Finding the right childcare provider is tough, and for those not prepared, it can turn into a full-time job fast. The choices can be overwhelming and the qualifications of the candidates can vary dramatically. While the search is not always easy, we're sure you agree it's worth it to find the perfect companion for your little ones. To ease the pain of your search, we polled a few of our host families to see which attributes they say you should look for in your next au pair.
- Reliability. Everyone wants a childcare provider they can count on, and when it comes to the interview process there are plenty of cues you can look for. Are they on time for your online interviews? Do prospective nannies or au pairs get back to you when you contact them? These are just a few clues that you'll be able to count on them to begin work on time or remember to pack a toy for show-and-tell each Thursday.
- Loves children, especially yours! In our experience, you can tell just by asking someone why they like children if they truly do. Similarly engaging your children in the interview will give you great insight into the possible relationship they might have. One mom we talked to recounted two interviews via Skype with similarly qualified candidates. One focused on impressing mom and dad, the other focused on the kids. You can guess which one they hired!
- Positivity. It might seem silly, but for some this one is the most important. Why? Well, let's be honest: spending a day with little people can be difficult! Having an upbeat, can-do attitude and a will to succeed comes in pretty handy when the four year old paints the two year old with ketchup while you are cleaning up the six month old after a diaper blowout. Trust us, we know from experience!
- Type of Experience. This one is sometimes overlooked in favor of hours/years of experience, but our host moms argue that less can be more. Two years of occasional babysitting does not equal spending a summer as a nanny to three kids. Ask the nanny or au pair candidate in-depth questions on what types of duties they performed to be sure their experience lines up with what you need.
- Creative Juices. Whether it is a cool talent like a language or guitar skills or a love of crafts, having fun with little ones is crucial. Ask them what they have done (or will do) to keep kids engaged on a rainy day. If you're lucky, you'll find someone who loves to bake and deep clean your kitchen for fun| but don't count on it!
- Strong Manners. Eye contact, handshakes, and pleasantries are just some of the things you'll want your nanny or au pair to have. Not only so that your interactions with them are pleasant, but also because they'll be spending all day with your kids. The best way to teach great manners is by example, so the example will be key to their education.
- Butterflies. Huh? You heard us right! Time and again, the parents we asked cited that feeling they got, the one that told them that this girl or guy was just right for their family. While it may sound strange, most moms said they just knew that they were speaking to The One and were glad they trusted that feeling. Who says fairy tales can't come true?