Lifeguard Hiring – Hire Great, Train Great, Evaluate

A shortage of candidates doesn't mean lower expectations.Lifeguard hiring is a challenge. Coast to coast we’re noticing a shortage of lifeguard candidates. This has many aquatic managers softening their requirements for the applicant pool. Don’t fall into the trap. Limited amounts of prospective candidates or not, keep the bar high for your incoming team. Here’s how to keep your recruitment expectations, hiring activities and training actions up, even in a candidate shortage.



Expectation:  It seems like a no-brainer – but we expect our lifeguards to come in with decent lifeguarding skills… right? Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. All too often we make a hire and find out later that someone’s skills aren’t up to par.

How we hire for these skills: Gone are the days of assuming a certified lifeguard is qualified. If you’re not asking your applicants to prove their rescue skills during the hiring process, you’ve missed out on a great evaluative tool. A lifeguard hiring session should involve practical skill demonstrations including scanning, in-water rescues, first aid, CPR/AED and emergency action plan readiness. Check with your HR department to make sure you’re following their criteria throughout the hiring process.

Managing expectations: When we’re evaluating guard skills, we can start with the scanning fundamentals. You can’t be a great guard if you don’t watch the water well. Closely monitor guard behavior when they’re in the chair. Proper scanning is easy to spot, and poor scanners stand out like a sore thumb.



Expectation:  Our lifeguards will show up for shifts on-time, substitute for others, answer their cell phones when we call and respond to emails when required.

How we hire for this skill: Hold your first group interview on a Saturday morning at 7:00am. You’ll quickly lose a handful of candidates whose priorities just don’t align with yours. Those who value the opportunity will arrive early, well rested and prepared to stand out in a positive way.

Managing expectations: Early in the new-hire process, set the tone for your “reliability expectations”. Detail your scheduling, substitution, illness and absence policies in an employee handbook. Require all lifeguards to sign a notice of acknowledging these guidelines.



Expectation: Our lifeguards will be great representatives of our facility.  

How we hire for these skills: Your lifeguards will be evaluated hundreds of times throughout their tenure at your facility, many times only on short interactions. That means your first impression of a candidate is tremendously important. Make sure you’re noting who stands out early in the interview process.

Managing expectations:  Most lifeguards haven’t been to finishing school. Many are young and for some this may be their first real job. Basic customer service training should be a part of your team’s in-service schedule.



Expectation: Lifeguarding won’t be their only duty. We expect our guards to help in the pump room, facilitate the pool schedule and clean up at the end of a long day.

How we hire for these skills: Ask situational interview questions, not hypothetical ones. “Tell me about a time when you’ve had to clean up a big mess” is better than “Will you be a good cleaner at work”. Ask for real life examples pertaining to the tough ancillary tasks you may be asking your staff to perform.

Managing expectations: Creating a culture where everyone helps starts at the top. Every now and then your hands should get dirty too! Don’t ask your team to perform job functions that you wouldn’t do yourself.