Camp Counsellor Hiring Season

Woah, what a whirlwind couple of weeks. I finished up my full-time camp director job, officially got started working with the faith-based camp I mentioned in this post and launched Patchwork Marketplace. It’s been chaotic and SO MUCH FUN!!


But once again, my little blog took a hit when it came to managing my time, so I apologize for that – especially to Dan who asked a pretty great question about staff hiring and balancing that with camp prep and the million other things you need to do this time of year.


So, even though it’s later than I had planned… here’s some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way, although I’m so far from an expert in any of this, I hope my experiences will help at least a little.




Fitting it all in


Ok, so I realize this is probably not very helpful at this time of year but it’s worth saying anyway, usually in September or early October I create my work plan and map out when and how I’m going to accomplish all of my big tasks throughout the year.
I try to get the bulk of my program planning, pre summer prep completed in the fall because I know from January to May is going to be straight out madness. (That made sense for my schedule, each camp program is so unique that you will likely need to adapt that to your specific schedule.)


I was the only person solely dedicated to camp in my organization, so that meant I did everything from staff recruiting & hiring, to program development, and even camper registration – we had a development team so I got a small reprieve from grant writing and marketing, but worked quite a bit with the team to help in those areas too… so I totally get that overwhelming feeling of needing to do everything and never having enough time. I feel your pain!


What I started doing the last few years was carving out certain parts of my day for specific tasks – for instance I had a little checklist of things I needed to do for registration and I would go through that first thing in the morning and right after lunch (simply because the mail arrived after lunch and since it was a pretty recent transition to an online registration system we still had quite a few mail applications, and I always worked on it first thing in the morning so I would have answers if someone asked me how registration was going later in the day).


Time management is something I’m continuously working on (pretty obvious that I haven’t mastered it yet based on the first paragraph of this blog, eh?) BUT one of the tools that has worked for me is to set a 30 minute timer on my phone and try to avoid all distractions during that time. Obviously if someone popped into my office to ask me something I wasn’t going to slam the door in their face, but if I saw the email notification out of the corner of my eye instead of immediately clicking on it (because we’re all like one of Pavlov’s dogs when it comes to notifications, am I right?) I would really quickly check the timer on my phone instead and it would refocus me to get back to work for the minutes I had left. Then checking my email became my reward for staying focused for 30 minutes (ok, that’s just SAD right? hahaha)





It also probably helped that I can get pretty competitive so it would always *accidentally* morph into a beat the clock-esque game where I would try to get as much done as possible before the alarm went off. Then I would set it again. FUN!


Scheduling interviews


So interviewing takes up a lot of time, although it’s totally worth it (references checks on the other hand, I do only for due diligence – personally I find them useless but recognize that I still have to do them) so here are some of the things I’ve done to manage the interview process.
*Disclamer, I’m not saying this is the best way, or even the right way, it’s just the way that’s worked for me*


I would officially (even though I had this conversation during the final evaluations of the previous season) invite returning staff back a month or two before I started hiring. Anyone who was applying for a new position had to fill out a returning staff application and interview, otherwise I’d just plunk them in their old position.


After I narrowed down the applicant pool I would send each applicant an email inviting them to interview and asking them to provide three dates and timeframes between date x & y (usually a span of a week or two) that would work for them and say that I would try to accommodate one of the dates/ times.


Then I would say that if they’re in the area I’d prefer them to come to the office for an in-person interview but if that wasn’t an option then we could do a video call via Skype or FaceTime, and that the third (and least preferred) option would be a phone interview.


Now, that worked for me because I typically hired university students and they have pretty hectic schedules, so I like to give them a little flexibility in scheduling their meetings. I never bothered to travel to interview my applicants face to face, if they couldn’t make it in to see me then we’d do it via video or phone call – it saved money and a lot of time.


I would always try to schedule interviews in “batches” so that I’d have a whole bunch of them for two or three days out of the week which gave me more control over my schedule on the non- interview days… cause I don’t know about you, but I find interviews totally throw off my productivity.
It’s super hard to let yourself get really focused on a task when you know that someone will be showing up in less than an hour, then you have to make sure you’re prepped for the interview, and afterwards you’re making notes, etc. It’s a whole process, right?






I know that some camp directors have had a great deal of success doing “interview tours” where they visit different communities (usually university and college towns) and do some batch interviews while they’re there.
I personally think it’s only worth it to do this if you’re already going to be attending a job fair at the school, or if you have 5 or more interviews scheduled in that area.


Another tactic that a lot of camp directors love is the group interview. I’ve only participated in one season of group interviews and it was for a science day camp, so it was pretty involved, there was a group interview, a group task, and then individual science presentations and a brief individual interview. Pretty intensive, took 2 -3 three hours per group of 4 -5 people.


I usually keep my 1:1 interviews between 30- 45 minutes, some would definitely argue that that’s just not enough time, but it’s worked for my needs.


Where to find all the people


Ok, so I wish I had more creative suggestions, but I always just went the usual route.
I think I was pretty fortunate in my most recent position because of the nature of the camp we had a lot of applicants from degree programs such as occupational therapy, therapeutic rec, etc. so in a lot of cases they came to me.


But, here are some of the places I looked for staff:


  • University/ College online job boards
  • University/ College summer job fairs
  • Specific University/ College departments
  • Canada job bank
  • Other job banks (Indeed, local community job banks)
  • Social media – FB was usually the one used most
  • Kijiji – ok so this is sort of hilarious, every year we’d joke when I’d post on Kijiji, but every year I found at least one good person through this ad.
  • A local (Provincial) high school leadership conference
  • Staff recommendations – this one had the most clout with me, if the people who had to work with them day in and day out were recommending them, it was a good sign.
  • Alumni & partner organizations recommendations, we get everyone in our network to spread the word and give them all the tools they might need to connect someone to us.
  • My camp network, I would contact other camp directors in the area and ask them to recommend anyone who they couldn’t use in their program. We’ve all been in the position of finishing hiring or filling a specific spot and then getting an amazing application and wishing we had a place for them, I asked my colleagues to send these people my way – and I’ve done the same for them.


Some things other camp directors do successfully:


  • Hire heavily from their camper ranks and LIT programs (unfortunately that wasn’t really an option for me in my most recent position because of the nature of the camp and the nature of the counselling job)
  • Use placement agencies to hire international staff
  • Use paid advertising in the digital space (ads on websites, fb, etc.)

Side note: So there’s a camp that I was creeping a few weeks ago, I went on their website two or three times in one week… and now their ads show up EVERYWHERE while I’m browsing. Sometimes I don’t even notice right away, they just innocuously seep into my subconscious… I don’t even have kids, but I’m starting to think I should adopt some JUST so I can send them to this camp!! Now THAT’S effective marketing!

I know that I could just clear my cookies, but where’s the fun in that?

Anyway, I digress.

  • Some camps offer their current staff bonuses for recruiting other awesome people.
  • Billboards, commercials, things that cost money I’ve never had in my budget!
  • Co-op students, and other school work placements and work for credit agreements with universities or colleges
  • Church congregations & youth groups (primarily used by faith-based camps)


The interview


Ok, so I’m not going to get into a lot of detail on this because there are literally millions of tips and suggestions for camp interview questions online (thirty-four million, give or take a few thousand according to a quick Google search) and I’m sure those people have more experience or better advice than me.


What I will offer are some links that you might find helpful.


The first is one of the best interview resources I’ve ever read, written by one of my favourite camp gurus Bob Ditter, for the ACA. Check it out, you can thank me later.


Truth and Consequences: Interviewing Skills for Camp Professionals


And the second is a resource curated by my colleague Curt “Moose” Jackson located over at Patchwork Marketplace (I’m not above shameless promotion, I’ll own that! 🙂 )
This resource won’t be available until Tuesday when it either goes up in his store for $1.00 or is offered as a freebie. So be sure to check back on Tuesday.


100 Interview Questions for Potential Camp Staff 


Bonus tips:


  • I believe in being as transparent with potential staff as possible, I’m big on managing expectations so I post the pay in the job description and am super honest about what their life will be like at camp, it will be stressful and exhausting (I ask how they’ll take care of themselves) and also super fun and rewarding. I try to avoid surprises within their jobs, and it helps cut down on resignations (although it still doesn’t eliminate them).
  • Make your interviewees as comfortable as possible, I’ve been on both sides of an interview where three people sat at either end of a very long board room table asking questions to one parson waaaay down at the other end and it just creates this weird dynamic that isn’t going to be helpful in trying to get to know someone.
    Make some small talk, put them at ease, give them confidence and watch them shine!
  • Let people know your timeline, tell them when you plan to get back to them, how you plan to get back to them and make sure to follow through. I always told people I’d get back to them either way because it’s just polite.



So there ya have it, my advice on managing interview season and getting it all done.


This time of year can be super stressful, so go easy on yourself and remember that it’s about progress not perfection (am I the only one seeing that all over Pinterest lately?).

Here are some of my past thoughts on hiring staff.


What tips and tricks have you guys used to keep it all together and get the best staff this time of year? Tell me about it in the comment section below. And as always, feel free to post topic suggestions below or through any of my social media accounts. (I promise to get to it sooner next time!)

Until next time. xo





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Patchwork Marketplace

Patchwork pattern of rainbow colors.


Hi camp friends,

If you follow me on social media you would have seen me post about this already, but I thought I’d share a little more info about it here. I am just so proud and excited about this project. And if you don’t follow me on social media, this will be brand new information! Exciting! Also, let’s be friends, all of my social media links are on the sidebar. –>


How Patchwork Marketplace Came To Be

Ok, so if you’ve been around these parts before you may have seen this post by Curt Jackson in my “Path” series. And also this post about how exciting it is to work with new people in blog land and in camping. Well, once Curt and I chatted a bit, wrote for each other’s blogs we decided that we wanted to work on another project together. We brainstormed a little bit, designed some (awesome) t-shirts, wrote a few fun quizzes and other posts but we were still looking for a bigger project to work on.

Then he mentioned that he always thought it would be neat to have a site similar to the ones available for teachers but for camp and recreation professionals.

Cue record scratch.


Hold the presses.


That’s freakin’ brilliant!

I said, “umm, YEAH!” so we put all of our resources into creating Patchwork Marketplace.

And I’m super excited about it.

Then we came up with the name Patchwork because it sort of encompassed all of the things we were trying to accomplish with the marketplace. There’s an explanation on the site, I’ll like to it as soon as it’s available to the public. (If you join our beta test, you can have assess now. More about that at the bottom)

Collaboration friends, it’s where it’s at!


Sooo… What Is It We’re Doing?

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Serendipity and Summer Camp


Let me tell you a neat little story…


In September I saw a Facebook post that a local camp was having an open house/ ecumenical service. I’d never been to the camp before and it was only about 40 minutes away PLUS they’re not a member of my Provincial camping association (which I’m involved with) so I thought I’d check it out and chat with some board members to try to convince them to join.


I rounded up my husband, my mom and dad (cause they love that type of thing – my parents, not my husband… it’s not his thing, but being supportive is 🙂 ) and off we went.


We got to the camp and it was lovely! The buildings were looking good, there were some great fields and wooded areas and a waterfront with a lot of potential.


We attended the service, then afterword they announced that you could head over to the bbq, tour the facility, etc. Mum and dad headed to the bbq and hubby said “great, we can wander around like they said and you can check the place out” to which I replied “no way, I want a guided tour, let’s find a board member!” because I had questions, and I wanted to see EVERYTHING!


So we wandered down to the waterfront and back because there were people going that way (it was hard to tell who board members were) and on the way back this gentleman was walking with two other people and explaining something to them about the outdoor chapel.


So of course I made my way over and said “Excuse me, sorry for interrupting,  I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation, are you a member of the board?” He was very kind and told me he was and that they were just heading over to see the outdoor chapel so of course I said “Oh that sounds wonderful, do you mind if we tag along?”.
He was thrilled that we were so interested (generally, people love talking about their camp) and off we went.


After that he offered to give us the full tour of camp so I obviously jumped at the chance, my husband was both in awe and a little embarrassed (I think) at my enthusiasm and the number of questions I asked about their program, facilities, camper numbers, everything.
But the board member was delightful, I gave him my business card and then he introduced me to some other board members and I gave them my cards as well.


It’s a small faith-based camp that was closed during 2016 because they needed to do renovations, prior to that, campership had been declining to the point where they only ran one session in 2015. This fall open house was their launch of a new era, one where they’re rebuilding and re-imagining their program. So I asked them what their plans were, if they were thinking about hiring an ED and they said that they just didn’t have the resources for that right now, so everything would have to be done on a volunteer basis.


After the visit…

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Starting a New Camp



Raise your hand if you’ve ever daydreamed about starting your own camp…


(High five!)



So, since I’m a such big proponent of doing things that scare you, I resigned at my current camp and am setting out on a new adventure! (A new “path”, if you will…)


I’m going to start my own camp. I’m still in the early stages now, but I’ll be sure to post updates about where the journey takes me.

I’m terrified, I feel like I’ve jumped without a parachute… but I’m also exhilarated and excited. (And did I mention terrified?)




Are any of you camp owners? I’d love to hear from you, I’ve been connecting with people who’ve been down this road before and asking for advice – so reach out to me if you have some wisdom you’d like to impart.



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International Camp Director Course


From November 8th – 12th, 2016 I participated in the International Camp Director Course run by the International Camping Fellowship and It. Was. AWESOME!

The information we covered was pretty standard stuff you’d expect at a course like this, and I had at least one “ah-ha” moment in each workshop.

By far the best part was learning from the AMAZING facilitators and the sharing and discussion that happened organically around the room.


The Facilitators

The course was facilitated by Connie Coutellier, who is from the USA and is the ICDC coordinator, Jen Dundas, and Donna Wilkinson who are both Canadian camp professionals and all three of these women are an AMAZING wealth of knowledge!!!

I absolutely loved learning from them during our workshops, but I also really loved just chatting with them and “picking their brains” when we weren’t in workshops.

I’m gushing, I know. But they were just really wonderful, and I’m just so grateful that I got to know them.



The Facility

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30 Themed Meeting Ideas

Ok, so a while ago I mentioned having theme meetings at camp in this post and another camp pro Dan Laubach pointed out to me that I’m a big weiner who never followed up with the list of themes I promised (ahem, ok maybe I’m paraphrasing *a little*, Dan was actually much more polite and kind in his request for a list of themes.)

Thanks Dan, for putting this back on my radar, it’s something I wanted to share.

Most of these are pretty ridiculous and came about out of weird things my staff were doing that summer or just sort of happened organically.

Before we get into the list, here are some tips.

1. If you’re going to do a silly or stupid theme meeting, make sure you don’t have to discuss anything too serious.

2. Be aware that if you do a theme, it might take a little longer to get through the meeting, because people are likely to burst into giggles every so often.

3. Most of my meetings used to be in the evening, so a lot of these themes make a lot more sense to do at night.



This one came about because a staff member really wanted to see someone wearing a funny mask, so we demanded that everyone put on a mask as they came in for meeting. No one asked any questions, they just went with it, it was silly and hilarious.

Things TKD would like

Sometimes we like to make it all about us… (TKD is the nickname for the assistant camp director and I) We left it open-ended, staff showed up dressed in a lot of plaid, toques, tie dye, and drinking coffee. All of these things were accurate.

Let’s be honest, there’s nothing funnier than impersonating your boss so the staff got a kick out of it. (Ok, if I’m being reaaaally honest, we were hoping they’d bring us food we liked… maybe next time we need to be more specific hahaha)

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We Went Glamping!

We wanted to try something a little different this summer, so we invited friends & supporters of our camp to a “Glamping” weekend.

In case you’re not familiar with Glamping, here’s a definition:

Glamorous Camping; getting to experience the outdoors without giving up any of the amenities or comforts of home. In other words, fancy camping.



If you look up Glamping on Pinterest, you’ll likely just find a bunch of fancy yurts and fairy lights.
Well that wasn’t an option for us, and we also don’t have a resort style camp… and we weren’t about to go into major construction for this thing, so we worked with what we had and created an event that could be described as “slightly less campy camping”. Or “mildly fancy camping”. FUN!


We promoted it as a weekend for ladies 19+ (because we’re in Canada, and we were allowing alcohol) and we ended up with a small but great group of gals. It was a great first shot out of the gate.

Here’s a loose schedule of what we did.

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Self Care at Camp

You guys! I have some exciting news… ok well it’s mostly only exciting for me.

But I wanted to share!!

You know how I talk A LOT about self-care, and how we need to encourage and support our staff to practice good self care. Well it turns out that it actually works!!! haha

Ever since I started directing camps two things have always bookmarked my experience, a pre- season cold sore, and a post season migraine. Fun, right?


Cold sore & migraine, the bookmarks to my camp experience for 10 years


So this year I decided to actually practice what I’ve been preaching and I set some goals for self-care.

(Check out this post to find out what I’ve said in the past about self-care.)

They weren’t anything too lofty, I had checklist of 5 items on my phone, and I would try to do some combination of at least 3 of them every day. (During the camp pre-season I was checking off all 5 every day.)

Here’s my list:

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Categories: New Camp Director Pro Tip, Self Care at Camp | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Supporting Your Staff – Part 5 -Shout Out Wall Update

The Shout Out Wall has been one of my post popular posts.

Kudos to you, camping community, I love that you’re all so concerned with spreading kindness and encouragement!

One of the questions that I get asked most often is, “What are some other themes I can use on my board?”

Well I thought I’d help ya’ll out with a list of themes my staff and I have come up with (and some photos too!)

If you’re new here and you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out my Shout Out Wall post to get some tips on how to do one.


Shout Out 

You can really draw anything with this, we’ve drawn animals, megaphones, and a man’s face, you can be creative.

ABCD – Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

I went for Buzz Lightyear’s slightly less handsome cousin (because it made sense with our theme) but you could do a medal or something if that makes more sense to you.

You Rock (because…) 

I’ve done both the electric guitar type rock, as well as a poorly drawn picture of a rock, but you could be creative and do Mt. Rushmore or something! Or a KISS face. (The band, not the … duck face thing.)

You Rule (because…) Continue reading

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Making Friends in Blog Land

Hi guys,

Do you know what’s nice about blogging? It’s a lot like camp.

People are supportive of each other, and there’s no feeling of competition (at least not in this little niche of camp blogging) we’re all working towards a common goal of inspiring, educating, and informing current and future camp folk. Because after all, it’s still all about the campers, right? And the more we share and collaborate, the better our individual programs will be.


So, on that topic (ok, all this was really just to get to that segue.. haha) I wanted to tell you that I wrote a guest blog post over at Summer Camp Programming about the Top 5 Reasons To Work At A Camp For People With Disabilities. 

Check it out! 🙂

And while you’re there, Continue reading

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