January 2006 BIG Question:

What are some of the biggest hiring mistakes you've made and what things can we do to try to avoid them in the future?

Though on the outside every camp is different, our collective mission remains the same. We strive to provide the most comprehensive programs for our campers in an effort to develop them both physically and mentally. We go to extravagant lengths to help them build confidence and learn trust. We welcome them each day by giving them a sense of community and a feeling of home. One of the ways we succeed in this is by hiring the most qualified staff we can find. There are times though, whether it be a mistake in judgement or just bad luck, we hire someone who proves to have not been our best choice. So we posed the question and received some great examples of things to be aware of this year when we begin to hire our summer staff for 2006.

- A mistake that I have made when it comes to hiring is assuming maturity levels.

- My biggest hiring mistake was hiring somebody based on their family reputation.

- I think one of the biggest mistakes in hiring that I have made is having junior counselors working with the campers. The junior counselors were too close in age to the campers and some of the counselors acted like the campers.

- The biggest hiring mistake I had was not following my gut instincts. I hired a young man last summer who seemed to say all of the right things and participated in all of the activities during the group interview. Returning staff even put down on their list as a potential new hire. However, there was something that did not feel right, he was maybe to eager to have the job. So against my better judgement I hired him anyway. The first day of training he was a very different person. He was lazy and sarcastic with the other staff. I spoke with him about his behavior and a week after the program started the kids (and staff) started to complain. Needless to say I had to let him go.

- I trusted where the kids went to college as an indication of character and counted on written references rather than personal phone calls.

- Our camp is run by volunteers. The biggest thing is to allow them to use their talents to the fullest and let everyone know what is expected and needed from them.

- I almost hired someone who was being sent overseas three weeks after the start date. I now ask in every interview..."Is there anything in your future plans that would keep you from making a long-term commitment to our agency?"

- We tend to "panic" and think no one is going to apply and we will be without adequate staffing and hire some of the first people that apply - not really getting to "know" them and how they are with schoolage children. Then what usually happens is, after we do the interviewing and hiring, someone comes in that seems to be better qualified for the position(s).

- The worst thing we do is hire "friends of friends". I think we should hire from the "list" of applicants, not by word of mouth.

- The hiring I regret most is where Iíve not gone with my gut and given someone a second chance. Iíve hired someone when they were sub par hoping that they would improve knowing their areas for growth but they got worse instead.

- Trying to include everyone that applies for volunteer positions.

- The biggest mistake I made was hiring a 68 year old guy as a camp counsellor. He provided me with CV and great references from previous work, but what I failed to see was that the references were from 50 years ago.

- My biggest hiring mistake was believing everything that was written on the application.

Thanks to all who sent in responses to the BIG question. Hopefully they will serve as reminders to take the extra steps necessary to find the most qualified staff that will make the most out of the opportunity to work at camp. Remember, if you want to get the best out of someone - you must look for the best that is in them. Interview with the best interests of your camp in mind, follow your instincts, personally talk to references, and challenge new applicants to demonstrate their abilities not state them. Stay diligent and patient, it'll pay off in the end. Happy hiring!

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