The interview process and video calls with potential host families can be very exciting and stressful. The excitement can have the same effect on your interview as life has when you’re in love! “Love is blind.”Don’t try to find the perfect host family, such family does not exist, just as the perfect au pair does not exist. It’s all about what you make out of it. But before you can make the best out of the match you should be as informed as possible before making your final decision.
Besides asking questions directly related to the children, such as their age & hobbies, there’s a few other things you should be asking as well. Life as an au pair is different than a normal job and most occupations. The interview for the position as an au pair is different as well then. As an au pair, where you work is where you live, and where you live is where you work. Your employer is your roommate but also a host family member and sometimes becomes your friend as well. It’s a lot to juggle & it’s all up to you to make it work.
I understand that if you have not been an au pair before that you’re not even sure what to be looking out for. Here are some guidelines/suggestions:
Although by law a curfew is not being enforced, families are of course allowed to set out a curfew for the au pair with the rest of their household rules. This can lead to conflict if the au pair and the host family are not on the same page regarding the curfew. Some families are very strict on the rules of a curfew. When you match with a family prior to knowing the curfew you’d have to respect this. Other families don’t have a curfew at all but might discuss with you that if certain events occur, such as staying out late too many times or making mistakes during your working hours with the children, that a curfew will be implemented. There are families as well that feel no need to implement a curfew at all. The general curfew that many host families implement is for their au pairs to be home 8 hours prior to start taking care of their children.
2. The car:
Hand in hand with point one, the use of the car and if the car has a curfew. Some families don’t give a curfew to the au pair but they do give a curfew to the car. Furthermore, ask if you would have your own car or will you be sharing. What would the rules be regarding the car when sharing? Who will pay for gas? Will you be driving the children around? Is the car allowed to be used for road trips? If the host family needs you to drive, they have to put you on their car insurance.
3. State driver’s license:
Regarding point 2, do they know the process regarding driving legally in their state. This is different from state to state and from the country you come from. If the family does not know the answer to this, you can ask your agency or current au pairs in the area. Make sure you bring your current driver’s license from your country and an international driver’s license from your country. If the host family needs you to drive, and according to their state you have to get a state driver’s license, they are also responsible to pay for your driver’s license.
4. Working hours!
Some families in the USA will require the au pair to always work 45 hours every week. Other families require less hours from the au pair. Some host families’ schedules changes frequently and some others stay pretty much the same. What are considered to be working hours? When you are taking care of the kids. Also, when the kids are sleeping at night while the parents go out, is considered to be counted as working hours. It is not like you can leave the house but are required to stay home.
5. Are you allowed to have friends over?
Female/male friends? Does the family need to meet the person prior to visiting you? Are other au pairs allowed to come over for play dates and are you allowed to take the kids for play dates. Are your friends allowed to sleep over or family members that might be living out of state when they are visiting you? My host family allowed au pairs to come over without having to meet them first. Non-au pair friends, they liked to meet first before coming over.
Ask what the schedule would look like most weeks, what it would prospectively look like during schools and public holidays and if there would be drastic changes regarding the schedule in your time there. Such as a child going to school after the summer or so.
The host family may have also picked you because of your native language. Ask if they want you to speak with their children in Spanish, French, German, Polish, Russian, Dutch, etc. It is up to you on how comfortable you feel doing it. At the end of the day, this is also a cultural exchange experience and you are going to America to most likely improve your English skills. If you’re are willing to improve your English, do so from day one! See also article on how to,improve my English as an au pair in the USA.
8. Eating habits!
A lot of au pairs end up not eating at home because they dislike the eating habits of the family. Some people are good to adjust and others not so much. If you know you’re someone who would not easily adjust make sure to know what the family normally eats for dinner. Ask how groceries will work and if you are allowed to ask the family to provide your favorite flavor yogurt and so forth. My host family in the USA allowed me to place things that I like on the shopping list. As long as it was not like wine or treats. Basic things like yogurt, orange juice and so forth. Lucky enough I enjoyed eating what the family ate . Remember, even when the host family is going out of town on vacation, they still have to either leave you with enough food for the rest of the week or leave you money so that you can buy it on your own.
9. Family member or independent from the family:
Would the family expect you to be very much a part of family activities or do they prefer you to be more independent doing your own thing most of the time. Will this be a family who are very much focused on entertaining the au pair or would have limited time to do so due to their own current busy schedules. Some au pairs long to be part of the family and some prefer to be treated as an independent adult. Some families long for the au pair to be like a bigger sister or brother and some au pairs like to have more freedom doing her/his own thing in free time.This is a very important point and I have seen a lot of au pairs ending in the rematch process due to different expectations of the family and the family of the au pair.
What is the potential host family’s religious belief and how important is it to them? Some families will tell you that they are Christians but don’t go to church or only when a holiday comes around Another Christian host family may tell you that they are going to church every weekend and would hope for you to join. Will your religious believes be a problem for the host family??
11. Working from home:
In the USA it’s becoming more popular to do work remotely; to be able to work from home. Some families work some days of the week from home and some other families every day of the week. You can ask where they would normally work from when working from home and how would this influence your work with the children.
12. Who will pay your phone bill?
Some families give a phone to the au pair and cover the phone bill. It is not a requirement to provide you with a cell phone. However, host families are encouraged to either provide a cell phone or get their au pair a sim card.
13. Other Au Pairs:
Find out how many other au pairs are in the area? There is a difference, if you are the only one within a two-hour drive or if there are 5 au pairs living in the same neighborhood. Even though we come to America on our own, it is always nice to see other au pairs that are on the same journey! Be proactive and find out if there are local Facebook, WhatsApp, etc groups that you could join.
14. Previous nanny/au pair:
If the host family had a nanny or au pair before, ask if you could speak with them. It is always good to get a perspective from somebody that had already worked for them. Please keep in my that there are also new host families that never had a nanny or an au pair.
15. The why?
Feel free to ask the family why they signed up for the au pair program. It’s good to know the “why” and be prepared to answer the same question. “Why you chose to become an au pair?”
The final 5 questions are directly related to the children. Ask,ask ask about the children! Remember that you will be responsible for the children and might be spending a lot of time with the children.
16. Children’s activities:
What sort of activities will you be doing with the child/children. How much would you have to help with homework? Will you be doing arts and crafts with younger children or biking with older children. The younger the child the more playful you will have to be. Children’s work are to play. Playing is crucial to their development as well. Ring playful requires a lot of energy. If you’re not a very playful person rather match with a family with older children who need more supervision than to be drinking fake tea out of a fake tea cup in a worl where you guys are chilling on the moon.
17. Allergies & illness:
Ask about current allergies and illness related to the children. Would you have to be cautious when snack time comes along on a play date to make sure your host kid don’t eat certain things due to allergies. What would you have to do if something happens related to an allergic reaction.
18. Strict schedule?
Are the parents strict on following a schedule and a routine with the children or are the family relaxed with a “go with the flow” vibe. What would you prefer, to work with a strict schedule or not.
19.Discipline for the children:
How do they discipline their children and what discipline techniques would be expected from you?
20. Will you be dealing with a kid that might get violent? How would you have to handle this?
Don’t be nervous. Remember the purpose of an interview is for both parties to find a good match. Be prepared for your interview. Be fully honest, you’d expect the same honesty from the potential host family.
Let us know in the comments how your interview was if you’re already an au pair and what things you regret not asking prior to the match. Feel free to share any other feedback with us!
Written by Nitanja @ Au Pair Buzz
1 July 2018