Staff Recruitment – Beyond the Resume

What we really want is someone who can get to know kids by name within the first hour, and will actually participate 100 percent with the campers’ activities. For a camp counselor’s job, you should be able to come up with six to ten factors like that to describe the outcomes you need — things like planning activities, supporting their peers in stressful times, and helping kids learn self discipline. When you know what you’re looking for, it’s easier to guide the discussion of the candidate’s past experiences to see if they are or aren’t compatible with what a successful candidate would look like.

In using Adler’s POWER Hiring techniques, I had to look hard at my own shortcomings. Every January I’d require candidates to fill out a four-page application with lots of long essay questions.

I’d do interviews at colleges, but be afraid to offer contracts until I’d interviewed everybody, for fear of missing an even better candidate.

By the time I’d made my choices, the best ones had often accepted other jobs. By June I was out of options and would frantically call all the returning staff and ask them to make recommendations. And miraculously I’d barely find the staff I needed by the day camp started.

I’d long ago learned that most of our new campers came from referrals by satisfied parents. It turns out the same thing works with employees.

We just moved the calendar back and started asking our counselors for referrals months earlier. It’s much more effective to recruit a dozen staff from one university than one each from 12 colleges. Your best staff knows who they want to work with.

I learned to ask board members, parents, and even the members of my church for their suggestions, and actively recruited their top recommendations. And by using a rating system based on the job performance factors, I became confident in hiring a capable candidate as soon as I found them.

But I was still losing good candidates to other camps because my application form was so long that those applying by the Internet would opt for camps with a less onerous process. It turns out we could scale the application back to a single page. (The “long form” that our HR department requires could wait until we’d offered them the job.)

Although a standard interview is an hour long, most people will eliminate some candidates they don’t like in the first minute or two. You overcome that by committee, giving the candidates you’ve chosen for interviews at least 30 minutes before you let yourself eliminate them.

By focusing on learning about each candidate through their accomplishments, you keep your unsupported preferences in check. You’ll discover counselors that you would have passed over previously that have the character and experiences that predict their success.

The most exciting result is that Adler has found the performance-based interview techniques are just as effective on the phone as they are in person. It seems that what benefit there is from “interpreting body language” is normally negated by inappropriate first impressions of other candidates. What a relief in this age in our increasing dependence on the Internet.

Finally, some of you may be asking, “What if a candidate doesn’t have any experiences that they can talk about?” I can assure you that the best candidates have accomplishments that prove they can do the job. Without them, why would you hire them? Gut feeling?

Gary Forster is the Camping Specialist for the YMCA of the USA. Contact him at

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Related posts:

  1. Staff Continuum
  2. Me a Mentor?
  3. Summer Staff Icebreakers
  4. Camper Recruitment
  5. Staff Conscious

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