Hire the Best Seasonal Parks and Rec Employees

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Every year, Parks and Recreation departments hire an influx of seasonal staff to run their camps, programs, and daily operations.

We depend on these seasonal staff to help us through the busiest time of year!

Before you get started calling those next employees, follow the process below.

Take Your Time

Hire slow, Fire fast.

Give yourself and your team plenty of time to make this hiring round great.  Do not rush this.  If you are hiring for seasonal employees, start early.  Like in the fall.  Especially if you are are updating the job description. We do not work in the private industry!  We must learn to work with and appreciate the hiring process of your Human Resources Department.

>5 Months Before (December)

Update the Job Description (consider starting in the Fall…depending on HR)

Starting this process in December can seem downright silly.  But don’t forget, you work in the government!  Give yourself the time to plan out your hiring calendar.  Work with HR to determine how long it takes to update a seasonal job description.  It may not take this long, but it’s better to start early than be scrambling at the last minute.

The first step in hiring well is to make sure that you have a updated job description.  I know how tempting it is to use the job description from years before.  After all, not much has changed.  But consider this.  When the economy is going well, like it currently is (May ’17), you’ll need to compete for the best talent.  Most of your college-aged, recent grads fall within the Millennial Generation.  And guess what?

Millennials long to make an impact.  They need to know that their work is making a difference to their organization and their community.

A fine-tuned job description that accurately reflects the actual tasks and responsibilities of the position is a critical component of attracting and retaining talented employees.

After all, if you don’t truly know what you’re hiring for, how can you expect to find the right candidate for the job?

Try to put in phrases that would entice new employees.  Make them feel special.

  • We are seeking an innovative and creative individual to join our tight knit team of leaders
  • This candidate should be self motivated and driven to make positive impacts in their community
  • This position is best suited for a “jack-of-all-trades;” you will be leading a team with many different skills
  • We will be relying on you to set the tone for an out-of-this-world summer experience

One extra tip here is to not only look at job descriptions for other parks and rec jobs, but also to look outside of our field.  Indeed or LinkedIn is a great place to start.

Please realize that updating a job description might take up to 6 months. It may be best to start in the Fall.  Work with your HR department.  If all of your tasks and responsibilities stay the same, but you just need to change a few opening statements, you may not need to go through the process of “Seek and Consider.”

Three Months Before: Recruitment Matters – Getting Applications

When hiring for a position, you should know that the number of applications you receive determine the quality of your potential employees.

Many organizations already have an effective recruitment plan in place.

The optimal size for a candidate pool is somewhere in between too much (200) and too little (5).  Helpful right?  It all depends on your specific needs.  A pool of twenty might be sufficient if you are only hiring for one position.  But if you are hiring to fill 20 camp counselors, you probably want a list of candidates of about 100.

It is important to realize that hundreds of applicants might complicate the hiring process; being able to look through hundreds of qualified people might simply be inefficient.  I’ve experienced firsthand the complications of this many applications.

My advice on this is to use NeoGov to sort your candidates by exam score.  Again, work with your HR department.  As a general rule, you can create a list of the most qualified candidates based on exam score IF you are able to develop relevant questions on the on the job application.  I would recommend about 10 questions with a mix of multiple choice and open ended questions.  This will give you a great starting point to choose the best of the pool.

Too few candidates means you probably don’t have enough qualified applicants to make the best decision possible.  Somewhere between 6-100 candidates should provide a well-rounded pool of applicants.

A realistic job preview (or RJP) is a term used to describe a document that contains the details of the job, a realistic preview of the scope of the job, in addition to positive and negative aspects of the job.   I personally believe that RJPs are incredibly outdated, but the purpose of them can be pivoted to serve our current needs.  The ultimate goal of RJPs are to reduce turnover by providing a realistic idea of what should be expected in this role.  Why not make a video instead?

Two Months Before: Advertising Can Help

You can use advertising as the main way to improve the pool of candidates.

Ways to Not Get Attention:  Use traditional forms of advertisements (such as radio, flyers, career fairs, press releases, etc.)

Make Your Organization Stand Out: Use digital marketing, facebook ads, instagram ads, snapchat, talk to schools, email blasts, post on school job boards, Create a lead page, Make videos.


If hiring for a large number of positions (camp staff, aquatics).  This would be a fairly aggressive approach to recruitment when searching for multiple positions.

A director level position would require a nation wide effort, using a career board service or working with an agency to recruit.

The level that one advertises might also be dependent on the economy.  When the economy is poor, and unemployment is high, you may not need to advertise as much.

Questions you might want to consider when determining the level of advertising are:

  • How many positions are you hiring for?
  • Is this an entry-level or experienced position?
  • Should you consider hiring an outside firm to guide process?
  • Based on the economy, should you be more aggressive with the recruitment?
  • Should you distribute info through professional associations website/newsletter?

Sometimes, you may receive applications for a position that hasn’t yet been posted; these kinds of unsolicited applications will be considered when a job reopens.

Employees may also provide referrals for other potential hires.  While this might resolve temporary staffing shortages, referrals within an organization have the power to create more conflict with internal relationships and preferential treatment.


I’ve just barely covered the beginning of hiring for seasonals.   I will come back periodically to update this page with more information, additional steps, and new approaches to this common process.  Good luck with your summer!

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