January 24, 2014

Use the DISC assessment to help find the right au pair for your family

4 minutes
Advice for host families

Choosing an au pair is important decision, so it only makes sense for families to look at all of the information an application contains before making a choice. One piece of the puzzle some parents forget to consider is an au pair’s DISC assessment.
Cultural Care Au Pair requires all au pairs to take the DISC assessment—a test that measures personality traits and identifies how someone is likely to react in certain situations. The results of this assessment can be found in each au pairs candidate’s application in the bottom section of the Personal Info tab.

“I encourage families to use the DISC as a tool. There are no right or wrong answers. If you have the knowledge on how someone best functions, use this to your advantage,” says Sasha Williams, a Cultural Care placement manager. “When looking at an au pair’s DISC assessment it’s most important for parents to consider how the results will affect three big areas: communication style, structure and leadership and independence and time spent with the family.”
Communication style
Communication is the single most important component to a successful au pair year, so it’s wise to look at an au pair’s “I” score to get a sense of her preferred style. One of the host families Sasha was working with in WA lamented that at the end of each day, her au pair would withdraw to her room then head out with friends. The host mom would have preferred her au pair to hang out and chat for five minutes about the day. Lisa Sousa, a host mom in MA, also found that one of her au pairs was more socially withdrawn and didn’t fit in as well with her family dynamic. In both cases, their au pairs had lower “I” scores. The mom in WA just matched with her next au pair and specifically chose a candidate with a high “I” or Influence score. The au pair’s DISC reports indicates: “You are interested in meeting and being with people. Social skills are unlikely to be a problem for you.” Lisa also just matched with an au pair with a higher “Influence” score.
On the other hand, there are many host parents who crave a bit more privacy and would actually appreciate an au pair who retired to her room each evening. They might not need a high “I” scorer. It’s interesting to note that how an au pair communicates with her host parents is every bit as important as how communicates with the kids.
Structure and leadership
Do you:
Set an agenda on a weekly basis and make consistent use of Cultural Care Au Pair’s Communication Log?
Expect your au pair to devise and plan your kids’ activities?
Feel content just as long as your kids are having fun and feeling loved?
Sasha recommends parents consider a candidate’s DISC score in relation to how they answer this question. “Under steadiness, you might see a line like ‘[You] get restless when involved in routine and repetitive work/activities.’  Families with school-aged kids may worry about how a candidate copes with a daily grind of school, sports, homework, and meal preparation without a lot of variety.”
Other families want to see their au pair empowered, and this is especially true with host kids under four. One common refrain I hear is: ‘I want a candidate that has common sense—one that knows how to step in, take charge.’ Lines like “[You] are willing to take an unconventional approach” in compliance, are something to look for. Under ‘D’ (dominance) you might see lines like ‘individual is goal-oriented and thrives on competition.’ A family with a need for organization and with a lot of moving parts might really appreciate a candidate like this. On the flipside, a family that is very relaxed and takes a go-with-flow approach might frustrate an au pair.”
Independence and spending time with the family
While some families want their au pair to spend time off with them, others prefer that their au pairs make their own plans with friends, travel and get out and about. Says Sasha, “Under ‘Influence’, you might find a candidate ‘is comfortable working alone’ or in ‘Compliance’, ‘willing to try the untried.’ This person might be more independent.” If this is the case, it’s also important to be mindful of what opportunities your au pair will have to socialize. Will she have use of the car? Is there public transportation where you live? How many other au pairs are in your area?
Sasha shares, “Host families that don’t mind more of a homebody and want someone who really becomes part of the family might look at the “D” score for comments like “[You] are easy-going and congenial” and “[You] tend to be reactive rather than pro-active.” She adds, “I work with two families in MD that look for comments like these because both of them love having essentially an older niece that will spend time with them as a family, going to the movies, yoga, etc.”
In the grand scheme of matching, it’s best to consider the DISC results in combination with all of the other important elements of an au pair’s application: her childcare experiences, jobs she’s had outside childcare, her schooling and career goals, the relationships she has with her natural family and friends. If all else looks good but something on the DISC assessment doesn’t sit right with you, talk it out with your placement manager or au pair to make sure it’s nothing that will pose a challenge later on. If all seems in tune with your family’s dynamic, you can be even more confident an au pair is the right fit for you.