Some of our campers come to our camps for the water trampoline, or ropes course, or any of the other amazing programs that we run — but a majority of our campers come back year after year because of that one counselor. The person who helped them to grow, be confident with themselves, and provide life-changing experiences throughout their summer. This is why recruiting the right people is so important for the success of our camp operations.
By becoming an ACCOUNTABLE recruiter, your camp is put in a place to provide the most high-quality experiences for your campers. Hiring people to work at camp is an extremely difficult task, and it is even harder to find the outstanding ones. It is on us as the recruiters to make sure we are doing everything possible on our end to ensure that we find these people. As you read further, you are going to learn how to critically look at your recruiting efforts to help plan and execute a deliverable hiring plan with the ultimate goal of ensuring the success of your camp.
The first step in becoming an accountable recruiter is to assess your camp hiring needs. Do this by speaking with veteran staff to hear what support they need, what went well, and what things they think would help improve the camper and staff experience. Then, create a staffing pattern plan that will allow you to meet the needs of your campers, while also being fiscally responsible. Camp is a business, and we have to be intentional with our planning to make sure we are getting our staff the right support, while also making sure we can continue to operate within our budget. For some camps, it may be possible to make all the changes staff are requiring, and for others, it may not. It is important to assess and be honest with what is needed to ensure the success of your camp long-term.
Create a Plan
The next step is to create a plan. Creating plans can sometimes be a remedial and daunting task, but making an intentional plan that can be delivered upon is key to allowing you to assess your own recruiting tactics to see if you are doing everything possible on your end. It is also a great tool for recruiting teams that have multiple recruiters because it is a chance to clearly explain to your team how to go about recruiting and hiring the best people available.
For those who are the only recruiter, this will help with keeping on track and allow tracking what efforts are working and what efforts need to change or drop because of low results. This plan needs to consist of timelines, deadlines, who is in charge of each task, what platforms will be used to recruit staff, the interview process, onboarding, and their first day experience. Remember when creating these plans sometimes less is more. Keep it simple enough to clearly explain to your team, but also impactful enough to meet your staffing pattern goals.
Creating the best plan in the world doesn’t mean it will always work. Start thinking about roadblocks and possible challenges that may arise from your recruiting efforts. Then, create counter plans that allow you to quickly adjust and keep hiring moving forward. For example, what if a future employee says, “Another job is offering more money.”
Here are two of many possible options.
- Option 1: If your budget allows, you can see if you can match the other jobs price.
- Option 2: Say you understand and move on to other candidates.
If the person was extremely good in their interview you may consider the first option. However, what does that do to your budget, and is this going to make you reconsider the wages being currently paid to returning staff? The second option may also be good because your time is valuable. Having counter options at the ready will allow you to quickly and effectively make decisions all because you were prepared to counter appropriately.
Being an open-minded recruiter means being open to new ways to recruit. Just sticking to “this is how we have always done it,” will not get the desired results. There are people in your camp already that can help you with this. Start by pulling in veteran staff and asking them these three questions.
- What made you want to apply for this job?
- What can we do to attract more staff to apply for this job?
- What are the reasons staff would not apply for this job?
Utilizing social media platforms to attract staff is something that can be done right now. Capture video testimonials from current staff on why they love working at camp, put together reels and TikToks that show how much fun a staff member would have working at your camp, and utilize job posting tools on Facebook.
A recruiter who understands the people they are trying to recruit allows for building trust with potential recruits. Putting in the extra work to understand what motivates someone to apply for this job is also important. Some candidates are being forced to get a job, while some love working with kids. Although we want everyone to want to work at camp, we have to understand that not everyone is going to be as enthusiastic as we are about working at a camp.
So, we have to show them deliverable outcomes they will learn by working with us. I like to start by saying, “I understand not everyone is like me and going to be a camp professional, and the lessons learned from working at camp will help acquire other jobs in a desired career.” Talk about how learning to be a team player, good communicator, and getting out of your comfort zone can lead them on a path to their goals and dreams. By letting them know these outcomes, you are showing them that even though they may not be as motivated as you are to work at camp, they can use this time to set a trajectory for their dream job.
Not Everything Is Going to Go Your Way
An accountable recruiter is fully aware that every single candidate might not work out. They could have an amazing interview, be great in training, and then terrible with kids when they show up for camp. When you recognize that not everything will go your way, you will not be surprised or caught off guard when it does. And if it does work out, even better. That is something to celebrate! Recruiting is a balance of managing emotions when things are going to plan and when they don’t work out how you thought they should.
One of the biggest downfalls with recruiting is planning with no action. You make the plan, you have the strategies, but you spend so much time on creating the perfect plan that you forget the most important part of any plan. Executing. It is OK to have 60% of a plan in place to begin to take action. The other 40 percent can be figured out along the way. Plans with no action lead to no results.
Be honest with yourself when planning and ask, is this taking up too much time to think of the exact strategy? Is this able to be simply executed? Recruiting should not be an elaborate 25-step program. Instead, it should consist of 5–10 strategies that can easily be implemented and taught to your other recruiters. Do not fall into the planning trap. Take action today.
You created an amazing recruiting strategy. You followed all the above tips and tricks and yet you are still not getting the desired results. At this point, it might be best to access your strategies again while being honest with yourself. Are you doing everything that you said you would? What is working? What needs changed? What other people on your team can also recruit?
On the other side of this, if things are going according to plan, it is still a good idea to assess again. This will allow you to reflect on what is working and cut out what’s not working.
Make sure to set a date to reevaluate. Somewhere between two to four weeks is a good time frame to allow you to put your strategies into action and allow you to get an accurate representation of what is working and what needs to be changed.
Believe in What You Are Doing
If you want your plan and strategies to work, you have to fully believe in what you are doing. There are going to be challenges to overcome, and there will be times that your plan doesn’t go exactly the way you wanted it to. Trust what you are doing knowing that it is a process and it will work out over time.
This does not mean, however, to believe blindly. Have an open mind to feedback and be critical with planning. Once you have a plan that you and your team feel can be delivered, you must believe in it. If there are any doubts, look into why you think it won’t work and make the necessary adjustments.
Lead by Example
Your team is going to be looking to you when times get tough, and if they see that you are not following through, then they will begin to question the plan. If you say you are going to call 20 recruits every day, and you want your team to do the same, then you need to get those calls in.
Leading by example demonstrates to your team that you are not above the process but are instead in the trenches with them and fully invested in accomplishing your goals.
Empower the people around you to make decisions and take action themselves. Empower your team by asking for recommendations, taking feedback, providing consistent coaching, and delegating tasks to individuals that play on their strengths. Becoming an ACCOUNTABLE recruiter means inspiring your team to grow with you. This shows an investment into your team and motivates them to follow the plan because they see you as someone who cares about them and wants to see them grow in your organization. If your staff do not feel empowered or confident in making decisions, then they will waste time waiting for you to give them the next tasks. Create an environment in which your team feels empowered to bring up new ideas, think outside the box, take risks, and grow.
Now that you know how to be an ACCOUNTABLE recruiter, it is time to take action. What are you going to do today to recruit people to work at your camps? What staff do you want to help you with this task? What is your plan? There is no more time to waste.
This blog was written on behalf of Project Real Job, whose purpose is to support camps in their efforts to recruit, hire, and retain staff.
Mac is a summer camp lifer that is passionate about working with and helping to train people on how to work with youth. Born and raised in the warmth of Fort Myers, FL, he now spends his time in the beautifully brisk New England area where he is the Director of Camp Operations for Children's Island Day Camp and Lynch/van Otterloo YMCA Camps. For Mac, camp is the one place where campers and staff can be their true self, and it is such a great responsibility to be the facilitator of that Magic. Mac can be contacted at email@example.com.
Photo courtesy of Camp Ho Mita Koda in Newbury, Ohio