When a candidate is presented to you, you will receive a long (could be 20+ pages) au pair write-up. It generally includes a detailed listing of their childcare experience, personal qualities (like dietary restrictions, pet preferences, smoking, hobbies, etc.) a letter to family, personal photos and a few references. Families should pay particular attention to the au pair’s essay to understand why the au pair wants to come to Australia. It is important to also look at the photos (does the au pair smile, have children in the photos?), and most importantly, go over the childcare experiences and references. Did the au pair work 8-10 hour days? How many total hours of experience do they have?
Prepare for Challenging Communication
Make initial contact via email if an email address is provided. Most au pairs are on email and checking it frequently. This is a good way to let them know that you are interested in talking with them. It also helps families avoid the language barrier or poor telephone systems of other countries.
When emailing, be certain to specify that you are a host family from Australia, tell them where you are from and let them know you are interested in scheduling a time to talk. It is also recommended that you attach a copy of your host family application. To be safe, it is always wise to provide more information.
Once you schedule a time to talk with an au pair, get prepared for the conversation. Really! You may only
have one chance to talk on the phone. Phone conversations are often challenging due to poor reception, conflicting time zones and broken English. So, use your time wisely.
TIP: Once you receive a candidate’s application, act quickly if you like her. (Within 48 hours). Some au pairs tend to feel allegiance to the first family that contacts them so send her an email early. Also, it is a good sign if an au pair is on email. This means they will be able to stay in close contact with their family!
The Phone Interview with the Au pair –
Make Good Use of Your Time
• First prepare. Again, be very clear about what information you are
trying to find out. Go back to the criteria that your family developed and craft interview questions that directly address the areas that are
important to you. Remember to stick to open ended questions. (yes or no questions do not reveal anything about the candidate)
• Re-read the au pair’s application. Are there any open questions? Can she effectively write in English? What did her references say? Read her essay. What does she say about children? Does she seem to be a logical thinker? Does she address her experience? Then, re look at the au pair’s photos. Pictures tell so much about the person. Did she seem happy ?
• Consider sending questions in advance over email. This approach has many advantages. First, it forces you to develop questions and it also forces to au pair to give you answers. It also allows you to evaluate such things as English skills, organization and follow-up. Then, when you are on the phone, you can dig deeper into the topics
discussed over email. Families should always probe about: her experience living on their own, driving, weather, overall childcare experience, and boyfriends.
• Lastly, when on the phone, listen for red flags. Is she constantly talking about her boyfriend or fiance? Is she only talking about herself and asking NO questions about your family? Is she an effective communicator? Is she asking very materialistic questions such as what brand car do I get to drive? How big is my room?
You Love an Au pair and Now You Want to Match!
This part is easy—simply invite the au pair to come live with your family. Ask if they are talking with any other families and give them a deadline for their decisions. Some girls can be very indecisive so establishing a time frame is very important. Once you both decide it is a “match”, notify the agency and they will begin the visa process.
TIP: Once you match, you will typically wait 6-8 weeks for an au pairs arrival. So, make a concerted effort to stay connected to your au pair during this time. Send her photos, ask her questions, send her tips, etc. Remember, she is very anxious and this is a great opportunity to build a relationship with her before she even arrives!
Take the Time to Prepare for Your Au pair’s Arrival
Preparing for an au pairs arrival is a critical first step in building a strong working relationship. Remember, how you treat your au pair when they arrive will establish her overall impression of your family.
• First things first–document all of your expectations. Write everything down on paper! Most au pairs are very literal, so if the family writes everything down, you have documented proof of what your expectations are for a strong year. It is suggested that the family provide its au pair with a packet of information including: work schedule and house guidelines (intentionally not called rules) and emergency contact numbers.
• Next, get the au pair’s room ready. Be certain to have a bed (twins are typically a bummer), linens, a dresser, closet, table lamp, dressing mirror, a few empty frames, laundry basket, drapes/blinds and a study area. It is a bonus to have a TV and DVD player as well. (Note: If you include those in the room, the au pair will likely not come into the common space as much)
• Now, visit the local chamber of commerce & DMV. Pick up brochures of local attractions, train schedules, rules of the road and local area maps. These are nice to include in the au pair’s welcome kit.
• Start talking with your children about the au pair’s arrival. Reference her name, show them pictures, let them see her room, etc. Get the family adjusted to the concept of live-in childcare.
• Consider a small welcome gift. To welcome the au pair, some families buy fruit baskets, popcorn tins or cookie bouquets. It is recommended that the family consider buying a small gift and having it set up in the au pair’s room when she arrives. Perhaps a photo album, scrapbook, city guide, gift basket with toiletries, or a calling card. Think practical.