4 Strategies to Effectively Recruit Lifeguards

Struggling with aquatics staffing? Finding yourself lifeguarding more than you are managing your staff and facility? In need of new ways to recruit lifeguards?

One of the biggest problems facing aquatics professionals is the recruitment and retention of lifeguarding and aquatics staff. It may seem like you’ve tried everything to get people on staff and on the lifeguard stand, and yet you still find yourself needing more people.

This is part one of a two part blog post on recruiting lifeguards. The following strategies will be covered between part one and two:

  1. Training New Lifeguards
  2. Lifeguard Referral Programs
  3. Facebook/Social Media
  4. Community Outreach
  5. Advertise the Attractive Aspects
  6. Offer Additional Benefits
  7. Adjust the Pay
  8. Coordinate with Neighboring Organization
  9. Recruit Lifeguards through the Internet
  10. Utilize Feeder Programs

How Do You Recruit Lifeguards?

In this day and age it’s easy to find anything you want on the Internet. You would think posting open positions on your website would be enough. Not anymore! Ask your most recent staff where they heard about the position they are in.

It’s likely they heard about it from a friend, or family member, or classmate. But word of mouth can be unpredictable and unreliable. So there have to be different ways to get people in the door and onto the stands.

The majority of part-time aquatics staff are high school age, and often lifeguarding is their first job. Today, people want information at their fingertips, and want it presented directly to them. The age groups we often hire are no different.

In today’s job market the ages we hire most aren’t looking for jobs as avidly. So in order to attract new lifeguards you may have to try some new methods to pursue staff, instead of waiting for them to come to you.

Here are some strategies to get you off of the guard stand and get some skilled new lifeguards into the seat.

Training New Lifeguards

Finding and attracting quality employees can be difficult enough. If you add in the certification requirements, the pool of potential candidates shrinks even further. There is however, another pool of potentially quality people largely untapped. I’m speaking about uncertified candidates.

The tried and true method of attracting lifeguards through lifeguard training courses regardless which association you use for certifications, can still be effective. But many other jobs can offer comparable pay, with small or no barriers to entry. Barriers like a costly and sometimes difficult lifeguard training course. So the effectiveness of getting staff through classes dwindles when potential new hires have to pay in order to be qualified for a position.

Increasingly, organizations are opting to waive the cost of the training course if participants agree to work for them, provided they earn their certifications. This is an excellent way to quickly add staff, as it removes the main reason people pass on lifeguarding courses. Within my organization we offered free lifeguarding courses and were able to hire more than forty new lifeguards in the span of two months! If your numbers increase as rapidly as we experienced it will be incredibly useful to have a tool to manage your staff’s certifications and provide additional risk management for your aquatics department.

It can be important to create requirements when providing free courses to ensure you get quality candidates. There are of course different approaches to take in creating requirements. One being that in order to get the course for free the participant must work for your organization for a set time after the completion of their certification. Another approach is to have participants pay for the course up front, and receive a refund once they’ve passed and have worked for a set time.

Whichever approach suits your organization best, it is important to have clear requirements, that both generate interest and provide you with lasting, quality employees.

Lifeguard Referral Programs

One tool you have to help you attract lifeguards is the staff you already employ. People talk, often about work, so why not use that to your advantage? If you’re doing all you can to retain staff (eventually link to staff retention post), your staff should be happy with their jobs. And if they’re happy, your staff will be more inclined to talk about their work in a positive light. Which is a great first step.

If you’re looking to improve the number of people you have to hire, providing a positive work environment for staff and job satisfaction may not be enough. You may need to do more to get your staff to help recruit their friends, family, and classmates.

Referral programs are a great way to motivate staff to help fill the staffing needs of their job. By offering a reward of some kind, they are more motivated to seek out and follow through on bringing new employees to your staff. The rewards don’t have to be extra pay, necessarily, though certainly cash is king.

Many pools are managed by larger districts, like Foothills Park and Recreation District or municipalities such as the City and County of Denver, which afford a wider array of options for your referral program. Other services provided by your organization can be an excellent motivator. Things like, refer an employee and receive:

  • A free round of golf.
  • A free personal training session.
  • A free professional massage.
  • Reduced registration to a program.
  • Free facility pass.

These type of incentives motivate employees to bring in qualified lifeguard candidates, and can work just as effectively, but can cost your company little or nothing.

Referral programs can even be implemented for the public in general, not just employees. By providing a reward like free punch cards, the cost for organizations can be slim to none, and it will still generate new candidates. While an external referral program can provide many benefits. In the public service industry, we can see added benefits. Public referral programs can also serve to increase community ownership in the operation of their local facilities.

Keep in mind that you’ll want to set requirements for the candidates received through staff referrals. Things such as: how long they stay in their position before the reward is given, or rewards based off of the referrals performance can be effective strategies. That way staff are encouraged to refer only quality candidates if they hope to get their reward.

Facebook/Social Media

Perhaps the most powerful tool in any organization's tool belt, but especially in the search for staff is social media. If your organization has a significant social media presence a single post can be seen by thousands of people. That kind of reach simply can’t be overlooked.

Whether you’re looking for one or one hundred lifeguards, utilizing your social media presence to generate interest in your lifeguarding positions is a simple and effective way. But don’t just post, “Lifeguarding Jobs Available.”

Remember: People want something at their fingertips, but they don't want to have to search hard for it. That’s why it’s important to make it easy! Simply posting that you need lifeguards only gets you halfway there. To get applications actually turned in, you have to do some of the work yourself!

In order for your social media post to be effective in finding new staff, there are a few important things to make sure you include:

  • Make sure your post is short and clearly worded. “Now Hiring Lifeguards!” is a good start.
  • Include answers to the most common questions: hours available and pay. “Mornings, Daytimes, Evenings available! $11/hour!”
  • Link DIRECTLY to the application page. “Apply here!”

Here’s one example, though it doesn’t have everything we would like to see:

Community Outreach

It’s a reality of the aquatics profession that the ages of lifeguards are generally under twenty, which comes with its own challenges and requires its own strategies. But there are advantages to knowing the likely age of your new hires.

Teenagers provide many opportunities to be reached, other than by their favorite social media outlet, believe it or not! There are a number of different avenues that can be used to reach potential lifeguards in the high school age group.

Have a presence in their schools

Okay, maybe not literally. But, your potential hires spend a large part of their day at school. There are a couple of good ways to make the opportunities you offer known to them.

  • Simple and straightforward, post signs with the same information as your social media post. You’ll get your opportunities on their mind at least.
  • Inform guidance counselors of the opportunities you have, they’ll pass the information on to students looking for jobs.
  • Attend job fairs put on by the school and/or school districts. It may seem old fashioned, but many schools still do them, and it is an excellent place to find motivated staff.

Contact youth groups and religious organizations

Much like school counselors, many youth groups and religious organizations encourage their participants to work in the community, through volunteerism, but also with jobs.

Lifeguarding is an excellent way for youth to contribute to their community, and a great job as well. Making that clear to the leaders will put in their minds to steer any interested people your way.

Utilize the groups that utilize your facilities

Most facilities with lap lanes will have one form of swim team or another that use their pool. Whether it’s a high school swim team, a year round USA Swimming team, or a recreational swim team, swimmers are some of our most common hires in aquatics.

Generally, coaches are willing to hand out fliers to their teams with information on lifeguard jobs. With each year bringing in new swimmers for the teams, it means they also bring in potential new hires for you. This is an excellent place to recruit lifeguards because swim team participants make excellent lifeguards because they are typically strong swimmers. As an added bonus if your organization offers swimming instruction as well, having swimmers as your instructors gives you a leg up!

Finding new lifeguards is an ongoing process, but it doesn’t have to feel like a losing battle. There are always new ways to get new people onto the stand!

You can read part two of this post here.

Have these processes worked for you? Have you used other methods to attract new lifeguards? Tell us about it below!

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