with native English speakers, maybe taking an import/export class at a local college. (And then I’d expect her to follow up on those plans once she gets here.)

Old China Hand March 18, 2013 at 12:25 pm

We only looked at APs from China because we want our son to learn Chinese. The applications ALL sound identical and I felt so fortunate that I could read between the lines to see some personality. Our AP stood out to me because of two things: She played a sport in college and talked about a crazy long bike ride she had done. Possibly both showed up in a letter from a friend rather than her application. You definitely don’t want to sound identical to everyone else coming from your country. You want to be honest about your likes and dislikes and your experiences. You won’t be a good match for us (in the rural midwest) if you’re a city girl, but I won’t know that if you aren’t honest with me about it. So get good letters from your friends that speak honestly about yourself and be honest. Try to stand out rather than trying to blend in (particularly hard for the Asian girls, I know).

PA AP Mom March 18, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Our first au pair mentioned in her letter how much she loved soccer. I thought that was great since our oldest son was then playing on a team. Turns out she loved drinking beer and watching soccer with her friends, but had no interest in playing. She didn’t know any of the rules, terms, etc. She was told to include something about sports in her letter.

Now, when an AP mentions sports, we ask what position they play, if they are on a team, how they got started with the sport, how long they have played and whether they have coached other kids in playing the sports. It’s been a good weeding out factor for us. Not every family needs a sporty AP but for us, it’s a high priority.

On the driving, we ask how long they have had their license, where they drive on an average weekday and on an average weekend day. We also ask how they get to work, and or school. Have they driven in snow, ice, rainy conditions? Do they drive a manual or automatic transmission? What is the make and model of the cars they drive? I can then look them up and see how the size compares to ours. I asked our 2nd AP what size car she drove and she said “average”. We had a Honda Accord at the time, which I consider average, but when she arrived, she thought it was a “big” car.

I’m sure I have lots of others but right now those are the 2 that really stand out in my mind.

hOstCDmom March 18, 2013 at 8:15 pm

My driving questions that I send to prosepective au pairs when I think I’m interested in matching. I send by email, along with links to our DMV website, sample DMV questions, and rules for getting our state’s license. (Our APs have to get our state’s DL) and expect they provide written answers, then we discuss in a driving phone call.

We are in the unique situation/geography/town that we actually don’t *need* a driver but we would strongly prefer one — for both our and the AP’s benefit. (We live in a town, where from our house everthing is walking distance, including “fun” things, shopping, cinemas, banks, bars, schools, library, shops, cafes, restaurants, post office, bookstore, pharmacy, parks, YMCA etc.) But most of all, I want to know what I’m getting – driver or not, experienced or not, so that I can plan accordingly….

*What is your driving license number?
*When did you receive your license?
*Do you own a car?
*Does your family own a car?
*In whose car did you practice for your DL exam?
*When did you start practicing for your DL exam?
*When does your driving license expire?
*Have you ever driven alone in a car? How often do you do this?
*Have you driven with friends?
*Do your mother and/or father have driving licenses?
*Do your siblings (if any) have driving licenses?
*Have you looked at the X State Driving license website that I sent you?
*Do you understand the kind of questions that will be on the written test?
*What kind of cars have you driven?
*Have you ever driven a “minivan” or “van” or “SUV” type of car?
*Do you usually drive an automatic transmission or manual transmission?
*Have you ever driven a manual transmission (“Stick shift”) car?
*What is the furthest distance you have ever driven?
*What are the usual speed limits on the roads you drive on?
*What kind of bad weather have you driven in? (snow? heavy rain?)
*Have you ever driven on icy roads?
*Have you ever used a GPS navigation system?
*At home, when you need to figure out how to drive somewhere, how do you get directions?
*Have you ever gotten lost while driving? If so, what did you do?
*Have you ever been on a road trip (a driving trip to someplace far away) with a friend?
*Have you driven at night?
*How often do you drive at night?
*In your experience, how is driving at nighttime different from driving during the daytime?
*Have you ever driven with children in the car?
*Is it typical, or the law, in your country to use seatbelts?
*How often do you wear a seatbelt when driving?
*Do passengers in your car wear seatbelts?
*What do you do if a passenger in your car does not want to wear a seatbelt?
*Is it typical in your country/town to use “car seats” (baby and child restraint seats) for children?
*Have you ever put a child in a car seat?
*What would you do if you were driving with a child and the child unbuckled its seatbelt or got out of the child car seat?
*Is it illegal in your country to drink alcohol and drive a car?

DCMomof3 March 18, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Next time around, I think I am going to try asking about intangibles. For example, if you eat dinner with us on the weekend, how would you view your responsibility after dinner? i.e. wash your own dish, or pitch in with everything? Do you believe its appropriate to text at the table? If the boys are playing soccer in the yard when you are not working and they ask you to come outside and play with them, how would you respond? If I give you a grocery list and my credit card, how much do you feel would be appropriate to just buy for yourself, even though nobody else in the house eats it? Maybe I sound horrible, but I feel like these are the things that kind of define whether I enjoy living with someone or not. As has been stated before, each family is different and has different expectations. I am super-neat and organized, and my au pairs always have a very full schedule during their working hours. Off hours, they are welcome to hang out with us, but I also want them to act and feel like they WANT to be with us, and not as if it is an imposition on their free time to help clean up after a meal or give the kids some attention on the weekends.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 18, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Beware of rebound questions (that current au pair who irriates you should not show up in your questions) – because I know from experience that au pair candidates can sense it and will be put off by it.

Leave some of the things that irritate you most about your current au pair for a well-worded phrase in your handbook. “We’d love to have you join us at the table when you are off duty. Please understand that we would expect that you model good family-member behavior for our children by either helping to prepare the meal or clean up afterward.”

On the other hand, a good question to ask, is “How do you help your parents prepare or clean up after dinner?” “Do you do those chores occasionally, once a week, or more frequently? “When was the last time you did them?” (That last question has turned out to be key, because I can guarantee you the answer won’t be “yesterday” or “today” 99% of the time!)

Personally, I think I’m going to ditch my “What do you like to cook?” question because the only answer I have received for years is “Pasta.”

anonamomma March 18, 2013 at 2:57 pm

During our interview process I send perspective au pairs one or two tasks. They are exactly the same tasks the AP will be expected to complete when she is here so to me they are really important.

For example our au pair prepares the family dinner at least four times a week (this is a must for us) so during the matching process I ask her to set out what dishes she would cook for two weeks (i.e. 8 dishes) and a very rough list of the ingredients/groceries she would need (as she would also be doing the grocery shopping on these days).

I make it clear that the meals do not have to be gourmet standard but must be healthy and made from scratch (as we don’t allow any jarred sauces, express foods, etc)

You can see straight away the girls who know what they are doing and those who don’t.

I have received some very honest answers from au pair who have said that they are not very good at cooking but would be willing to try which works for me – but the task itself makes it very clear in the APs head what is expected from her.

Momma Gadget March 20, 2013 at 1:39 pm

I like your point about “rebound questions”.
I think this is a good point for au pairs too. I recently interviewed a very nice au pair who was in transition because of a difficult HF (my LC cfmd this and the HF was being removed from the program). All the questions he asked us and most of his answers were obviously colored by his bad experience. Although I completely understood where he was coming from, and he would have been a good match for our family otherwise, I couldn’t get past the negativity, and ended up choosing another candidate who was more positive.

lifestartsnow March 20, 2013 at 10:41 pm

i am unsure about the shopping question. first off, it may be misunderstood (eg how much $$ she would be spending on her own food when she wouldn’t know local prices). but i also think it’s complicated because they may have never done the grocery shopping by themselves (add on to that with someone else’s credit card!). in my home my mom always did the grocery shopping, sometimes i tagged along, most often i did not. i don’t see how that question would relate to an ap’s ability to do her job.
another thing is that i am unsure what the organizations tell the girls about food that only they eat and who pays for it. the response could be “organization standard” which you are not aware of.

perhaps a rephrased question like “if i asked you to buy bread and milk and gave you 20$ what would you do with the change?” would get more at what you are trying to get out of the candidate.
i always gave my HM the change back but i was shocked to learn that the AP after me always kept it as “appreciation for her helping with the groceries”

German Au-Pair March 24, 2013 at 12:41 am

TACL is right -your questions would make me move on because they seem kind of bitter to me.
Also, while reading it, I felt like the “how much money” question was really “mean”. This is something that I’d expect to be YOUR job. Tell your au pair what her budget is for things that are only for herself and that’s it.
Asking this question would indicate to me that living with you would mean to try to read your mind all the time, tip toeing around your expectations. If this has been an issue for you before, put it in your handbook and everyone will be happy.

CA Host Mom March 18, 2013 at 2:42 pm

I don’t have a whole lot to add to what others have already posted. We are interviewing right now, so this post is well timed for our family. Thanks for all of the great suggestions above. I am finding that the questions that I ask that don’t have an easy (i.e. ‘yes’ or ‘no’, ‘sometimes’ ‘always’) answer are the ones that reveal the most about the candidate. I am trying to incorporate more of those into our interview process, and just include them in the emails we exchange instead of on Skype. I think Skype is really important, but there are too many other factors that might impact the candidates ability to answer the tougher questions well (i.e. connection issues, lag in the video, inexperience with the language). We don’t require that our AP speaks excellent English upfront, and expect that she will learn when here, so I would rather her have the time to think thru her answers, look words up, etc. so that we can really get a feel for what she wants to say.

For the AP that wrote in, absolutely include the information about the CPR certification. I really like seeing things like that on applications. And be prepared to answer some questions about it if you list it there.

Host Mom in the City March 18, 2013 at 2:57 pm

On the other hand, though, if you truly took CPR once two years ago and haven’t done anything else with it since, then it’s probably not going to be relevant to me. So sure, list it, but definitely focus on more recent skills and experience.

CA Host Mom March 18, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Agreed – If we were reviewing that application I would certainly ask about when she obtained the certification, why she got certified, if she ever was in a situation to use the skills that she learned, if she would be willing to refresh the certification while in the US (two of our APs have). But the fact that she got the certification 2 years ago instead of last month doesn’t necessarily make it completely irrelevant (for us anyway).

Dorsi March 18, 2013 at 3:01 pm

I ask questions that I really want answers to — like: What foods do you like to eat? Not like to eat? I actually don’t mind when an AP says they don’t like a food that we eat a lot of (seafood, for example), but I tend to dislike APs that say they eat “everything.” What that means to me is that, “I will say anything to match.” I really want to get a sense of what kind of person the AP is (early? late? clean? messy?) — none of these are deal breakers for us, but when I can’t get a straight answer, it really turns me off the applicant.

Another pet peeve is a “Dear Family” letter that is primarily about the AP’s family and town. Many overestimate my interest in the primary drivers of the local economy and the career aspirations of their older brothers. I want a letter that shows me that you are a hard worker, with a good attitude, like to learn, positive, responsible. Without repeating things that are explained elsewhere in the application, I want to hear how your life works. I would love to read “I have been attending school 4 mornings a week. I drive directly from school most days to my babysitting job where I supervise the kids’ homework and make them dinner. After they are in bed I do my own reading. On the weekends there is usually time for me to make an excursion to a local beach if I have done all of my work.”

Another application thing that makes me a little crazy — writing your email in your native language and then using Google translate to turn it into English to send it to me. It is still not perfect, I can tell, and it feels a little dishonest — part of the interview process is getting to hear how well you will be able to communicate with us (and we are upfront about not requiring great English.)

WestMom March 19, 2013 at 11:51 am

LOL. ‘Many overestimate my interest in the primary drivers of the local economy and the career aspirations of their older brothers.’ That also comes across in many AP videos… I know where France is on the map, and what the Eiffel tower looks like already :)

5kids=aupair March 19, 2013 at 4:19 pm

I was laughing at the same quote!

Dawn March 18, 2013 at 3:08 pm

This isn’t so much of a question to weed through APs as it is a blunt assessment of our circumstances: “We live in a relatively small house and you’ll need to share a bathroom. Is this ok with you?”

Ever since I’ve been honest to the point of exaggerating our smallish space, I seem to weed out the princesses and attract the humble, selfless APs who are willing to pitch in with chores and who do not expect endless perks and special consideration. We’re hosting our 6th AP, and I’d say our bio during the first 3 emphasized our “ideal” AP location (near Los Angeles), our well-behaved children and the fact that our AP would work a steady 9-5-style schedule with no weekend duty. Now, my approach is to say “we live in a three-bedroom house where only one of our two bathrooms has a shower, so you’ve got to share with the five of us.” That, along with the fact that we don’t require a driver and therefore do not provide driving privileges, sends about 60% of applicants packing. So far, the ones who have turned us down have been the ones I’ve gotten the princess vibe off of. Our last two APs have been extremely down-to-earth.

We will be starting an addition and remodel to our house that will add a significant amount of space to our house, but we’ve had so much success with the “undersell and over-deliver” approach that I’m thinking of leaving my profile the way it is and having the AP who’s chosen us get a pleasant surprise when she arrives. I can always say “oh yeah, I forgot to update after I remodeled!”

A B C Au Pair March 22, 2013 at 1:17 pm

That sounds great! My HF did the same thing!! When I got here I was soooooooo surprised! and they were very happy that I appreciated that so much! I thought it was a small house with 2 bathrooms and its a 3 storey house with 4 bathrooms, WOAH!

NoVA Twin Mom March 19, 2013 at 11:01 am

Tell me what ages of kids you *enjoy* working with. Let’s face it, even if you’re infant qualified, babies might not be your favorite stage. This year in particular, with two year old twins? We’re no longer required to have an infant qualified au pair, but if you only really like working with kids age five and up, you’re not going to be interested in our household. Which is absolutely fine, and I’m glad you’re self aware enough to know that in advance – and THRILLED that you’re willing to be honest with me about it up front.

But if I can find someone that just LOVES preschoolers and says that up front? She’ll (no bropairs at our agency) be at the top of our list of people to call.

Also, if you have some sort of specialized experience for which there isn’t a checkbox? Say so! I complain often that there’s no “multiples experience” checkbox to show me who has taken care of twins before – so if you have, mention it! And if possible, include a picture! Our current au pair was a physical therapist in her home country. We found out only when she needed to change a skype date because her shift ran over and she’d be late, at which point we asked what kind of work she did. If she’d mentioned this in her profile or letter, I imagine special needs families might have been tripping over each other trying to get her – but she never said anything! If you took CPR because it was required to get your drivers license, yes, that’s interesting – if you took CPR because you’re considering a career as an EMT and needed it for training – a completely different level of interesting!

And it’s OK to say you don’t know something. If you really don’t know what you want to do with your life and hope a little distance and perspective – like maybe a gap year being an au pair – will help you decide – you can tell me that. :)

The big thing is, be honest. If your application ends up being a little different than everyone elses? We consider individuality to be a good thing here in the US – you DON’T have to be like everyone else. I realize that your company there probably has a list of required items, so acknowledge them, but see if you can add in a few items not on the list too!

Tristatemom March 19, 2013 at 12:44 pm

I guess I just add something about pictures. I am drawn to application where the front page photo shows AP with a child. Then, I like to see more pictures of the AP and various children and, hopefully, these will have been taken on various days instead of just for the application. I like seeing picture of your family but limit pictures of your friends to one. Don’t include pictures were you are toasting alcohol or hugging several guys. While I do not begrudge you a social life, this is a job application for childcare, focus your pictures on that.
Lastly, please include if you need glasses for driving, if you have a bad back (and therefore can’t lift well), or if you have a mental disorder (I know that last one is wishful thinking).

Taking a Computer Lunch March 19, 2013 at 1:47 pm

In my opening email, I give the weight of The Camel in kg (so the AP can read it and know instantly how much it is), and tell them that lifting is part of the job. If you have a special needs child that requires lifting or an especially heavy infant or toddler, then use it as a weeding device.

5kids=aupair March 19, 2013 at 5:46 pm

I always check to make sure the AP isn’t wearing the same outfit when she’s with different kids. That for sure shows she just ran around and took pictures with all the kids she knew for the app.

FutureAP March 19, 2013 at 1:59 pm

I know one thing I included that wasn’t asked: I wrote in my letter up front I have a tattoo. Just because I don’t want to have to tell every single family i’m in contact with in an email that I have one and taking the risk to once forget.

One thing I would love for us to be able to say, is if we wan’t to speak our native language or not. I’m sorry, I’m not coming to the USA to speak french but english. I had 5 host families within 5 days, 3 of them wanted me to speak french. I told it to my agency who answered I was not allowed to refuse a host family for this reason (which forced me to waste some time of the HF so my agency wasn’t getting mad at me refusing the contact, stupid to me).

I’m surprised that non of you (unless I missed it) mentioned the boyfriend or the smoking fact.

Momma Gadget March 19, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Future AP- I can see why you wouldn’t want to speak exclusively in French, but why would you rule out families who are considering hiring a French au pair to speak French to their children?
It is supposed to be a cultural exchange program.
I am sure being in the US 24/7 for a year, plus taking ESL classes
Would afford many opportunities to work on your english skills.
You might even find it refreshing after being here for a while to share your culture with a family that is obviously interested in it.

Smoking is covered already in the Application (a big deal breaker for us) . Our agency also covers boyfriends/ girlfriends …
Of course as others pointed our- truthful answers on these questions would be appreciated.

Host Mom in the City March 19, 2013 at 3:17 pm

The smoking one is great to point out. There is a “non-smoker” box on the application, but I’ve heard of some host families finding out upon her arrival that their au pair is a social smoker or, even worse, a “I know I can stop anytime, so I’m not really a smoker.” If you smoke AT ALL, like ever, then you need to say that. It is so critical to me that we have an au pair who NEVER smokes. I’m going to add that question next time as one to ask an au pair directly.

5kids=aupair March 19, 2013 at 5:48 pm

My current AP told me most girls quit right before coming, but then end up still smoking in the US. We knew 2 of our APs smoked, one was only a club thing and towards the end of her stay, the other was one in a long line of problems.

Returning HM March 19, 2013 at 8:21 pm

We address smoking very explicitly. Although we only consider APs who have checked the non-smoking box, we follow up in one of the early emails asking if the AP smokes socially and if so, how often and how many cigarettes. If an AP replies with anything other than “I never smoke,” we take him or her off the list. If an AP replies with the hoped-for “I never smoke” answer, I follow up by saying that I am glad to hear this, as being a non-smoker is a big deal to us and that if we were ever to find that an AP of ours smoked, this would be immediate grounds for rematch. My mother (a non-smoker) died of lung cancer, and once you have seen someone suffer with that awful disease, you have zero patience for anyone who knowingly increases his or her chance of getting it by smoking. I have found by addressing this REALLY candidly, we weed out anyone who isn’t actually a true non-smoker.

Likewise, when addressing driving, I ask a lot of questions about how often, how far, in what conditions, and with whom in the car, and then I follow up by saying that we have had to rematch twice over the years due to driving (this is true) and that if an AP isn’t absolutely sure that he or she is a very strong driver, then we likely aren’t the right family for him or her. We have had a few candidates self-select out at this point, and that is just fine. While we are very patient with someone learning the roads, learning the rules in the US, and being nervous — and indeed paid for 6 driving lessons last year for our wonderful AP who was nervous (though, according to the instructor, an excellent driver), we are not patient with someone who oversells his or her driving skills or experience. I’m indebted to hOstCDmom for sharing her list of questions both here and in the past — mine are drawn from hers.

FutureAP March 19, 2013 at 5:31 pm

I am coming to the US to learn english and to know more about your culture athough i have other reasons as well. I am totally open to teach some words somes songs or so to the kids or even the parents but I don’t xant to speak full time french. I understand some au pairs dont mind therefor that would be great to have an opportunity to write it so the HFs as the APs dont waste time in the matching process. Classes and foreign friends dont make up for the english skills you havent gotten through the HF.
Concerning thesmocking you would be surprised on how many aupairs lie about thinking they will stop once in the us. Doesnt always work.

Momma Gadget March 19, 2013 at 6:11 pm

I feel very cynical in saying this- but I think you’d be hard pressed to surprise me by things people lie about to get what they want.

CA Host Mom March 20, 2013 at 12:20 pm

I wouldn’t say you are cynical, I had the exact same thought when I read that comment.

HRHM March 20, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Me too! LOL

FutureAP March 20, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Ah ok, I thought because you said the agency covered it you meant you did not address it later in your interviewing.

I know a lot of girls lie… I find it stupid as with lies you don’t get families that will be a great fit for you.
At the same time, it should start from the coaching in our agencies… They try to have us placed to get the money, therefore don’t always direct us the right way.

Momma Gadget March 20, 2013 at 8:37 pm

Future AP – I think you have a wise point of view on lying on applications.
There are people (not only APs) who out of fear of not getting what they want, or plain selfishness, lie without considering the consequences to themselves or the other people involved.
It is a shame because it cast an unflattering light on the entire program.

FormerEuropeanAu-Pair March 19, 2013 at 8:14 pm

I agree! Most of the English I learned, while I was an Au-Pair came from childrens books and having to interact in English with the children.
While it was nice to share some of my culture with the kids, I would have missed out on many, many oportunities to improve my English if I had to speak my own language with them.

That said: I do agree that most Au-Pairs only meet people from their country – and while I tried not to do so exclusively, I did make lots of friends from my country ;)

WestMom March 22, 2013 at 12:15 pm

It would be great to know upfront if the AP is willing to use her native language with the host children… (Although I suspect some Au Pairs would not want to state that in their application by fear of limiting their options.)

For us, 90% of the reason to be in the program is to have a native speaker in our home to help with homework and keep my native language alive in our family. I completely understand that for some girls who really want to learn English, this might not be the best match.

CV- I think this might be a good topic for further discussion… We get a few rejections each year from girls who fear they won’t learn enough English while in our home (despite HD only speaking English, and our children speaking English to each other) I’d love some help to sell our family better, despite our language requirement.

Dorsi March 22, 2013 at 2:51 pm

I also would like a post on this, also specifically on best practices to get Au Pair to speak a language — we would like our kids to learn a specific language (that is not native to us, but we both speak passably). I have had a hard time getting the APs to just speak to the kids in their language.

Should be working March 22, 2013 at 3:17 pm

We have this trouble of candidates dropping us because of our with that they speak their native language with the kids. But our geographic desirability compensates a lot.

One thing I do is assure them, in an opening email usually, that ALL our au pairs worried that they wouldn’t learn good English, and ALL of them told us after a few weeks (when we asked) that it was not an issue. And I tell them they can talk about this themselves with the current or past APs.

So I tell them I realize it might not seem ideal. I tell them I respect that they know what they want and are motivated to learn English. And I tell them that all 4 previous APs felt like it was a non-issue. And that making friends NOT of their own nationality was a bigger deal than what they speak with kids.

Tristatemom March 19, 2013 at 4:36 pm

I appreciate your comment and I understand it.
We are a bilingual household and always get APs that speak the foreign language and ask that the AP speak that language with the kids. But we say this upfront and have lost some candidates because of it.
However, here is what I have experienced every.single.time. Each AP only had friends from her home country the entire year and they spoke in their native language. I don’t think any of our AP really immersed themselves into the culture and none of them took a language class. In fact, it astounds me how much the APs social life here mirror the life back home.

CA Host Mom March 20, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Tristatemom, We have seen the exact same! Our APs (with the exception of the one from Denmark) all gravitated towards other APs from their home country. Even though they said that their “number one reason for coming to the US was to experience the American culture”. Now I gloss over that statement in applications and interviews and I think it is something that they say because they think that is what we want to hear.

Seattle Mom October 2, 2013 at 7:28 pm

Or it’s what they think they want… when people have never lived overseas it sounds really romantic to fully immerse yourself in a new culture. But they don’t realize how lonely it can be to never talk in your native tongue with someone who really understands you, to be misunderstood by everyone you meet.

Some people purposefully find a place to live where they won’t have the temptation of befriending people from their home country, and that’s how they really immerse themselves. Others are just actually kind of different and really do avoid hanging out exclusively with people from their home country.

This I know from experience, because I joined the Peace Corps fully intending to immerse myself in my host country culture. But in the end I spent every other weekend in the capital city, hanging out with other American Peace Corps Volunteers. I was the only American in my village so I was immersed during the week, but if there were other Americans around I would have spent time with them. I know some PCVs who really did immerse themselves and so they had a better time in the end, and learned the language really well. So it’s possible, but they were the exception.

HRHM March 20, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Our first and second AP were from “wierd” countries (former Yugoslavian nations) and so had no choice but to vary their friends’ country of origin. But from #3 on, this has been our experience as well. Current AP has nothing but German friends, going so far as to find APs from other agencies to hang out with rather than hanging out with non-Germans in her cluster. And they ALWAYS speak German when together. I don’t really care, as she has good English and we (the HF) all talk non-stop so she’s getting it at home whether she likes it or not! LOL But I expect new AP coming in July from Germany to present little variation on the theme. Oh well.

Should be working March 20, 2013 at 1:10 pm

We’ve had 2 German au pairs, and ask they speak German at home with kids (we speak it), and this is not our experience. They have a few German AP friends but one of them has a slew of friends–not APs!–from various places and the other had several good non-German friends.

But some candidates to turn us down because they want to speak only English. No prob, I respect candidates who know what they want.

Should be working March 19, 2013 at 2:48 pm

For trying to get the prospective AP to just be herself, I ask questions like this:

What is your biggest fear about your au pair year? [I’ve had APs answer “that the kids won’t like me”; “that I’ll have a car accident”; and “that I won’t make friends”–all of which are fine answers, it all depends on how the AP reacts and tells about her fear.]

Our ‘bests’ for an au pair are probably that we are a fun, nice, lively family who really enjoys spending time with our AP and likes to make sure she also makes friends outside our family, husband is a great cook, we live in a desirable place. Our ‘worsts’ are probably: the kids quarrel frequently, in a normal but very annoying way (about who sits where in the car, whose ice cream is bigger, who was talking first); the AP usually can’t have a car on weekend daytimes; we have a curfew; we all talk a lot and that can mean that you get interrupted; and the kids have school vacations when a lot of other kids don’t. WHAT ARE YOUR ‘BESTS’ and ‘WORSTS’?

Momma Gadget March 19, 2013 at 2:55 pm

We call that “Roses & Thorns” lol. When we actually have dinner as a family we will talk about the best & worst events of the day.
I think that is a great interview question!

CA Host Mom March 20, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Great question!! It’s been enlightening for me to just think about how I will answer that question for our family. What a great idea … thanks for sharing!

Should be working March 20, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Thanks! Don’t do this in email, though. It can produce coached answers like, “My ‘worst’ is that I tend to work too hard and care too much about doing everything really well.” One candidate did say her worst quality was her untidiness. I was so grateful about her honesty that I took her candidacy more seriously than I otherwise would have, since to me that is a big thing to admit but at least shows self-awareness.

Momma Gadget March 20, 2013 at 10:23 am

A little Off topic- Do you and when do you involve your children in the interview process?
I have older boys, so we do feel it is important that they have some say in who will be interacting with them and driving them around on a daily basis.
We have been letting them look at the dossiers of the au pairs we are seriously considering, and let them speak to them on skype once we parents feel sure a candidate would be a good match for our family.
The pros have been that there some candidates that have a natural gift for connecting with the kids, and this becomes immediately obvious. The cons are that we all rarely agree on the same candidate and this leads to a long debate.
I was wondering what other HF do, and also wondering how APs feel about being interviewed by the children.

Host Mom in the City March 20, 2013 at 10:28 am

Mine are younger (4 and almost 6). So we never included them before, but for this round, we had narrowed it down to 3 candidates and had our oldest come in and chat on Skype toward the end of the process. Of course, she liked the candidate that we liked the least. It was a bit of a problem when we went ahead with the one we wanted. Everything worked out great and I think she forgot about the other candidate by the time our au pair arrived. But I don’t think I’ll be doing that again until we are really serious about one candidate and one candidate only. Maybe my response would change when they are older though.

WestMom March 20, 2013 at 10:50 am

We included the kids towards the end of the process last year with 3 great candidates. Each one preferred a different girl! I was afraid two were going to be disappointed but they kind of forgot by the time the selected one arrived. This year, we are including them only now that we have selected the candidate. I think that by the time our kids are old enough to actually inform the selection process, we probably won’t need au pairs anymore!

CA Host Mom March 20, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Good question … My kids are small (3 & 1) so we actually “show them” to the APs when we Skype the first or second time. I will certainly re-think this as they get older though.

Should be working March 20, 2013 at 1:18 pm

This topic has come up on the blog in a few places. I don’t show the APs to the kids. Their evaluations have nothing to do with the ability to do a good job. Long, pretty hair is not a top criterion. The only reason to do this, in my view, would be to see how the AP connects with the kids right off the bat. BUT why should an AP be able to do that–on Skype, in another language, under pressure to make a good impression? And an AP that is bubbly and likeable to kids on Skype might not be steady, reliable, patient.

Another reason not to do this: The first impression that the kids get on the AP’s arrival is usually a great one. The AP is excited and happy, the kids are handing her balloons and chocolate, and everyone feels good. Only time tells whether that feeling will last. But I don’t want to spoil that arrival moment with the kids having their own impressions, maybe doubts, and the debris of a conflict with me over who we select.

3kids1dogHM March 20, 2013 at 3:35 pm

We had our daughter looking at the profile videos also and told her a bit about the candidates. There was never an issue with who would make the selection (us) vs. who she preferred -she just had fun seeing the various videos and getting a feel for the girls. She was 6.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 20, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Neither of my kids is involved in the decision-making process, although my typically developing child enjoys watching the videos and having me read the applications to him (even though he’s old enough to do it himself!). He doesn’t want to Skype with the AP either.

Busy Mom March 22, 2013 at 9:23 am

Keep in mind that my kids are older, but I absolutely get them involved in the process. We wait for this until HD and I are nearly certain that we have the right person. Then the kids get a chance to speak with the AP. Now that we skype, each child has an individual skype conversation and HD and I listen in. We’re basically assessing whether we feel that the AP will engage with our kids. this hasn’t happened, but they are mature enough that if they had a really bad feeling about a potential AP, we would pass.

We have had our kids involved in this way (though first year was phone) since youngest was in 2nd grade.

I have used my eldest teen to prescreen for me as well. I have specific first screening criteria and she reviews profiles and decides if they are worthwhile having me review.

Momma Gadget March 22, 2013 at 10:07 am

Our boys are older too, with definite opinions on just about everything – I want them to feel some accountability toward making it work. Although in the end, we parents choose who we feel is best match for the whole family, we would not hire an AP that either child really disliked.

HRHM March 20, 2013 at 1:01 pm

I would love to hear an honest self-assessment of energy level. I realize that this waxes and wanes day to day, with circumstance, different seasons. But in general, I can state clearly that I am a morning person, need about 6 hours of sleep, and don’t do well with sitting still (maybe “manic” is a little strong, but there it is) Our current AP is the exact opposite, which surprised me because she had a years long history of rigorous dance training. I realize now that her type-A mom probably forced this and now that she is out from under Mom, she does ZERO with her free time. Sleeps until 3 on weekends, not very active with the kids, has to be pushed and “reminded” to take care of household tasks, etc. She would be perfectly happy to spend her time sitting and staring into space while the kids played around her in the messy house. UGH! But realistically, it’s probably not going to happen – after all who is going to admit being a lethargic couch potato when looking for a 45 hr/week job watching active children? :)

Pokermom March 20, 2013 at 5:05 pm

I agree with this one. I alluded to it above with my comment about medical issues that applied to our old AP’s energy level. She was exhausted and went to bed by 8:30/9pm most nights. Which is fine, just could tell that some days she was really worn out. We definitely will be asking more questions about energy level in the future.

I think more questions about personality type- even like a Myers-Briggs assessment would be really helpful. I’m fairly introverted but our house is high energy! It’s an interesting mix.

Should be working March 20, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Pokermom, CCAP *does* provide a Myers-Briggs type of assessment. It’s the DiSC profile. The agency uses a cheap, truncated version and the HF only gets a very brief, and positive-spin, report. But I went and took the full-length DiSC online, had my husband and then-AP do the same, and STUDIED the $35-apiece reports to really understand the test and what its results mean. With that understanding I can interpret the truncated reports that CCAP provides against the 15-page explanation of the test that I received with my own report, and figure out which ‘personality profile’ the candidate is and what that means.

Frankly the experience with DiSC has been enlightening to me way beyond matching with APs. I see my own patterns and motivations much more clearly now. My husband and I were guffawing at each others’ reports, because they were painfully accurate depictions of our weaknesses. I really think it is a valuable thing to look at for oneself as well as APs.

The DiSC doesn’t tell me overall whether a particular applicant’s blend of qualities would work for us–because a quiet but extremely reliable AP might be good in a different way than a high-energy but slightly chaotic AP, and in both cases there might be other factors that make the match work or not.

BUT the DiSC helps validate my vibe; e.g. a candidate with a strong personality has great experience–but does she seem too bossy on skype? Her profile might indicate [obliquely, I use my own long report to figure it out] that she is high-dominance and low-patience. Can I bring this up with her and see if she is defensive about it, or interested in it, or willing to discuss what it means? That is the big issue.

We stay with CCAP because of the DiSC profile included in the applications AND the fact that you get contact info for candidates coming out of rematch.

Pokermom March 21, 2013 at 1:44 am

Thanks for letting me know that! I will keep that in mind in future searches. I would totally do the research on the test to figure out what it is basically saying.

For us, having someone who is more introverted is ok, because it can be a calming influence on the kids, which was how our last AP was. However she said herself that she thought being here would make her more outgoing and she felt that she became actually more introverted!

I thought new AP came across pretty extroverted in his comments and his video and when we skyped with him and we were talking about this topic with him, old AP and HD and myself and he shares that he is also more introverted. He’s definitely more extroverted than myself and old AP. HD is in the middle and I think that’s probably the best fit for us, personality wise.

Side note- I definitely learned with our first AP that I need team players and not APs that will challenge my authority, especially given that I am at home. Knowing that about myself made this round of picking a little easier because I was able to ask more things about following schedules, directions, work well on a team, etc. Having a male, making sure he is ok with taking direction from a female, it’s important! Thankfully he’s been great and I think we made a fantastic choice.

I may have to go take that test now!!!!

Momma Gadget March 21, 2013 at 7:23 am

Interesting points about introverted vs out going personalities. We’ve had both work out- but surprisingly I think the somewhat introverted ones have fit just a little better- maybe a case of opposites attracting?
Good luck with your new Bro-pair!!

Should be working March 21, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Tell me what you think! I have a little ‘hobby’ of trying to guess people’s profiles when I’m bored in a meeting.

Little M. March 20, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Energy levels are a funny thing. I function on VERY LITTLE sleep (3hours max does it for me and no, I’m not sick… I’ve been like this since I was a kid) and everyone knows that BUT I get very moody/grumpy if I don’t get downtime. That’s an important thing as well.

JJ Host Mom March 20, 2013 at 6:56 pm

I think it’s hard for anyone to predict how much energy they’ll have left after watching active children for 45 hours a week. It’s a tough job.

Little M. March 22, 2013 at 5:21 am

I think that for most AP’s the problem is that aupairing is their first full time job and they don’t really know what a 45hr/week is and how it feels.

Host Mom in the City March 22, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Which is why we only consider APs who have held down a full-time job. Throwing someone into a 45-hour a week job watching young kids when they’ve never done it before can be a huge shock.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 22, 2013 at 7:08 am

I think that for many APs, it’s not necessarily about energy-level (I’ve seen APs who sit on the couch not quite engaged in their AP tasks have an abundant source of energy as soon as they’re done with their work day and are heading out to meet friends), but about self-direction. And yes, it’s hard to distinguish the APs who look like go-getters because they’ve been active during their early teen years (e.g. rigorous dance training) because of family pressures or to be with friends, versus those who have sought out those experiences on their own.

The AP who does not engage your children and seems overwhelmed by the job may have not really worked (babysitting only goes so far as job experience) and may have never had real responsibilities. She may perform well when she’s told what to do, but doesn’t realize how tedious it is for a HP to have to schedule their AP every day.

I want my AP to be an adult in my house. I purposely don’t overlap – even though learning to live with The Camel is a steep learning curve – simply because I want them to make their own schedule and develop their own rhthym for her care. I don’t want to micro-manage and get irked if I feel I must!

Finally, I understand that APs have absolutely no energy for their first few weeks – they’re adjust to a new routine, a new culture, and for many, are facing their first long length of time away from home. However, I expect them to interact from the start, and use their down time to take a nap and rest from the stress.

Momma Gadget March 22, 2013 at 9:18 am

I think your assessment of being engaged with the children/family and the whole AP experience is spot on.
I wish there was a concrete way to screen for that potential –
For us occasionally there was a photo – of the AP dangling a child by his ankles as they looked at each other adoringly, or the funny way a candidate phrased a reply that showed a spark for this.
I think having had 2 great engaged Au pairs has made me a little spoiled & greedy- I don’t want an Au Pair who just gets the job done, I want one who also embraces the whole opportunity and enjoys my kids.

Seattle Mom October 2, 2013 at 7:37 pm

I would agree with you, except… our AP #1 was what I would call “low energy” but she was not at all lazy or a couch potato. She just had limited energy reserves. She cared for our 1 & 3 year old, usually 45 hours per week (9-ish hours every day), and was exhausted by the end of the day. I would come home in the evening to find her sitting on the couch with the kids climbing all over her. The thing was, she was still engaged with them (though tired) and they were really happy. She did stuff with them all day, but by the late afternoon she was DONE. She never went out in the evenings during the week unless she had class, and she went to bed earlier than we did. And I could commiserate, since before her I had been a SAHM. Anyway we loved AP #1, but after her we made it a priority to find a more energetic AP.

AP #2 was more energetic, but she had this crazy nervous energy and she annoyed us and we did not like her.. for other reasons though, she really was just an unlikeable person. She never tired. But we learned some important lessons from her. And went into rematch as soon as possible.

AP #3 is also energetic- she goes out partying almost every night of the week, and she seems to have more energy than our kids during the day. I don’t know how she does it! She is also very active and athletic. Maybe that’s part of it.

Anyway so for me the moral of the story is, energy is not the most important thing but when everything else is there it sure is nice to have!

Skny March 20, 2013 at 7:34 pm

One of my former Au pairs did not swim with us all summer. Said she had her period (lasted all summer)… So would not take kids to pool or swim. Big problem. Since then I kind of joke about it as a way to say that I expect her to go to the pool with the kids even if she has a date and doesn’t want to wet hair

Taking a Computer Lunch March 20, 2013 at 7:44 pm

We have a pool, so the ability to swim is a must. Our APs arrive at the end of the summer, when it’s still pretty steamy. Anyone who doesn’t jump into the pool willingly has to take swimming lessons through our local community college (14 weeks, 1 credit). We pay for it. It has only been an issue twice.

lifestartsnow March 20, 2013 at 10:48 pm

i think “why” questions can be very powerful and telling.

When your candidate tells you something that she did ask her “why that?”. when she talks about being a camp counselor ask “why camp and not in a family” (and the other way round). if she said she cooked family dinner ask her “why” — i am very sure that eventually one of these why’s will trigger the true personality and the true reason the candidate wants to be an AP in your country/city. with why questions there is no wrong answer – just be sure you don’t sound like you’re pressuring the candidate into giving an answer. ;-)

Skny March 21, 2013 at 6:53 am

Being a former Au pair I am part of 2 Au pairs group. That is where I usually recruit as I can see their conversations since entering the group.

I have interviewed someone who initially said he loved dogs, just to do the group research and learn he can’t tolerate it. I have seen Au pairs passing agency tests around (the CCs one is all over, they memorize it and go. Even having no English skills, have seen them shunning families (there is a full “beware of this family” session), and even posts asking about what and how to answer family questions during interviews.

Funny because when I became an Au pair there was no Facebook, Skype or support groups. You would exchange emails and have a phone call. So much simpler.

cv harquail March 21, 2013 at 9:43 am

Wow. The idea of au pair candidates ‘sharing’ the test is really frightening. And what I wouldn’t give to see the ‘beware of this family’ conversation– not to be lurid, but as a reality check.

Host Mom in the City March 21, 2013 at 10:23 am

Seriously! My au pair tells me about these Facebook groups she’s on and they seem to feed off negativity. She says it’s mostly complaining and egging each other on about how wronged they are. Not to say I haven’t heard some egregious host family stories! There are two in particular that I’d love to know if they made some “avoid these families” list. I’d also be interested in what gets a family on this list… fascinating :)

Seattle Au pair March 21, 2013 at 1:10 pm

I´ve been in those groups before, and yes they are full of negativity but also the girls try to help each other in situations, well at least that was what I did.
Some families are in the list of ” danger families” how they call it for many reasons based on that particular au pair experience.
But some of those families are kicked out of the agency and go to a different one so that is how the girls know.

Host Mom in the City March 21, 2013 at 2:49 pm

There’s one family that I know that should absolutely no way be in the au pair program and I know after an incident occurred with one au pair, they switched agencies and no one was the wiser. Really upsetting. On the flip side, I would hate to see good families disparaged on the avoid list by a vindictive au pair (or simply one who wasn’t a good match) and then have other au pairs avoid that family not knowing the whole story.

Momma Gadget March 21, 2013 at 4:35 pm

I think everyone needs a venue to vent. The problem is when anger and negativity starts feeding on it self.
Most people tend to naturally gravitate toward web sites that agree with their opinions…encouraging distorted and limited perspectives,and allowing the complainer to not take responsibility for their part in a situation.
Even with my own kids on FB- I constantly remind them not to post when they are angry, because once it is out there, it is out there for ever. Without question There are AP’s and HF’s alike who have no business in this program. It may be cathartic to “diss” a frustrating HF or AP; but, there are always 2 sides to a story.
“Think before you post”- is my still my Mantra.

Skny March 21, 2013 at 7:53 pm

I wish there was some database where agencies would post families who are kicked out of program. If an Au pair is kicked out, it is done. She either goes home or stays illegal. Some of those families to avoid have been known o spend an year in each agency…

Skny March 21, 2013 at 7:04 am

Obviously though… In this groups I also learn there is a LOT of families who shouldn’t be in the program, a lot of LCC who don’t do anything about it, and a nice group of girls who start with great intentions of helping, doing extra, giving more than needed, just to come back complaining that the family now counts her extra contributions as her job, and reprehend her if she was too busy to do it (such as folding hosts laundry or the one day she completely cleans whole house because she is thankful, just to be yelled at 3 days later for not doing the same.

HRHM March 22, 2013 at 10:13 am

I think you need to be careful about believing what you read/here from one side. I know a lovely young girl (friend of my AP) who has been in a horrible situation with three kids, single mom with EXTREME career-driven-ness. The Mom has gotten to the point where she lives in a different part of the state most of the week with the AP and a nanny and school watching the kids 24 hrs a day during the week. In my honest assessment, AP has been THRILLED about this because she doesn’t have to deal with HM at all, she isn’t working over her 45, she gets her weekends free and WHEN HM asks her to go over (she sometimes asks her to watch them for a full weekend if she needs to travel) she compensates her VERY nicely. If AP doesn’t want the money/work, HM offers it to the nanny. But, now that the year is coming to the close, AP is starting to claim she is being abused/overworked. I get it that the HM doesn’t give an inch when it’s not in her favor, but it hardly seems fair to willingly do something, accept compensation for it and then turn around and tattle tale when you aren’t happy that you can’t get an extra weekend off to travel. And after having been the victim of AP complaints that were not even close to fully truthful with AP1, I know better than to take the AP or the HF story at face value without hearing the other side.

CA Host Mom March 22, 2013 at 1:21 pm

I totally agree with you, HRHM. I constantly hear negative (they rarely want to talk about the positive) feedback from our APs friends about their host families. Out of 6 friends, only 1 ever has anything nice to say about her family. Some of it I can tell is exaggerated just based on listening to the APs talk. But I have then had follow up conversations with either a new AP, LCC, or (rarely) the other HF and learn later that the story I was told was incredibly one-sided and very exaggerated … or often times – a flat out lie! The sad part of that is, I tend to discredit any AP who launches into a “whine session” about their HF, because I have seen it so often be a complete misrepresentation of the situation. If it seems that they really need guidance, I try to provide advice or suggestions. But I usually just smile and nod, because it really is frustrating.

To tie this back into the original question, I would love to be able to know that our future APs were mature enough to not engage in the ridiculous slander that I so often see/hear – but that’s a hard thing to screen for, and they are often influenced by the other APs that they hang out with.

Au pair candidate March 21, 2013 at 8:28 pm

I want to be an au pair because I want to live abroad. I have no family but my cat, and I would like to take her with me to live with my host family. She is an elderly cat, she is healthy and wellbehaved, she doesn’t scratch furniture and I would keep her in my room 24/7, the kids won’t even see her, and I would be responsable for all her expenses as I am now. So do you think that under these conditions the host family would let me bring my cat with me? Would you accept me as an au pair with my cat?

Taking a Computer Lunch March 22, 2013 at 6:57 am

First of all, where do you want to be an AP? Are you talking within the EU or do you intend to head to the United States? My guess is that insisting on bringing a cat into a HF’s household would be a deal-breaker. For example, we don’t even permit our AP’s to bring our cats into her room (we want one area of the house to be as free of cat hair as possible). I wouldn’t want an AP to keep a pet contained in that small area. I know that it can be very hard to be separated from a beloved pet for a year – I went through that as a young adult and I’ve watched my APs go through it as well.

HRHM March 22, 2013 at 10:22 am

If I did not already have pets, then there is no way that I would take a pet in the bargain with an AP. Most people without pets are that way for a reason (allergies, hate the dirt, don’t like animals, can’t have them in the apartment). If I did have cats, I’d be concerned about if they would all get along, is your cat going to scratch, pee, destroy my house; what if your old cat gets sick, how are you going to afford veterinary care (VERY expensive in the US). Also be aware that if you are coming into the US, there are rules about importing animals from overseas, some by the government, others by the airlines themselves. They may need extensive vet care before and quarantine when they get here (Hawaii). You would need to be able to pay for all of that.

WestMom March 22, 2013 at 12:06 pm

That would be a deal-breaker for us, definitely.

Host Mom in the City March 22, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Definite deal-breaker for us, but I won’t go so far as to say you’d be unable to find a family willing to take your cat in too (particularly if you are an outstanding candidate otherwise). That said, I would suggest looking into the laws for the country to which you are planning to go – they may not even let you bring an animal or make you and your cat jump through all kinds of hoops to let her come too. I would also be curious about whether a US agency would allow this.

CA Host Mom March 22, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Unfortunately, that would also be a deal breaker for us – though I have nothing against cats. I just wouldn’t be willing to take the risk that the cat would end up damaging our home, presenting a distraction, etc. I would also be uncomfortable with the thought of your cat being locked up in your room 24/7. You might find a family who would be willing, but I think insisting on it would significantly limit your options.

Momma Gadget March 22, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Even though we are animal lovers and have a mini zoo of pets ourselves- this would be a major deal breaker for us to even be asked this. With pets, regardless of how well behaved, there are always surprises, especially when you consider travel and bringing them into an entirely new environment. It is an imposition to bring your pet (however beloved) to someones home (IMHO)
To be blunt- It would lead me to question the maturity of the candidate and her/his readiness to handle the requirements/stresses of the AP program.

Anonomomma March 22, 2013 at 3:20 pm

And what about when one of the children unintentionally hurt said feline, i.e. trying to pet it but hurts it and feline (not a lover of cats!) scratches child. No fault to said feline especially if cat is old, and not used to children and is suddenly getting pulled this way and that, i.e. let’s play with kitty….great fun for HM and HD

Au pair candidate March 23, 2013 at 3:02 am

Anonomomma, first of all I wouldn’t want the kids to interact with my cat, second what about when one of the kids get into my room or grab my purse and ruin my? Not under my watch but sometimes HM and HD are home alone with the kids and one of them decide that AP make up and cloth the correct toy to play with, and dear HM and HD just let it happens. Then when you arrived home after your day of you can see your ruin Mac brush and HM and HD just tell you how kids are kids and you should make a fuss about it. What if the beloved family pet (like a hamster) bites me while I have to feed him? Great fun for poor AP right? I think if you ask your AP to deal with family pets you can also expect some AP to ask you to deal with her pets (quid pro quo). A friend of mine was an AP in UK and the host family just bought a Golden Retriver 4 months after she started working for them. No, they didn’t tell her that they were planning to get a dog, it was a surprise Christmas present that the dad decide to make and for me that is simply rude. She then expended 8 months cleaning the mess that this dog made (pee and poo in the kitchen floor, eating out of the trash, stealing toys from the baby and just being a playfull dog, which is charming but it wasn’t what she sing for). HM and HD pull this sort of shenanigans all the time, they are not honest about the hours that you are supposed to work, about the room that they provide, etc. Some of the HM and HD even complain that the AP just do her tasks and nothing else, well that is what we are supposed to do, we are not maids, we are not 24 hour nannies, we are a cheap solution because you can’t afford a nanny or a maid so don’t pretend to get the same service. If the au pair doesn’t want to do all the laundry guess what? Under contract she just have to do the kids’ laundry and her own, if she helps out with your laundry too that is just out of kindness. No, we don’t have to clean the entire house, and we don’t do your bed, and we don’t cook for you when you arrived late, so stop treating APs unfairly and maybe you will get good AP. Yeah, there are really bad Aps but there are good AP who get treated really unfairly because HF just look at them as slaves. Just and input about the AP point of view, there are great HFs but some are just jerks who wants a house slave. Sorry for being a little bit aggressive but HMs just complains about everything and I have never read in this forum a HM who would admit something wrong that HF did to the AP.

Momma Gadget March 23, 2013 at 8:31 am

Wow! You sound a tad angry about things that have never happened to you personally. I’m sorry that no one told you what you wanted to hear about taking your cat with you as an AP.

There are many good HFs & APs, many bad matches, and a few HFs & APs that have no business being in the program at all.

People on this forum read/post here with the genuine interest of having better HF/AP experiences. Of course posts are always tilted towards the authors view- but I have not seen the malicious “bashing” that happens other places on the net.

HFs & APs are human and the both make mistakes. People in general make a lot of mistakes when it comes to responsibilities and assumptions about getting and taking care of pets.

Given the replys to your query, maybe it would be a good time to do a little soul and consider if this is the right time to try to be an au pair.

Emerald City HM March 23, 2013 at 9:10 am

At first when I read th post about bringing your car, I was thinking it might actually be something we minght consider. We recently lost both of our cats to old age and would like to get cats again, but don’t have the time to make sure new cats are littler box trained with two very small children.

for the record, we teach our girls not to go in the au pairs room, this is not only for her privacy, but also for their safety. If one o our girls were to ruin something of the au pairs’ we would replace it. Would you be absolutely wiling to replace the carpet and floorboards if your cat ruined those in the host families home? Because I can tell you we have absolutely had do do that with our cats, through no fault of theirs, they ended up with some medical issues.

Given your anger in your response and pre conceived biases of the program I wonder why you want to even be an au pair?

WestMom March 24, 2013 at 7:39 pm

I think most parents on this board will confirm that our children are NOT allowed in the AP room unless invited. It’s in our guide, and I am sure it’s in many other family’s.

Host Mom in the City March 25, 2013 at 8:44 am

Yep, we have a specific section of our guide that says “we will not enter your room without your prior permission.” Kids are under strict instruction not to go in or even knock unless it’s truly an emergency. The few times they’ve been invited in, they’ve been very hesitant, looking back at me like “are you sure this is ok???” because they know it’s not allowed.

I would suggest that if you are an au pair whose kids barge in your private space, that you are well within your rights to speak to your host parents about it (respectfully of course). If you don’t get traction or you get attitude about it, I would speak with your LCC.

Host Mom in the City March 25, 2013 at 10:37 am

aupaircandidate – responses to your post:

Question: What happens when one of the kids get into my room or grab my purse?
Answer: The child is told (or hopefully, reminded) that they are not allowed in the au pairs room and they are not to touch her stuff. Additionally, if they cause any damage to the au pair’s belongings, the host parents pay for it (or the kid if he or she is old enough). If this happens repeatedly, the au pair is well within her rights to speak with her host parents about this problem and/or her LCC.

Q: What happens if the family pet bites the au pair?
A: The host parents react as they would if their pet bit anyone – with horror, and with follow up of medical care if necessary.

Q: If you ask your au pair to deal with family pets, you can also expect some au pair to ask you to deal with her pets?
A: Well some of us don’t actually think you should be asking au pairs to walk the dog, but there are other families that do this as long as it has been 100% ok-ed by the au pair before their arrival. But I think others have pointed out the issues with introducing an outside animal into the house, particularly one that already has animals. There’s more to this issue than “quid pro quo.” However, just like host parents are free to ask au pairs if they would be willing to help care for the dog; au pairs are free to ask host parents the same question – and both sides get to say no.

Q: Should a host family get a large dog as a surprise and not clear it with the au pair and then expect the au pair to clean up after the dog for the rest of her time?
A: Obviously not. If this happens to an au pair, I would suggest they talk to the host parents and/or to the LCC.

Question (or rather, statement): HM and HD pull this sort of shenanigans all the time – they are not honest about the hours that you are supposed to work, about the room they provide, etc.
Answer: I 100% agree that this kind of stuff happens. It is imperative that au pairs fully screen their host families too. And if something comes up during the year that you feel is outside what you agreed to, then please speak to your host family about it. But know that there are many sides to any story and I would hope that au pairs would approach the family respectfully and fully listen to the reasons the host parent is giving for the change or the job requirement or whatever. Host parents will try to do the same if an au pair is doing something they don’t agree with. But please don’t suggest that we all “pull these shenanigans” all the time, as if we live to figure out sneaky ways to take advantage of au pairs.

Statement: Some of the HM and HD even complain that the AP just do her tasks and nothing else, well that is what we are supposed to do, we are not maids, we are not 24 hour nannies, we are a cheap solution because you can’t afford a nanny or a maid so don’t pretend to get the same service.
A: When you are reading about host parents complaining that au pairs are doing just their tasks and nothing else, what you are mostly seeing is au pairs that do the bare minimum childcare and nothing else – so, they keep the kids safe, but don’t plan activities or engage the kids at all. Or they do their childcare duties, but don’t realize that helping out with taking out the trash or cleaning a shared bathroom once in a while isn’t “beyond their duties” but rather part of the deal of living with someone. It’s not a free year where you don’t have to do a single chore in the house in which you live. Again, I 100% agree that there are host parents that take advantage of this – I’ve counseled one girl myself who I feel was being taken advantage of. But I don’t see those kinds of circumstances on this board typically. And once and for all, it is not always cheaper to have an au pair (it’s not for us, for example). And even when it is monetarily cheaper, it requires tons more time than a nanny AND you have the “inconvenience” of giving up a room in your house and taking on an additional person living with you. It is entirely different experience than having a nanny.

Statement: If the au pair doesn’t want to do all the laundry guess what? Under contract she just have to do the kids’ laundry and her own, if she helps out with your laundry too that is just out of kindness.
Answer: Yep, I think that’s what we’ve all been saying. Glad you’re in agreement.

Statement: No, we don’t have to clean the entire house, and we don’t do your bed, and we don’t cook for you when you arrived late.
Answer: Yep, agreed. Has anyone posted that they expect their au pair to cook for the host parents routinely, make the host parents bed, or clean the entire house? But also – I cook for my au pair every single night. Oh my gosh, if I once came home late and she had cooked me dinner, I would be so appreciative. Would I require it? No, of course not. But how lovely to be in a family where we all do things for each other sometimes.

Question: I have never read in this forum a HM who would admit something wrong that HF did to the AP.
Answer: Most of us are on here obsessively making sure we’re doing things right and being considerate of our au pairs. If you see an instance otherwise, you usually see the “regulars” setting them straight.

Au pair candidate March 23, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Sorry to sound angry, but a good friend of mine experienced the crapiest time being an AP in the UK, she was treated really badly and the HF even charged her for phone calls she didn’t make (someone called to Spain and she wasn’t even from there, but they blame her anyway). She even took care of the baby at night because HM and HD didn’t bother to wake up if he cried because they had an AP. Being an AP is great if both parties compromise to act ok in the relationship. Yeah, I bet you get a lot of bratty teens who wants to do nothing and get paid, but there is also a lot of HF who wants house slaves because they are providing food and a room.

WestMom March 24, 2013 at 7:45 pm

Keep in mind that there is always another side to the story. Yes, there are some bad families out there, but I think AP candidates should be just as rigorous in the interview process as HFs are, to make sure they find the situation that is right for them. I also want to mention that if my AP had calls to Spain on the phone I pay for, I would expect her to be responsible for paying, regardless who made the calls (or if she really thinks it’s a mistake- to take it with the phone company herself). She is responsible for the phone, period.

anonamomma March 24, 2013 at 7:50 am

Au Pair Candidate,

I am not going to deal with what may or may not have happened to a friend of yours – in my experience there are always two sides to every story.

But just to go back to your statement that you wouldn’t want the children to interact with your cat – let me just be sure that I am getting this right…. you want to take your cat to somebody’s home – and not let the children have anything to do with said cat, which will be wandering around said home, etc, etc, making its own little messes along the way (hey it’s what cats do) and you expect everyone to leave the cat alone,

Seriously between this well thought out plan (not) and you’re little rant above – you should really reconsider applying to be an au pair – you’re not even in a family, you have no idea of how the dynamic works and you’re already feeling entitled to a home for a pet (without sharing).

Dream on….

Gianna March 24, 2013 at 1:49 pm

You also say that the cat is elderly and that is one reason that it is so hard to goodbye to him/her. I am a cat person and I can tell you that even when an elderly pet dies a peaceful , painful death because it is time , it is very difficult to say goodbye. It is hard for the children and hard for adults. I still feel sad when I come home and our beloved cat is not there to greet me at the door. How would illness and possible loss of your beloved pet affect your ability to work especially when you are far from home and family members. Maybe the poster who asked if this is the right time in your life to be an aupair has a good point.

Gianna March 24, 2013 at 1:50 pm

I meant to say peaceful, painless death

Catarina - Au Pair Candidate March 28, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Hello, I’m so glad that Au Pair Mom made this post because I’m a new applicant e sometimes I get lost while I’m filling my application.
We try to be perfect to the host family and maybe we make some mistakes.
Thanks to the mothers that commented, now I’m a little more confident of having a match (I am afraid of not having one).

One more question, do you feel uncomfortable when the Au Pair make a lot of questions? I say this, because I’m very curious, but I don’t wanna bother.

Thank you again.

JJ Host Mom March 28, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Depends on the type of questions. If they’re all about when the au pair can go on vacation and what kinds of “perks” she’ll have, that’s a definite deal-breaker. If the questions are about the kids, or au pair responsibilities, or how the au pair will fit in with the family, then the more questions the better.

Busy Mom March 29, 2013 at 9:24 am

I agree with JJ Host Mom – ask lots of questions about kids, responsibilities, etc! While I agree that asking about car, vacations is probably not a good idea in the first conversation, I would advise you not match until you have a complete understanding of how these will work. You don’t want to be surprised when you arrive because you thought you would have use of a car on weekends and now don’t and are stuck in the suburbs with no way to see other au pairs. Instead of asking “Will I have a car on weekends?,” ask about public transportation, location of education options, and – if those topics don’t elicit information about car use – “What rules do you have about cars?”

If a family finds your questions annoying then you probably don’t want to match with them. Our current AP was told by another potential host family that she asked too many questions, but I felt that her questions were perfectly appropriate. Needless to say, she chose us!

Host Mom in the City March 29, 2013 at 10:52 am

I agree the more questions the better, with a few qualifications. We interviewed a few au pairs and they literally had nothing to ask us, they just wanted to match – made me realize that they didn’t really have the maturity to know what they were signing up for, they just knew they wanted to start. Definitely, definitely put some thought into what kind of family you want to be in and figure out a few questions to help figure out if the family you are interviewing will be a match.

Because honestly you don’t want to match no matter the cost – you want to match with the right family, and there is so much variation. Just because you aren’t a good match for a particularly family, it doesn’t mean you won’t be a perfect match for someone else.

Now that said, I had two au pairs who sent me a list of like 50 questions after my initial contact with a request to “please email me the answers to these questions.” There is zero chance that I’m going to spend hours typing up answers to questions for an au pair that I haven’t even spoken to you yet. It was particularly irritating because I’d already spent hours preparing our family application and had already answered probably 3/4 of their questions already if they had just read my application.

I think it is a bit of a dance in the beginning – know that host families are probably interviewing a handful (or more) au pairs at a time (just like au pairs should be interviewing a handful or more host families at the same time!), so everyone needs to be respectful of what’s appropriate at what time. Your first contact is probably not the time to ask 50 questions. The first conversation is going to be just feeling each other out. Once you’ve both decided to continue talking, the second, third, or fourth conversations can be opportunities for additional questions so that you get the full package deal before making your final decision.

But I tell you what I like even better – an au pair who knows herself well enough to put what she wants in her application and letter, so I don’t even need to ask a bunch of questions. I try to do that with my family letter and application too. I put stuff on there like when we’ll have a car available, how we do vacations, how we approach having visitors and friends over, etc. It’s all the stuff I know au pairs care about (and honestly, I agree that they should care about that kind of stuff – it’s where you’re going to be living for an entire year!) but if they asked me right off the bat if they’ll have 100% use of a car as if that’s the most important thing, that’s a turn-off. But I just put it in the application to begin with, I save them the trouble of having to awkwardly ask.

CA Host Mom March 29, 2013 at 12:16 pm

I agree with HMitC and couldn’t have said it better. More than anything, take the time to really think about what you hope to get out of your AP year, be realistic, dig into details about what the job is really like (not just what you have been told by the agency) and get a good understanding of what will be expected of you. In my observation, APs who have taken the time to really look for the right family have been the happiest ones and have had incredible AP experiences. And the right family probably won’t be the one in the *best* location, or with the *best* house or the least rules … the best family will be the one that, after much thought and consideration, looks like they will be most compatible with your personality and lifestyle.
And I will echo the comments other HMs have left here saying that those that take little time to ask questions and just want to match right away are the ones I move past immediately. Good luck, Catarina!

Taking a Computer Lunch March 29, 2013 at 1:28 pm

I know that all HP don’t do this, but we give out the email address not only for our most recent AP, but a couple of previous ones as well (since I’ve been hosting for 13 years now, it doesn’t make sense to provide contact for all APs – the kids and our needs have changed enormously in that time.

We do this, so AP candidates have the opportunity to ask the questions that might not go over well with HP (hours, schedule, car access), but also so that they can learn that that the job can be done, that it’s not horrible, and what we are like as a HF.

Obviously, as a HF with a special needs child who needs a lot of physical care, we feel that AP candidates need reassurance from APs who have lived with us that they not only survived, but had a great year.

While, other HF might be put off by 50 questions, I’d welcome them as long as they showed that the candidate had read our application carefully and thoughtfully. If I saw questions that had been answered by our application, then I might think she had created a standard list of questions and was handing them out to every family without customizing them.

Host Mom in the City March 29, 2013 at 1:43 pm

TaCL – I agree, I’d be happy to answer as many questions as necessary if they are good questions that aren’t basic repeats of what is already in my application AND we’re at the point where we’re getting serious about a candidate. It’s sort of like dating – you wouldn’t be peppering your date with a million questions on a first date – you’re feeling out whether you’d like to go on a second or third date, which is where more of the intimate time-consuming questions might be more appropriate.

With regards to the two au pairs that sent me the list of questions, they were a bulleted list of questions from the very basic “what will my schedule be?” and “how old are your kids?” (already answered in my application) to “will I have a car for my personal use?” and “can I have friends over?” (already answered in my application) to “what are you looking for in an au pair?” and “why do you want an au pair?” (good questions that I’m happy to explore more beyond the application, but again, already answered in my application!).

They were obviously sending these lists to anyone who contacted them and it would have taken me hours to type them up and respond. Honestly (I’m a little embarassed to admit this!), I didn’t even respond past that, and usually I respond to each and every candidate personnally.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 30, 2013 at 11:30 am

We all have AP candidates to whom we did not respond and feel a little twinge of guilt. I think the appropriate way to answer AP candidates who clearly haven’t taken time to read the application, is to say, “I’m sorry, most of the questions you sent could have been answered by reading my application and email. I’m passing on your application. I wish you good luck in finding a match with another host family.”

PA AP Mom March 29, 2013 at 10:39 am

On the first meeting by Skype or phone call, I like an AP to ask questions about the area we live in, about the kids, about the schedule, about what we eat, etc.

On subsequent calls, I like to hash out the details about vacations, car usage, detailed schedules, etc.

I think when an AP asks a lot of questions, it shows that she is genuinely interested. I also ASK a lot of questions.

Dorsi March 30, 2013 at 12:22 pm

It really surprises me how most APs don’t know anything about the area where we live (one of the top 10 metro areas in the US) when we email or Skype. I feel like if they are interested in our family, they should google the name of the city and learn a little bit about the area — the weather, etc. Their happiness over the course of the year will depend a lot on location, just as it does with family size, schedule, etc. Candidates rarely seem to take this into account in a serious way (other than wanting CA or NY).

Catarina - Au Pair Candidate March 31, 2013 at 9:26 pm

Uau, I’m surprised and very happy with the amount of re-posts.
I’ve been thinking about making a list of questions, but as Host Mom in the City said, I believe the family aplications will respond the most and as no family is equal, It would be kind of ‘robotic’. So, I decided to wait until a family get interested on my profile, read very carefully the aplication and make more relevant questions. Thank you CA host Mom and if you are looking for a au pair, good luck too! =)

Au Pair Australia April 29, 2013 at 3:08 am

When I interview my future au pair, I always test her about her flexibility, for a busy and working mum, is so important that our au pair is someone flexible, and adapts well to a new life, new house rules and new meals

Should be working November 20, 2013 at 11:03 am

My newest criterion: willing to look silly and not beautiful in a photo. These young people are, with Facebook practice, web content specialists. Most of the application photos are so perfect and beautiful. I want an AP who can make a fool of herself a little bit. Show me a beach pic that doesn’t look like an ad. Don’t just smile into the camera, be engrossed in making a kid laugh.

–written from matching trenches

Momma Gadget November 20, 2013 at 11:14 am

Love it!
One of the my favorite au pair photos showed the au pair dangling a little boy by the ankles over his shoulder while both he and child were laughing, and looking at each other adoringly
.. sadly he had visa issues.

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