How to Recruit Volunteers to Travel

Recruiting is a lot of hard work and with today’s trumped-up social media personalities, it’s getting more difficult to tell a lemon from a perfect fit. So throw that script aside and read on to learn some common-sense recruiting tips. 


Image by dfataustralian via Flickr

In a past life I was a recruiter. After working my way up from a small web design studio in Canada to the upper echelons of corporate web-design-dom, I left my suit job behind to start my own company. But there was one thing I had to do before I started my new life all those years ago – I had to learn what my the head hunter who elevated me from small town to big city earned on my back.

Later I became a fulltime volunteer recruiter, but back to the story.

I walked into XYZ Recruiting Co. and was put onto the phones with a mere 30 minutes of training; call up some of the biggest North American talent in our rolodex and offer them something better.

It didn’t really matter what “better” meant; it just meant it was whatever I was to offer them.


I owe this recruiting firm my entire career, so I’m definitely not throwing stones, but what I learned was disgusting, and I’ll never deal with a recruiter again.

The truth is that recruiters aren’t looking for the long fix – only one that will last long enough to pass the criteria for a “sale” – as in someone who will last the first three months so they get paid. They normally go through the recruiting process robotically – and I can only imagine that volunteer recruiting is done with hand-me-down tactics from a successful corporate recruiting process.

Well not anymore. Forget those old photocopied manuals, if you’re looking for a proper recruit, it’s time to break the mold and write your own script.

Match Interests

One of the first ways I try to explore my candidates is to learn their preferences and see where congruencies lay between their personality and the volunteer life.

Remember when you were dating and you would watch your significant other with the help staff – and that was a good indicator of how they’ll deal with you one day? Well, it’s sort of like that.

Ask your candidate about their preferences, where they’ve been, and how they view the field you’re looking to have them work in.


Don’t Forget about Requirements

I have two checklists for requirements; one for mission-critical tasks and experience, and another for personality traits that I believe are integral to the job.

Think about every activity your prospective volunteer will be carrying out and what traits and experience will make that person the best person for the job.

Do They Know What They’re in For?

It really is not a trick question to ask a volunteer candidate why they’re there, and what they are applying to do. It will ensure that everyone’s pages line up and could save you some time. I once got 10 minutes into the wrong interview before asking this question and learning that the person I was interviewing was going to replace one of my peers, not looking for volunteer projects in Vietnam.

Sell Growth

Another point I like to illustrate from the get-go is how I am keen to succession planning. I am not just selling the entry-level position a person starts out with. I am selling the relationship between a person and a really great organisation. The central motive is to create lifelong relationships and build quality cohesiveness between volunteers.

Take a Breath

At the end of the day, volunteerism is a female dominated market. It is what it is, and people are people. I emphasize that while we are to take our roles and responsibilities seriously, we also need to be mindful of the perils that come with hypercompetitive gender-dominated staffing.

If a man raises his voice, it doesn’t mean he is angry – just like if a woman sits with you on your lunch break, it doesn’t mean she wants to marry you. The hardest part in all of my volunteership has been putting out fires made by Queen Bees, and they’re hard to catch in the recruitment process.

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Becky, Steve or the other two useless ones (shhh they won't read this) form part of the Openstories team, a collaborative travel blog that we use to dump our ideas, plans and experiences onto the worldwide web. We're honored that you're hear reading this, and we'd love to hear from you. Thanks for dropping by!