Pre-Screening Prospective Applicants
(October 1 – December 20)
Pre-screening is a crucial first step for both you and the applicant. First, you can avoid investing large amounts of time and money in the application process if an applicant is inappropriate for the program. Second, the applicant can assess your agency’s professionalism and decide whether or not to trust your organization. You should explain the goals and requirements for the program to an interested candidate before sending out an application invitation to the person. You should also explain to them that InterExchange is their J-1 Visa sponsor and they will need to communicate with us frequently throughout the summer.
Be sure to determine the candidate’s:
- English level
- Experience with children
- Motivation for participating in the program
- Skill level
- Dates of availability
You should be able to get general answers to the above questions and determine if the person is a suitable candidate for the program. It is also a good idea to find out whether or not the applicant has ever participated in a cultural exchange program or lived away from home before. Listen carefully for certain warning signs. Ask questions such as: Is the applicant only looking for a cheap way to see America? Is he or she trying to get away from a certain situation at home? Has this applicant ever received a visa rejection?
Candidates who answer “yes” to these questions are often not a good fit for our program.
If you have a website where potential applicants can request information, you may want to consider adding a form where participants can (briefly) respond to the same questions you would ask during a phone conversation. Or, you can simply ask for the applicant’s telephone number and contact him or her before sending out information.
All participants in the InterExchange Camp USA program must be:
- Students, teachers, bona fide youth workers, or individuals with specialized skills
- At least 18 years of age by June 1st of the year of participation
- Strong English speakers
- Highly dedicated individuals who are committed to participating in the program for eight to 15 weeks
- Available to work from early to mid-June through late August
- Genuinely interested in working with children in an outdoor setting
During your initial conversation with a participant, you should confirm that he or she meets all of the eligibility requirements.
Initially, you may feel awkward speaking to applicants from your home country in English. However, even during pre-screening contact, you must conduct at least part of your conversation in English. A summer camp counselor that lives, teaches and interacts with campers on a daily basis must be able to communicate effectively with the campers and staff. For example, an applicant who is a certified swim teacher but cannot speak English well is almost impossible to place at a camp and will have a difficult time obtaining the visa. English requirements are also important for support staff, as applicants should be able to understand directions given by their supervisors and respond quickly to those directions. Support staff should also be to voice any concerns and ask for help when necessary. Please do not accept applicants whose English speaking skills are inadequate. Encourage them to enroll in English classes to improve their English communication skills and suggest they apply to the program again after their skills have improved. An important component of the English requirement is the ability of the participants to understand and exercise their personal rights as J-1 Visa holders in the U.S.
We have found that applicants older than 28 have a hard time adjusting to camp life because they are more experienced and independent. They are also more likely to experience problems dealing with their supervisors who, in many cases, are younger than they are. If you find an outstanding applicant over this age who is applying as a counselor, please email us.
InterExchange Camp USA accepts applicants with a wide variety of skills. When you are conducting preliminary interviews, it is important to keep in mind that there are some applicants whose skills make them very easy to place. Without necessary skills an applicant can be very hard to place, unless the person compensates with exemplary skills in a specialized field. When participants are indicating their skills, please try to stay away from general skills (e.g. camping, group games). The more specific their skill set, the easier they will be to place.
We have provided some guidelines for pre-screening applicants. There are primary skills and secondary skills, which we have listed on the following page. You should only accept applicants who:
A) Possess a strong ability to teach a primary skill to children and have significant training in teaching this skill.
B) Possess a strong ability to teach a secondary skill and are willing to go to a special needs or religious camp.
C) Possess outstanding ability in a secondary skill, have significant training and experience teaching children this skill, and speak English fluently.
In addition, ALL applicants should be available to fly to the U.S. on June 15 or earlier. Applicants must also be available to stay until August 15 or after. After June 15, the number of camps that will accept applicants diminishes significantly. The same limitation applies to participants who need to leave before August 15.
Some other guidelines to keep in mind:
- A combination of primary and secondary skills is desirable.
- Screening for true skill levels will improve the quality of your applicants and, in turn, make placement much easier. If you are uncertain about an applicant’s true skill levels, you may ask them to give you portfolios, video, or other media showcasing their skills. While these are not necessary parts of the application, they can help you determine your applicants’ skills, abilities, and character. We trust and value your opinion. If an applicant provides a video clip or other samples showcasing their capabilities, please forward them to us.
- Introductory videos are not required to submit an application, but they are strongly encouraged. Most camps expect them and won’t look at applications without videos.
Requirements for skill levels in certain areas are indicated in details next to each description below. Please see the interview activities questionnaire for detailed language and questions regarding specific skills.
- Archery (preferably certified to teach, but not required)
- Gymnastics: This can be a primary skill if applicant has experience in all elements of gymnastics, not just floor work. Otherwise, it should be considered a secondary skill.
- Horse riding
- Martial arts
- Metal work
- Motorboat Driving
- Mountain biking
- Rock climbing
- Ropes course
- Yoga (if certified to teach)
- Animal care: Applicants should have experience working with farm animals. Care of household pets, such as dogs, cats, turtles, hamsters, etc., does not qualify.
- Aerobics: Aerobics is an extremely common skill and will not improve an applicant’s chances of placement. Applicants can mention this skill on the application but don’t need to emphasize it unless they are certified trainers and know special techniques.
- Computers: Applicants should be knowledgeable about networking, programming, and graphic design.
- Dance: Applicants must have more than one year of training in jazz dance, ballet, hip-hop, or tap. Training in more than one form is preferable. Must be competent to choreograph. Applicant should know proper terminology in English. Should feel comfortable choreographing dances for musical theatre performances. Knowledge of or training in ballroom or ethnic dancing is unimportant to camps.
- Nature crafts
- Piano: Applicant must be able to read music expertly and be able to accompany singers with minimal practice time. Training in singing is helpful.
- Religious studies
- Special needs
- Swimming: Should be in conjunction with lifeguarding skills; should have experience teaching children to swim and be very confident to do so in English.
Following these guidelines will help improve the quality of our program and enhance the camp experience for the children and staff members who will be learning from and working with our InterExchange Camp USA participants. Please document the entire interview and screening process.