What Summer Camp taught me about being a Recruiter

When I was a kid I spent my summers at camp in Northern Michigan.  I loved it, and made lifetime friends there. What I didn’t know is that it would shape me into the recruiter I am today. 

If you ever went away for camp you had the preparation of packing, making sure to include just the right items. This was very hard for a teenage girl, guessing what people from all over the country would think were cool clothes, the right music etc. So you would try to prepare by talking to last year’s friends and gathering insight from them, the counselors that were already there and faith in your ability to not only survive the prior summer, but to excel.  You also had someone helping remind you of the basics… your parent or handy check list from a counselor.

  1. My parents would talk to me before hand about making friends, having fun, what to do to be kind to others, how to get in touch with them in case of an emergency and even send me with a few extra dollars and preaddressed letters home. So how does this prep translate into candidate prep?

As a recruiter we ask questions so we can prepare our candidate.

  • We ask questions of ourselves. Of others. Sometimes things look obvious but there’s often much more happening beneath the surface. It is our job as recruiters to find out what each candidate needs “to pack”, and we gather that from our clients by talking about what it is like to be a member of their group, who the cool kids are in the cabin, and why.
  • We also prepare them to interview and cover the basics like a counselor. Send interview prep check lists, practice with them, ask them what they are concerned about in their interviewing techniques and make sure when they get off the bus they are ready to have fun and win the assignment.  We even tell them to call us anytime, and remind them we are there for them in case they need anything at all.


2. As each summer began, we would all have ideas of what we wanted to accomplish. Not unlike many of our careers, things change, opportunities arise and the path can become unclear. As a counselor, it was our job to remind kids to find the little wins in each day and to help them define their own success (not ours) and go after it.

As a recruiter we understand that if you want success for yourself or for others you need to know what it looks like and that it’s often different for each person.

  • If we continually go after transactional recruiting vs. a positive candidate experience we never truly help anyone find success, including ourselves. Being a guide is important, but mutually agreeing on a goal and achieving it is the win/win in recruiting we all strive for.  
  • Know that there are usually different paths that will lead to the same place. Once you know where it is you or someone else wants to go your job isn’t to figure out the BEST path to get there but the RIGHT path for person traveling it.


3. I swam across a lake… more than once. As a counselor and lifeguard it was my job to make sure that each kid that tried to swim that 2+ mile swim in very cold water. Often, I would jump in, and swim with them. I didn’t allow them to quit, and often taught them they could do more than they ever thought they could, it always taught me more about what I could do as well.

Raise the bar higher. People feel their most driven when someone believes that they can do more       than they thought was possible. They also feel their most proud when they reach that bar.

Recruiting is not for the selfish. You have to be willing to jump in the cold water and push someone, turning their doubt into a victory. It is that candidate that has the skills, and the heart, but fears the change. OR the candidate that has been laid off and lacks the confidence to push through another interview. JUMP IN THE WATER and guide them to the win.

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Comment by Tim Spagnola on November 22, 2011 at 9:31am

Emily- nice first post! Thanks for adding your voice to the RBC. It is always interesting how we can reflect back and find recruiting lessons from parts of our life that we would never have planned to be the case. I always was curious as to what I might have missed by not attending summer camp when I was younger, thanks for sharing your experience.

Comment by Jeremy Kersten on November 22, 2011 at 10:07am
Well done!


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