Hiring the Best in Any Position


No matter your specialty area within campus recreation, it’s likely student and/or professional staff hiring has a major impact on the quality of our programs and services. Finding the right people for the right position is difficult, and hiring errors can often waste time and money.

Thankfully, we work in campus recreation, not theoretical physics. Other than a small percentage of advanced positions with specific certifications – aquatics, fitness, etc. – the vast majority of our positions do not rely on applicant pools of Sheldon Coopers.

No matter how critical we may think a person, or our self, may be to the success of our department, the reality is we are all replaceable, and there are plenty of potential applicants smart enough to learn and improve on the role we play.

So, how do you choose? What do you look for in an applicant? What’s the secret sauce?

Let’s take a look at a few characteristics that lead to effective employees in any position.

Attitude and Effort

Campus recreation, like many fields, is chock-full of variables that influence the success of our departments and individual program areas. Let’s see: there’s funding, enrollment, campus leadership changes, construction projects, parking, funding, weather patterns, changing interest trends, political events and did I mention funding? As staff members, we often have very little control over most of these issues.

What do we each have complete control over? Our attitude and effort.

No matter what is going on in the world or in our personal lives, the attitude we display and effort we put forth is a conscious choice. An applicant may have all the experience and talent necessary for the position, but if they are not positive thinkers and slack in their responsibilities, any potential will be quickly wasted.

There’s a reason you see “Now hiring smiling faces” instead of “Now hiring mean and lazy people.”


People are the most important part of an organization. This truth is highlighted in campus recreation as our student and professional staff members serve in extended customer service roles as trainers, officials, lifeguards, instructors, etc. Different from brands like Nike, who use sponsored celebrities as the face of their company, we have dozens or hundreds of faces of our departments who build relationships with our participants on a daily basis.

Naturally, people are drawn to those who are authentic. Real people who can connect with others through their confidence, welcoming personality and a common desire to make their program a premier experience for everyone.

Have you ever had a coworker, classmate or other acquaintance you simply did not want to run into walking down the street due to their negativity or other certain aspects of their disposition?

Your participants and other staff members make those same judgments on a daily basis while participating in your programs.


Never underestimate the importance of a passionate staff member. Connecting people with their passions is a beautiful and prosperous match for both the employee and organization.

Think about something you are passionate about. The thing you wake up smiling about on Monday morning. The thing that renders the time clock meaningless. How much of yourself are you willing to put into that activity?

Life is about priorities. We only have so much time, energy and care to spread around. As employers, we want to get the best out of our staff. Without a passion for the role, the job begins to tumble down that priority list.

Ben Strunk currently serves as the assistant director of sports programs at NC State University Wellness and Recreation. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Ben earned bachelor's degrees in journalism and sports management at Ohio University ('12) and a master's degree in sport management at the University of Florida ('14) where he served as a competitive sports graduate assistant for the department of recreational sports. Ben is also the creator of Fat Guys Running Marathons, where he writes about his ultramarathon adventures and aims to inspire others to #achieveanything.

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