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Recruiting a slightly older au pair

(10 Posts)
Gusthetheatrecat Wed 07-Jan-15 23:00:19

Our current au pair is leaving in early March (noooooooooo!) so I am looking at getting a replacement. Am going through the same agency as we used last time.

I had lots of really good advice on here about recruiting, including the idea of recruiting someone slightly older who has lived away from home before. The idea here being someone who is a little bit independent, not so likely to be homesick, not entirely bemused by the idea of a little light housework.

Looking through CVs from the agency, and I am finding myself asking questions about these early 20s au pair candidates, and I realise my basic problem is I don't really know why some of them want to be au pairs. Apart from one where I can clearly see her English is not good at all, so I can see the benefit for her.... Am I being too suspicious?! One of the candidates in particular sounds amazing: fluent English, great skills, obviously really bright and ambitious. If I was her I would never apply to be an au pair, I would just apply for a proper job! Am I overthinking it by fearing she wants to come to London, find her way round, then get a job which will pay her much more money?
(Incidentally, after taking the mumsnet advice on this very seriously, our current au pair is only 19 and had never been away from home before, but has been lovely, but there you go.)
Very grateful for anyone's experience or thoughts.

Delphine31 Wed 07-Jan-15 23:10:44

I was an older au pair at the age of 27. I did it because I was at a stage in my job where I wanted a change of scenery and my employer allowed me a sabbatical year. I'd always fancied living in France and an au pair job was advertised that took my fancy.

So there was no ulterior motive on my part (apart from the prospect of meeting a French Monsieur Right who owned a chateau by the sea - sadly didn't happen).

I gather I had a bit more to offer than previous, younger au pairs as I was confident at cooking and other domestic things which only really come with having lived independently.

The job I took was particularly demanding (50 hour weeks, four children and a never-ending list of tasks). I know the 18 year old me wouldn't have coped. However I'm sure you will not be working your au pair like that so that's probably irrelevant!

wewishyou Thu 08-Jan-15 10:03:11

50 hours a week is definitely not an aupair job wink, no matter her age

andagain Thu 08-Jan-15 12:18:43


We always look for older au pairs (as in 24 +) due to driving insurance costs.

What I found is that, yes they may have another motive, as in stay here and get a job eventually, but they do have to find their way around and get some experience of how things work here generally and also work experience if they are to stay in childcare and that takes time. We never had a situation where they left earlier so I wouldn't worry about it too much.

With our last one I kind of knew very early on she would never go back to the small place she came from once she experienced London as she fully embraced all that London could offer. But she still stayed with us for two years (instead of the agreed one), ended up with fantastic references from us, got a good job and comes and sees us often as she lives in the same part of London. Win win for all really.

I would probe with questions and then make it clear that you are happy (if you are) to help them out with finding another job and staying here, once they have stayed with you for as long as you agree (assuming all working well for everyone).

Gusthetheatrecat Thu 08-Jan-15 13:25:54

Hmmmm - very interesting answers, thank you. I have been pondering some more, and I suppose moving to London, especially when housing is so expensive, is an enormous step. So I can understand that if I were in my mid 20s and liked children, au pairing would be a nice way in.
I will Skype with this amazing candidate, and with a couple of others, and probe them a bit on what they are looking for!

OVienna Fri 09-Jan-15 12:54:08

So I would share your concerns about older candidates. School leavers with a clear sense of direction have worked best for us; one of our best APs was 17 when we offered and 18 when she arrived but the oldest of several children who was used to helping her mum. Worst has been 20+ with experience living out and supposedly looking after herself. Her way of doing things might be fine when it's just herself she needs to think of; having lived away from home is absolutely no indicator of whether an AP is more domestic in a way that woudl suit living with a family. The only reason I would hesitate to go back to school leavers is that one of my DCs is nearing secondary school age and a young AP may not have the same credibility an older person might have but in reality I think we can find someone suitable and I expect I'll revert to that model.

Soexcitedforthisyear Sat 10-Jan-15 16:27:30

We had au-pairs for many years and I only considered those in their early to mid twenties. We always had Eastern European girls who wanted to come here as a first step to staying in the UK permanently. This worked out well as they were a bit more mature, generally more confident in doing things and were happy to find their own social life. I also felt less responsible for actually looking after them and knowing what they were up to as they were adults who were used to being more independent.

littleladyluna Sat 10-Jan-15 20:37:15

I was a 26 year old au pair in Belgium (although it was a school age children nanny job really) - I was with them for two years. I was sick of working in an office with no view to progress. I was contemplating a career change, wanted to improve my French, and wanted to do some distance learning with a view to doing a distance degree in the long term. I was committed, proactive, and able to cook for a vegetarian and a dairy free diet (I absolutely couldn't cook at 18).

I'm now a career nanny in London, finishing off my degree smile

Thereshallbeaspirin Sun 11-Jan-15 07:49:27

Had about a dozen au pairs over last 12 years, all but one in md-20's.
Most Europeans don't finish uni till about 23/24 and then plenty of them still don't have a clue what they want to do so take a year out. Others suddenly realise that for the good graduate jobs they need to to be absolutely faultless with English, rather than just 'ok-ish', so they take a year out to polish it properly, and I understand that in spain a few years back they started insisting new teachers speak a certain level of English which flooded the market with very highly qualified young teachers.

My very best au pairs were all bumbling about with little direction after finishing/dropping out of uni. One went on to became cabin crew, two used their improved English to get good graduate jobs back home, and one is now a proper nanny. Our last one thought she wanted to be a police officer back home but wasn't sure and was a bit scared of making such a career commitment, so took a year out to think about it and get herself into top notch fitness at the same time. She's back home now and just passed all the police selection tests.

The real key to getting good people at this age is to be very clear about salary, job description and expectations. The best ones we had all came to us knowing we would treat them well but allow them to be very independent and give them plenty of (clearly visible) free time to themselves. We found that the younger people just wanted to get away from home life or try something new and they didn't really care about duties/hours, but the older the candidate the more mature/professional they are in making sure expectations are matched on both sides, and it is far more of an equal relationship.

littleladyluna Sun 11-Jan-15 09:55:08

thereshallbeaspirin I think your last paragraph was absolutely spot on. I was weighing things up very carefully, and needed to know exactly what my duties were in order to know how much free time I had to pursue the other things that were important to me.

When I was working I was focused, when I was free I concentrated on improving myself.

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