One of the most important aspects of any outdoor ministry program is how you recruit and hire excellent guide staff to run your trips. Whether you are a non-profit organization or camp that uses guides to lead your trips, or you are a church-based outdoor ministry that recruits volunteer guide staff, the process should be the same.
When recruiting guides, the main thing you want to look for is qualified applicants who have demonstrated humility and skill in leadership responsibilities. Abraham Lincoln once remarked:
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.
In most outdoor programs, you can teach new guides the hard skills you require of them to safely and effectively lead groups of people into the wilderness, but the character and soft sills are much harder to train. In my opinion, in a Christian outdoor program especially, you want to be looking to hire or recruit people who are already proven as effective ministers of the Gospel. You can train them to be a more qualified mountaineer or paddler, etc. But in a few weeks of training you can’t develop their heart for people. That has to already be there and proven through involvement as a volunteer or leader in a church or para-church organization already. Otherwise you are taking way too much risk in hiring them. You are going to be entrusting young people to these guides for days or weeks at at time in the wilderness, so there is no room for risk in your hiring process.
For starters, here is a checklist of character items that you may want to evaluate in your application process so that you really get to know the people you are interviewing. I and several other like-minded organizations have used these questions or ones very similar to evaluate guide applicants for decades. And these questions have helped us recruit hundreds of high quality guides with very few disappointments.
Finding outdoor ministry guide staff with the character qualities you want is crucial.
HERE ARE 30 RESEARCH-BACKED INTERVIEW QUESTIONS TO USE TO FIND HIGHLY QUALIFIED OUTDOOR GUIDES FOR YOUR TEAM
RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHERS (6 Questions)
- Would people come to him/her with a problem?
- Do they understand most people?
- Do they have a reputation for treating peers with high respect?
- Do they submit to those with authority willingly with respect and loyalty?
- Do they demonstrate tact and discretion?
- Can they see things from the other person’s perspective or are they typically abrupt?
ORGANIZATION RESPONSIBILITIES (5 Questions)
- Can they handle complex assignments independently with little or no help?
- Do they have a reputation for cooperating with other team members?
- Do they have a good attitude toward the local church or is there baggage or criticism here?
- Do they have an ability to offer constructive but loyal criticism?
- Are they dependable? Can they be counted on or are they unpredictable?
CAPACITY FOR RESPONSIBILITY (4 Questions)
- Do they accept responsibility readily or shy away from it?
- Do they have an inner drive and enthusiasm?
- Are they a self-starter and get things done?
- Do they tend to get a lot accomplished or a little?
PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS (15 Questions)
- Are they able to express themselves clearly, effectively and with personal vulnerability?
- Can they accept criticism and suggestions from others?
- Is there evidence of openness to spiritual growth and struggle?
- Are they generally persistent? Do they follow through?
- Are they somewhat disciplined or do they lose interest or procrastinate?
- How do they respond to pressure? Are they stable under stress or do they demonstrate anxiety easily?
- Are they physically fit, rugged, and vigorous? Or are they frequently incapacitated?
- Are they socially accepted and sought by others or do others avoid them?
- Are they responsive to other people’s feelings with unusual insight or are they insensitive?
- Do they have a desire to learn? Do they have a thirst for knowledge or do they “have all of the answers?”
- Are they accepted as a leader by their peers or are they too shy to be assertive?
- Have they been successful in working with youth? Can they relate with young people?
- Do they have a mature attitude toward and an ability to relate to opposite gender?
- Do they demonstrate flexibility? Are they creative and confident or hesitant and resentful of change?
- Do people trust this individual? Would others trust them to lead a group of young people in the backcountry as part of a guide team?
I’ve provided a free PDF download of a Sample Guide Application from Mountain View Backcountry that includes these 30 research-backed questions in an easier format to use for your outdoor program.
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