Your Family’s Au Pair Selection Process: Previous Au Pairs as References

by cv harquail on May 20, 2011


Do you offer your former au pairs as references to prospective Au Pairs?

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  • What has it been like for you to know that your former au pairs are discussing your family with prospective new aupairs?
  • How has this worked out for you?
  • Do you recommend this step in the Selection ProcessĀ  to other host families?


Should be working May 20, 2011 at 9:28 am

Our first au pair ended in rematch. Our second one was mostly good, but I don’t entirely trust how she would present us to an AP candidate. She might emphasize the wrong kinds of positives–like how we were financially very generous to her (which might not happen with the new AP), and she would also likely mention how we didn’t really enforce the curfew (which is only because she proved reliable, again not necessarily the case with a new AP); and also I think she would be terribly jealous of a new AP (she said she would be, in fact), which could produce a bad vibe in the interaction with the AP candidate.

So I decided that the benefits of using her as a reference (positive view of us; realistic depiction of our lives) are things I can pretty much try to give in the interview process. And we live in one of those desirable locations, so I’m actually not worried about being attractive enough to candidates.

German Au-Pair May 20, 2011 at 10:20 am

But what would you do if a candidate specifically *asked* you if she could contact your former au pair?
Actually I don’t know any au pair interviewed by a hostfamily who has already had previous au pairs who didn’t aks to speak with them.
I do get your reasons behind that but to a candidate it might seem a little suspicious if a hostfamily refused to let her speak to not just *one* specific au pair they didn’t like but to another one /all of them.
It’s actually adviced to the au pairs to ask to be able to speak with the former or current au pair.

This is just me asking out of curiosity how you would handle that, because I do get why you wouldn’t want your au pairs to speak to the new one.

Should be working May 20, 2011 at 11:29 am

I’ve never had an AP candidate ask to speak to a former AP, but as I say, we’re only on our third, and our first two were coming out of rematch and were eager to get a match as quickly as possible. I suppose if an AP candidate requested it, I’d give her the contact info for the most recent, mostly successful AP. And I would definitely ask the most recent AP not to focus on the way rules got relaxed, but rather to try and remember what it was like when she first arrived.

If our next AP turns out well (arriving in August, we’re using babysitters now), then I would consider having her communicate with future candidates.

Indi Au Pair to be May 20, 2011 at 10:40 am

Maybe an option would be talking beforehand with your current Au Pair about the topics you DON’T want to be disscussed with the potential Au Pair. That of course if you consider you have a good relationship with her.

Welcoming host mom June 16, 2011 at 2:13 am

I not only gave a previous aupair as a reference; I actually had their periods overlap so that the old one could train and help make the transition smooth for the new au pair. I also thought the previous au pair PAP would give the new au pair NAP s realistic view of our family. I’m sure it works for some but for us,it was a disaster! The PAP kept up with us and communicated with us after she left. We thought all was well. She sent messages about how she missed us etc. We later found out that it the PAP told the NAP nasty and untrue things about our family, biased her and coached her; encouraging her to leave! The NAP transitioned to a new family within months. We were nice to the NAP till the moment she left. However, her last few days with us, she did things that led us to believe that she is definitely a self-centered ‘nicer’ lying chameleon! We have vowed never to let new au pairs have contact with prior ones. We were shocked at the evil two-sided nature of the PAP. Both au pairs are from the same Western European country. We dont know if there are cultural components to the behavior we experienced. Since we are not mind-readers, we cannot trust that this will not happen again… we learned the hard way that an au pair may seem nice and integrated and still resent your family; meaning they will not be a good reference!……Just my two cents worth :)

Taking a Computer Lunch May 20, 2011 at 10:45 am

Personally, I think communicating with former APs is essential. We do the dare to match with us approach and The Camel weeds out the good-time gals. However, those candidates ready for the challenge absolutely need to communicate with our current AP to see that it can be done. If that’s not enough we can give contact info for other APs, but our life does change as the kids age.

And it’s true, that we offset the hard work for caring for an adolescent in diapers who needs complete care with a lot of freedom: almost unlimited access to our second car, no curfew, and invitations to join us on vacation. We’re also a family that likes a sit-down dinner, even if it’s a little rushed at times. But no one is going to match with us for the perks – they’re going to match because our current AP is going to tell them that The Camel is a challenge, but one that they met with success.

CO Host Mom May 20, 2011 at 10:59 am

I highly recommend it. We’re currently interviewing for #4 – two superb au pairs and one rematch. My strategy is to send out a short email first, then a longer one if I receive a positive response, then I schedule a Skype interview.

If the first Skype interview goes well, I give them the email addresses of the two good au pairs. I then use that as a chance to explain why we rematched with our French au pair – she took our car without asking more than once, stayed out all night and wasn’t home in the morning, lied to us about where she was, and was sleeping during the day when she was supposed to be watching the 4 year old. This way, potential au pairs know (1) what we won’t tolerate; and (2) why they aren’t getting her email address.

Having candidates talk to our current and previous au pairs is priceless. It is always fascinating to see what some candidates will ask and say to them versus me.

NJMom May 20, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Yes! This is so true. We thought we had a good AP candidate once based on emails and an initial interview of her on the phone. However, based on the questions she asked my current AP on the phone I discovered all kinds of things about her real focus for her year. She only asked questions regarding shopping (how close is the mall?) car usage (will I get my own? I need my own car) and discos (is there one in your “village!”). It was astounding to me that she didn’t think the AP would tell me this. When I rejected her application the counselor at the agency told me I was being unfair to hold this against her. Come on!

WestMom May 20, 2011 at 1:16 pm

I use interviews with our past Au Pairs as an extension of *our* interview. I happen to trust their judgement, and I would want to know if they think a candidate is a good fit. I also want to hear what type of questions candidates ask our Au Pairs… (Do they ask about the children? Are they too focused on material benefits? etc.). Of course, if I ever doubted the judgement of a past Au Pair, I would likely not ask her to help us screen.

MommyMia May 20, 2011 at 1:16 pm

I have similar experience and opinion as CO Host Mom. When candidates have asked, I have given them the “good” previous APs’ contact info., as well as exchange students we’ve had with whom we’re still in touch, so they can ask questions of what our family is like, but we always remind them that “their mileage may vary” and even tell them upfront that a lot of perks and privileges have been earned, not just given right off the bat, as our poorer APs were the ones who felt entitled to everything and pushed our buttons from the get-go. We simply say that we’re not still in touch, or don’t hear from so & so very often, and that we don’t feel she’d be the best person to ask, as the mutual experience just wasn’t ideal for either of us. Enough said!

CrunchyMom May 20, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Nope. AP1 was dull and unsocial — I didn’t want that type of AP again. She was great with our baby and truly loved her, but outside of work was difficult to be around. I wasn’t so worried about how she would represent us as much as I worried that she might turn good candidates off. Also, I had no interest in her feedback about the process — I do not think we would have agreed on candidates. AP2 was sharp, witty, and super lazy about her job and her life outside of work. I was worried that she would tell candidates that “you don’t have to do much with the kids, you can just sit there while they play.” We made some serious changes in AP management between 2 and 3.

AP3 is lovely and works hard. I might include her in the selection process for AP4 (thankfully months away at this point). AP2 and AP3 never asked about their predecessors, at least during the match process. AP2 did friend AP1 on facebook after the match, so I don’t know if they shared stories or not. We changed agencies after AP2, so there was no way for AP2 to know who AP3 was. (Au Pair Care has a function on their website where APs can see the others that live close to them, including pending arrivals. Through that, AP1 was able to find AP2. )

AliMom May 20, 2011 at 5:16 pm

I have involved my current au pair fairly extensively in our next match. I asked her to stress the downsides as well as the good sides of being with our family. I really trust her judgement and all the girls we talked to “friended” her on facebook (which I don’t use) which gave her another insight into their friends etc. As mentioned above the candidates were suprisingly very open with the questions they asked her (some did not ask at all about the children but a lot about the social life!). Of course her opinion was only one factor and I did notice she had a bias towards candidates from her own home country.

If it was my daughter moving across the world to live with another family I would absolutely want her to speak to the current au pair so I will always offer the option.

sleepytime May 31, 2011 at 3:14 pm

I will offer both of our former au pairs for contact, since I think it would be a red flag to any prospecitve au pair if we didn’t.
Our first au pair was working illegally at a restaurant, was caught by our LCC and kicked out from the program- but it turns out she had applied for an F1 visa during her 6 months with us, it came through 2 weeks after she was bounced and she stayed in the U.S. I doubt she’d answer an email, but she probably is indifferent about our family.
Our second au pair got along with us well. She decided to extend with us, didn’t tell us she was 18 weeks pregnant at extension, got bounced from the program and then didn’t show up for the flight home. So now she is illegal in the U.S. and living with the family we used to employ for family day care. I’ve never been officially told that’s where she is, and I’m fighting every urge to drop by, “accidentally” know she’s there, and tell her what I really think about this. Basically, i’m hoping she’ll still answer emails for reference stuff and I know that if I see her it’ll be really hard not tell her what I really think.
I’m looking forward to the next au pair experience with trepidation, but these are my references!

Taking a Computer Lunch May 31, 2011 at 8:50 pm

I used to offer up all the previous APs, but now that I’ve been hosting for over 10 years, what APs #1-3 did have little bearing on what AP #7 will do and how my kids will relate to her. What I am going to build in to the duties for AP #7 that I didn’t do for #5 & 6 is some one-on-one time with my typically developing child, so that he doesn’t think APs are just for The Camel (which they basically are). I’m also going to make it more clear that I’m the enforcer and what he needs in them is a friend.

Carlos May 31, 2011 at 10:18 pm

What’s The Camel?

Welcoming host mom June 16, 2011 at 2:25 am

BTW, we involved the PAP in our interview and selection process. The NAP later informed us that during the interview process, she was very positive but once she was ready to leave she filled her up with negativity, fear, etc. The end result was the NAP couldn’t trust us or our intentions at any ppoint and overeacted a lot based on the expectations she formed as a result of the negativity from the outgoing au pair. We have decided not to ever again involve an outgoing au pair in the interview process for her replacement. I think a part of her didn’t want to leave and she was jealous of the new au pair. The other problem was that the PAP told the new one about how we took her on vacation, etc because she did an awesome job. When we didnt take the NAP on vacation with us, she interpreted it to mean we didnt like her!

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