Happy New Year! Now that the holidays are over (even in Spain, where we celebrated 3 Kings -that last bit of holiday magic – this weekend), it is time to plan for 2018.
I admit (and it is a bit of a dirty little secret), that I’m a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions. I have been since my teens. Doesn’t mean I always stick to them (where did I read the other day that 86% of New Year’s Resolutions fail?), but the process of thinking through the resolutions is in itself cathartic: it allows me to remember and say goodbye to the year that’s just finished, and gives me reason to look forward to the coming year.
I won’t go into the detail of my resolutions for this year, except perhaps to mention I’ve been out to the park for a morning jog 5 days in a row now – depending on who I ask, I’ve got 13 or 61 days left until I can call it a habit.
I am also actively looking for a new au pair to join our family for the next few months. By actively, I mean I’ve activated all channels to find a new au pair (including old au pairs, friends, Aupairworld, etc.), and have spent a good chunk of the past week interviewing.
Ah, the interview. Although they are becoming more and more common, and have a lot of advantages in terms of agility and ease of scheduling, Skype (or remote) interviews can be tricky, for all parties involved.
You don’t have the advantages of face-to-face interviews, where non-verbal communication plays such an important role. And, despite huge improvements in technology, there is sometimes still a small lag which makes the communication less spontaneous.
A few tips to make aupairing Skype interviews a success:
Tip #1: prep your environment
I aim to do the interviews in a quiet room of the house, with a door. And by “a door”, I do mean “a closed door”. But, sometimes, life gets in the way, like a couple days ago, when my daughter started bellowing “mamá, mamá” and pounding on the door in the middle of the interview. Probably scared the bejesus out of the au pair – I’m not sure we passed that round.
I also recommend looking behind you before the interview – what you see is what the webcam (and your interlocutor) will catch as well. If you’re trying to present yourself as an organized, efficient person, a super cluttered background will not help you.
Tip #2: smile
You’re trying to get as close to an in-person first impression as possible, so smile like you would in real life. Not much more (that could look awkward), but not much less, either, or you’ll look like a robot.
Basically, try to ignore the little red dot of your webcam, and act as you would if you were really standing in front of the other person.
Tip #3: ask the right questions
This goes for both parties: don’t let the interview finish without getting a real feeling as to whether or not this au pair/ host family could be a good fit for you.
I always start with easy questions first, a “tell me a little about yourself” moment, to get a feeling for how easy it is to speak to this person, gauge potential language barriers between us, and really just see how they present themselves to the world.
Next, I make sure we discuss the questions and topics important to both of us, and on my end provide all the relevant information I feel the candidate would need to be able to understand our family and determine whether we might be a fit.
Tip #4: ask the most important question
In my experience, there really is a single most important question for host families to ask: Do you like (spending time with) children?
It sounds obvious, and some of my friends who have never hosted au pairs laugh at me when I tell them about it, but the truth is, there are multiple reasons why one might choose to be an au pair. It might be about the excitement of traveling the world, it might be about involving yourself in a new culture, or a way to leave home for the first time. These are all very valid reasons to become an au pair, but I think they must be combined with an interest in and a desire to spend time with children.
This is, for me, sine qua non for success as an au pair, because au pairing is work, and it does require spending significant amounts of time with children and, most importantly, building a relationship with them. If the candidate has too little experience with children to know how she feels about them, seems unsure about her interest, or does not really know what it means to spend time with children, I can think of ten or twenty alternative roles that might suit her more than au pairing.
Which I guess leads me to wonder… Is there a most important question for au pairs, when interviewing for a position? Or does it vary too much from one au pair to the next?
Tip #5: know when to end it
I aim to keep the interview to 20 minutes, out of respect for each other’s time. I’ve found that is generally enough time for us to get a feel for each other, if we’ve spoken online first and done some prior due diligence.
If the outcome is positive on my end, I like to end the interview on an open note, to make sure I give the au pair time to think through the interview and discuss with her family. This seems important to me, as I don’t want to force a positive response that hasn’t been well thought through on her end. So, I usually suggest we pick up the following day, to give ourselves time for any additional questions that come up, and only then discuss next steps.