Top 5 Ways to Stand Out to a Hiring Manager

December 19, 2011

In this guest blog by Sarah Horner Fish, executive director at Tom Sawyer Camps in Pasadena, California, you'll learn how to make a lasting impression when applying and interviewing for summer jobs. Visit ACA's Job site for more information about working at camp or to find job postings!

The word is out. A job at a summer camp is one of the best ways to spend your summer! You will learn excellent real life skills and make a significant difference in the lives of others. It most likely will be one of the hardest jobs you have ever had, but at the same time, it will help you grow in so many ways. Many of our past camp counselors say their job at camp was hands down the best job they have ever had. And with the unemployment rate where it is, hiring managers at summer camps get to be even more selective than ever . . .

Here are some tips to help you stand out through the interview process and get hired for one of the best jobs ever.

#5 Make a Great First Impression!

Believe it or not, the first impression you make can really help (or hurt) your chances in getting hired. Here are a few simple things you can do to make sure you make a great first impression.

Arrive on time . . . and that means at least ten minutes prior to your interview start time. Arriving early for an interview shows the hiring manager that you will also be on time for your job. (And planning to arrive early will help you if you run into some unexpected traffic on the way.)

Smile! Shake the interviewer’s hand! Use eye contact and use their name when greeting them. We expect you to be a little nervous (that’s actually a good thing), so take a deep breath and take these easy steps to help yourself stand out. 

#4 Be Creative!

We once had an applicant who sent in a plastic bag filled with “Magic Pixie Dust” with her application, to emphasize her imagination and creativity. We were so impressed before we ever even met her, and her story about the Magic Pixie Dust during the interview sealed the deal. She thought outside of the box and took a unique risk that paid off. Going above and beyond, whether it is with your application or during your interview, will leave a lasting impression that will give you the edge in a close decision.

#3 Be Professional!

It’s easy to give you a list of what NOT to do in your interview, but instead I am going to tell you what to do.

Turn your cell phone off (and then double check that it is off . . . again).

Spit out your chewing gum. (It’s silly I even have to say this, but I bet one in five applicants is chewing gum when he or she arrives to their interview. Ugh.)

Dress professionally. Yes, you are applying to work outside with kids, but looking professional and sporty is different than looking like you just threw on your old t-shirt and shorts. Look at yourself in a mirror. Brush your hair, and yes, guys, you need to shave.

Be excited about the job! Your genuine enthusiasm for this position is critical. An experienced interviewer can sense when an applicant isn’t overly thrilled about the job. (“My parents are making me get a job this summer” is not the answer your potential boss is looking for.) Make sure you really want the position and that you really, really like children. Your sincere interest will come through your answers and body language, and will once again help you stand out against the other applicants.

#2 Be Prepared!

This seems simple, but I am often surprised how some applicants seem unprepared for their actual interview. Our “warm up” questions are pretty standard, so when we get an applicant who is stumped by the question “so why would you make a great camp counselor?” it tells us that the applicant has not done any preparation for the interview (and perhaps has not even thought about the job they are applying for). Take a guess at what some of the questions might be, and think of your answers beforehand. Make a list of what your strengths are and why the camp should hire you. Talk about kids in the interview, and why you are motivated to work with them. Ask a friend to do a mock interview with you to get practice.

Check out the camp’s Web site before the interview; this is a great way to learn about the program, their philosophy, and the goals of their program. Use this information in your interview, whether you are asking a question about the program or commenting on how the camp matches your goals for working with kids.

And make sure to have your own list of questions for the interviewer . . . by doing so, it shows you have done a little homework about the job and the camp. Not all applicants do this, so by doing your own research, it will help you stand out.

#1 Be Confident!

It’s time to put away the modesty and talk confidently about yourself. It is a competitive market right now, so you need to find a way to stand out! It’s okay to say that you are hard working and that you work well with others (or whatever your strengths may be). Let the interviewer know how you will bring value to the job (read #2 again . . . be prepared). 

Thank the interviewer at the end of the interview (again, shake their hand, make eye contact and use their name) . . . and it’s not too old fashioned to pull out a piece of stationary and send a follow-up thank you note. 

About the Author

Sarah Horner Fish is the executive director of Tom Sawyer Camps (TSC) in Pasadena, California. She is responsible for all of TSC’s programs and oversees the staff, training, and operations. Sarah has been a camper, junior counselor, precamp counselor, summer day camp counselor, and assistant day camp director during her more than thirty-five years at TSC! Sarah works year round at camp doing many different jobs, including the hiring, enrolling and training of staff.