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Tourism Best Practices

Five Steps for Recruiting the Best Tour Guides


Hiring can be a nerve-wracking experience. First, you need to find people that want to work for your tour company. Then, often with nothing more than a resume, cover letter, and a short conversation, you need to decide which candidates will be the best fit for what could be years to come.

Make sure the guides you hire will make your company look good by taking these steps:

1. Imagine Your Perfect Candidate

Before you start listing out the skills a candidate should have and laying out the details of the job, take a step back. The first thing to do is to imagine what your ideal tour guide would be like. Not what they’d look like – that’s a good way to get stuck in a (potentially discriminatory) hiring rut – but what they’ll bring to your company, what sort of personality they’ll have, and how they’ll best serve your hiring needs.

Need some ideas for what to look for in a perfect candidate? Check out our list of the 9 traits that any would-be tour guide should demonstrate.

2. Craft a Compelling Job Listing

Once you can envision your ideal hire, write a job listing with them in mind. Speak to them directly, and keep the listing concise and jargon-free.

Description: What does the job entail? What does that offer your ideal candidate? Focus on the positive aspects of the job, the one that would make your ideal candidate want to work for you. Don’t go overboard – applicants can tell when an ad is too good to be true – but share anything that makes your company a great workplace. Direct questions like, “Do you want to share your passion for the outdoors with new people every day?” give applicants an immediate idea of what the job will entail while centering the listing on them.

Responsibilities: Be as clear as possible about your expectations. Being a tour guide isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. Don’t be afraid to list the more challenging parts of the role — this filters out people who won’t be comfortable doing the job.

Qualifications: It’s tempting to list everything you could ever want in a candidate. But if you give absolute necessities equal weight to skills that are nice to have, you’ll make things harder for yourself and for qualified candidates. Instead, put mandatory qualifications up front, and make it clear that they’re required. Save the wish list for a section on additional skills.

Benefits: Save time by including information as possible about salary and benefits. No one wants to waste time on candidates who will go through the whole interview process and then balk at the amount offered (and they don’t want to waste their own time, either). But listing salary information does limit your room for negotiation. If that’s a concern, then find other ways to show how attractive the job can be. Remember, if you want the best guides, you need to make a strong case for your company.

3. Share Your Listing With the World

Company website: Believe it or not, your company website is a fantastic place to have a job board. If your company recruits tour guides on even an occasional basis, a permanent listing on your website will let people who already love your company know that you’re hiring, and that they should send anyone they know that qualifies your way. Once you have the listing on your site, you can also share it on social media, where job listing accounts can pick it up.

Online job boards: Love them or hate them, online job boards will get you applications. List on sites like LinkedIn, Monster, Indeed and Craigslist, but be aware that you’ll get a pile of applications from people who go for every job even remotely relevant to their skills. Set aside extra time to go through applications carefully to find the applicants who actually fit the qualifications and want to work for you.

Professional associations: Most tour guide associations are happy to share job postings with their members. The World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations keeps a list of many associations around the world that you can contact to list your job openings.

Training courses: While formal education isn’t often a requirement for tour guides, there are training courses available through the International Tour Management Institute and other organizations. The ITMI partners with companies to share job listings with its alumni. You can also look at graduates from local hospitality or customer-service related programs.

Social media: If you have a recruiting budget, Facebook can be a goldmine for recruiting thanks to the high-specificity its ad platform allows. Sprout Social has a great guide on recruiting through Facebook that you should check out.

Employees, friends and family: You won’t get the best tour guides by hiring as a favor for a friend, but referrals often lead to some of the best hires. Involve your employees in the hiring process, and share your job listings with people you know. One word of caution: if you want a diverse group of employees, hiring friends of friends is rarely the way to go about it.

4. Screen Your Candidates

If you’ve ever hired, you know what comes next: filter your applications, select a few likely candidates, interview, and make your decision. That’s a process that involves a lot of gut decisions and subjective judgements, but there are a few ways to streamline it.

Screening: Good screening is absolutely necessary. To save time, eliminate candidates based on broad criteria first.

  • Did they follow all the steps of the application process? If a candidate doesn’t follow basic instructions on something so important, they’re a risky choice.
  • Do they meet the basic qualifications? Experience and skills vary, but if a candidate doesn’t meet your bare minimum requirements for the job, there’s no need to give them any more of your time.
  • Do they have any relevant job experience or training? There’s nothing wrong with hiring entry-level employees if the position allows, but if an applicant has no experience or training in any industry even tangentially related to tourism or customer service, you won’t have much to go on.

Once you address those broad points, continue to narrow your criteria until you have few enough candidates that you can comfortably interview all of them remotely.

  • Does their resume or cover letter contain any major inaccuracies or errors?
  • Does their cover letter focus on what they can do for your company, or what you can do for their career?
  • Do they have relevant, positive references from people they’ve worked with or for?
  • Do they meet any of your ideal criteria?

Finally, conduct short phone or video interviews to eliminate candidates who aren’t willing to make time for you, aren’t able to behave professionally, or have personalities that are ill-suited to the job.

Interviewing: When it comes time for the in-person interview, review our list of ideal traits for tour guide candidates. Be consistent in your interviewing to avoid the need to judge candidates by different metrics. And remember, the interview gives applicants a chance to decide if they want to work for your company, so put your best foot forward, too.

5. Train, Train, Train

Once you’ve chosen your new tour guides, take time to give them thorough training. Hiring is a time-consuming, expensive process, so it’s always better to give your hires the best chance at success. Sink or swim “training” often leaves good, dedicated employees floundering, and allows costly mistakes to go unchecked.

So how do you give your employees that chance at success?

  • Guide them. Have them accompany you or your best guides on real tours so they can see what the experience is like from both sides.
  • Ask questions. Make sure they understand why you lead tours as you do. Encourage them to ask questions, too.
  • Mentor them. Give them someone in your company to talk to when they have questions – all the better if that person is not their immediate supervisor. Have that employee casually check in on occasion to ensure everything is on track.
  • Supervise them. Don’t send them out alone on the first tour they lead. Taking the time to supervise them early on will let you correct issues before they get serious.
  • Get feedback. Not only should your new guide offer their feedback and ask questions, you should also get feedback about them from other employees and guests. Your guests will leave feedback either way, after all.
  • Encourage them. There’s lots to learn about being a good tour guide, and new guides should be directed to resources that will help them improve their own skills. The Rezgo blog has many of them!


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