Let me start by saying I don’t like interviews much and working at the same company for 15 years had put me in a position where all of my interviews have been for internal positions and mostly with people who knew me by reputation. Consequently I haven’t done an “outside” interview in a really long time, and I have never done a joint interview with my husband. So Tuesday when it came time to interview with two potential employers I was pretty nervous. Let me back up a bit though. Using the criteria we have established in Should we Lock in the Summer? I had selected two potential summer jobs. One was Northern Nights campground in Alaska, our first choice for location, and the other was with Adventureland in Iowa which was very interesting because of the unique type of work. The interviews ended up being as different as two interviews could be and I think really show the spectrum of what you could experience in an interview in this lifestyle so I wanted to share them and our preparation experience.
You might think, “I’ve interviewed before and these are lower paying jobs, so how hard could it be?” and if you are doing this solo that might be true, especially if you are a person who interviews well. Interviewing as a couple, however, is different and you might want to work out a basic game plan before getting on the phone. How we chose to handle it was to write down a list of questions and have one person take the initial lead. I strongly recommend actually writing them down and checking them off as they are answered and I also recommend taking notes. If you are planning on doing multiple interviews this will help keep the details straight and helps make sure you don’t forget anything really important. The list of questions will vary depending on the job you are applying for and needs to include any concerns that either person might have. Lee and I are different people so of course have different priorities, and our list reflected that. Determining who will take the lead initially sounds silly, but you don’t want to talk over each other. In our case, I dealt with the initial pleasantries in the interview, got us started on the questions and Lee made sure all the questions were answered and wrapped the call up making sure NOT to commit on the phone. This was an agreement we had made prior to the interview that we would under no circumstances accept a position without first talking about it and again I highly recommend this. To a certain extent you are going off “gut feel” when you take the position and your gut and your partner’s might be saying two different things. We had discussed in advance there would be possible outcomes of an interview; we both wanted the job, neither of us wanted the job, he did and I didn’t, or I did and he didn’t. For this particular summer we agreed we would only take a job if both of us wanted it, that could change going forward (sometimes one partner has to take one for the team), but since we are so new at this we wanted to make sure we both were extremely interested. Under those circumstances it is important that you have a post interview review with each other and find out what everyone is feeling.
Am I over complicating this? I don’t think so, because no matter how close a couple you are, when it comes to work every person is a little different, and unless you owned and ran a business together you probably know very little about how your spouse behaves in their work life. I actually had an opportunity to work with Lee a little here and there over the years, but have never worked with him for 4 months solid. It’s a slightly different dynamic and one worth talking about a bit before jumping into a work kamping position. I know this about us, and after a somewhat intense pre-interview conversation we were prepared for the two calls. Oh, and think about where you are going to have the call. You are on a speaker phone so make sure you are in a place with strong cell signal and limited background noise. The interviews both went around 45 minutes so make sure you have gone to the bathroom, have a drink handy, and a note pad and pen laid out. We did ours at our kitchen table with the chairs pulled at a 45 degree angle from each other. Oh, and I made the mistake of not setting up a specific time (via email) for the interviews and left it open as a block of time (in the morning and after 1pm) which I don’t recommend. Next time I will set a specific time, making sure to be clear about time zones and who will call who. There was a bit of back and forth on the calls because I left it vague which just adds to the stress.
The first call was with a small campground owned by a couple in Alaska. We interviewed with Marc who had seen my ad on Work Kamper News and reached out to me via email. The ad was free with our Work Kamper membership and basically stated we were looking for a position in Alaska for Summer 2016 and gave the link to our Work Kamper resume. I am a big fan of the Work Kamper website and had decided to give the personal ad a try when I wasn’t seeing anything that would work for us in their ads. This turned out to be a great decision as Marc knew our qualifications and was highly interested in us before we ever got on the phone. The interview was more of a conversation where we asked our questions and Marc answered them. He didn’t have hardly any for us at all. It was very relaxed and pleasant and although I did most of the talking early on, Lee and Marc talked more towards the end. Afterwards, Lee and I talked about our initial feelings and both gave the job a thumbs up. And just for a starting point our questions were as follows:
- What will we be doing? Can you walk us through an average day? I would be helping inside the office and Lee working on general maintenance outside. We are the only work kampers and would be working in conjunction with his wife Darlene. Marc will be coming down every other weekend. They also have a housekeeper who comes once a day and does the heavy cleaning. Occasionally everyone pitches in, but the job for me won’t be solely cleaning which is a huge plus.
- Can we combine days off or take extra if we work it out in advance? Absolutely,they want to be sure we don’t get burned out and have time to explore the area. Since Alaska is so big, sometimes you need more time than just a day trip, plus Kelly and Bill will be in Seward 5 hours away from us and we wanted to make sure we would have time to see them.
- Where is the camp host site and what type of hookups does it have? Lee had the campground pulled up on Google Earth and asked specifically where the site was and if our rig would fit in it. Sometimes the camp host sites are in the least nice spot in the campground and we just wanted to talk that through. In this case we would be up in the front near the owner’s RV and have full hookups.
- Is there cell coverage? Before getting on the phone we both read RV Park Reviews for the park which I really recommend. Not only does it give the guests perspective on a campground (numerous reviews stating how nice the owners were) it also can give information on cell phone coverage. We just wanted to make sure we verified that in advance. They also offer free WiFi which is a nice bonus.
- Can Lee do RV work in his time off? Many campgrounds won’t allow this, but in Marc’s case he saw it as a way to add additional value for his customers. Since Glenallen is a jumping off point for many other places, he gets RV’s with issues all the time and the one mechanic in town is very busy. We were very glad to hear he was not only fine with it, but would welcome it. Huge plus in our minds!
- Can they guarantee 40 hours a week for each of us? Although we had covered this point in email, it is important enough that it was worth talking about again. Not only could he guarantee the 40 hours but said additional hours were available if we wanted them. For us this is the only way to make Alaska work without seriously draining the bank account and most of the jobs I had seen that offered 40 hours were resort work, which we didn’t want to do at this time. I get it, most work kampers don’t want or need that many hours so most campgrounds have two work kamper couples who split the hours. Marc has a small campground though and only has his wife and one couple so they are able to be very flexible in what they offer. Another huge bonus for us because we can get the hours we need but also take off the time we want.
- Are there a lot of seasonal campers? The “personality” of a campground seems to vary based on the clientele and although they have numerous returning customers every year and locals on the weekend, most people don’t stay there for long stretches of time. This is where Lee and I differ. I like seasonal campers, Lee prefers when folks are coming and leaving. Neither one was a deal breaker, but we did want to know what type of campground we were walking into.
The first interview went very well and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. We worked well as a team and I really liked Marc and the position very much. The second interview was with Adventureland and was about as different as two things called by the same name could be. We spoke to Gary, the Director of HR, and the conversation was very scripted. They have a very long online interview form (along with a personality test), so really Gary just needed to verify we had experience working with the public. He then explained in great detail the position and how the program worked. The presentation was very comprehensive so we mainly listened and I only asked a couple of clarification questions. Essentially as Year 1 employees we could apply for four different positions, Games, Rides, Food, and Retail. Each position has different rules and hours. Although there is some variety within what you do for a department, there is no floating between departments. We heard the detailed descriptions on Food and Rides and determined we would be more interested in Rides. The rides department works a six day week with 5-7 hour day or night shift. There is a 1/2 hour break per shift and if we both chose rides we would get the same shift and the same days off. If we chose different departments we would still get the same days off, but might have different shifts. Some of the perks include a free campsite in a very nice campground, free uniforms, reduced rate meals in their commissary when working, and a bonus at the end of the season if you stay until the end. They also do about 20 special events (ice cream socials, day trips, etc) for the work kampers throughout the season especially towards the end when the park is only open on the weekends. The downside, for us, was in Year 1, the AV job Lee was interested in was not available to work kampers and I couldn’t float from department to department for variety. Also, I was disappointed to hear that Year 1 all rides would be the “flat rides” no roller coasters, water park, or water ride positions available.
I appreciated very much Gary’s thoroughness, but it was obvious the script was designed for an older, retired couple. Makes sense since that is the current demographic of most full timers, but many of the benefits weren’t as appealing to us as a younger, working couple. Still, I would love to try it for a summer, just to check working at an amusement park off my bucket list and they seem to have a very organized program, which I approve of. After talking it through though, it was no contest. We gladly accepted the Alaska position and are now locked in for Summer 2016. Since I turn 50 in August, I am very excited about celebrating that milestone in beautiful Alaska and this is a position we never could have taken if I was still working my corporate job! I also feel much better about our ability to interview as a couple. Turns out that having two people on the phone can be an additional benefit when gathering information and making a decision.
- Prepare your questions ahead of time
- Discuss as a couple your “game plan” before getting on the phone
- Be in a comfortable setting with good cell coverage for the interview
- Take good notes
- Absolutely do not make a decision while on the phone. Talk about it first then give your decision via a follow-up phone call or email.
- Be honest about what you both need as individuals, especially if the commitment is for several months.
- Make sure you have something in writing that details what you spoke about and you confirm via email that both parties agree. Better safe than sorry.
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