Creating the best summer camp experience means hiring some of the best camp counselors. Camp counselors can make or break the experience for campers, so choosing the right people is important for creating the desired camp experience. However, we know recruiting great camp counselors can be challenging. In this blog, we will review the five major pillars of recruiting that will contribute to building an amazing team and provide some tips and tricks to getting the right folks to come on board.
Tips for Recruiting and Onboarding the Best Camp Counselors
1. Retain Previous Camp Counselors
Recruiting new camp counselors each year is expensive and can be risky. You’re taking a chance with someone and potentially sacrificing part of your business in hopes you’ve made a good decision by hiring the new individual. You know your previous camp counselors, how well they are with campers, and their contributions to your camp. Striving to retain these individuals who are good assets to your camp is essential. But what’s the best way to obtain a good retention rate?
Keeping up with communication between you and your camp counselors after the camp season is vital. Whether you choose to send a letter in the mail showing your appreciation, a small personalized gift such as a coffee mug with your camp logo, or the periodic email or text message, communication is so important.
You want your previous camp counselors to keep your camp on their minds. Maintaining some form of communication is a good way to subtly remind your previous camp counselors and encourage them to return for the next camp session. If you use Waldo for your content management, you can easily send your counselors postcards on their birthdays with one of their favorite camps photos on the front and a personalized note on the back. This can have a big impact on their loyalty and return to camp.
Offering a bonus for camp counselors who return each year and complete the season is a good incentive to retain previous camp counselors. Budgeting for potential bonuses throughout the year is important.
2. Exhaust Your Network First
Your zero-degree network is the best way to staff your camp with counselors who know your culture and values, identify with them, and are most likely to deliver the experience you desire your campers to have.
Individuals who have attended your camp as a camper who have aged out often make great camp counselors. They know your culture and values,have demonstrated they are aligned with them, and know all of your camp’s treasured traditions. Although they likely aren’t aware of what goes on behind the scenes or what it really takes operationally to perform the camp counselor job, they have a level of connection with your camp that others will not.
So, it isn’t a question of whether this is your richest new talent pool but rather how you maximize it. Here are a couple of tips for identifying current campers who will make great future counselors and then cultivating their decision to return to camp as a counselor once they age out:
- Develop a scoring system for campers two years from aging out and have your current counselors rate them. Typically, you’re looking for those campers who are the most mature, show an interest in younger kids in the off-season by choosing babysitting gigs or part-time jobs with kids, are first to help another camper in need, and generally not the pot-stirrer at camp.
- Once you have your list of candidates, personally reach out to them well in advance as an administrator, and express how impressed you are by them. Convey your hopes that one day they will be a counselor. Seeding this early can really help to get the camper thinking about it and planning in this direction. Plus, getting this praise at such a young age will have a big impact on them. Kids are thinking about their futures earlier and earlier, so throwing your hat in the ring early on can help shape their planning.
Employee Referral Program
Utilize your network by creating an employee referral program. Current camp staff can refer their friends, family, or anyone they personally know that they think would be a good fit for the camp as a counselor. If the referred person applies, gets hired, and completes the camp session, then the individual who referred them gets a reward. This type of system is generally most successful if the reward is a monetary bonus. However, other rewards, such as camp merchandise, a newsletter feature, or a gift card, can also be effective.
Many college kids would love to have their best friend from home join them for their summer experience, so this can be a great way to hire folks who are “birds of a feather”. Chances are, if your counselor has been someone who embodies the camp’s values and has proven reliable, their good friends will be cut from a similar cloth.
Camper Family Referral Program
Similar to the employee referral program is the camper family referral program. Your campers and camp families can refer camp staff. If the person they referred applies, gets hired, and completes the camp session, then the camper (or camp family) offer a discount on their camp session. If they have already paid for their camp session, offer some kind of reimbursement. Referral programs such as this are great for recruiting strong camp counselors and keeping camper families engaged in the process. Having a camp counselor who is familiar with some of your campers can be an added bonus to the camper experience, too.
3. User-generated Content is King
Beyond anything else you do, having your counselors naturally market your camp for you will do more for your recruiting than anything else you can do.
Get Your Counselors Their Camp Photos
There’s a lot of focus by camps on providing campers and their families with their photos. However, the value of delivering your counselors all of their photos is often overlooked. If you utilize Waldo to manage your photos and videos, you can load in your counselors, and each of them will receive all of their moments throughout the summer. Naturally, they will post these photos on social media. In the case of Waldo, they can automatically be camp-branded assets. This is critical to your marketing. Your current counselors are tremendous influencers with new prospective campers and future counselors.
Gather User-generated Videos from Counselors
As your camp season is coming to a close, have each of your counselors record a 30-second video in response to a prompt, e.g., “What was your best memory of being a counselor at [your camp name]?” Give your counselors a T-shirt or other swag in exchange for these videos and the right to post them. You can utilize these videos as “UCG,” also known as user-generated content, on your social media. This type of content will prove gold as you are marketing and recruiting in the off-season. Tag your counselors when you post their videos on your social, and your post will gain visibility into their social graph, providing a target-rich environment for your brand.
4. Go Digital
While in-person methods of recruitment are effective, the power of going digital is unbeatable. Moving your marketing efforts online can help you successfully reach a broader audience and connect with many people you likely wouldn’t have connected with otherwise.
Utilize social media! Whether you have a camp Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, or another social media platform, take advantage of it. You can use these social media platforms to both engage with and recruit new camp counselors from far and wide and post that “UGC” from your counselors we mentioned earlier during the off-season.
Online Job Boards
Online job boards such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and CoolWorks are places where you can create a job listing where individuals can learn about your camp and then easily apply through the website. This method of recruitment is great because a wide variety of people can see your job posting, allowing you to expand your reach much further than your local community. Make sure to set your “deal breaker” requirements very tight so you get folks who are on the mark. Also, many online job boards allow applicants to submit a video with responses to interview questions. This can be a great way to vet candidates without spending much time on the process.
5. Get Out There
Recruiting in person is the most expensive thing you can do, and following the tips above can help mitigate the need, but if you must,here’s a rundown on some tactics and tips for execution.
Go where the people are! Recruiting good camp counselors can be challenging, and expecting individuals to find you on their own may be difficult. Making appearances in popular locations amongst the type of individuals you’re looking for is a great way to recruit. This can help spark someone’s interest and desire to be a camp counselor that didn’t already exist within them.
High Schools and Universities
If you’re looking for young adults between 18-24, visiting high schools, community colleges, and universities is a great idea. It’s one of the best ways to connect with individuals who fit the age criteria you’re looking for. Give a brief presentation, hand out flyers, hang up advertisements, and visit fraternities and sororities to maximize your reach. If you have past counselors who are members of these organizations, you can ask them if you can get five to ten minutes at the beginning or end of their chapter meeting.
Local Job Fairs
Job fairs to meet individuals who are searching for a job. Set up a booth at your next local job fair, and come prepared to meet new individuals who could potentially help the success of your next camp season. Plus, working as a camp counselor can help accelerate careers and looks great on resumes.
Parks & Rec and Community Centers
The local community centers in your area can be a great way to meet new people and advertise your camp. Whether you have a table in the lobby, give a presentation, hand out flyers, or simply display advertisements around the building, community centers are an easy way to reach a large number of people.
We hope you have found these tips and tricks for counselor recruiting helpful. If you don’t already use WaldoCamps by Waldo Photos for your photo and video management and delivery, check it out as it is a powerful tool for getting your counselors all their memories and enabling easy sharing of their camp photos on social media as camp-branded assets. We hope you’re able to hire an awesome group of counselors and have an amazing camp season!