Best practices for hiring tour guides

Carla Vianna
Carla Vianna
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Best practices for hiring tour guides

Hiring a new tour guide can be a challenge. There’s a lot to consider for tour operators and attractions when adding a new person to the team, especially one that’s on the front lines every day with guests. That’s why we’ve outlined the most important aspects of hiring a tour guide, whether that’s seasonal or full-time.

In this post, we’ll cover the best practices for hiring tour guides, including what the job responsibilities are, how much you should expect to pay your guides, and interview tips to help you find the right candidate.

What are the job responsibilities of a tour guide?

It’s a tour guide’s responsibility to lead informative and engaging guided tours for visitors. They’re not just the expert on the subject of the tour but also in charge of making it a memorable and fun experience for guests.

But managing a guided tour takes more than just a pleasant personality. Guides must be knowledgeable, engaging, and capable of creating a unique experience for the guest. For instance, a guide giving a tour of a city’s historic sites could reasonably be expected to share restaurant and entertainment suggestions in the area for visitors.

The specifics for each tour job will vary depending on the employer, type of tour, and facility or location. For example, you wouldn’t expect someone leading a whitewater rafting excursion in the mountains of Colorado to have the same job functions as someone giving walking tours in South Carolina. There’s also a difference between a private guide that focuses on private tours and guides that cater to bigger groups of people.

However, some of the responsibilities will overlap. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tour of a brewery or a tour of a historical landmark. Your customers will be expecting a professional guide that starts the tour on time and answers their questions.

Here are some more of the basic responsibilities for tour guide job positions:

  • Greeting guests at the start of the tour
  • Outlining the tour, timeline, or itinerary
  • Gathering and maintaining any necessary equipment
  • Providing information and answering guest questions
  • Sharing knowledge of the facility or topic
  • Reminding guests to hydrate, apply sunscreen, etc.
  • Escorting visitors through the tour and organizing breaks
  • Private tour guides are expected to provide a personalized experience based on their guests’ preferences

How much should you pay your tour guides?

According to Indeed, the standard base wage for a tour guide in the United States is $18.36 per hour, with tips averaging $75 per day.

However, when determining the base pay of your tour guides, you’ll want to look at the average wages of your particular area. Fair wages for different areas or states will have varying starting points. Even if you were to factor in the minimum wage and the average national rate for tour guides, you wouldn’t pay a guide working in New York City the same amount as one in Dayton, Ohio.

In the end, to figure out a fair working wage for your tour guides, you’ll want to factor in the experience of the candidate or length of time with your company, the average wage for tour guides in the United States, and wage trends in your specific area.

5 tips for interviewing tour guides

The interview is a great way to get to know your potential guides beyond what the resume or cover letter can tell you. Here are 5 tips for getting the most out of the interview process so you can make an informed decision on who to hire for the tour guide role.

1. Review resumes, cover letters, and/or applications. Do your homework before meeting with the candidate by reviewing the submitted materials.

Pro Tip: Here are the 7 skills that all great tour guides possess.

This not only demonstrates that you value their time but makes the interview process more efficient if you aren’t asking basic questions that were already covered in the resume.

Additionally, you might find something interesting to ask about. For instance, maybe the candidate has a travel blog or spent their college years studying abroad. Not only could these experiences be useful for the job, but they can help you get to know the person better when you ask about it in the interview.

2. Prepare some questions in advance. Jot down your questions before the interview, so you don’t forget to ask anything important. Questions related to the specific job role as well as behavioral questions to assess the person’s ability to fit into company culture are all helpful.

Pro Tip: Avoid “yes or no” style questions. Instead, ask questions that will encourage candidates to share more about themselves and their experiences. From the experiences they choose to share, you can see if they possess any or all of these top tour guide qualities.

3. Outline the interview structure. Set the parameters of the interview and let the candidate know what to expect by giving them an overview at the start.

For example, you could say you’re going to start the interview by asking questions about their past experience, followed by a description of tour guide responsibilities, and finally, you’ll be opening the floor for them to ask you questions.

4. Sit back and listen. It’s tempting to do most of the talking in an interview. As the interviewer, you have a lot of questions to get through, and you also want to share details about your company and team.

However, to really understand who the interviewee is, you need to let them talk. Ask open-ended questions and pay attention to the responses instead of just mentally preparing for the next thing you’re going to say.

5. Follow up after the interview. There’s nothing worse than being left on the line. Follow up with the candidate via phone or email after the interview. Let them know when they should expect you to make a decision.

If you’ve decided immediately that they aren’t the right fit, you should politely let them know as soon as possible. This prevents them from wasting time waiting on your response and saves the interviewer time from fielding the candidate’s follow-ups or questions.

With these tips in mind, you’ll also want to keep an eye out for certain traits. No matter what type of tour you need to be staffed, some key characteristics are beneficial to have in your prospects. Here are some of the most important traits and qualifications of a promising tour guide prospect:

  • Friendly, enthusiastic, and personable
  • Confident, energetic, and extroverted
  • Ability to remain calm under stress
  • Capacity to stand or walk for extended periods
  • Strong storytelling abilities and a passion for travel
  • Public speaking experience
  • Customer service experience
  • Previous tour experience

Of course, each person’s work and personal experiences are unique. The above characteristics aren’t requirements or set in stone, just a good starting point. Different backgrounds bring various strengths to the table. Some potential guides may have limited experience but could still be perfect for the role. Be open in the hiring process and take the time to evaluate each candidate.

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Finding the right tour guides for your business can be a challenge, so it pays to be thorough and offer a great working atmosphere that attracts talent.

Keep in mind that just because a worker is seasonal doesn’t mean you can’t get a good tour guide to come back and eliminate the need to go through the hiring process with their replacement. Let them know you would love to see them back next season, and you’ll be holding their spot for them.

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Writer Carla Vianna

Carla Vianna

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