As summer approaches, we once again embark on the quest to find and hire the
best camp staff on the planet. It’s time to put the hiring mistakes of
the past behind us and move confidently forward. But how do we do this? The
conventional interview, whether it is face to face or over the phone, just doesn’t
seem to fit the mold when finding the right people to work at camp.
It’s time to put that creative spirit and unconventional wisdom that drew
us all to camp into practice. When hiring the right people for your camp its
important to take into account what your camp is all about and apply it to your
interview and hiring procedure. There is an old adage that says ÛÏWhat
I hear I forget, What I see I remember, and What I do I understand.Û The
people who ÛÏget itÛ form the foundation of the ÛÏperfectÛ
camp staff. They understand the mission of your camp and they have the confidence
and ability to demonstrate it. They are the people who ÛÏdoÛ. Well,
how do we find those people? Well, if its possible, we get them to perform for
us. It’s not enough to simply hear that a potential staff member wants
to work at camp because they love kids and that they would make a great counselor
because they consider themselves to be very creative. The proof is in the pudding
and great staff will not only know how to be great but can show you that they
The Group Interview
One way to get potential staff to demonstrate the qualities that you are looking
for at camp is through the group interview. A small group of applicants is given
the opportunity to participate in some of the best things camp has to offer.
Facilitate them through team building challenges, initiative games, and get
them to sing a few songs. This will give you an opportunity to measure their
willingness to participate, how outgoing they are, and if they are able to work
with other people. This will also give them a chance to do a large part of what
their job at camp would entail helping them to decide whether or not camp is
right for them. Some camps use the group interview as a pre-cursor to a more
formal sit down with the camp director.
The Barrel of Fun
One of the qualities of a great camp staff member is the ability to make a whole lot of something
out of what looks to be a whole lot of nothing. The staff at YMCA Camp Mataucha
use ÛÏThe Barrel Of FunÛ to gauge an applicant’s ability to
think on their feet and put the creativity that they usually have already said
they have to good use. The barrel itself is not so much a barrel as just a bucket
or box that can hold a bunch of random items. Some of the items used in the
past have been paper, markers, popsicle sticks, paper clips, ping pong balls,
tennis balls, or just about anything that might be found around your office.
Before showing the applicant the ÛÏbarrelÛ, give them a scenario
It’s raining, been raining for a couple of days, and your rainy day bag is empty. You ask your supervisor what you can do with your group and they hand you this (give them the “barrel”). Ask them to try to come up with enough activities to keep a group of campers active and engaged for about an hour while you are cooped up indoors.
Hope this is helpful to you! Good luck hiring staff this year! If you have any innovative hiring practices that you would like to share with the camping community at large, please let us know!