by Madlen Coas

Interviewing prospective childcare helper is one of the most critical tasks that we, as parents, can and should perform.  However, more often than not we devote little time and preparation to an endeavor that will have a significant and lasting impact on the growth and development of our children. Besides usual challenges, with au pair it is a bit different than with other childcare helpers: in most cases an interview takes place either over the phone or the video chat (unless your au pair candidate is in the country already, looking for another host family. Nevertheless, these few suggestions may help you in choosing the right au pair for your children.
First, allow yourself and your Au Pair candidate to introduce yourselves. Describe your family situation, child-rearing priorities, methods of discipline, and your children’s routines. Be relaxed about it, as this facilitates open exchange.
After you have discussed your requirements, you can ask au pair open-ended questions that will allow her to talk freely. For example, “I heard you recently cared for two children – how did you like it?” Her answers will give you an idea of her level of English, for one, and the way she describes the children she has cared for and her relationships with them can tell you a lot about her feelings toward children and childcare in general, her ability to empathize and bond, and the type of children with which she feels most confident. If au pair elaborates on particular incidents with children, you will gain insights into how she reacts and responds to different kinds of childcare situations and problems.
You can ask your au pair candidate about her family and friends, about her previous host family if she’s been an au pair before. Does she describe them lovingly, humorously? Does she have long-term relationships? What does she enjoy doing? How does she react to and cope with problems? What about her personality – is she an indoor or outdoors type? Does she like sports? Is she cheerful and open to new situations? This is your opportunity to assess the characteristics and qualities of your future childcare helper against the needs of your children.
Ask  the au pair what motivates her to care for your children. Does she really love children and childcare job? Or is she only looking for fun and adventure, or a way to leave her own country for good? What about financial concerns?
During the conversation, always trust your instincts. Keep track of your internal reactions to the au pair, especially if they fluctuate noticeably. Later, when putting everything into perspective, try to identify the real reason for any negative reactions on your part.
Before concluding the interview, ask for personal references, if feasible (for example, if this is not her first au pair experience in your country). Take the time to call these references and speak with them, at length, about the au pair.
The bottom line is that we, as parents, are ultimately responsible for the decisions we make for the care of our children. Thus, select an au pair only after you have carefully considered your circumstances, expectations and needs against the personal qualities of an au pair. Never rush your decision on childcare helpers – they are some of the most important ones that you will ever make!