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Interview Guide for Parents

Complete Interview and Au pair Selection Guide

Interviewing candidates, yourself, can be daunting,especially if you don’t know what you should be asking the person you are interviewing. Each candidate you interview has the potential to become an integral part of your family in the near future. Sitters4U has put together this guide to assist you in your search for the candidate that will fit in and add the most value to both yours and your children’s lives.

The Interview process

  • Prepare for the interview
  • Reference checks
  • Try not to interview to many candidates, it will leave you feeling confused.
  • After each interview create a summary on the candidate interviewed.

Prepare for the interview.

Preparation for interviewing candidates is a very important part of the process. Even if you are an effective interviewer at work, additional care is needed when interviewing for your own au pair, this is because of the emotional relationship and bond you have with your children.

Questions you will need to ask yourself before hand

  • Why did your last au pair leave?
  • How long was she with you?
  • What are the hours you will need the chosen candidate on a daily basis?
  • How many weeks holiday are you offering?
  • What happens in the case of illness?
  • Will you need the chosen candidate to babysit occasionally?
  • If the candidate is to live in, will the candidate be able to invite friends in for the evening? Is there a curfew time?
  • What are your children’s interests and how can the candidate you are seeking contribute to your child's development in this area?
  • Do you require your selected candidate to cook for you? If so, what meals will she need to prepare? Light snacks, lunch, dinner etc.
  • Do you have any Education or Qualification requirements?
  • Describe the personality of your ideal candidate.
  • Do you have any religious or cultural preferences?
  • Do you want your au pair to travel with your family internationally?

Before the Interview

  • Prepare for the interview
  • The interview process, although not necessarily, should consist of two interviews.
  • Don’t include your children in the first interview.
  • Have a disinterested party present

Tips

  • Ensure that you know what you want to ask and use the Q&A section below as a guideline.
  • Read the candidates profile thoroughly before the interview.
  • Write down any and all questions you may have about the applicant.
  • In the interview, to ensure objective interviewing, have a preferably disinterested party present (not someone affiliated with your agency or family), as an objective mind is a great tool in evaluating potential candidates. There are a number of reasons for this:
  • Interviewing the candidates objectively and impartially means that you will uncover what you need to know about a candidate, not what the candidate thinks you want to hear. This gives you a much better idea of what she/he will actually be like as an employee. This ensures that neither you nor the candidate wastes each others time.
  • Excellent candidates will feel the sense of importance they deserve. They will enjoy the sense that they are being treated comparably to professionals in mainstream industries. This should instil a stronger sense of trust-worthiness and employee loyalty in the candidate before they have even been chosen.
  • Having no preconceived ideas of what you expect your candidates to say, will significantly reduce your chance of engaging in ´ selective listening.´Selective listening is what happens when subconsciously filter out available clues about a candidate´s character or history, which will prove important once they are employed. Such clues can usually be exposed during interviews, provided you ´dig deep´ enough.
  • When starting an interview don’t just jump straight into the series of questions you are itching to ask, rather spend a moment or two making small talk , this gives both of you a few moments to get a bit more comfortable with each other.
  • One of the most common mistakes parents make is that they talk too much during an interview. Let them do most of the talking. You want to find out about who they are.
  • Ask open-ended questions that solicit more than a "yes" or "no" response.
  • Don´t be afraid to ask "awkward questions", follow up on references and trust your instincts 100%.
  • Don´t appear judgemental as she answers. The more comfortable she is during the interview, the more information she will share about herself.
  • Ask hypothetical questions. E.g. "My baby is not feeling well and has been crying for the last two hours since you got here. What will you do to calm her?"
  • Ask her about each of her previous employers and the children she cared for with questions like, "Tell me about the children you cared for in your last job." Or "Describe each of your last three employers and tell me what you liked and disliked about each?" See how comfortable you are with her responses. Think about how you might fit in with her preferences in employer style. Your relationship with her is as important as her relationship with your children.
  • Note whether or not the candidate is comfortable talking about their previous work.
  • Always ask age-appropriate interview questions. From general child-rearing questions, to questions that pertain to your children’s age group, it is important for you to know how they handle certain issues and behaviour.
  • When questioning the candidate about her skills as an au pair, find out how she perceives herself. Is she organized, efficient, creative, resourceful, independent? Ask her to explain and give examples of why they feel they are organised, efficient etc.
  • One cannot emphasis enough, the importance of choosing an au-pair who is friendly, cheerful, sympathetic and genuinely  enjoys being around children. This is much more important than all the qualifications and experience in the world.

The Interview

There are several main areas of focus when interviewing candidates:

  • Background and personal Information
  • Experience
  • Abilities
  • Age Targeted Questions

Q & A

Background and Personal Information

  • Why have you chosen to become an au-pair?
  • What do you enjoy most about working with children?
  • What appeals to you about taking care of children in a home situation?
  • What do you find to be the most challenging and interesting part of working with children?
  • What did you study at school?
  • What are, in your opinion, the most important aspects of raising a child?
  • What type of relationship do you have with your family?
  • What similarities do you have to your parents?
  • Can you tell me about your childhood experiences and how they relate to your chosen career today?
  • What type of relationship do you have with your family?
  • How do you think your family would describe you and your personality?
  • As a child, how were you disciplined?
  • Do you enjoy sports, travel, swimming, the beach, etc?
  • What are your hobbies? Her hobbies may tell you something about the sort of person she is, it is well worth finding out what these are, for example if she is learning to play an instrument, or enjoys painting etc.
  • What do children like most about you and being around you?
  • Do you have a boyfriend or any dependants?
  • If she does have her own children, ask her what will happen when her child/children are sick? If she is a live-out au pair, how far away does she live and how long did it take her to get to you or your child?
  • If you have pets, does she have any allergies or problems with this?
  • If she is a vegetarian, will she cook meat for the children, if you are not a vegetarian?
  • Does she smoke?
  • What does she usually wear to work? Jeans or skirts? In other words, is she prepared to get messy, and stuck into art projects etc. with the kids? The best au pairs are always the ones that prefer dressing casually.

Experience

  • What is the first job you ever had and what did you enjoy about it?
  • What childcare experience do you have?
  • Describe the children and the last childcare experience that you had.
  • Describe your last employer?
  • Explain why the last position you held ended.
  • What do you enjoy most about caring for children?
  • What are the ages of the children you have cared for in the past?
  • Have you ever worked with children the same age as mine?
  • Does she have any first aid training? If she doesn’t´ t, would she be prepared to attend a course? Ask her specific questions like ´ if the toddler fell downstairs and did´ t move, what would you do?
  • Have you ever had to handle an emergency situation? If so, what happened and what action did you take?

Abilities

  • Have you ever bathed or cooked meals for children?
  • How do you discipline children? Tell her your own feelings on this only after you have ascertained hers first.
  • What was your worst child care experience and how did you resolve it?
  • What kinds of activities do you think are good for children and do you like to get involved in these activities?
  • Do you cook? What type of meals can you cook for the children?
  • Can you swim? Are you happy to swim with the children?
  • Are you happy to help with household chores that pertain to the children? How would you encourage the children to be neater in daily life? Tell her what chores are hers to do. E.g. ensuring the children’s room is clean etc.
  • What are your views on eating between meals and how do you feel mealtimes should be managed. If your children have allergies or intolerances, talk to the candidate about these. Is she able to manage these?
  • What are her ideas for entertaining your children? You might ask her to give you some examples of what she might do, or projects she might attempt with your children. Ideally, these should not necessitate large expenditure on your part! She´ s worth her weight in gold if she has got a good store of entertainment ideas and projects at her fingertips!
  • Are you happy to do shopping and take the children on outings?
  • What kind of outings do think would be fun for the children?

Age specific Q & A

Question to ask if you have a child/children age 0-2 years.

  • How do you handle a crying baby?
  • What do you see as your primary responsibility to a child this age?
  • What activities would you engage in with a child this age?
  • Have you worked with a child this age before?
  • Explain the process of changing a diaper, is she comfortable with changing diapers?
  • Has she ever had to sterilise bottles before?

Question to ask if you have a child/children age 2- 3 years.

  • How would you handle a temper tantrum in a public place?
  • Would you handle this differently in a home situation?
  • How do you feel potty training should be approached?
  • What role should outdoor play and interaction with other toddlers have in a child´s day?
  • What types of educational activities would you engage a child in at this age?
  • What indoor activities would you engage a child in at this age?

Question to ask if you have a child/children age 3- 5 years.

  • What methods of limit setting or discipline do you find effective for children this age?
  • What television shows do you feel are appropriate for this age group?
  • How much television do you feel is appropriate for children this age?
  • Are you willing to supervise play time with other children in our home and/or take our child to outside activities which may or may not require your active participation?

Question to ask if you have a child/children age 5 years and older.

  • Are you comfortable reviewing and assisting with my children’s homework?
  • What were your matric results in school?
  • What were your weakest and strongest subjects?
  • Are you willing to supervise friends of our children who are invited to our home while you are in charge?
  • Are you happy with staying with the children at their extra curricular activities?
  • What kind of outings would you organise for the children?
  • What age appropriate activities would you do with the children

Clear up any further questions you may have about the candidate.

Get the children involved, introduce them to the candidate let them show her around the home, tell her about their interests etc, and take notes on all of the following:

  • Do your children appear to be at ease with the applicant?
  • Does the applicant bond naturally with your children and make an effort to talk to them?
  • Does the applicant instinctively interact with and play with your children?
  • Does the applicant seem genuinely interested in your children?
  • Do your children appear relaxed and display a sense of enthusiasm for the applicant?
  • Do you feel relaxed and comfortable around the applicant?

After the Interview

After each interview, make a summary of the applicant and your impression of her/him.

Follow up

If you and your children liked the applicant, follow the interview with reference checks, call a former employer and ask questions such as all references have been checked by the agency prior to the interview. However we do recommend double checking references to ensure that there are no discrepancies or inconsistencies.

Questions to ask references

  • Do you know (the applicant’s name)?
  • How long have you known (applicant’s name)?
  • How do you know (applicant’s name)?
  • What is your occupation?
  • How long did (applicant’s name) work for you?
  • How many children do you have?
  • What were their ages when she started with you?
  • What were the (applicant’s name) responsibilities when working for you?
  • How did (applicant’s name) discipline your children?
  • Can you describe (applicant’s name) general daily appearance?
  • How did you find her interaction with your children?
  • Did she take the initiative to keep them busy with age appropriate games, projects and outings?
  • Did you and your children enjoy being in her presence?
  • Did you ever have any issues with time keeping or her responsibilities that were not to your satisfaction?
  • Did (applicant’s name) obey your rules and regulations?
  • Can you describe (applicant’s name) personality?
  • What was the applicants worst personality traits?
  • What was the applicants best personality traits?
  • Why did she leave your employment?
  • Would you hire (applicant’s name) again?
  • Would you consider (applicant’s name) to be mature, emotionally stable, and healthy?
  • Carefully review the resume and references provided by the applicant.

Made a Decision?

Talk to your children and the third (disinterested) party that was present for a more objective opinion about the applicants.
Make the decision as to who you would like to hire. Inform the agency as soon as possible of your final decision, candidates often go for a number of interviews through different agencies, if you do not contact the agency, she may have been employed elsewhere with other clients by the time you call.

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