If you are searching for a new au pair, there are many things to consider when deciding which au pair agency to choose.
This is a short guide for those who are searching for an au pair for the very first time or a reminder for those who have done it before
This web page will cover:
Finding the right person to look after your children is a tremendously important decision. When that person will be also living with you, it makes it even more critical to use the safest and best methods possible in order to identify the right candidates to choose from and eliminate as much risk as possible. You can do it yourself, but it can be extremly time consuming and prove a risky process. If the arrangements fall through before she arrives, or the person moves on quickly then the knock on hassle and costs can be much more expensive than if you had started out by using a good agency.
Using a professional au pair agency provides experience, expert knowledge and protects your family from exposing sensitive information about them, your home and your movements on a public web site. It also gives you immediate access to pre-screened candidates who are ready to travel.
A good au pair agency will:
If you don't wish to use an agency and prefer to do it yourself then you need to consider where to find your candidates, why are they looking to be an au pair now, how to interview them, how to check their references, verifying they are who they say they are etc.
What makes a good agency? Being able to provide timely service and support for the list detailed above is a good start
A good agency will be able to add value to the process of finding the right au pair. A family will be looking for the following from their agency: -
Agency fees do vary. Some have an up front registration fee that is charged before any work is done. Some agencies work at risk and will only charge families when an au pair has been found and an invitationhas been extended. There are also some agencies who charge a monthly fee for assisting the family over an extended period of time. Scale of fees differ based on a number of factors:
When choosing an au pair agency, each must display their fees on their web site and/or send them to you by email/post. Most will require families to agree to their terms up front so the family commits to pay any fees as they fall due when working with the agency.
Choosing an au pair agency should be based on more than just who charges the cheapest fees, you should consider:
Au Pair agencies usually offer a no-obligation discussion so you can ask questions of the agency to determine if an au pair is the right choice for you. Most agencies will obviously want you to leave your details with them, and don't be scared to leave an email address as they are not one of the industries that is reknowned for spamming you with viagra!! Use this phone call to assess how available the agency is, how helpful their staff are and how knowledgeable they are about their subject.
The next stage will be to describe the job you wish the au pair to do. In order to do this you will need to consider the following aspects:-
If the au pair agency does charge a registration deposit, this is usually payable at this stage before the agency spends further time in collecting and compiling more detailed knowledge of your family. It may also be a pre-curser to a home visit, so this would cover coming out to see you in time and fuel cost.
In order to attract a number of candidates then the agency will need to put together more personal information that will appeal to the right people
It makes sense that you paint a realistic picture of your family and what things you enjoy doing. If you mislead a horse-loving au pair into thinking you are all equestrian fanatics, for her to find out you don't know your forelock from your stirrup would not be a good way to begin a trusting relationship. Equally though if you are looking for a particular type of person then it is possible to bias your profile information so that it would appeal to a particular type of person.
In order to put together more personal information about your family, an au pair agency will need to find out about your sports and pastimes, your weekend activities, your likes and dislikes. Very thorough agencies will come to visit a family and to gain a better understanding of them.
Finally, au pairs are no different to families in wanting to see lots of photos and even videos of their prospective matches. It gives them a chance to feel they know more about you by being let in to your lives.
The normal and expected amount of information that agencies will pass on to the family for a candidate is: -
The best agencies are also able to provide the following
In order to assess the most suitable candidates for the job it is necessary to return to the person description that was created initially. Depending on the aspects that were considered base requirements, a first filtering can take place. This is the point that possibly all the non-drivers will be set aside, all the candidates who smoke every day and so on. Then the secondary characteristics need to be examined. A good agency will be able to provide more detailed information on these more subtle secondary considerations in areas like hobbies, other language skills, eating habits, social habits, morals and values, view of discipline among children, view of encouragement and learning etc.
At this stage it is advisable to only pass through those candidates that meet these crietria. It is easy once talking to candidates by telephone to forget all about these considerations because you chatted away comfortably and now you feel good about her.. It doesn't change that one of your secondary considerations wasn't met.
When you have chosen a short-list of candidates that you want to speak with, the agency will liaise with them and arrange times for you to call them. For the au pair it is usually best to call them in the evening - generally when they can be at home and able to sit quietly to answer your questions. If you call them on their mobile phones when they are out, then you may catch them in the middle of a shopping mall, or out with their friends.
Remember that when you agree to call a candidate, they are eagerly awaiting your call so try to call them at the agreed hour. The agency will almost always lock out other families from speaking with them at this stage, allowing you time to make a decision following the call, so it is expected you will make the call in the time allotted to you.
Good agencies will provide details of questions you may want to ask on your phone interview. Even better agencies may help with the interview by providing language assistance on the call.
After the call, most families will want to discuss their feelings between one another and get back to the agency to give their feedback. It is important that the au pair candidate also comes back with an enthusiastic attitude, and often families wait for this confirmation before deciding if she is the one for them.
If a family has doubts, or if they simply want to speak with a selection of candidates for comparison, then the phone interview process is repeated as necessary.
When a family is sure and has it confirmed the au pair is also keen, then a job offer can be made from the family to the au pair. This can be made verbally at first, and sometimes may be conditional upon a final reference being obtained.
If the candidate is still working they may have provided their existing employer but not wanted to decare their intentions until this stage. All final reference checks should be done and the results passed on to the family.
At this point a letter of invitation is written and sent to the au pair. This letter forms the basis of the whole agreement between family and au pair and needs to cover all of the following elements: -
Once the au pair has received the written letter of invitation they will begin to book their flight tickets to come to the UK. At this point almost all au pair agencies charge the remaining fee that is due since there is no turning back at this point. If the family were to cancel then the au pair has committed to a lot of costs and these would generally fall to the au pair agency to cover out of the families fee. If the au pair has already arrived at the family home then the family can decide to cancel but has agreed at this stage to give and pay two weeks notice to the au pair that will cover the au pair's travel back to their home country.
We will try to support a family who are having second thoughts because it is a major decision for an au pair to make, and a significant cost for them to buy plane tickets, and a change in heart should be the last resort really.
Our short guide to au pair pocket money should help you work out what to pay your au pair..