The process to match with an Au Pair is quite easy. You choose your agency (or agencies) and make an account with your email address. We used both Au Pair Care and Cultural Care because we had a promotion to join both agencies for free. It takes a bit of time to write about your family and select some photos to include, but once that is complete, it moves swiftly.
You should expect to hear from the agency within a week or two and you should request to set-up your home interview promptly. This will allow the agency to verify your information, your safe and clean home, an appropriate bedroom for the au pair, and to review some of the legality around the program. Your local coordinator will also have advise and tips on the interviewing process, which can be very help! I recommend doing the interview upfront because it will hold you back from being able to “match” with the right au pair until the in-home interview is complete.
You can begin reviewing profiles and ‘favoriting’ au pairs through your online account(s). Once you have a dozen or so, start reaching out to tell them about a bit about your family and ask them a few questions of your own. Save yourself some time and have a genuine but generic email you can copy and paste.
Remember, you are in SELL mode until the deal is sealed! The au pairs (the good ones, at least) get lots of emails and interview requests. In my experience, the individuals with the most experience with children and the most proficient English have the pick of the litter in terms of their host families. Your emails and conversations with them should be your ‘first date’ and ‘job interview’ persona. Be truthful, forthright and transparent, but do not tread lightly on your glowing features (a beautiful family, a wonderful house, walking distance to downtown, in the heart of an amazing city…yada yada yada) and the perks of benefits you will be offering them (a train pass, a car, a cell phone, weekend off, world travel, extra spending money, blah, blah, blah….).
Have a list of questions for your au pair interviews. You’ll most likely utilize Skype to chat with them. Some interviews will last two minutes and other an hour. It will be up to you and your spouse if you both join the calls, or if you do them separately but both parents in the house (if applicable) should virtually meet the candidates. Don’t forget to take notes! You may end up speaking with so many au pairs in a short period of time that you can’t keep it all straight.
The matching game with au pairs is easy – tell them why you love them and why they’d be a perfect match for your family. Request to “match” with them right away, once you are sure. They have 24-72 hours (depending on the program) to accept or decline your offer. You should offer to speak with them via Skype during that time period so that they can ask you an addition questions during their decision process.
Once they accept, do a happy dance! Visas are generally easy for the au pairs to obtain with the help of the agency, and the agency deals with all of their logistics and in-country support (including a few days of training!).
Make time to connect with your local au pair coordinator with suggestion and questions for your au pairs pending arrival. Taking time to put together a family handbook or guide is essential, especially if their verbal language skills need improvement.
The Pros of having an Au Pair
- I love the intimate exposure for our children (and our whole family) to another culture, background, demographic, language…
- Within the rules and regulations, au pairs can suit your schedule much better than any other option (other than a full-time, very flexible and available nanny). They can travel with you, help out on nights or weekends a sitter or nanny might otherwise not be able to…
- They become a part of the family, the bond and engagement between the children and au pair might be stronger than a daycare provider (if it is the right person)
- Affordability. In the Bay Area, an Au Pair is by far the most affordable option out of any (other than a ‘free’ family member!).
The Cons of having an Au Pair
- The process is both easy and hard. I found myself spending hours and hours reviewing profiles, watching videos, sending emails, setting up calls, then sending more emails with more questions, only to find the match after dozens of Skype sessions.
- If it’s the right match, it feels like an awkward waste of time. You are obligated to continue to host the au pair for two weeks while they get rematched. Their rematch process could take days, or the actual full two weeks.
- They live in your house. In your space. They are using your kitchen. Your television. Your car. You either have to have the perfect set-up for it (like an in-law suite, a guest cottage or a big house) or not mind the close company.
- The language and cultural difference can be a huge benefit, a small barrier, or a huge failure.