The dreaded Skype-call. Every au pair has to do it. And I can still remember how nervous I was for all of them. I’m already awkward enough on the phone with people I know. How was I going to sell myself in a different language to a family I didn’t know but desperately wanted to live with?
The important thing to remember is that they are not just interviewing you. You are also interviewing them. You need to know what you’re getting yourself into and they should provide you with clear answers. If not, there are hundreds of other families that you can go and stay with. You need to know if you are going to get along with the family and the kids because you will be living in the same house as them for a couple of months to a year and you don’t want things to be awkward.
Some questions to start with:
- How old are the kids?
- What do they like to do in their free time?
- What jobs do the parents have?
If one of the host parents is a stay-at-home mum or dad, that might sound great at first. But after a few days, you won’t really need their help anymore, and it will just feel weird. I had a friend who was an au pair while the host mum was home all day (she just had another baby and needed help with the older kids) and it confused the kids. They didn’t know who was really in charge
- What does the family do on the weekend?
- Why has the family decided to host an au pair?
- Are you the family’s first au pair? If not, you can ask them for contact details of their former au pairs to find out more about their stay with the family. If the family refuses to share this information, get out of there as soon as possible.
Ask if you can see the kids on camera because that’s the easiest way to see what they are like. If you can’t get the kids to sit still in front of a camera for five minutes, you might want to reconsider. The parents might be desperate and can tell you that the kids are incredibly well-behaved when they are really tiny monsters that don’t listen to anyone and won’t stop screaming.
Harder questions that you really need an answer to:
- What will your daily life look like in this family? Do you have a curfew (yes, some au pairs actually have one!)?
- What will your duties be? Will you have to cook?
- What will your schedule look like? You don’t want everything to change every week because it will be very hard to make plans with friends if you never know if you’re going to have to work or not.
- Do they have any house rules? How do they make the kids listen to what they’re saying? You will be a new authority figure, and the kids will try to see how far they can go. Make sure your host parents help you with that.
- How much pocket money will they be paying you?
- Is there internet access? (Believe me, this is a necessity!)
One last tip: Don’t just ask them questions. Chat with them about what random things. Tell them what you’re doing now and what you would like to get out of your experience as an au pair. Make jokes. Try to enjoy the experience. And I know it’s the most cliche advice anyone can give you, but try to just be yourself. If you’re not, there’s a chance that things don’t work out between you and the family because it’s just not a good fit.