Interview an Au Pair – Part 3

We continue our 3 part series on Au Pair’s for childcare.

Before you start interviewing au pair’s, write down the must-have qualities and nice-to-have qualities that you are looking for.

Your search criteria will be dependent on how many children you have and their ages. My criteria for one 5 year old is not the same as someone with a 10 year old, 7 year old and 3 year old.

For example, my must have’s are:

  • Has childcare experience with my age of child
  • Good driver
  • Has worked a full-time job. Doesn’t have to be a full-time childcare job although that is a nice-to-have, but I prefer someone who knows what it’s like to work 40+ hours a week.
  • Over 21

While another host family’s must have’s are:

  • Has childcare experience with their age of children (they have 2; ages 10 and 4)
  • Doesn’t need to be a driver as they live in New York City where public transportation is plentiful
  • Speaks Spanish
  • Practices the same religion as the host family
  • No dietary restrictions

Also, your search criteria will change over time. At least mine have. Each time we are ready for interviewing a new au pair our family needs have shifted a little, especially now that my child is older and in school.

Out of country

Available Au Pairs are located either inside or outside of the U.S.
Out of country Au Pairs are still in their home country. They are pre-screened and most are ready to match immediately.
These Au Pairs do not have their J-1 visas and are only available for year-long placements. Because out of country Au Pairs do not have their visas their timeline to start is typically longer than in country Au Pairs.

In country

In country Au Pairs are currently in the U.S. living with a Host Family and are looking for a new family.
There are two types of In Country Au Pairs:
  • Rematch Au Pairs. These Au Pairs are ending their current placement early and are typically available to start with a new family in two weeks or less.
  • Extension transfer Au Pairs. Extension transfer Au Pairs are completing their first year and wish to transfer to a new family for another placement. Extension transfer Au Pairs are typically available to start with a new family in two months or less and are available for placements lasting 12, 9 or 6 months.

Rematch Au Pairs

Our second au pair was in a rematch due to no fault of her own, her host parents were getting a divorce and were leaving the program.  However, au pairs may be in rematch for other reasons.

In rematch situations, there are usually two sides to the story.  The information that we get from the Agency will likely gloss over some issues. The information we get from the Host Family — if we’re able to connect with them — can range from “accurate” to “as kind as possible but vague” to “no wonder the Au Pair left!”

And from the Au Pairs themselves, just be aware that Au Pairs in rematch are under pressure to rematch within two weeks, so they are motivated to present themselves well.

Another positive is that rematch au pair interviews are in many ways much easier than overseas interviews. Logistically you have time zones and better English skills on your side. More importantly, the Au Pair knows what the job is about, and they have gotten over the hurdles of culture shock and they have a track record. They know what they are getting into now, and by rematching they are really committing to being here for the remaining part of their year.

For families looking for that perfect Au Pair fit, don’t be too quick to push aside the transfer or transition Au Pair pool; sometimes a mismatch is just that – not a match, but they may be the perfect match for you.

Timeline

The arrival timeline for out of country Au Pairs varies depending on the following factors:

  • Host Family speed of completing profile
  • Host Family speed of reviewing and interviewing candidates
  • Host Family speed of selecting candidate
  • Host Family and Au Pair speed of submitting final paperwork
  • Au Pair speed of scheduling embassy appointment and visa interview
  • Flight availability from Au Pairs country to your local airport
  • Au Pair attendance of the mandatory training

There is a time factor involved in bringing Au Pairs into the country. For families if you want a ‘brand spanking’ new Au Pair, who can stay a year and do a one year one-up, then you should get started on the paperwork now because the visa process can take awhile. The most variable factor affecting the timeline is the embassy appointment and visa interview.

Transfer or transition au pairs don’t take as long because they’re already here.

Interview

When you find someone to interview, you will request to interview. You will get their contact information and schedule a time to Skype.

Have your interview questions ready. Your agency will be able to provide you with a list of sample questions. I Skype’d at least twice with the au pairs that I was interested in. Usually I knew pretty much right away they were not a good fit. If they weren’t, I would finish the interview, but I would cancel the interview process soon after, and move on to the next. I would also communicate to the candidate that I’m no longer interested in interviewing just so I didn’t leave them hanging.

We are a great family but we’re not perfect. I’m honest when answering their questions. For example, I don’t cook. So I let them know I am not going to be cooking family dinners every night so they know not to expect it. I do tell them that the kitchen is theirs to use and that I hope that they will share with us their favorite dishes. Also, in the past I have not been good about writing down the au pair’s schedule. But now that our family schedule is electronic and accessible on all our phones, I have been told that I have much improved in this area by our current au pair!

Speaking of, I always share the schedule. Most ask for a typical schedule but not always. Every family has different schedules so it’s good to make sure that this is clearly explained so they can make an informed decision.

When I think they are promising, I let them interview with our current au pair. If this is your first au pair then you will not have that luxury but for our family, it’s important for our current au pair to be a part of the process. They are very protective of my daughter and they appreciate sharing their opinion, and I appreciate a peer perspective. Also, it’s nice for the au pair candidate to be able to ask questions of our current au pair.

For a month off and on, I did nothing on my lunch hour but read au pair profiles. I was able to contact potential au pairs when it worked for me, and could speak to as many as three au pairs at one time. This way I was less stressed about running out of time. Yes, this was a much more time consuming way to do it, and might not work for everyone, but it fit my style. I liked how I felt much more in control of the matching process.

Ready to match

If we are close to matching, I let them meet my child over Skype. You can learn a lot about an au pair’s personality through this exchange.

Be aware that if you are really interested in an au pair, another family may be too, so just make sure you talk about it with the candidate. I liked that the au pair we ended up matched with was also being interviewed at that time by a few other families. I didn’t feel like she was picking us because she was “afraid she would not get a family.” She was able to make an informed decision.

I want candidates to choose our family as much as we choose them. I don’t think it’s healthy for candidates to feel like they are beholden to whatever family picks them or to not have the opportunity to interview around themselves.

Trust your gut

Remember, you are interviewing someone to take care of your children, live with you in your home, and become a part of your family, so don’t short change this part of the process. It is very easy to just want to give in, interview and just hire the first one because they seem nice. I don’t recommend doing that.

On the flip side, if the candidate is perfect on paper but you have a nagging feeling that they are just not the one for your family then please, trust your instincts!

Before matching with our next au pair that arrives soon, I interviewed about 10 candidates, and a couple of them were very promising but for some reason or another while I could not find fault, I just had a gut feeling I needed to keep looking. Once I found the one we ended up matching with, I knew exactly what I was looking for so it made my decision easy.

I hope you have enjoyed this series on au pair’s. If there’s any part of the process that you would like more information on, please leave me a comment.

Does your family have an au pair? What have your experiences been?

For more, check out the first post on Choosing an Au Pair. Also, check out the second post on Finding an Au Pair Agency.

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