Roll Up Your Sleeves, DIYers

By Patrick Alvarez

Recently, I decided to upgrade the camp’s recruitment website, and since then I’ve not only made recruitment much easier, but found that it has helped me to hire a better caliber of staff members!

Until two years ago, my camp organization had a terrible “Careers” page. It was a typical, ugly page with a link hidden somewhere on the commercial website’s landing page. Our organization, TECS, runs English-language summer and winter camps throughout Spain, and it has always been quite a challenge for us to recruit 120 to 150 native English-speaking staff members. As 99 percent of our staff members are from outside of Spain, we had to rely almost entirely for recruitment through the Internet.

To deal with the challenge of recruiting with such a small team, I decided to revamp that part of the website. As a result, the number of people applying increased by up to 1,000 percent in certain months. Not only that, but having more candidates to choose from allowed us to select the best prospects to work at our summer camps; because I was able to gear the website toward staff values, I found those chosen align more with the mission of the camp than in previous years.

I had no experience in websites or design, so by teaching myself I learned the following:

Separate Website Or Careers Page?
Many camps and businesses have a one-page “Careers” website, and many others have a separate website, so there is no right or wrong. The main questions for most camp organizations are:

  • How much strain and importance does recruitment have for the organization?
  • What is the set-up with the current website?
  • How different do you want the message to be?
  • How much work do you want to put into it?

I decided to create a separate website dedicated to recruiting staff for several reasons. Not only did I want to avoid going through the company IT department, but the way I wanted to market and the message I wanted to send to parents and young people looking for jobs are completely different.

DIY Or Web Designer?
Many companies will employ a web designer/developer for everything related to a website. As an expert, he or she will generally do a much better job than you will. However, the fee can be expensive, and once a website is designed, you are left without the means to maintain or update it.

Setting up a website or page can be easy! I had never done anything like this before, and I was able to set it up in a weekend. I recommend doing it yourself if you are at least comfortable with computers. Having the ability to update and edit your own website is the key, as you need to go in and change items like dates and information, or have the ability to write a blog.

Sites like wordpress.com, joomla.com, or similar ones can set up a website easily and cheaply.

Photos, Photos, And More Photos
The somewhat overused adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” is never better used than when it comes to website design. Potential candidates want to see the camp venue, the activities, and a picture of staff having a great time with the kids. They want to picture themselves having an incredible summer. Give them what they want! Any time I ask staff members how they would improve the website, the answer is always the same—more photos!

Give Candidates All The Information
It is incredibly frustrating when visiting a “Careers” page to apply for a job and there is no information about the job you want to apply for, or there is some generic text that barely gives candidates an idea of what it is like. Give candidates a full description of what the job will be like—the good and the bad. Tell them the dates, the wage, everything! Design it so you never have to answer a candidate’s question by email again. Staff members who know what they are getting into tend to be better-quality candidates and are more dedicated come summertime.

Make Sure It’s Mobile Friendly
More people now surf the Internet on mobile devices than on computers. This means you need to be mindful not just how websites look and work on computers, but also on mobile devices. To keep it simple, make sure  the web developer or whatever WordPress theme you choose features the word “Responsive.”

SEO: Be More Searchable
Most people will run for the hills when they hear a term like “SEO,” but there really is no need. SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization,” which means that a website should appear as near to the top of a search in Google, Bing, etc., for a specific search phrase like “Summer Camp Jobs,” “Summer Camp Jobs in Maine,” and “Special-Needs Camp Work.” Nowadays, people typically look at and click on search results in the top 10 and don’t really go to the second or third page on Google.

There is a micro-industry around optimizing websites, but anyone can do most of what is required for their own website. Just do a quick Google search, and you’ll get a website like the one at http://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2015/04/30/seo-basics  that shows you how!

Applicant Tracking System (Optional)
In this technological era, almost anything can be automated, and recruitment is no exception. Unless you work for a recruitment agency, hiring staff is not your main job, although it is certainly an important part of putting a camp together. An Applicant Tracking System, or ATS, is a software application that allows you to automate applications and interviewing. Forms can be put on a website so candidates can apply online, therefore eliminating the need to receive resumes by email or paper. An ATS will allow you to filter so you only need to look at a candidate or a resume with the right fit according to your desired specifications. There are many systems out there, ranging from $50 to $500 a month, with different features, like organizing interviews, video applications, etc. 

ATS has allowed me to recruit up to 160 staff members with a team of only two or three people, and most importantly it has allowed me to focus on other tasks. Whether you want to have a full-employment website or just an attractive “Careers” page, it is easy to do and definitely worth it. Not only will it give potential candidates a more professional vision of a camp or organization, but it will help get more applicants and better staff members. As anyone who runs camps knows, it is ultimately the quality of the staff members that will determine the quality of the camp.

Patrick Alvarez is the Assistant Director of Language Camps at TECS and a professional web designer and developer at alvarezpatrick.com. You can check out the employment website he made at tecsemployment.com, or email him at patrick@alvarezpatrick.com.