In a recent survey of both overnight and day camps across the U.S. and Canada, many camps responded that recruiting quality staff is a key priority (NicheDirectories 2002). As many camps have discovered, this priority can be easily addressed by effectively advertising online and exploiting the power of the Internet to recruit staff, while saving valuable time and money.
The Internet can be a very valuable tool to help camps recruit quality staff quickly and efficiently. Currently, online advertising is considered to be the most cost-effective advertising medium available. Advertising online allows camps with either large or limited budgets to effectively reach targeted audiences in a timely fashion, while measuring the response rate of advertising dollars. Equally important, online advertising and marketing greatly reduces printing and postage costs associated with brochures, applications, and registration packets. And finally, online advertising reduces travel expenses used to attend job fairs and helps camps avoid the last minute staffing crunch with year-round recruiting.
Comparing Online Advertising
Recruiting Through Your Camp’s Web Site
First and foremost, in the age of the Internet, camps must have a Web site to efficiently recruit staff, in addition to campers. But having a Web site is not enough! Camps must be sure to have a section dedicated to staffing so that interested candidates can locate the information they need and apply for available positions. Providing staff applications online and/or in PDF formats can further reduce your printing and postage expenses and will allow candidates to apply quickly and efficiently.
Getting Your Web Site Found by Potential Staff
So now you have a Web site! How will potential job candidates find your Web site and the content designed for them? Search engine placement, while confusing at times, is an effective way to get your Web site found. To begin with, ensure your domain name is registered with the major search engines. In addition, adding Keyword Meta tags to your Web site’s source code will help the search engines using spiders (e.g., Google) locate and index your Web site in their search results. Finally, including your camp listing and Web site link on destination Web sites will increase your visibility and therefore traffic. Destination Web sites include various sources such as job sites (e.g., www.HotJobs.com , www.CampJobs.com , et al.), Online Camp Directories (e.g., www.KidsCamps.com , www.ACAcamps.org , et al.), camp associations, Chambers of Commerce, and many others.
Online Job Sites — What You Need To Know
With so many online job sites to choose from, how do you know which will work the best for your camp? Before committing your advertising dollars, take the time to evaluate a few services to find out which service(s) fits your needs. When researching online job sites, be sure to ask the following questions:
To effectively gauge which online job site works best for your camp, consider advertising job openings on more than one site, and test the results so that you can make informed decisions the next year when planning your advertising budget for staff recruitment.
Additional Internet Resources for Recruiting Staff
Aside from posting job ads and optimizing your Web site, other online resources are available to help you effectively recruit staff. Searchable applicant databases can be very useful when you are looking for a specific position, especially when the position is hard to fill, such as a camp nurse. A few services offering searchable candidate databases include www.ACAcamps.org , www.CampJobs.com , www.Monster.com  and www.SummerJobs.com . Online job boards (www.JobBoards.com ) and job fairs (www.JobWeb.com ) can also be useful if you are looking for candidates in your local area.
Online Background Screening
Once you have successfully recruited your staff, you’ll want to properly screen individual staff members to protect your campers — while at the same time reducing the camp’s liability exposure. Implementing background screening in your hiring process is sound risk management. The screening process helps you ensure that you select the best possible employees and protects your campers, other staff members, and the camp itself from exposure to employees who pose unacceptable, identifiable threats.
Just as online advertising has made the recruitment process easier and more efficient, complete background screening services are now available online, allowing camps to quickly and accurately screen prospective candidates. More and more, camps are turning to these commercial background checking services to assist in the time-consuming task of prescreening job applicants. Use of a professional service requires compliance with federal regulations and results in a more comprehensive and supportable screening of your employees. Commercial background checking companies can provide you with a variety of reports, including, but not limited to, screening of criminal records, sexual offender databases, social security and identity verification, employment/education history, reference checks, motor vehicle reports, and credit checks.
It can be very difficult to perform reliable background checks in multiple municipalities and jurisdictions. Fortunately, commercial background checking companies make this easier for organizations by providing access to key databases. Companies providing background-screening information are subject to the requirements so be sure you verify their compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) before proceeding. For more information on the FCRA, visit www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/fcra.htm .
Final Staffing Tip
Remember, it’s never too early to start recruiting! Early applicants truly want to work at camp, so plan on advertising year round for staff to reduce urgent last-minute staffing needs.
Rebecca McEldowney is the marketing consultant for KidsCamps/CampJobs.com.
Originally published in the 2004 March/April issue of Camping Magazine.