Let's learn how to reflect on those questions from training, to midsummer evals, to end of summer reviews — and all those teachable moments in between (and maybe even beyond)!

Not too long ago, I sat in a workshop on hiring that introduced me to an interesting quantifier. To paraphrase the presenter, “You spend an average of 10 hours per candidate — from the interview through the last step of the hiring process.” Ten hours. Consider how many people you screen, interview, hire, and bring through all the additional steps before they even get to camp. Consider how many don’t make it through all those steps, but still take the first few. Ten hours is a great deal of time, especially when you consider everything else you do in your role on a daily — or seasonal — basis. Ten hours is also not inclusive of training, evaluations, end-of-summer reviews — and all those teachable moments in between!  

When it comes to recruiting and interviewing, you thoughtfully craft your process and questions, making every effort to learn who your applicant is, but too often the questions stop there. For taking 10 hours of your time, it should be an investment beyond the interview and screening process, not only for you, but for the staff member as well. I was blessed by a predecessor with a fantastic candidate assessment form (looking at you, Liz Nason!). The form came complete with a scoring rubric (more later on why this is key), that I have tweaked over the years, taking into account my own organization’s mission and values, the changing camp landscape and what is going on in the world. Each question has prompts to help support the conversation for both new applicants and returning staff (returning to the role or starting in a new role), which is particularly useful for those candidates who are new to camp – or new to jobs and internships. Conversation lag can make a first interview even more anxiety inducing for the applicant and can color your view of them. Prompts can help both of you!

It is important to note that your interview process and questions should be standardized to help eliminate bias. A rubric, as a decision support tool, can also help eliminate bias as it gives a standard for evaluating responses, skill sets, and experience. This rubric can then be your guidepost – not only to support making connections across the season, but also to maintain standards year over year.

Here are some specific examples to leverage your interview questions for meaningful connections across the season.


Reason to Ask

Making a Connection

For Example . . .

Pre-interview — Do you need any accommodations for your application or for your interview?

Do you conduct your interviews in person? Virtually? An inclusive environment should be apparent and available from the very first touchpoint.

When assessing your training modalities and format, during midsummer/end-of-summer evaluations or during one-on-one coaching/mentoring check-ins, and during summer in service opportunities

Ensure your staff training utilizes different techniques or activities, that all learning styles are supported, and that you look at the physical landscape of training spaces

How do you manage stress?

Camp is a fast-paced environment and can often be stressful. Understanding how an applicant manages stress can help you create/foster a supportive work environment. It is also imperative to employ a trauma informed lens.

Debriefing difficult situations and during midsummer/end of summer evaluations or during one-on-one coaching/mentoring check ins, during off season check ins, following incidents or issues

You might reconsider where and how you have check-ins with staff, while still ensuring privacy and confidentiality

Tell me about a time where you had a conflict with someone (e.g. a friend, employer, person of authority). What was the conflict and how was it resolved?

Our staff groups are effective teams and, depending on our staff training model, they may not have much time to become a truly cohesive unit prior to the start of the season. A lot of this happens on site. Understanding a baseline conflict management style helps you to structure your team.

During staff training, debriefing conflicts within the camper or staff groups, and during midsummer/end of summer evaluations or during one-on-one coaching/mentoring check ins, following incidents or issues

If someone has processing issues, how you handle a debrief may need to change

Tell me about a time when someone gave you feedback or constructive criticism. What was the advice and did you act on it?

For many of our staff, this is their first job. Those that have worked before may not be accustomed to getting regular evaluations. This helps you understand how they may respond to the process and what techniques might be best for you.

During staff training and during midsummer/end of summer evaluations or during one-on-one coaching/mentoring check-ins

You may need to model or practice what you’ve suggested or requested to ensure understanding and address questions

Have you ever had unrealistic expectations about something?

Similar to questions about feedback and criticism, understanding how an applicant handles expectations will help you set them up for success.

During staff training, debriefing conflicts within the camper or staff groups, and during midsummer/end of summer evaluations or during one-on-one coaching/mentoring check ins

Lots of wrenches can get thrown into the work we do — training and helping prepare for the unexpected can help address expectation gaps. When something doesn’t go as planned, it may help to look at what went well, while educating/course correcting

Can you share with me a time when you made a mistake or failed at something, whether it was a true failure or a perceived failure. What did you learn?

Again, much like questions about feedback and expectations, understanding how an applicant handles a true or perceived failure or mistake will help you facilitate teachable moments for them and further set them up for success.

During staff training, debriefing conflicts within the camper or staff groups, and during midsummer/end of summer evaluations or during one-on-one coaching/mentoring check ins

If ever there is a time for a teachable moment! Remind them to look for the learning and highlight that opportunity. Reference where information can be found and resources to use


During a staff training session this past summer, I referred to a question from the interview process and related it to the session with a very blatant, “This is why I ask you about this.” I was met with several nods, as well as the indescribable lightbulb face from several more. From the interview to this moment to teachable moments and evaluations over the summer, I, along with my admin team, could refer to staff responses to questions. We were able to facilitate reflection during moments of growth — from built-in information with measurable success.

We are all aware of the difficulties that face us in staffing and that face our staff on the job. A culture of collaboration and open communication can support engagement, but making connections such as these can also help staff feel satisfied, energized, and connected beyond their role. Boosting self-confidence can help staff feel stronger in their roles, which improves work product and may help with staff retention. Making specific connections is also an excellent means of individualized attention and training — helpful for working specifically with the coming generations. A win-win to be sure. What’s more is these wins can come from a process you already have in place with just a few thoughtful adjustments — making the most of the ten hours and beyond.

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.

Kate Grenci (she/her/hers) is an active volunteer and board member with the American Camp Association, New York and New Jersey. She is the director and property manager of Camp DeWitt and of The OVAL, day camps with Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey and supports the Girl Scout community in all things camp as a member of Girl Scouts USA’s Camp Program Advisory subcommittee. Prior to working full time in camp, she held management roles in youth residential care facilities for two leading family service organizations in New England. She holds a Master of Education from Harvard University, focusing on Human Development and Psychology. Want to chat about all things camp? Email Kate at trainingintents@gmail.com.

Photo courtesy of Skyline Camp.