Interviewing for Camp Director

When my husband and I moved to Florida so that he could pursue his doctorate (in media law — look for his guest blogs coming soon!), I was unable to find any nearby camps hiring. It was heartbreaking, but I picked up my chin and got a job at an incredible digital marketing company. I was extremely happy, I loved my coworkers, I enjoyed my job, but one day I felt a nudge say, “look one more time.”

So I did, and soon after I found myself interviewing for a camp director position. I am very excited to share that I was offered the job, and in just a few days I’ll be taking over as camp director for Camp Weed.

I’m excited to grow there and to learn even more to share, but first, I have a few things I took from the interview process that I think can help others going through the interview process, both as an interviewer and an interviewee.

Research

This one is probably a no-brainer, but I made sure to look at everything I possibly could about the camp. I read through their website, their parent packet, their online reviews, their old social media posts, and everything in between to make sure I knew as much as possible going into the interview. Not only did this help me feel more comfortable, it helped me know what I didn’t know. When they asked if I had questions (which was pretty much all that happened during my first “informal” interview), I knew what to ask. I had the foundation, so I asked questions to build on that and found out more important information.

Then Research More

While doing your initial research, you may uncover something that calls for even more research. For example, I saw that the camp does it sessions by grades. Each grade can only attend during a certain week during the summer. Since I’d never seen this before, I was intrigued. I looked at many camp general websites to find how most people did it, and then I looked at Episcopal camp websites (because the camp is Episcopal) to see if it was common there. I found out that while not common for most camps, several Episcopal camps use variations of this system.

Think Like You’re Hired

Knowing how the camp runs is one thing — thinking through it is a whole different beast. Armed with the information I learned while researching, I really thought about their camp. I questioned several things and found a few possible answers, and I brought those to the table.

Building on the “Then Research More” example, I looked at what everyone else was doing and thought about how those things would work with what I knew about their camp. I also thought about their numbers — they mentioned in the first interview that they were far from capacity. I realized that if they switched a few things around on the schedule, they could really accommodate more grades at a time, giving campers the opportunity to come more than once a summer and making it easier for parents with multiple children to send them to camp the same week. If children have more opportunities to attend, it’s likely their numbers will go up.

By putting myself in the mindset of thinking like their camp director, I showed more passion and felt more comfortable.

Speak Up

In a few instances during the process I thought to myself, “should I say that?” I really wasn’t sure. But I wanted this job, so I decided to go for it. And I’m glad I did.

Continuing with the same example I’ve used throughout, I mentioned my possible idea about changing the sessions in my interview. My interviewers seemed very appreciative that I had already thought through those problems. Will that be the solution we go with? Who knows. But at least my interviewers know a little more about how I approach problems and I know a little more about how they receive ideas.

In another instance, I disagreed with a possible future plan for the camp. They threw out that they’d been thinking about going toward specialty camps, and I told them I didn’t think it was right for them.

Again, it was something I struggled with saying, but ultimately, I’m glad I did. Now it’s not an awkward thing looming for us to discuss later, and they seemed impressed with my insight on the topic. Like I said before, by speaking up, we both know more about what we’re getting.

Look Before You Leap

This may seem a bit contradictory to the last two ideas, but if handled correctly, they fit together fine.

I wanted my interviewers to know I had good ideas, so I talked about things I’d possibly change if I got the job. However, when I did this, I was careful to say “possibly change,” and I prefaced everything with “I’d want to see how it works first.”

When I was 19, the camp I’d attended since I was old enough to attend (nine years as a camper and four as a staff member) got a new director. He came in and changed whatever he wanted. He very clearly told us that he didn’t care how we’d done it before and that he didn’t have to explain to us why he was making changes. Fast forward six years, and I very clearly told my interviewers that I’m glad I got to learn from his mistakes.

Of course I think my ideas are good and that they’ll work for this camp, but until I live through a session or a summer or until I really discuss it with some staff members, I really don’t know enough to make that call. It’s important to take the time to listen and learn before making a decision that will change camp.

 

And that’s a good bit of what I learned! I’ll be starting the new job on January 23, and I’m excited to share the journey with you. In the meantime, I have plenty more blogs (particularly about Google AdWords, Analytics, and more) coming your way!

 

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