Each matching cycle, au pair host families get more and more information about au pair candidates to use when we’re making decisions.
Where once we had blurry photocopies of handwritten applications sent through the mail (yes, really!), we now have digital files, translated reference letters, online photo collages, au pair application videos, facebook searches, instant messaging, nearly free long distance conversations, and perhaps best of all — real time, “face to face” video chats.
You’d think that all of these different media for communicating with au pairs would make our choices easier, right?
But sometimes we get what feels like ‘conflicting’ information, where the impressions that we’ve formed of an au pair thought one communication channel get upended by a new kind of information.
We’ve been surprised particularly by videos, where an applicant who seems level-headed and mature surprises us with a video filled with disco music and animated cat cartoons.
Which of our impressions, from which medium, should carry the most weight in our decisions?
This is an issue for Natalie, a host mom who wrote …
I have been a host mom for few years now in rematch and just interviewed a potential new candidate out of country.
We spoke via skype and via phone and at both times I couldn’t see her. I liked her and so did my husband, we think she is a good candidate – not perfect but pretty good and we were ready to match.
However when I saw her today on skype I didn’t have the same feeling and I know it’s because of her looks, just something about her smile that bothered me.
I am confused now: scared to match, scared not to match.
I never give weight to looks so I am not sure what to make of this? Anyone had similar experience?
While I believe that videos, photos, and letters all offer important avenues into the character of an au pair, what matters most to me are the conversations. If I can’t have a comfortable, relaxed conversation with a candidate after my first or second interaction with her/him, it makes me wonder whether I’ll ever be able to have the kind of conversations that I’ll need to — about safety, family priorities, family values, and children’s personalities — that are important to a successful relationship. And, if an aupair can’t talk comfortably with me and my spouse, s/he’ll have trouble sharing concerns, asking for help, and fitting comfortably into our family community.
Even though language fluency has a significant effect on the quality of conversation, I still think we can feel our ways around an language hurdle to know whether there is a possible friendly connection, or not. So, in most cases, I’d say — go with your feelings from the conversation.
At the same time, I’m worried about what might happen if Natalie matched with this candidate, even when Natalie felt bothered by ‘the optics’. Her feeling bothered may end up creating an awkwardness that really shouldn’t be there.
We believe that we can “know” what’s “true” about whether a candidate will work in our family, but too often what we “know” is significantly (and unconsiously) influenced by the vibes we send back out. So, if you have a candidate that seems right but doesn’t feel right, you may keep sending back to him or her the vibe that you don’t quite like them. They, in turn, might respond through insecurity rather than confidence.
And viola, you’re tirggering a negative reinforcing loop. Not good.
What questions, concerns and advice do you all have?
- Would you respond to this negative, even if you think it might be superficial, and move on to another candidate?
- Or, would you hope to reconnect with the parts of her you liked, maybe with one more phone call?