Here are some things I look for — and look out for — in potential staffers during the interview. Some of the cues listed may seem obvious in this context, but in the context of an interview they can be subtle…
Related Article: Three-Step Program
Signs of Life
• Direct eye contact, smiling and comfortable posture. These are good things, but look out for those who take comfort and confidence to the next level — arrogance. You know what I mean… Those who radiate an “I’m too cool for school, you’re lucky to have me around” attitude.
• Real interest in the daily program. These candidates want to know everything they can about every aspect of our camp, which tells me that they’ll be attentive to detail and excited about implementing the program.
• Questions about campers. Since the kids come first, an interest in campers is a huge plus.
• Questions about adding their own creativity to a program. This shows a candidate who is willing to go deeper than simply following a pre-designed program. Perhaps an interest in offering their own creative solutions means they can think on their feet.
• “Can I put in for time off early?” If they’re asking for time off right away it tells me they’re already looking for ways to work as little as possible.
• “How much time a day do I get to myself?” Notice the Warning Sign pattern here? At a kids-first camp, there’s no room for Me-Firsts.
• “Do I have to sing?” Seriously. I get this question, and usually reply, “No. But you’ll have to dance.” Just kidding. I really don’t do that, but again, this shows a lack of commitment.
• “How much trouble do I get into for being late?” Enough said here.
• “Can I date staff?” I have a feeling this character will violate our SSAD rule.
• “Can I haze CITs like meatballs?” Okay. So no one’s ever asked this, but you can find it in the subtext of our overconfident, over-comfortable schlock jock mentioned earlier.
The Screen Play
Here are some questions we’ve added to the typical application form to help narrow the field:
• Why should we hire you?
• What difference will you make to the camp?
• What do you think children will say about you after they have spent a week with you?
For returning staff we ask these three questions:
• What did you learn last year?
• What would you change from last year?
• Why should you be re-hired for this year?
Here are the main things we look for as we check the backgrounds of our applicants:
• Previous experience with children.
• Does their college coursework reflect an interest in child- or recreational-related studies?
• References — Are they willing to speak about the candidate, or do they only mention the candidate’s time of service?