Now that you’ve thought through your household’s needs and expectations, you may be wondering which things to ask about during your first Au Pair interview.
Living with one person is complex enough. Add in an entire family, cultural differences, and the fact that your Au Pair will also be caring for your children, and it becomes apparent that hosting an Au Pair can present unseen challenges.
Not to worry. As complex as it is, hosting can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. So long as you’re prepared for the complexities of your upcoming relationship, you can have a very simple, smooth transition.
Note: The below sections include sample interview questions that you can customize to fit your own needs. By no means do you need to ask every single question during your first interview; these are just ideas. Each question is also applicable to the Host Family, and it can be useful to convey those answers to your Au Pair.
1. Be Sure to Confirm the Au Pair Understands Child Safety
As a parent, safety is the most important thing to consider. Au Pairs tend to be focused on safety (they care about the kids, too!), but this is still one of the most important things to ask during your first Au Pair interview.
Starting here ensures that, first and foremost, you find candidates who can provide safe childcare. (Remember, Au Pairs are not certified nannies. And some cultures have different ideas of what’s safe and what isn’t).
Au Pairs are also young adults, who typically are not parents yet. It’s likely that they think differently than you do. Pose different scenarios to the Au Pair(s) you interview and see how they would respond.
You’ll want to set safety expectations right from the first interview, to make sure you’re on the same page. It’s also important to delve into the Au Pair’s past experience, so you can understand what decisions they will make in different situations.
Be sure to communicate anything unique about your child that the Au Pair will need to know, safety-wise.
(For example, my eldest son is a wanderer and will leave the house alone if he gets the chance. We have a very loud shop bell on our front door to alert us if he decides to go exploring alone. For this reason, we also ask our Au Pair to wake up before the kids on the days she works. This gives us peace of mind, knowing that on the off-chance that the bell doesn’t go off, she’s already awake and will still hear him).
Sample safety questions to ask during an interview:
You’ll want to consider your family’s needs when determining which questions to ask. But here are some sample questions to help you gauge an Au Pair’s safety awareness (some of these come from our experienced Host Parents!).
(Note: This post gives a lot of sample questions. They’re meant to get you thinking. Don’t feel obligated to use them all during your first interview; doing so could be overwhelming to both you and the applicant).
- Say you take the kids to the park. The toddler has to go potty, but the younger sibling refuses to leave the sandbox. What do you do?
- You’re in a public place and both kids run off in different directions. Neither one listens when you call them to come back. How do you respond?
- The kids are hungry and they want macaroni & cheese. This requires using the stove, and two of the kids want to be held while you cook. What do you do?
- One of the kids has started trying to plug things into the electrical outlets when he thinks we’re not watching. What is your response to this?
- We have a swimming pool in the backyard and the kids love to swim. What would you do if you were inside caring for the baby and heard the kids jump into the pool unattended?
Keep in mind that many Au Pairs will have a different approach than you might, and that’s okay. The key is listening to the Au Pair’s answers and determining their priority in each situation. Can they identify what’s safe and what’s not? Do they have the capacity to react quickly and effectively? How proactive are they in ensuring safety?
When asking interview questions, it’s also important to keep in mind that you want to hear the Au Pair’s approach. Avoid “yes” and “no” questions and take a more open-ended approach. This will help you see how they think.
2. Ask Questions That Help You Determine the Quality of Childcare They’ll Provide
Once you know that an Au Pair applicant can keep your kids safe, you’ll want to know what type of childcare they can provide.
Each family’s idea of quality care is bound to vary some. But most parents can agree that having a childcare provider who’s engaged with the kids is important. Other common considerations include:
- physical activity;
- limiting screen time;
- teaching/ encouraging reading;
- helping with homework;
- assisting with discipline;
- supporting the Host Parents’ parenting style.
These are some of the most important things to ask about during your first Au Pair interview.
Sample questions regarding the quality of care an Au Pair can provide:
- We don’t want our kids to have any screen time while they’re with you. What other activities will you offer to the kids? What would you do if they threw fits over not being able to watch TV/ use their tablets?
- Our eldest hates math and is failing her math class because she doesn’t turn in homework. How will you supervise homework time to make sure it all gets finished?
- It’s really important that our kids get as much exposure to reading as possible. How will you support our efforts in teaching them to read?
- One of our kids has a difficult time sharing. Since he’s a toddler, it’s important for him to learn how to share and express frustration in a healthy way. How would you react if he started taking toys from his siblings/ screaming/ hitting?
- What’s most important to you when it comes to a relationship with the kids you’re tending?
- What activities would you like to do with the kids each day? What would you play? Where would you go?
Now, Au Pairs are not responsible for transforming their Host Kids into perfect angels or A+ students. But they can certainly support your efforts, especially if it’s something that’s important to you.
Review each Au Pair’s childcare experience prior to the interview.
You will also want to gauge the Au Pair’s past childcare experience. Try to gain an understanding of the situations they may have already encountered. Past experience is listed on the Au Pair’s profile (under the Experience & Skills tab):
This information gives you some idea of the Au Pair’s past experience, but it may also raise questions. If this is the case, jot your questions down and be sure to get more information during your first interview.
3. Personality is One of the Most Important Things to Ask About During Your First Au Pair Interview
Personality is one of the most important factors in a successful placement. Thus, it’s also one the most important things to ask about during your first Au Pair interview.
Asking questions about personality helps ensure that you find a good match for your household.
It’s important to understand how your Au Pair will handle uncomfortable situations or conflict. Conflict is a natural part of every relationship, and it’s bound to arise no matter how well you get along.
Think back on past conflicts you’ve experienced. Are there certain personality types which aggravate you? Do you get along better with people who are just like you, or who have a very different personality from yours? What about your spouse or other adults in the home? What about your kids?
It may be impossible to find a “perfect” match, but thinking through these factors ahead of time can help you determine whether there’s a certain personality type you should lean toward.
Personality, conflict resolution, lifestyle, and habits are all important things to ask about during your first Au Pair interview.
Sample questions about personality to ask during the first interview:
- How do you react when you feel uncomfortable in a situation?
- Tell us about a time when you’ve had a conflict in the past. How did you approach it? Was it resolved, and if so, how?
- What do you like to do in your spare time? How often do you intend to go out with friends or travel?
- What kind of relationship do you want to have with us, as a family? The parents? The kids?
- What would you do if we’re too messy for you, or we forget to do the dishes one day? Would it bother you? How would you approach the situation?
It’s important to note here, as with previous topics, there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer. If an Au Pair is introverted and you’re an extrovert, that doesn’t mean you can’t get along in a placement. Rather, it’s something to be aware of so you can think about how those dynamics would play out in your household.
Awareness of likely interactions is a big step in ensuring a successful year. Additionally, if you understand your Au Pair’s personality and why they react the way they do, you’re less likely to be bothered by their actions (and vice versa).
Finally, consider the Au Pair’s home culture. How do people in their culture approach uncomfortable situations or disagreement? What is parenting like in their country?
If you aren’t familiar with their home culture, incorporate this into your interview questions or do some research. You can also reach out to the Au Pair Sis on Facebook or via email if you want to learn more.
4. Find Out the Au Pair’s Motivations for Joining the Program
Motivation is an often-overlooked aspect of a successful placement.
First and foremost, think about your own motivations for becoming a Host Family. Are you looking for more flexible scheduling? Convenience? Someone to assist with chores?
Keep in mind that Au Pairs have limitations imposed by the State Department. They cannot cook or clean for the entire family, but they can perform childcare-related tasks (such as preparing lunches or helping the kids clean up after themselves).
Understanding your own motivations can help you determine how your Au Pair can best support you.
If you need more in-depth housekeeping, or if you need a flexible schedule because you aren’t sure what your work hours might be from week to week, this is a good time to think about scheduling additional help.
Consider whether you should hire a housekeeper once a month. If your work life is demanding, plan for backup childcare in place in case you need more than 45 hours of childcare one week (or more than 10 hours in a day). This helps to ensure you can stay within regulations and don’t place too much of a burden on your Au Pair.
Pro Tip: You’re likely spending less on an Au Pair than you would on traditional daycare. This may give you extra funds to hire help and create a comfortable experience for both you and your Au Pair!
Remember–Au Pairs come here for a cultural exchange program that allows them to have the experience of a lifetime.
Au Pairs are motivated by different factors than Host Families. Typically, Host Families are motivated by the need for childcare and help around the home. In contrast, Au Pairs are looking for an experience of a lifetime.
Even though these motivations are very different, they can complement one another when properly understood.
Understanding your Au Pair’s motivations for joining the program lessens the likelihood of surprises later on. It also helps you prepare to support your Au Pair in attaining his/her goals during the program.
Here are some of the most common motivations for Au Pairs to join the program:
- Love working with children
- Desire to learn about life in the U.S.
- Wants to perfect English
- Personal/ professional development (study abroad, become a self-sufficient adult)
- Opportunity to travel
These motivations are positive contributors to the Au Pair’s time in the program and usually lead to success.
Other, less common motivations include:
- Desire to obtain an F-1 visa in the future, continue studies in the U.S. after program ends
- Wants to become a U.S. citizen one day
- Following significant other who’s studying abroad/ working as an Au Pair
- Escaping personal problems at home
These motivations are sometimes stereotyped as “bad.” However, this isn’t necessarily true. Staying in the U.S. to study can be very beneficial, and often means families are better able to keep in touch with their Au Pair once the program ends.
It’s okay (and normal!) for Au Pairs to date. Understanding your Au Pair’s values (#5, below) will also help you determine how their dating life might affect you and your family. It’s a good idea to look for values which align with your own (more on this later).
Sample questions to help determine the Au Pair’s motivation(s):
- What made you want to become an Au Pair? Is there one thing you’re most excited about experiencing in the U.S.?
- What do you hope to achieve during your year? Do you have plans after the program is over?
- Do you know anyone in our state already? How do you plan to make friends?
- Do you have a boyfriend/ girlfriend? Are they waiting for you to come home? If not, do you want to go on dates while you’re here?
- What do you expect from us, as your Host Family? What do you envision it will be like to live with us?
Take note of your Au Pair’s answers without passing any judgment. It’s hard to know whether a person’s motivations are a good fit without a strong understanding of their personal values.
5. Ask the Au Pair About Their Values to Help Determine Whether They’re a Fit
The way people’s values influence the way they see the world makes this one of the most vital things to ask about during your first Au Pair interview.
Just like anything else, you should understand your personal and family values so you can determine whether your Au Pair’s values are a good fit.
Most people are familiar with their own values, but it’s a good idea to take a hard look at your household values anyway. What’s most important to you in a relationship? In a living arrangement? In your family’s daily life?
When it comes to interacting with your children, what do you value most? What’s most important to you in terms of parenting style, that you’ll need to communicate to your Au Pair? What values do you most want them to learn in life?
Common Au Pair values:
- Relationship with Host Kids & Host Family
- Religious views (religion listed on profile)
- Personal autonomy
- Traveling & socializing
- Experiencing new things
- Cultural interactions
- Flexibility with schedule
Of course, this list can vary from person to person, but many Au Pairs have the above values in common with one another.
As mentioned before, if your Au Pair indicates the intention to date during their year, you’ll want to find out their values in relation to dating.
This isn’t to say that you need to judge their dating life. You do, however, want to know whether they value that dating life above all else. Or whether their values might lead them to engage in behaviors with which you’re uncomfortable. (Which still may not be cause to rule out the Au Pair as a candidate. It just depends on the person. Knowing the answers helps you be prepared, though).
Particularly if you feel the Au Pair would be good for your kids, and there’s a good personality match, asking these questions presents a good opportunity for you to start setting boundaries.
With boundaries, you can ensure that a variance in values won’t interfere with the overall relationship.
Sample interview questions about an Au Pair’s values (and whether they match yours):
- What is most important to you in a relationship?
- How do you define “success” in life?
- We practice religion as a family. Are you comfortable praying with us?
- What does it mean to you to be on time? Are people often late in your country?
- What is the most important thing to you in life?
Even if the Au Pair’s answer isn’t what you’d envisioned, think about how their answer makes you feel. Could they still fit in with your family life? If their values differ from yours, would you be okay with those values? What do you need to do to ensure both of you can live comfortably together?
On the flip side, is the Au Pair comfortable with your family values? If not, is there anything you could do to make him/her more comfortable? Be sure to talk about this during the interview as well.
Interview, Review, Repeat.
Now that you’ve thought through the most important things to ask during your first Au Pair interview, you’re ready to write down some questions and start scheduling interviews!
It’s a good idea for your whole family to be present during the interview, or at least part of it. This way, you can introduce everyone to each other and see how the Au Pair and kids interact.
Kids can be loud during interviews, and it can be difficult to complete an interview when the kids want attention. If possible, plan for one parent to walk away with the kids for a few minutes and then come back. You can take turns and catch each other up if this becomes necessary.
Once you’ve felt things out during the first interview, you can schedule another time to talk.
It’s a good idea to connect on Facebook or another platform or app to which you both have frequent access. This makes it easier to stay in touch and send messages between interviews.
In fact, staying connected between interviews can allow you to get to know one another without having to schedule a video call. You can talk a little more casually, about everyday life, personal interests, food, culture, etc. The more you learn about each other, the better!
Review the interview with your spouse or other adults in the household. Ask your kids how they like the Au Pair.
Usually, after the first interview, families have a pretty good idea whether they want to talk to the same Au Pair again. If it’s a good fit, Host Families often say they feel an immediate “click,” or a gut feeling telling them it’s the right person.
Even if you click right away, take a few days to talk and interview. There are a lot of things to consider when hosting an Au Pair, and you’ll want to make sure everyone is comfortable before extending an offer.
(But if you do feel that click, congratulations! Something tells me you’re off to a fantastic start!)