Summers at camp are full of laughter, fun and creativity in all forms. You make incredible friendships, become role models for youth, and learn a thing or two about how to make the perfect campfire s’more. As it can be one of the most formative times in our life, summer camp isn’t for everyone. After considering the hours involved, the stamina required, and the patience to live in a yurt with 20 other campers, you’re probably wondering what the summer camp counselor interview process will be like.
What your summer camp interviewer wants to know
At this point, you probably crushed the written application and it’s time to prepare for a first summer camp counselor interview. Below are a few interview considerations for the Zoom room or in-person at camp.
Do some research, but not too much
Let’s be real – before you apply to any job, you want to know if it’s going to be a right fit. Every single camp is different: how they train their staff, who they serve, what kinds of activities they offer. Make sure to have a solid understanding of their “flow of the day”, what their staff training entails, what their history is, and ascertaining best fit before even applying.
Leave some room for questions and curiosities – camp staff love folks who ask meaningful, but not obvious questions (whose answers are clearly on the website).
Know what you want to offer
Everyone is coming to that particular camp with a certain set of skills that the hiring team is (frantically) assembling like a jigsaw puzzle in the off-season. You are one of many pieces – to keep going with this metaphor, they’ll want to know how to place you in the greater scheme of things.
Know what your strengths and shortcomings are and be honest. If there are any original or quirky skills, come equipped to talk about those – these are huge bonuses for hiring teams! Cabin activities, campfire circles, and other teaching opportunities may arise depending on your magic trick or fire-spinning skills. Most of all, the staff want to know how you play and have fun!
Types of questions
Keep in mind, every camp is different. There may be some curveball questions, but overall, camp staff want to see how you would show up as your best self and be a supportive staff member. Here are a few examples of questions in your first interview:
Working with children & counseling experience:
- What motivated you to apply to Camp ___?
- What summer camp experience do you have, if any?
- How do you handle feedback?
- How do you manage stress?
- What experience do you have with children or prior camp experience?
- How do you incorporate wonder and magic into a camper’s day?
- Come up with a game for a group of 6 campers, aged 11-12.
These questions typically come with a scenario. They’re not particularly tricky, but staff want to see how you set boundaries and guide behavior with a group:
- With a group of 6 campers, you’re the only staff working to get safety equipment on them at the ropes course. All of a sudden, one of them starts hitting another camper in the arm. The campers are all impatiently trying to climb up the rock wall even though you’re not “on belay” with your harness. Helmets are being taken off, harnesses loosened, and kids are hitting each other. What do you do now?
Our advice: come equipped with a few successful models, creative ideas, and approaches to behavioral guidance. There’s no perfect answer, but they want to see if you can work through a scenario with a few tools on your belt. Obviously, every camp will have their own methods and approaches. Below are a few resources to consider:
Here are a few examples of situational questions. Typically these are questions that they’re looking to see if you can work through a complex situation from multiple perspectives.
- It’s late at night and your campers aren’t respecting their sleep routine. Instead they are planning to sneak out once you fall asleep. What do you do?
- How would you handle sexual harassment between your fellow counselors?
- One of your campers isn’t listening to you and is creating problems with other campers. What do you do?
- Tell us about a time when you were in conflict with a family member, friend, or employer. What was the conflict, what happened, and how did you handle it? Were you proud of the outcome?
Most camps have different philosophies when it comes to the activities they offer. Some vary in length (1-4 weeks) and some focus solely on leadership skills. Others might offer a wilderness trip option, too! It’s important to have a solid idea of what this particular camp offers so when they ask camp-specific questions like:
What other qualities do summer camps look for?
First of all, there are many. And at this point it goes without saying: every camp is looking for different qualities. However, here are a few common ones to reflect on and incorporate in your summer camp counselor interview when you talk about yourself:
The most incredible counselors have their tank full when it comes to patience. Summer camps (that do their due diligence) know if you share a love for being around and mentoring children. On top of that, campers are looking for guidance, particularly in moments of high stress at camp. Great counselors don’t lose their cool or get angry – they’ve learned how to regulate their emotions and speak about their feelings and needs in a clear way. Check out Camp Augusta’s resources on Clean Communication.
No matter what the situation is at camp, there’s going to be an element of creativity. Whether it’s creativity motivating your campers to get out of their bunks with a Special Wakeup, or playing a character in an Evening Program, there’s plenty of opportunities to flex your creative muscles.
Creativity will help campers form memories they’ll cherish for the rest of their lives. Be prepared to speak about how you channel your creativity.
Playfulness & Energy
Camp staff are going to be looking for how you present your passion, excitement and sense of play in every one of your answers. The fact is, campers aren’t with you for a long time (a week or two at most), so every moment truly counts and makes an impact.
Rest and sleep hygiene is also an important attribute to camp counselors. Staff want to know if and how you recharge. Camp is incredibly labor-intensive and all-consuming, and they’ll want to know how you stay motivated during the marathon that is summer camp.
If there’s a great fit, next steps will be a second or third interview. This is a good time to dig deeper into the “What’s your why?” kinds of questions.
Folks who have been successful counselors at Camp Augusta don’t really consider it a job, rather, a home. They’re interested in personal and professional growth, often taking a year or two off from their careers (and in some cases, re-considering their path).
Also, camp staff like to hear how this experience would fit into the larger narrative of your life. How would this time at camp advance your career? What skills are you looking to enhance?
We applaud you for wanting to learn, laugh, struggle, and grow at a lucky summer camp. Now get out there and nail some interviews!
Want to know more? Our Summer Camp experts are ready to answer any of your questions to help you find the perfect camp job. Get in touch today!