5 Secrets To Recruiting Fun AND Safe Camp Counselors

For camp directors, staff recruiting is like the latest Paranormal Activity movie – it’ll keep you up at night. Literally and figuratively.

For starters, there’s the pressure of finding the right camp counselors. 

Staffing is the single most important decision camp directors make. And it has a significant impact on camper retention. Your campers (and their parents) recognize when staff go above and beyond – which fuels your retention efforts.

Plus, recruiting is time-consuming – with a big, ol’ capital T.

You likely spend hundreds of hours creating job listings, fielding applications, scheduling interviews and tracking down references. And if you fall behind, long nights ensue.

But here’s a secret: There’s a better way to hire summer camp staff. (We promise it doesn’t involve nearly as much manual data entry as in the past.)

Levering the right camp hiring tools empower you to streamline the five steps in the staffing process – recruiting, accepting applications, screening, interviewing, and onboarding. Here are some of the most helpful strategies and shortcuts you can take at each point to make your life easier:

1. People Make or Break Your Camp; Recruit the Best

What’s the secret to recruiting camp rock stars? Well, there certainly isn’t a magic bullet. Sometimes the prospective employees you think will excel, well don’t. And the onehiring-great-summer-camp-staffs you weren’t so sure of turn into lifelong camp careerists.

Fortunately, a few strategies can help you to narrow down your list to the most promising candidates. Here’s what you can do:

  • Promote from Within: At the end of each summer, you likely have a list of superstars you want to see come back. Start your recruitment efforts here! Communicate how pleased you are with their work, offer a raise or access to professional development opportunities next summer, and get them to commit.
  • Ask for Referrals: Another secret: Leverage your camp’s alumni, family and fundraising network to find awesome applicants. These people know your camp values well, and chances are, they’ll help you spread the word to the types of people you’d love to hire.
  • Link Up with Schools and Community Groups: Colleges, church groups, community organizations, and leadership groups – they all offer your camp access to incredible leaders. Make sure you get out the word and build partnerships with local and regional universities, too.

How Online Camp Hiring Tools Help You Recruit

A camp management tool is like a super-powered Rolodex. The right tool helps you reach out to contacts who can help you recruit future staff – including alumni, parents, and fundraisers – as well as communicate with those employees you want to bring back next year.

2. Make It Easy for Applicants to Connect

There’s a reason camps are no-technology zones – campers and staff might spend the summer staring at a screen. That should also tell you something about today’s hiring practices.

Simply put, your potential hires are tech savvy. And by giving your application process a digital makeover, you’ll attract more qualified applicants.

But digital staff applications aren’t enough. In your applications, you should also be asking the right questions and linking with hiring agencies to streamline the process. A few secrets for doing it right:

  • Make Your Applications User-Friendly: An effective camp application is straightforward to complete and submit. If the process is overly complicated, you might lose out on top talent. Start by making sure the application looks great on every platform. (Remember, your younger applicants love mobile – even if they don’t complete it on their phones, they might look there first.) Plus, test the process for yourself to see if it all makes sense.
  • Start a Conversation with the Right Questions: What should you be asking? You’ll probably want to know about prior work and academic experiences, special skills, and other relevant training. But a few additional open-ended questions – something like “Why Do You Want to Work with Us?” or “What Excites You About Working at Camp?” – will give you insights into the applicant’s expectations, if they’ve done research on your camp, and give you a sense if they are or aren’t the right fit.
  • Link Up with International Hiring Agencies: If you’re hiring international staff, it can be a challenge to get the word out. The right platform, though, can simplify it for you. Many camp HR platforms connect with job boards from the major international hiring agencies, like Camp America, 3Adventures and CCUSA. In other words, you create a posting, link it to your desired job boards, and then applications flow right into your hiring tool.

How a Camp Hiring Platform Helps You Accept Applications

Camp hiring tools empower you in a few ways; they help you organize the incoming applications as they flow into your database. They streamline your ability to create custom online applications and personalize all the questions. The right platform makes it easier for applicants to find the right forms to complete. And the best tools sync with camp hiring agencies to streamline the process. hiring-summer-camp-staff

3. Narrow Your List Down to the Best of the Best

You’ve got your list of possible employees. But now, you want to weed out the ones who just aren’t the right fit. What do you do?

Well, you’ll likely start with reference and background checks (which, without the right tools, might take all spring). What can you do? Automate. You can shave time off reference checks by allowing a computer to automatically reach out to references. Here’s how the process works:

  • You create online reference check forms for your various positions.
  • Applicants provide references on their online applications with contact information.
  • Your hiring tool automatically sends a link to the reference check form to each of the applicant’s references.
  • Viola! You’re on the track to checking references faster and gathering great information about potential campers. No more games of phone tag.

Plus, another advantage: Background checks are streamlined. The best online hiring tools allow you to batch background checks with a single click.

How a Camp Staffing Software Helps with Screening

Automation is a powerful hiring tool at camps that may have 500+ applicants. But another powerful feature is the ability to create lists, i.e. people who you’re interested in and people who just aren’t the right fit. Once you’ve created your lists, you can send a batched email that asks the applicant to schedule an interview, batch references checks, or create lists of references you haven’t heard from.

4. Get to Your Applicants with Strategic Interviews

Interviews: They’re the backbone of the staffing process. But if you ask any camp director, the logistics of scheduling staff interviews is like trying to herd cats.

Technology can certainly help with the logistics. The right tools make communication easier and allow potential hires to schedule their own interviews. For example, you could allow potential hires to select a time that works for them from an electronic scheduler – and getting the word out would be as easy as sending a mass email.

But beyond the logistics, the real challenge is getting a sense of someone in a short amount of time and (and often) virtual environment. Here are a few secrets, though, to make the most of it:

  • Ask the Right Questions: Ask questions that give you a sense of why – what draws them to camp. A simple question: Why Do You Want to Work with Children? How the interviewee answers can instantly help you weed out applicants who don’t seem excited or up to the task.
  • Get Creative with Your Questions: Creative interview questions can help you gauge problem-solving ability. They don’t have to be brain-teasers – instead just simple outside-the-box questions. A few fun questions:
    • You’re a New Addition to the Crayon Box- What Could Would You Be and Why?
    • You’ve Just Found a Winning Lottery Ticket on the Street – What Would You Do?
  • Ask Situation Questions: Camp staff will likely be put in situations beyond the borders of their existing experiences. And the way they respond in these situations can affect the safety of campers. So find questions that will give you an idea of how a potential staff member might react to a risky situation or conflict, i.e. campers are bullying another camper, a senior counselor wants to go rock climbing without proper safety gear, etc.
  • Get a Second Opinion: Bring in your other administrators and let them ask questions too. A fresh set of eyes and ears on a candidate might help you see something you’re missing.

How Summer Camp Hiring Tools Makes Staff Interviews Easier

The greatest benefit: Camp HR platforms empower you to communicate and automate logistics. For example, the right tool enables you to create lists of potential hires, and share those lists with your senior-level staff. This makes it easier, for say, your healthcare director, to send a mass email to the right applicants and schedule interviews.

5. Create an On-Boarding Experience That’s Foolproof

Hey, you’ve made it to the finish line! Congratulations! But there are still a few steps you need to take to onboard your staff and make it all official.

You’ll still need new hires to:

  • Complete healthcare forms
  • Sign and return contracts
  • Submit W2s and tax forms
  • Distribute preparation packets
  • Schedule offseason meet-ups and events

A camp staff hiring tool makes this so much easier. First, your incoming staff will all create accounts in your camp management platform. After creating an account, they can access an employee dashboard. Here, they’ll receive links to downloadable or digital health, tax and release forms. Plus, you’ll be able to easily distribute newsletters, deadline alerts, and other messages through mass emails.

How Summer Camp HR Tools Help Your New Hires Know What to Do Next

Besides providing incoming staff with a “homebase” for their employee records – i.e. the employee dashboard – HR tools also help directors get their staff ready. First, directors can create quick reports, i.e. who still needs to submit healthcare forms, and then personalize a message for this group. Plus, all the data that is submitted, like W2s, is securely stored in a searchable database.

Parting Words: Technology Makes Finding the Best People Easier

Ask any lifelong camp director how hiring has changed in the last few decades, and you’re bound to hear a colorful response that starts with: “Back in my day… (fill in the blank).”

Simply put, back in the day, hiring camp staff was a logistical and communication nightmare. So much paperwork, snail mail, phone calls – camp directors had to rely mostly on intuition about candidates.

Intuition still counts, but today’s tools are changing the game. Camp directors can use digital applications, virtual interviews, and automated reference checks to get to know candidates much better and make more informed hiring differences when choosing camp counselors.

And considering how important staff is for making your camp the best – that’s something that every director will want to get behind.