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Experienced au pair employers - do you look for a particular 'profile'

(48 Posts)
LittleNelle Wed 30-Mar-16 10:28:14

I have recently joined Aupair World to look for an au pair for an August start and am overwhelmed with responses already. How do you whittle them down?

I have one friend who has used an au pair and her suggestions have been to look for someone who:
- grew up with a working mum
- has plans after au pairing (improving English for a job or university)
- is young
- is sociable and likes sports so will want to go out in the evenings, join a gym, go and play squash etc

Is there anything else I should be looking for? At the moment my criteria on Aupair World are just 18-25, speaks English, from EU/Australia/NZ/Canada but there are thousands of them!

NewYearSameMe Wed 30-Mar-16 16:51:45

The numbers on Au Pair World can be overwhelming, so I sympathise. One of the times that I was recruiting I had my profile up for 27 hours and I had something like 300 applications, at one point they were coming in faster than I could read through them, it has calmed down a bit in the last couple of years though. I have several must-have criteria and then have a load of nice-to-have things for shortening my long list. Some of the things are specific to us, e.g. my DC are very high energy so need a high energy au pair, someone whose hobby is reading and going to the cinema probably wouldn't be a good fit.

They must
be at least 25, or will turn 25 within a couple of months of joining us, this is for car insurance reasons
be an EU citizen
have an EU driving license
be a non-smoker
be able to swim (because we have a holiday house beside a lake)
be sporty, and have worked with children preferably in a sport related capacity, as a coach or in a summer camp for instance
have lived by themselves or in a house share, not have only ever lived in the family home
have achieved something that needs a bit of focus, so they are not too much of an aimless drifter, doesn't matter what it is academic qualifications, a sporting achievement or something else (current au pair was Spanish champion in his sport and has a masters degree)
be a native speaker of a foreign language, and have a reason for wanting to improve their English
be relaxed and adaptable, and have a sense of humour (that's hard to judge on the application but often comes through if they get to the Skype interview stage)

I slightly prefer
people who have not been an au pair before
Spaniards (but only because all of our au pairs have been Spanish so that's what I'm used to, I have short-listed other nationalities)
people who are a bit quirky or have an unusual interest
people who can cook

Because of the numbers I usually give a closing date on my profile. I say that I will reply immediately to those who don't suit our family, but if they don't hear from me it's because they are on my long list and I will get in contact after the closing date.

Karoleann Thu 31-Mar-16 08:23:08

We state over 22, who has been driving for at least 3 years (for car insurance purposes).
Isn't obese
Has a degree
Speaks at least upper intermediate English (we find that their English improves the quickest if they are at this level)
Mention that they really like children in their profile!
Doesn't mention their parents or boyfriend in their profile.
Doesn't put want they don't like doing on their profile.
Has lived independently before (this may be specific to us though, as our au pairs live in a separate flat to us and we like them to be fairly independent to us).
Be a non-smoker.
Interested in working with children the age of my children.

I don't think any of our au pairs have had parents who worked when they were young children.

LittleNelle Thu 31-Mar-16 11:57:19

I have had one whose profile states she has babysit for 4 other families but 3 times it didn't work out and was a 'bad experience' shock

Karoleann - can I ask about why you prefer them not to mention a parent or boyfriend? I have had lots of applications from 18 and 19 year olds who write a lot about their family.

I'm not sure about the best age to go for - my friend has had more success with younger girls, says they're happier to be part of your family and do things your way whereas older ones are more set in their ways. We also live in a small town so I'm worried about a 25 year old being bored. However we do need some 10 hour days.

LittleNelle Thu 31-Mar-16 11:58:42

I don't drive (though I am learning!) so I'm not sure about the car insurance thing - we probably could lend them a little Peugeot 206. How much more expensive is car insurance if they are younger?

NewYearSameMe Thu 31-Mar-16 12:16:17

I'm in Ireland where car insurance is higher than the UK anyway, and basically it's just not worth it for anyone under 25. I have an open drive policy on one car, which means that anyone over 25 who has held an EU license for at least 3 years has comprehensive cover driving the car. My current au pair is a named driver, but if we changed au pair part way through the policy year it wouldn't be an urgent thing to get them named on it as it doesn't make a difference to the cover.

LittleNelle Thu 31-Mar-16 12:46:04

OK, thanks. Not sure how important the car is really, she wouldn't need to drive the kids anywhere, it would be more for getting to other places in her free time. There are buses to the next nearest big town with a train station (35 minutes by bus compared to 25 minutes driving) and to the next nearest city (70 minutes by bus compared to 45 minutes driving).

Karoleann Thu 31-Mar-16 12:48:44

littlenelle - if they do have a boyfriend back home it makes it much harder for them to settle in, a relationship is unlikely to last the 12 months of an au pair placement too, so having to deal with the breakup, or an au pair leaving early isn't the best either.
We like independent au pairs, so someone who is very close to their family is unlikely to fit into our way of doing things and is likely to be more homesick too.
However, it depends on what sort of placement you're offering, if you're happy to be a substitute mum, then someone who is very close to their family might work for you. I would still avoid those with a boyfriend at home though.

We have a VW golf and we cannot get any car insurance with our policy if they are under 22. If you want a driver they need to be over this age. Some specialist insures will insure EU drivers who are under 22, but its likely to run into the 1000's.

Rhythmisadancer Thu 31-Mar-16 13:06:40

I reject anyone who fails to mention that they love children in their profile - which eliminates a surprising number! We also have pets, so I look for whether that say they love animals too, and that gets it down to a manageable number. I look to see if their photos show them with children and animals, rather than larking about with their friends. Then I look for 22-25, and people who say they are sporty. Not because I am, but because it means they will be up and active with the kids, and hopefully still be happy to take the dog out in winter. I also have to ask them if they appreciate that dogs have to be cleared up after (bleurgghh) and make it clear that this will be gross but necessary!
Previously it hasn't mattered, but next year I will looking at what they say can cook, as I will be getting home later, and the last couple have had very limited cooking skills. Our au pair this year had very basic English to start with, and she has worked very hard to improve. If I'm honest though it would have made my life easier if she had had better language skills to start with, as most of the others have, so I might be a bit more picky about that too next time - it seems a bit mean though as mostly they are coming to the uk to improve their English!

LittleNelle Thu 31-Mar-16 13:16:21

I am fairly happy to be a substitute mum, though I would also like it if they have hobbies that take them out sometimes (like swimming or sports). I seem to see lots either looking for a gap year after high school, or a gap year during/after university who want to improve their English. My parents are retired and live locally so will also be available for support when the au pair does a long day (eg. she can go there for lunch with the 3yo) so maybe it doesn't matter if they are young.

As for cooking - I'd be happy with someone who can reheat/put fish fingers in/boil pasta and stir some pesto through it - do you think I need to be specific about cooking skills or would you expect all of them to be able to manage at least that?

Pengillygirl Thu 31-Mar-16 15:26:10

19+, oldest in a sibling group (never youngest) , with plans and enthusiasm about moving abroad. Ideally have lived away from home or travelled without parents before. We like our girls to be a bit quirky and must be able to speak up for themselves in the interview and feel like they are gelling with us. Being just nice is not good enough. We have had amazing girls who have become like daughters to us.

Pengillygirl Thu 31-Mar-16 15:32:24

And check food habits. We couldnt cope with fussy eaters or strict vegetarians so tend to ask early on, and prefer girls who say they eat everything and like cooking.

LittleNelle Thu 31-Mar-16 15:35:13

Thank you Pengilly

NewYearSameMe Thu 31-Mar-16 16:25:41

One of the things that I ask at the interview stage is how their health is, if they have any recurring respiratory issues then I know from experience that the damp Irish climate will probably make them quite ill. And I am cautious about those who are currently living in a hot, dry climate like the Canaries for the same reason. All of my au pairs find they catch more viruses in the cold dampness of late winter and early spring, but the poor guy who came from a dry climate (Madrid) was persistently very ill and miserable.

IME they all say that they eat everything and that they can cook, some of them are being economical with the truth so it's usually worth asking them what sort of things they regularly cook for themselves. A vague 'Spanish omelette and other Spanish dishes' usually means just Spanish omelette. If they immediately list off several dishes without need to think about it and the dishes are varied in ingredients then that is a good indicator that they will genuinely eat most things.

Once I have my shortlist down to about 10-15, I Skype interview the most promising 4 or 5. I let the DC sit in for part of the interview and they can ask questions (usually what football team they like and whether they like dogs). If the interviewee can engage with them over the internet then it's a good sign that they will be able to interact in person too. Plus my DC are ... um ... quite rambunctious, if the prospective au pair looks a bit appalled and overwhelmed at how loud and jumpy they are then it won't work. The best au pairs we've had are the ones who laughed and thought the DC were hilarious and bonkers.

LittleNelle Thu 31-Mar-16 19:38:34

When do you start looking? How long does the whole recruitment process take?

Salmiak Thu 31-Mar-16 20:30:26

My criteria are now

Must have excellent English (ie they are coming to polish up their fluency rather than being intermediate speakers)

Must have siblings a lot younger than them (I have a toddler so someone used to witnessing the occasional tantrum, general little person craziness works best in our family)

If I'm inundated with profiles I simply delete all the ones without personal messages to me - the ones who explain why they think our family is a great fit for them and show enthusiasm towards the children go to the top of the pile.

Really question them on why they want to come to the UK - If it's because they've recently been dumped by their boyfriend and they want to run away from their normal life then avoid <bitter experience of hosting a morose, sulky, heartbroken person>

Think about what type of person you'd like to live with - are you a loud, boisterous family or would someone quieter suit you better, are your dc sporty, musical, arty - find one with common interests.

compostheap Sun 03-Apr-16 00:27:51

Looking on here for tips, as our latest au pair has recently announced that she needs to go home earlier than planned, and so I'm looking again. BUT my main question is about the number of applicants people get - I think we've got 4-5 most, each time (and 2 so far this time, one of whom has just informed me that another family has less children and will offer more money, so I'm feeling a bit worried about the whole thing.....).
We have 4 DC (only 3 to look after though, as youngest at nursery) and live in a small town in the NE. Is this why, or is something up with my profile??

LittleNelle Sun 03-Apr-16 00:41:50

I think most of them want to look after 1 or 2 kids and be in or close to London.

Pengillygirl Sun 03-Apr-16 08:21:52

Ive just started recruiting again, and there are very few applicants in my chosen criteria at the moment, I am waiting until after Easter until I get serious. Most school leavers will be applying to uni in the next 2 weeks in Europe, and after that I assume alot of them will be planning their gap years.

Yes most girls think they want to be in central London, but there are some lovely families outside and we sell ourselves and our area heavily in our advert. We also have many more than 1 child, but they are of course super cute and all go to school/nursery so we promote the ample time off bit too. Many girls want to look after a cute baby, so promoting the cuteness is a good thing too.
But at the end of the day, to recruit successfully you need to find a good match to your family, in the real life interview/skype/facetime, do you laugh? do you gel? do the kids get attention? do you find you have mutual interessts? The applicant is going to become your close friend for the next year, and if there is no click to start with you might not have the right person for you. Thats my therory at least and I have never had a bad one yet! (luckily!!!)

Pengillygirl Sun 03-Apr-16 08:24:45

another good tip is to ask current ap if you can include a photo of her and the kids in your advert, you want a smiling happy ''look at my current aupair having a right laugh with my lovely children, she is having such a fab time in our family'' kind of photo. it instills confidence in the applicant that you are genuine and that the ap will have a good year in your family.

Pengillygirl Sun 03-Apr-16 08:26:59

recruitment process is usually about 6 weeks if you find the right person, but could be longer if you are picky like me and want to get it just right.
Sameyear up thread gives very good advice.

Sistersweet Sun 03-Apr-16 09:01:03

I like girls who are between 22-25 who have lived away from home. They need to have a reasonable level of English, I've had a beginner before and although by the time she left her English was excellent it was too hard in the beginning. I also like it if they already have friends close to us and again, no boyfriends if possible.

I am very clear in my adverts that the role includes about 6 a week of cleaning and ironing, including bathrooms and that there will generally be Saturday night babysitting so obviously I only take girls who are interested in this.

I like to Skype them and for them to ask to see the children and ones who ask loads of questions to the children and about the children.

I admit to a preference for Romanian girls. They tend to want to aupair with a view to settling in the UK permanently and often already have friends and family here plus there's the familiarity of Romanian shops and churches which limits the homesickness plus I've found they like to stay longer, my last two stayed 2 years and 3 years and both are still in the uk in good jobs.

rubyslippers Sun 03-Apr-16 09:11:33

Whoever you recruit it is critical to lay out your expectations and pocket moment from the start

We have a lengthy agreement which has been refined over time (we're on au pair 4) because the detail means the au pair understands clearly what is expected of them

It sounds nit picky but it works - we always send to our shortlisted candidates so they know everything in advance

Older candidates definitely better

Don't discount men

If you're in the UK I don't think you can get Australian/American au pairs anymore so do check

EU Is fine as au pair works as a cultural/language exchange

OVienna Sun 03-Apr-16 10:44:18

We used to go for ex arbitur German girls looking for a gap year prior to university. But now that one of my dcs is entering secondary school herself we want someone older. So it's kind of new territory for us. All of ours have stayed for the full year but the ones that have presented the most challenges to manage were the only child who also had no babysitting experience (still don't know how we did that but she was a friend of that year's au pair and also came for a trial weekend) and another who hung out with us to gone midnight every night, night after night, was constantly on her phone, just thought she knew best overall and that dh and I were peers. She sort of became a house guest in some respects. There's always some little thing to deal with in the year, no perfect person. Try to be as specific as you can in the recruiting though do if you do have to speak to them you've already made your expectations clear.

OVienna Sun 03-Apr-16 10:48:52

We've ruled out candidates with too good English because in our case I think they could get bored. I had one candidate talking about another part time job which we don't want , for various reasons. I don't think you can always predict though who might use you as a 'launch pad' so to speak and not stay as long as they've agreed. But I do want to feel that the candidate will 'get' something out of the year and if this is language fluency that's ideal and probably easiest to help facilitate.

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