How can I choose an Au Pair without interviewing her in person?

From an Au Pair mom.

(Anna T., a host mother and an author of articles about hosting an au pair: How to hire an au pairHow to save money on an au pair programHow to welcome your new au pair.)

This was one of the questions I had when I was first considering hiring an au pair. Making a commitment to live with someone for a year and entrust my children to her, based on reading her application, emails and phone conversations seemed risky. After all, I was accustomed to interviewing prospective pediatricians for my children by personal appointment, visiting potential daycares, personally interviewing babysitters and nannies.
At the time I started hosting au pairs, internet video conferencing services such as Skype were not so widely available. We hired our first several au pairs after phone and email conversations only.
Nowadays, the lack of a true in-person interview is not such an obstacle, because using Skype or another video conferencing tool can serve as an adequate substitute for an in-person interview most of the time. Moreover, during Skype sessions you can “meet” au pair’s family, pets, see how she lives.
Another consideration is that even when interviewing a local caregiver in person, usually you have much less information about them than you do about an au pair. For examples, Go Au Pair agency does a great job of gathering and presenting information about au pair candidates to families. A typical au pair dossier consists of dozens of pages of references, questionnaires, interview reports, medical files, photos and a personal essay.
Many agencies have started adding videos to the application, where an au pair can do a video presentation of herself in addition to her application. If studied carefully, the application usually gives an accurate impression of the au pair’s background, personality and experience.
In my experience, most of the time, the impression conveyed by reading an au pair’s application was confirmed during subsequent interviews and, if we matched, during her stay with us.
For those families that still prefer an in-person interview, there is an option of hiring only in-country au pairs. There is a limited pool of au pair candidates that are in transition from other families or are extending their stay for 6, 9 or 12 months with another family. Depending on the family’s location, many of those candidates can be interviewed in-person.
When choosing a caregiver for your child, whether by an in-person interview or from overseas, it is important to carefully examine your family’s needs and make sure that the decision is made carefully and all the questions and doubts are resolved prior to hiring an au pair.

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