Thursday, 26 May 2011

What to look for in an au pair - by Zoe Beauvoisin, Au Pairs By Pebbles

Whether you decide to use an agency or an on-line site to recruit your au pair, you need to consider an applicant carefully before inviting them to join your family. A good agency will already have run a first selection before sending you any applicants, which will save you a lot of time compared to using the on-line sites. You will still need to take the time to study each potential au pair - remember, you are the best placed to know what type of person will suit your family.

There are three key areas you should use to evaluate your au pair: Profile, childcare experience and personality.

Profile - what skills do you need?
Your first step before reviewing applications, should be to think about what kind of help you need - is a confident driver essential (check the minimum age on your insurance policy), is cooking an integral part of the position? (Just reheating or preparing meals from scratch?) Will the au pair be helping with homework? (Check their education and English level). Do you need them to help out with pets? (Check they’re not afraid of/allergic to animals). When do you need someone to start and for how long? (Build in time to train and settle them in.) Once you have established the basic criteria, you are ready to make a first selection.

Type of childcare experience
Next, look at their childcare experience both within and outside the family. An eldest child is likely to be responsible and used to looking after siblings.

What type of experience have they had? Have they babysat when children are asleep or have they really had to amuse and supervise the children? Have they entertained lots of youngsters by working in holiday camps? What age group have they worked with? Discuss how you discipline your children.

Try to find an au pair with common interests to your children. A sporty male au pair would suit energetic boys, or a musical au pair could help with piano practice. Someone creative would have good ideas for arty children. A French au pair could help your children learn the language. Perhaps you need someone with a strong character to be firm with your children - but you need to get on with them as well!

Personality - will the au pair fit into your family?
So now you’ve established that they have the right skills and relevant experience, will they actually become a real member of your family?  Think about your family lifestyle - do you love cooking and eating together around the table, or do you prefer a quick dinner relaxing in front of the TV. Do you like sports or prefer museums and the theatre? Are you animal lovers? Do you want your au pair to take part in all family activities or would you prefer an independent person? Try to find out more about their background, their education and very importantly their reason for becoming an au pair.

If you decide to use an agency, choose one that really knows their candidates well and who spends time working with you to find your ideal au pair who not only has the right profile and experience but who will fit in easily and quickly become a real member of the family.

Essential qualities
·      Genuinely like children
·      Motiviated
·      Flexible
·      Open minded
·      Willing to learn
·      Independent

Selection tips
·      Ask all candidates the same questions
·      Interview the candidates using Skype and webcam
·      Ask open ended questions
·      Send important information/questions by email as it’s easier to understand
·      Make an offer in writing stating hours and pay
·      Exchange lots of photos

Au Pairs by Pebbles specialise in French au pairs and home help. For further information visit or call 020 7158 0328

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