Ok, so you’ve thought about it and you feel you may be at the point where you want to start the process of looking for an Au Pair. This is the crucial bit–don’t be too desperate to find someone, make sure you wait for the right person.
In my mind there are no rules in hiring Au Pairs, just be thorough in your questions, be clear in what you are looking for and use a huge serve of gut feeling! If there are any hesitations– ABORT MISSION– and do not offer the job. Those hesitations will turn into real problems down the track.
I say there are no rules in hiring Au Pairs because I truly believe it is a case-by-case basis. One of my best Au Pairs, (however all have been fantastic), was our wonderful Canadian Au Pair, named Tara, who assisted me during the majority of the time when my mother was dying.
She was 18-years-old and looked like a 14-year-old, weighing only 45kg and standing only 155cm tall. She had on her application only 2 things. That she had a very
When I asked for a reference, she said to me honestly, “I can get you a reference but just so you know the cleaning business is owned by my parents”, this made me laugh! After we spoke a bit further, I found out she was an identical twin and that her twin sister had a baby, James, when she was 15 years old. Tara had intrinsically helped care for her nephew in their family home. It was clear she adored her nephew–it radiated so strongly when communicating with her.
She was hired.
Tara became devoted to my 5-month-old baby and she was a delight with the other children. She worked so unbelievably hard and was able to take direction and multi-task like a mother of 12 children! Tara navigated this, all through such a difficult work environment, watching me care for and watch my own mother die.
It is not lost on me that this would have been an enormous emotional toll on such a young person and her maturity was unbelievable. We will be “family” for life.
Choose well –so much effort goes into the hire, that once an Au Pair has started, you have a vested interest to make sure it works out.
It is very important before you start your search, that you and your partner know what it is you are looking for, what that looks like to you both and what the deal breakers are.
It is crucial that you can paint a verbal picture to a potential Au Pair so that they are able to envisage what it will be like to work for your family, so they can make a genuinely informed decision as to whether your position is for them.
Be very specific in the duties and tasks you require from the outset and set out your expectations, in terms of disciplining the children and household help.
It is becoming very normal these days for Host Families to hire their Au Pairs outside of Au Pair Agencies, from places such as Gumtree and from Facebook, such as “Au Pairs in Australia and New Zealand” and “Au Pair Community and Brisbane and Queensland” (there would be equivalent groups for other cities).
I found Au Pairs by posting Ads on these websites, but also by keeping an eye on these sites and getting in contact with Au Pairs seeking work.
In terms of timings, I have secured Au Pairs within six days, but it has also taken a month-or-so other times.
Before I get too involved with an interview process, I do significant searches on Instagram and Facebook to try and see the potential Au Pairs profiles. Using their names and city of origin works a trick and has helped me dodge what would have been some real problem situations.
One potential Au Pair from a city in
However, after finding her Facebook page, I immediately knew she would not be for us. Photo after photo was images of partying, tequila shots and drunken nudity…this is not what I needed in my home. Too risky.
Once you have started communicating with a potential Au Pair it is so important to ask a lot of questions and provide him/her with a lot of detail. Below is by no means an exhaustive list, but remember you will be living with them, so it is so important that they know the role requirements with as much detail as you can give them, help them visualise the dynamics of your home and give them an insight into your personality.
If an Au Pair comes into your home with a very realistic idea of what it will be like, you will minimise the chance of things not working out. Paint a very positive picture and highlight to them what a fabulous family you are–remember you are competing against other Host Families, especially for the good ones! And vice versa, if you know what makes a happy work environment for your Au Pair, then once again it will minimise the risk of the hire not working out.
Give them an idea of how your home works and how the children
Try and work out whether their personality would work well under your roof.
More specific the happier everyone is. No grey areas!
Make sure that you give the Au Pair time to think about the role and to come back to you with any questions they have. Encourage them to really think about this, and to make sure they ask any questions about what would make a happy home for them.
Often Au Pairs may not be ready for this, so ask them to think about it and come back to you with some questions. This will also give you an insight into their personality and what is important to them in a living/work arrangement.
If there are any house rules that you have it is very important to communicate that with them.
For me, it was always difficult getting a stranger into my home…albeit that I have had wonderful experiences. That being said, I was not comfortable with Au Pairs giving out our home address to their new-found travel friends nor would I be agreeable to them having friends they had met on their travels to our home. I did not know them, and I would not risk having my children exposed to potential threats.
There were times where family members and close friends visited our Au Pairs and these were obviously times where this rule was relaxed.
Similarly, I had a second car which I was happy for our Au Pairs to use to have adventures in and around where we lived, however as it was on the Au Pair’s downtime, if they had an accident then I required them to cover the vehicle’s accident cover excess and also to
I always made it abundantly clear, that on our other side that they would always be respected. That when they were enjoying their off time, I would make it very clear to the children, that they were not to be disturbed nor would the children or ourselves enter their private space, without permission by them. This was always appreciated by them.
If this is available to you, a phone reference is always best.
Ask all the right questions, what were their responsibilities, did the children respond well to them, did they show love etc. But the one question I like to end on is…“Would you happily recommend your Au Pair work for your sister or other loved ones?”... If there is any pause at all…I would investigate it!
If you find an Au Pair and he/she is the one, act FAST and make sure they know any information which may make you stand out from another Host Family who might be wanting to secure them.
Good Au Pairs, especially on Facebook Au Pair websites, tend to be snapped up very quickly.
Perhaps you live close to the city and he/she likes the city lifestyle, perhaps you are happy for them to get a
This piece is blog 2 of a 3 part series. In the next blog, Vanessa will take us through 'How to Foster a Successful Working Au Pair Relationship'.
Vanessa Douglas is a stay at home mum with three beautiful children. She and her family live in Brisbane. Before children, Vanessa worked as a lawyer at a top-tier Family Law firm in Brisbane. When she and her husband relocated to London, Vanessa changed career paths and began working in Legal recruitment, specialising in the Corporate and Banking & Finance sector of Private Practice. She was one of the top billing recruiters in the UK during her time with her recruitment firm. She has placed many many successful clients, overseen hundreds of resumes and has a knack for picking the right person for the right job. Her professional experience combined with her practical experience of navigating the world of ‘au pairs’ makes her article a 'must’ read.