Top tips for hiring guides
- Pay attention to how the guide behaves, as well as what they say
- Look for empathy, service industry experience and a love of learning (the expertise can come later)
- In the interview, ask situational questions and see how they respond
- Enable them to tell stories with passion
- And observe how they treat you
As travel begins to recover and operators return to the day-to-day of showing their guests their favorite places, there is an urgency to get staffing to the right levels to deliver the best experience.
When it comes to tour guides, operators need to find passionate storytellers who are able to control a group and are the right fit for the tour. So how should an operator hire the best guides for them?
“My number one piece of advice is to hire the right person and not the right brain or the right amount of knowledge,” Mitch Bach says. “It’s much easier to train guides on the content and much harder to train them on being empathetic.”
Bach is the co-founder of TripSchool — a training company and business incubator for tour guides, tour directors and operators.
“The interview should be about noticing the way they’re treating you”
“The most important skills are actually the skills that are slightly hidden,” he says. “Skills like empathy, active listening, noticing your surroundings and being able to adapt to both the guests needs and to the environments, and to what the situation calls for them.
“The interview should be as much about noticing the way they’re treating you, the situation, and not so much what they’re saying.”
In order to find the right guides, Bach suggests that operators make a checklist of what they’re looking for and prepare their questions in advance so they can pay more attention during interviews.
He also says that it’s better to ask situational questions rather than checking the knowledge of the candidate.
“I remember one question I received once, back in the day when I was applying to be a tour guide back in Paris, and I still like the question. What would you do if you have a group of guests, and one of them is saying: ‘I am not moving another inch until I have a bathroom break’?
“It’s an impossible situation and you’ve got a group of 20 people that is suddenly watching this spectacle. You need to find somewhere and you also need to keep a group going.
“Ask those kinds of impossible questions and then see what they come up with.”
Ask to hear a story of a strong memory
To discover if a guide is a good storyteller, don’t ask them to prepare anything. Instead, pick a simple subject where they are likely to have personal experience and ask them to tell you about it. This could be about their first breakup or their last holiday.
“Let them feel at ease,” Bach says. “And then you watch how they express themselves. Let them just speak. We’re all naturally storytellers when we talk about our first breakup.
“That question for me — it’s the one I always start my storytelling workshops with — is tell me about a food from your childhood. That brings back a memory.
“When I do that with guides, I watch as they all naturally craft really powerful, emotional and engaging stories.”
As well as making sure the guide has the right qualifications and licenses for work in the area, operators should check whether they have experience in the service industry. People who have worked in hotels and restaurants are often equipped with customer service skills and “by default 30% of the people treat you like crap”, Mitch says.
Discover passion for learning
Finally, check that the guide is committed to lifelong learning. The best guides do more than just memorize the script — they flesh that out and share their passion with their guests.
Bach says: “Being a guide is not being certified and then being done. It’s about a thirst for knowledge, an eagerness to read. You might ask: ‘What is the last non-fiction book that you read?’
“The last thing that I would say is to ask them what are you passionate about so you can hear what they sound like when they love something.
“To me, that is one of the most fundamental aspects of what guiding is. It’s a love of people and a love of sharing your passion for something.”
Arival has launched a Jobs Board to help the in-destination industry find the guide and staff they need. Click here to post, search and apply for the best jobs in the Best Part of Travel – for free!