15 Acres of Adventure in the Heart of Leicester

Monday, 14 November 2016

5 Top Tips for Getting a Job in the Outdoors

Nearly every year we recruit new staff at Leicester Outdoor Pursuits Centre, and we often get a great mix of personalities knocking on our door - showing us what they have to offer. However there are traps and pitfalls that so many young potentials just get wrong. Here are my top 5 tips to prevent them happening to you.

Disclaimer, if you do any of these - don’t panic. These are not ‘you’ve blown it’ moments, there shouldn’t be any in an interview. Remember our objective is to try and find out as much as we can about who you are, if you’re the right person for the job it will come through. These tips will just help that process.

1) Wear a suit

If you’re reading that and wrinkling your nose with disapproval then I’m talking to you in particular. Unless you’ve been specifically told otherwise this is a no brainer. I know the outdoor industry isn’t about being smart and we all take a pride in getting away from the formal office environment. We all love the RAB Jacket and the Mountain Equipment Trousers but this is an interview and you need to consider what message you’re giving in how you present yourself.

Nobody has ever been marked down for being ‘too smart’ and chances are you’re not going to either. But if you turn up scruffy there’s a very real chance that first initial impression isn’t going to be a good one. I’d question how serious you’re taking this interview and how professional you are as a colleague, and now you’re on the back foot before we’ve got started.

2) Talk is cheap – arrive with substance

If I had a pound for every time I was told about how a candidate was ‘passionate’ about the outdoors and ‘loves’ to be out in nature and has the ‘enthusiasm’ to spread that in others, I’d be a rich man. It’s easy to say that and to be fair it’s probably true, but you need to evidence this.

If you say you love the outdoors we want to know what you’re doing outdoors and why you love it. If you tell us you once went in a canoe and liked it, that’s really not going to cut it. Maybe you belong to a club? Do you volunteer with anyone? What experiences have you had? If you build a story of your love for the outdoors then suddenly you’ve got a bit of substance.

3) Tick the boxes

On your application we’re looking at the person specification and trying to decide whether you meet our essential criteria. Read that essential criteria and make sure we know you meet it. Almost all applications have that section to write about yourself and support your application. Use it and abuse it! This is your chance to sell yourself.

Remembering from lesson 2, try to evidence it too. You have brilliant customer service skills…….prove it! Write about all those customers who said they had a great time. Tell us about those letters from customers commending your efforts that ensured they had a great time.

4) Consider what you ask us

A lot of times in an interview you’ll get the chance to ask us a question. This tells us more than you probably appreciate. Yes we’re judging you and we’ll look at anything you do for clues as to what you’ll be like to work for us and what you ask is a great opportunity.

We know you’ll ask about pay – everyone wants to know that – after all it’s the primary reason you’re sitting in an interview. We won’t judge you on that. But if you were to start asking us insightful questions about our Outdoor Education provision we’ll know we’ve got someone who’s got a keen interest in the right thing. Your questions tell us about what you’re interested in, they also tell us how much you know and researched. For example if you were to ask “How many NICAS Level 2 courses do you deliver?” I instantly know you’re interested in delivering these courses and you’ve researched the organisation and am aware we deliver them.

5) You don’t have ‘lots of experience’

A lot of candidates seem to come to an interview having done about 1 or 2 seasons. This is great we’re always looking for people with a bit of experience. That’s exactly what it is, a bit.

Please please please when telling us why we should employ you don’t say it’s because of your experience. We know how much experience you’ve got, you put it on your application. It’s ok to be inexperienced, it means you’re a blank canvass ready for us to develop. You might look at things differently with a fresh set of eyes. Use that rather than telling us you have a lot of experience. Unless of course you do.

Finally don’t get disheartened too much if you don’t get the job. I’ve turned down a lot of people I’d loved to have worked with but at the end of the day we only have so many places to give out. Get feedback and learn from it. If you really want the job you’ll get it.

Good luck to anyone looking for a job in outdoor pursuits. It's a brilliant industry full of lots of interesting and enthusiastic people.

David Robinson