Every IC has a unique interview style. You need to determine how you are best able to connect with your applicants and discuss all of the topics covered in the interview report. You need to fill out the interview report when you are speaking with the applicant, not when it’s over.
Many cooperators conduct interviews immediately after a participant inquires about the program, others may wait until all program fees have been paid. Encourage English-only during the interview. Getting applicants comfortable with speaking English starts before their U.S. arrival.
If at all possible, review applications prior to the interview. Then, you will already have notes on what an applicant is missing or needs to change. This speeds up the interview process and also gives you some sense of the questions you want to ask each applicant. Those applicants who decide that they would like to fill out additional supplements (religious or special needs, which are provided on the International Cooperator Resource Center) should do so while they are waiting to be interviewed.
All counselors must be interviewed in-person in English. Support staff may be interviewed in-person or via Skype. If you choose to interview support staff via Skype, please follow all of the same protocol as an in-person interview. Be sure the person you see on the screen matches the passport photo received with the application.
Speak English! Once the interview begins, do not respond to anything said in a language other than English. Do not allow applicants to speak in their native language at all; if they don’t know a particular word in English, then encourage them to phrase their answers another way.
Give each applicant an opportunity to “warm up.” Keep in mind that they are nervous, and it may take them a few minutes to adjust. Don’t judge applicants by the first few questions they answer. It’s always important to ask them a few “ice-breaker” questions to make them feel comfortable.
Applicants may come into the interview with a prepared speech. If you suspect that someone is simply reciting from memory, change the topic and start asking questions. You, not the applicant, should guide the flow of conversation.
Don’t feel that you need to go through the sections of the interview report as they are listed. Skip around and use whatever order feels comfortable.
Avoid yes and no questions as much as possible. Instead of feeding answers to applicants, sit back and listen to their explanations.
Be prepared for the fact that the first person you interview is going to tell everyone else what questions you asked. Try to phrase questions differently during each conversation. More importantly, don’t underestimate the importance of small talk at the start of an interview. Not only does it allow the applicant to get comfortable, it gives you the opportunity to ask each applicant something completely unique.
If possible, try pulling information from their application that is totally unrelated to camp. (“I see you are studying engineering. Would you tell me a little bit about your classes?” or “You wrote that you have two older sisters. What kind of work do they do?”)
Sit somewhere comfortable, give yourself small breaks between interviews and don’t forget to schedule in your own lunch.
Tell the applicant not to be distracted by your writing. Tell them that you need to write down as much as possible to give camp directors a thorough evaluation.
Keep the interview report on your lap or behind a folder. Don’t keep it on the desk where the applicant can see it. They will get distracted by this and they shouldn’t see what you are writing about them.
Below you’ll find specific instructions for each section of the interview report. Please use the fill-able report and type all the answers.
The interview report form can be found within the IC Resource Center.
You will probably spend more time on this section of the interview than on the rest of the sections combined. The notes should contain only objective facts, not your opinion or vague statements such as “He can teach this to children.” You want solid proof of experience. Be sure to clarify any terms or geographical references that may be unclear to American camp directors. The only acceptable skills for this section are those listed in the InterExchange Camp USA application. At least one of the three skills in this section should be a primary skill listed in the guidelines.
For counselors, find out what types of experience they have in each skill area, in terms of both their own training and their ability to teach to others. Please review the Interview Activity/Skill Questions PDF in the International Cooperator Resource Center to ask relevant questions for specific skills. Find out how long they’ve been doing it, their most recent experience doing it, how many children they taught, how often they gave classes, etc. Ask them to explain to you what kind of equipment they use or what certifications they’ve earned. If an applicant uses special language when describing their skills (“backhand,” “dressage,” “freestyle”), consider asking them to explain what those terms mean. Never be afraid to ask an applicant to go into more detail or to explain or even demonstrate how a skill is used or taught.
Below are examples of how this section should and shouldn’t look:
WRONG: “Horseback riding – Has been riding horses since she was small. She helps take care of the horses and has also taught children. She would like to do this at camp and I think she would be very good at it. She has a lot of experience.”
RIGHT: “Horseback riding – Began riding when she was five and has ridden about three times a week for 15 years. For the last two years she has given hour-long lessons to children, ages 8-12, twice a week. There are four to five children in any group for lessons. When she is riding or teaching, she is responsible for brushing and feeding the horses and cleaning out their stalls. Rides with an English saddle.”
For Support Staff
It’s equally important to find out the details of their experience. Ask how long they worked in certain jobs, what their responsibilities were, how many people they worked with, how big the place they worked at was, etc.
WRONG: “Dining Hall – Worked in a restaurant by the Black Sea for two years. Also worked in his school’s canteen. Helps out at home and is prepared to do any kind of work.”
RIGHT: “Dining Hall – Worked as a waiter at the Black Sea (tourist area, beach town) for two summers (eight weeks each summer). Usually worked five days a week, eight hours a day. Restaurant held a maximum of 50 people. His responsibilities included taking orders, serving food, cleaning tables and floors. During high school, he also helped prepare lunch in his school cafeteria for about 200 people. Did this twice a year for two weeks at a time.”
You will probably wait until the end of the interview to finalize your opinion of an applicant’s language. Be honest! If an applicant’s English language skills are insufficient, make a note that the camp director should call the applicant to verify their English language skills. All interview materials can be found in the International Cooperator Resources Center.
Ask the applicant for contact information. While some of this information is on the application, we want to be sure that we have the most recent contact information and that it is legible. This is a good time to remind the applicant to check email (including their spam or junk folders) frequently in case a camp director tries to contact them and to expect phone calls from camp directors as well. Find out the best time a camp should contact the applicant so they do not waste money calling the applicant when he or she will not be home.
Make notes here about the applicant’s personality, mannerisms and anything else the camp director might want to know before hiring the applicant. It’s always hard to describe someone’s personality, but try to be as specific as possible. This is your opportunity to tell the camp director anything that is important about or unique to the applicant that you have not covered in any other section of the interview report. This is the last section of the interview report you should complete; feel free to wait until the applicant leaves the room. Mark the language assessment based on the scores you gave in the section above, add a skill evaluation, then consider the applicant’s personality, maturity, motivation, etc. before assigning an overall rating. Lastly, add your comments! If this person is a great applicant, say that and tell the camp director why. If the applicant is going to need a few days to get adjusted, if he or she should go to a specific type of camp or work with a certain age group, now is the time to say it. If you think a camp director needs to speak to the candidate directly, for whatever reason, then make sure to say so.