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Au Pair recruitment - what's wrong with my emails?

(20 Posts)
FeatheredHeart Wed 29-Jul-09 22:26:31

I've had well over 100 APW applicants in the last month...and as it is all new for us I have changed my recruiting strategy several times. Now I send them a few questions and no additional info to start with. But I've had one reply to those 20 of the latest batch of applications to which i've replied positively in the last couple of days. And that one didn't answer any of the questions! So now I've even started saying the French and Italian candidates can write back in their own language if they wish.

My questions are:

1.Could you please describe any experience you have had with two or three year olds or very young children. Have you bathed them, dressed them, cooked and eaten meals with them, supervised them alone? Who was this for and what were the circumstances?

If you do not have this experience, what makes you think you would be
good at this and enjoy it?

2.Who could provide references / testimonials for you? We would need
two references and would prefer your employer, previous family or
place of voluntary work.

3.What kind of skills or qualities do you think you have that would be
useful as our au pair helping in the house and helping look after

4.Imagine this scenario: You need to get ds1 dressed,ensure his teeth are brushed properly and get him into his carseat so we
can leave. But he is not being co-operative, and I am busy doing
something else. How would you achieve the end result?

Are these questions unrealistic? Are other families less taxing(!) in their recruitment? What am I doing wrong?

limonchik Wed 29-Jul-09 22:31:09

I think the questions are fine, but you say you send no additional info - do you included anything about you and your family? Could the email seem a little cold/unfriendly?

FeatheredHeart Wed 29-Jul-09 22:39:10

There is a short lead in but that is a good point. I used to send a lot of additional info, but then I thought there was too much info, and thought I'd send it after either after we'd had an email response or after the phone interview.

Does anyone not bother with emails and just phone the best ones straight away?

frAKKINPannikin Wed 29-Jul-09 22:41:53

If you have a good deal with free phone calls you could phone them straight away.

Most people e-mail, I think, and provide a lot of information. I'd be put off by a long initial list of questions tbh. Even as a professional nanny I like to be able to have a conversation with the family.

nbee84 Wed 29-Jul-09 22:46:25

I would say that you need to give them an outline of the job, you and your family and the area that you live in. It doesn't need to be in great detail, but I would imagine any au pair would like to know more about the job before they put the time an effort into answering the questions.

catepilarr Wed 29-Jul-09 22:48:06

but aupairs are different - they are often worried about a phone call so email is probably better.

frAKKINPannikin Wed 29-Jul-09 22:50:49

If OP speaks French or Italian then a phone call is possible though, no? And possibly less scary.

The conversation point wasn't solely about phones though - I meant an exchange of ideas/philosophies/information. Personally I don't give out my phone number until I've talked quite a bit beforehand but APs may be different.

Millarkie Wed 29-Jul-09 22:57:38

I do a chatty email giving details about family members, area, typical day in life of au pair, pocket money and perks. I use a cut-and-paste standard email but if I can personalise it a little I will (so if they have mentioned being sporty I will add info about the gym or if they already have english qualifications I acknowledge that when I talk about the local english classes).
Since it's mainly the same email to everyone it takes little effort and hasn't put off my au pairs so far.
Next email I ask questions in, I try to keep my language simple (so that babelfish can cope with it) in my emails.
Any that pass the questions I email regularly until we have offered, had offer accepted and flight booked.
Good luck, it's a tough job finding a good au pair and sooo many candidates/rejections on the way!

Julesnobrain Wed 29-Jul-09 23:33:11

I think you need to talk a little more about your family and what a typical day would be like. We attach a sample schedule. I also think your questions are too long and too detailed for them to answer unless they have near fluent english. Here are our questions which get them to the next round (telephone interview) if I like the answers.
1) Have you been an au pair before. if yes do you have english speaking references?
2) Why do you want to be an au pair in terms of what do you want from the experience.
3) Have you done any child care before and if so what were the children's ages
4) How long are you looking to stay as an au pair
5) Would you want to go to language school
6) Are you in general good health
7) Are there any foods you don't like to eat or can't eat.
8) What is your visa status re the UK

FeatheredHeart Thu 30-Jul-09 10:43:00

Really useful ideas - thank you!

FeatheredHeart Thu 30-Jul-09 10:43:36

Btw, How long does it generally take you to find your au pair?

AtheneNoctua Thu 30-Jul-09 11:29:05

I agree. You need to sell your job to the applicant before you get down to business.

I would also reword some of the questions so they are more open ended. For example, your first question gives so much leading information that the au pair knows what you want to hear. I would just say something like "Desribe your experience with under 5s and include details of your rsponsibilities."

Then, if they don't tell me what I wanted to hear I would reply with something a bit more specific.

I don't ask the more serious questions (like timagine this emergency scenario type) until we have gone back and forth a bit and I've decided I like her.

dreamteamgirl Thu 30-Jul-09 11:37:19

They ARE fairly hard questions arent they?

I like julesnobrain's version of them as they are simplier

"1.Could you please describe any experience you have had with two or three year olds or very young children. Have you bathed them, dressed them, cooked and eaten meals with them, supervised them alone? Who was this for and what were the circumstances?

If you do not have this experience, what makes you think you would be
good at this and enjoy it?"
Could become
' Have you had much experience with children aged 2-3? What sort of things have you done with them?

If you havent had experience, is this the sort of age children you would liek to work with, and do you think you would be good at it?' You cna get onto 'why' later maybe?

DadInsteadofMum Thu 30-Jul-09 12:44:37

I think as a set of questions those are quite tough some of those I would save for the interview, for what it is worth, my questions are:

-can you tell me a little bit more about you experience working and being with children especially in a home setting?
-what do you like most about being with children?
-what do you like least about being with children?
-why should we choose you?
-why did you choose us?
-can you swim?
-have you lived away from home and if not what is the longest you have spent away from home/your family?
-do you cook often for yourself and/or your family?
-what do you want to do with your spare time in the UK?
-what more do you want to ask us?

Any questions avoided (usually the what do you not like being around children one) are pressed for answers on the next set.

I have about a 50% - 70% drop out rate from these questions, so if you sent out 20 sets of questions I would have expected 6 - 10 replies.

FeatheredHeart Thu 30-Jul-09 23:10:37

These are all great tips and great questions - thank you!

I had 4 pretty good replies from the 20 today, and since I agree now the questions are pretty hard esp. if you're not a native speaker, I take that to be either good fortune or just good going

FeatheredHeart Fri 31-Jul-09 13:18:27

DIOM - do you send these as is or do you send extra info (beyond what you put on APW) to sell the job, as Athene says, at the same time?

DadInsteadofMum Fri 31-Jul-09 14:17:02

First email has a brief opening paragraph - Dear x thank you for your interest etc. Then they go as is. And I have learnt never to chase - if they are interested in our family they will reply - if they are not I don't want them.

FeatheredHeart Fri 31-Jul-09 15:16:21

Can I ask what kind of things you save for phone interview?

Our a/p is going tomorrow (huge relief). She was always going to be a 'test' a/p but I really want to get it right next time for everybody's sake.

DadInsteadofMum Fri 31-Jul-09 16:38:20

What would you do in this scenario (selected from whatever recent kids actions have brought currect AP close to murder), tell me about a time when the kids in your care where really annoying you - how did you cope; what do you want from your au pair experience; what are you going to do afterwards how do you think your AP experience will help you?

The main part of the telephone interview is when I let the kids interview them, we usually "prepare" some questions in advance but this is a very useful part as it (a) says can they hold a converasation in English with the kids and (b) are they showing an interest int eh kids asking questions back i.e. can they engage with the kids.

FeatheredHeart Fri 31-Jul-09 17:51:15

Thank you. That's a really good idea (though mine aren't at that stage yet).

Does anyone do a goodbye review sort of thing (what did they like / didn't they like)?

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