If its Thursday, I must be interviewing instructors.

AT Staff27 Jan, 2012

Thursdays are the most important day of my week. It’s the day I interview potential Adventure Treks instructors. On a relaxing day I will have four interviews, on a more rigorous day, six. If a candidate makes it to my interview, they have already been carefully screened and there is a high likelihood they will be hired. I feel the weight of responsibility.

One wrong hire can negatively affect our entire summer, while the right hire can make a lifelong impression on a teenager. When I talk to our alumni in college and beyond, they cannot over emphasize the impact their Adventure Treks instructors contributed to their view of the world and themselves. Adventure Treks instructors were the role models who inspired them to push themselves harder, the role models who reinforced strong parental values, the role models who recognized their strengths, encouraged these strengths and helped them feel good about themselves and their tremendous potential. The lifetime value to a student who has an exceptional (vs. an average) fourth grade teacher is reported to be over $200,000. I would argue the lifetime reward of having great Adventure Treks instructors may even exceed that.

Great role models are especially important, because children have far fewer of them today. It is said that the most significant indicator of whether a child will grow up to be successful is if they have an interested adult in their lives. Children spend on average over 7 hours a day staring at screens. They have embraced a peer culture and technology in a way that effectively edges adults out of their world. Cuts in school budgets have increased class size and decreased the time that teachers can be actively involved with students. Kids are missing out on what they need most; interested and effective role models. While this generation tends to have excellent relationships with their parents, teens need to hear it from someone who isn’t Mom or Dad. Adventure Treks instructors play a unique and powerful role as role models and mentors. It’s one reason we feature such a low instructor to student ratio. (4:1) When someone who a teen admires takes an interest in them, the benefits can last a lifetime.

When I interview, I feel a great sense of responsibility to our parents. As my oldest daughter will be an Adventure Treks student in summer 2013, it’s easy to frame decisions: “Would I be ecstatic for my daughter, Audrey, to spend the summer with this person?” If not, they won’t get the job! Just as I trust my instructors to consistently make good and conservative decisions, you should have the same expectations for me. I don’t take this responsibility lightly.

That’s why I still interview every new instructor. I know of very few of my peers who still take the time to do this. It serves several purposes. I’ve mentioned the first… It’s a responsibility I have to our parents. It’s also a responsibility I have to our trip leaders and returning instructors. These folks are our extended family and I owe them the best possible people for them to lead, inspire and form friendships with. Strategically it also serves a great purpose. No other outdoor company has as high a rate of job acceptances to job offers as we do (Over 95%). When applicants get to spend significant time with the founding director and get to talk philosophy and even interview the director to make sure Adventure Treks is right for them, it’s extremely rare that an exceptional applicant with multiple job offers chooses a different program.

Finally, my interview is a chance to get a jump on staff training. I can make our high expectations clear. I can make sure applicants clearly understand our kid centered focus and the importance of the substance we instill in our programs. I can make sure applicants share our safety mindset and I can begin a relationship of mutual trust that will continue for many years.

I am excited about the summer ahead. We already have over a 50% instructor return rate. (And it’s only January.) We expect to exceed 70% again this year. We are finalizing trip leader selection now and have already hired several impressive new instructors. Each year we are able to raise the bar on qualifications! As our reputation continues to grow, so does our applicant pool. This year, we will receive close to 1,000 resumes for 25 positions. With our high instructor return rate, there simply aren’t many spaces for new instructors. We can afford to be very selective.

It’s a privilege to be able to be of influence on your child. Know we take this responsibility very seriously. We are hard at work to make summer 2012 a very special one. Thank you for your trust.

If you’re interested, here is the video we show prospective instructors:

Best regards,

John Dockendorf


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