6 Alarm Bells When Hiring an Au Pair 

Hiring an Au Pair. It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.

This is especially true when you’re hiring an au pair to be left in charge of your little bundles of joy. As the fabulous Kat Abianac says, “The success or failure of your Au Pair experience lies mainly in the recruitment of the right person”. Or something like that.


A few au pairs sounded AWESOME on paper- and I got my hopes up so far, I got wry neck. Like, I’d mentally moved them in, given them a nickname and made them the legal guardian of my kids.

Only to chat to them– and find the deafening alarm bells drowned out all hope of sensible conversation.

My personal list of alarm bells:

  1. Conversation is uneasy. And I don’t just mean the language barrier. This person is going to be living in your house. It’s not the same as the annoying school teacher you only have to wave to at drop-off and pick-up time. They are always going to be around. Sitting on your couch. In the passenger seat. Next to you while the kids are chucking tanties and chucking up. Possibly on the way home from the airport as soon as they’ve arrived… (but that’s another story).  You need to enjoy each other’s company, be able to laugh, drink wine and have SOME stuff in common. If you’re intimidated by big personalities, then someone who yells down the phone at you with uber-exuberance probably isn’t the person for you. Do they offer information to you– or only answer questions? Do they have questions for you– or are they completely disinterested in what you have to say? I’m not saying you need to be besties (but seriously – that may happen too!) but you are going to be spending a lot of time together. You kind of need to get along.
  2. The language barrier. Trust me. If the basics can’t be communicated, the intricacies won’t be either. When it comes to the niceties, you can easily gloss over a few mispronunciations and vernacular confusion. When it comes to instructions that have to do with medication, tasks or house rules, it is not.
  3. The first thing they ask about is moneyDon’t get me wrong, I’m all for getting paid and paying fairly. I almost start asking questions if someone doesn’t ask about money… at some point. But the girls who are worried about the dosh above all else are not the same ones who will be willing to go the extra mile for you. I don’t even think this is a question that needs to be left until the last second – it’s an important part of ANYONE taking ANY job. But when I reply to an ad and the only response I get is ‘Thanks for messaging me. How much is the pay? I’ve already had an offer of $…’ (and yes, that was a real reply) I don’t even bother messaging back. This is an experience, not a bidding war.
  4. Their mum is standing over their shoulder, telling them what to ask. I’m looking for an Au Pair. Not another child. I know some of the hopeful Au Pairs are young and their parents are freaking out that they’ll end up with a serial killer on the other side of the world (goodness knows I will be that mother one day). And there is a time and place to meet and greet the parents if it’s the wish of everyone involved. But not straight up. If they can’t figure out how to communicate with you before they get here, it’s probably going to be worse when they do.
  5. They ask you to pay for their flight (this is often accompanied by a sob story). Big. Fat. Alarm Bells. This seems to be common practice in some countries but it’s almost unheard of in Australia. If they can’t afford to get here, I am willing to bet that the ‘pay thing’ will always be ‘a thing’.
  6. Gut Feeling. We always say it but what does it actually mean? It means if you feel something’s not right – no matter how desperate you are to find someone – don’t freaking go there, girlfriend. Listening to your inners is waaaaaaaaaay harder once they’ve moved in and destroyed your life. In a word – run.

We’re currently on the hunt for Fab Big Sister #5.  I reckon I’ve messaged, Skyped, emailed and chatted to over 50 girls (and a couple of guys/couples) to get the 4 fab Au Pairs we’ve already had. A few have had me bending over backwards, talking up the job and promising daily foot rubs and Belgian chocolate to get them to “Pick meeeeee”… (generally unsuccessfully).

Most have been a beautiful mix of “Yep, we’d be a great mix!” and “I can see some compromises will need to be made – on both sides”.

But do you know what? I’ve found our perfect au pair 4 times- and I will again.

Above all else, when hiring an au pair, just remember- be kind. Not having a match does NOT mean she isn’t a great person. She’s just not for you. Your gut feeling ‘Alarm Bell’ can often be another’s ‘Dream Au Pair,’ and vice versa.


For help hiring your dream au pair, pick up a copy of this eBook:

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About the author

Claire Barton

Productivity Coach & Business Buddy

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