Au pair advice: how to pick your family

I’ve just returned from two and a half months of working as an au pair in Spain for the first time and thought I’d share some top tips on how to pick your family! Particularly when it’s your first time, it can all seem a little intimidating so I thought I’d help you out every step of the way!

Use the Au Pair World website

Obviously there are a whole pile of websites and agencies you can use to find a family but I’d recommend Au Pair World. I’ll be honest, I didn’t try any other options but I really enjoyed using this site. It’s the one I’d seen advertised on other blog posts and YouTube videos and it worked well for me. The website is really to use and made me feel both safe and in control. The website is free for au pairs to use and really helpful for finding a family.

Be specific with your search terms

Once you’ve made your profile, you can start properly searching the website. You should be specific with your search terms. You have the chance to specify the country or countries you want to work in, when you want to start and how long you want to stay for. Don’t settle at this point because you need to narrow down the hundreds of families to just a few. If there’s a specific country you want to visit or language you want to learn, choose only that country and that will still give you plenty of options. Same with start date and length of time – most families are pretty flexible so feel free to be incredibly specific – pick the precise month you want to go and how long you want to stay and don’t be apologetic about it.

Be picky

Since there are so many options you can afford to be picky with which families you want. Some things to consider are the location of the city (a capital city, big city, small town etc) and the number of kids (maybe one is your limit or maybe you’re happy with five. This decision should probably be made based on your experience with children). You should also think about the age of kids (your role with a baby will be very different to what you’d done with a seven year old versus what you’d be up to au pairing for a teenager). Another think to weigh up is what they’re offering – what pocket money, what living space, will they help sort language lessons, will they allow access to a family car. You might not be able to tell all this from their profile but you should usually be able to get a rough idea of what they’re offering you as the au pair.

Send and respond

Once you’ve found some families that for your requirements and look like the kind of family you’re searching for, it’s time to send messages carefully. Send a few families a message introducing yourself and saying you’re interested in finding out more about them.

On a family’s profile you can see how many messages they’ve received, what their answer rate is as a percentage and how long a response from them takes on average. Using this information you can decide how many families to contact. At this point I chose to message three families since a couple of them didn’t have amazingly high response rates.

You can also receive messages from families as well as sending them yourself. I received messages from two families – one that sent me a super lovely personalised message that seemed perfect for me and another that sent a generic contact for more information and that had a 16 year old boy, which really wasn’t what I was looking for.

Narrow down your list

At this point you need to narrow your list down to maybe two or three families. I received one positive response from the three families I messaged and another message from a family that seemed perfect. So I narrowed my list down to these two families that I was seriously considering.

Message them

Now you’ve narrowed down your list it’s time to start messaging them and arrange a call. For me this ended up being on Whatsapp with both families. This took us away from the slightly impersonal nature of the websites chat section and allowed us to talk a bit more before arranging a call where we could interview each other and find out more.

Skype call interview

I think it’s best for everyone that before any definite decisions are mad, you have a skype call. While this is often labelled an interview you need to remember that while they’re interviewing you, you’re also interviewing them at the same time. As well as trying to make sure you’re making a good impression, it’s also important to be honest about your expectations and ask any important questions you need the answers to.

Some good questions to ask might include:

  • Can you tell me more about the kids? What do they like doing/ what are their hobbies?
  • What does a typical day/ week in your life look like?
  • What would my working day look like? How many hours would I work?
  • What discipline/consequences exist in your house? What role would I play?
  • Can you tell me more about where you live? What is there to do?
  • Is there a language school nearby I can attend?

Some top tips for you in the interview are:

  • Be honest – if you don’t have much childcare experience that’s fine! If you have concerns or worries it can be really helpful/ reassuring to share them at this point.
  • Make sure you’re reread over the family’s profile so you know the basics about them and this can also help you think of any questions you might have.
  • Be friendly and keep smiling. Dependent on the countries, there might be a bit of a language barrier but as long as you’re smiling, you’ll be sure to make a good impression.

Make a decision

After you’ve done the skype calls, whether you had only one or a few, it’s time to decide if they’re the family for you. Remember that you’re going to be living with them and working for them for at least a couple of months or sometimes up to a year, so you want to make sure make the right decision. I’d encourage you to write a pros and cons list of each family if you’re still unsure and ultimately just go with your gut about which family you enjoyed calling more.

Keep messaging!

Once you’ve made your decision and you’ve committed to the family and they’ve committed to you, don’t just forget about them til you arrive. It’s really nice to keep messaging whilst you’re waiting to actually join them in their country.

For me, I found my family in the December but because of COVID restrictions I couldn’t actually go to Spain until April – four months later than I’d originally planned! During this time it was really encouraging to be in contact with the family both about the logistics of me coming but also just hearing about life was going and seeing photos of what they were up to! It made it a little bit easier when I finally arrived to feel like I knew the family.

So there you have it! Those are my top tips for finding a family when you’re looking to be an au pair!

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