Hiring The Best Staff For Your Escape Room Business

2021.07.28.

One of the many problems of having an escape room business is that the owner will often only concentrate on the gaming experience. This is really about the mechanics of the gameplay, the puzzles and the clues, and the decoration. But one thing they often fail to consider is the actual customer experience. It’s easy to become blinkered with all the details and forget how the whole experience will be perceived by the paying customer. If you are determined to ensure that you are giving the best player experience, 100% of the time, from the moment they walk in the door to saying goodbye after the debrief, then that comes from hiring the best staff.

Of course if you're an owner and a newbie to the escape room business, and you've never hired a gamesmaster or receptionist before, then you may be wondering what the specific roles are that you need to fill, as well as how you should go about finding the right people for the right job. Today we're going to have a look at the hoops both you and your new staff need to jump through, in order to find the best people to fill the most critical roles.

Who do we need?

Though probably the largest factor is the number of employees, much will depend on the size of your business. But without a doubt your number one escape room game employee will be your games master. This is the person who oversees the running of the games. In fact the whole customer experience lies within his hands, and he has the potential to influence the gameplay, for better or for worse. These are is typical duties:

Explain the rules
Make sure that the players understand exactly what they're supposed to be doing
Explain and ensure the safety of players
Provide a great experience for the players. 
Reset the rooms in between games
Help with hints where the players become stuck.
If playing remotely, then the games master will be the eyes ears and hands of the players

On the whole it’s best to have one game master per game. Now we are well aware that there are gamers masters who multi-task and are skilled enough to handle and oversee more than one game simultaneously. But the problem with this is that they are unable to give 100% of their attention to any customer. So as a result, all customers will suffer from a less than perfect playing experience.

Other Employees

Receptionist
There's a good chance you're going to need someone on the front desk. If your escape room is busy then you're going to have to have someone who can answer the phone, send emails, take bookings, and handle enquiries. More often than not, this job is done by the owne, particularly if it's a new business.

Actors
Large escape rooms which feature more detailed and  immersive games will hire actors who can help enhance the storyline and the atmosphere. These can often double as employees for the front desk or other duties.

Maintenance Staff. 
Again this job tends to fall to the owners when they open for the first time. Be aware that with all the hustle and bustle of gameplay, things get broken again and again. Technical stuff will need fixing periodically.

General Manager
This role is for someone who will oversee the hiring, manage staff, oversee daily operations, purchasing of infantry, and maybe even do the marketing. Once again, it's common for this job to fall onto the shoulders of the owner. Once the business is up and running well, then the owner can take a step back, and leave the day to day in the capable hands of a general manager, either full or part-time.

The Meaning of The Rolls

Before you decide to hire anyone, we suggest that you put together a list of all the jobs that need doing. A list is a great starting point, allowing you to assess your needs in detail and therefore the job requirements. Once you're certain of your needs, then it's time to write a job description. As working in escape rooms is a relatively new employment genre, you want to write your advertisement with as many details as possible. Keep in mind that the more accurate your job description, then the easier it is for applicants to gauge whether they will be a good fit for your business. This is certainly a great way of weeding out candidates who will be able to see more clearly through the nitty-gritty of the ad as to whether the job is suitable for them.

Personality Traits And Qualities

Whoever you hire is going to affect your business, so always keep in mind the primary reason why you are opening an escape room in the first place. Yes, we understand you want to make a profit. But you’ll make no money if the customer experience is less than stellar. The escape room game is to provide entertainment and fun for a group of players. To that end, when you're interviewing people, always keep in mind that they will be in customer-facing roles. They will therefore have either a positive or negative effect on the whole customer experience. There's no point in paying a game master who happens to be a fantastic actor, if he cannot be personable when dealing with customers on a one-to-one basis.

If you want an idea of how owners can make bad employment decisions that end up affecting the business, then just head over to any of the larger review sites like Tripadvisor, and check out the reviews left by less than happy customers. You'll find that most of these negative reviews are not based around the decoration or the gameplay itself, but rather around the poor performance from the game master. In particular when it comes to customer service skills. If for example, you have a conceited and rude gamesmaster, then she or he can absolutely kill your business stone dead within but a single week. 

With that in mind, it's very important that you have a precise job specification laid out for a particular role. If we're talking about games masters, then these will show the personal attributes that are necessary to fulfil the role well. It's super important that at this point you are as specific as possible. You want your requirements to be crystal clear, with no possibility of misunderstanding. For example you could write:

Possess a happy and warm and friendly disposition
Works well with others and as a team
Has oodles of empathy
Is able to command attention
Is confident around people of all types

So How Do You Find The Right People?

Because many of the jobs associated with escape room games are relatively new and original in their nature, then it's very possible that you can be flooded with applications, as people are looking for a job with a difference. Having said that, it's essential that you have a hiring strategy in place. Otherwise you will feel absolutely overwhelmed, and as such, will have no idea where to start the actual interview process.

Make a Shortlist

As you're a person who's probably never worked in HR, then know that this is the most basic strategy to start with, and it will help you whittle down all those applicants into a manageable shortlist.

Remove any incomplete or badly written applications. Obviously anything with spelling mistakes or bad grammar shows incompetence and laziness when even applying for a job.
Because you would have listed mandatory skills and experience, then look through all the applications left, and throw out any that don't have those things that are mandatory.
Finally, look at the cover letter. What you’re looking for here is originality, not a simple copy and paste job from a cover letter template. This letter should have a single clear message….why they consider themselves a good fit for the role advertised.
Essentially those are the steps necessary for creating a shortlist. If you need to cut this list of applicants down any further, then we would probably look through their applications and weed out those with less experience. On the other hand, be aware that some may have skills that might prove useful in the future.

The Actual Interview Process

Remember why you're having an interview. It's not an informal chat. It's not about who is the prettiest or the most handsome. What it is, is about identifying the correct person for the role advertised. Whatever you do, don't wing it when it comes to the interview. In other words, be prepared. Offering someone a job is a serious life-altering event, so don't take it lightly, or the applicants will see that you are not serious. If you're going to be interviewing a number of applicants on the same day, then there are certain factors you should take into account:

Leave enough space between interviews. More than anything, this is about being professional and organised in how you approach the interview process.
Make sure you have prepared your questions well ahead of time. Ensure that none of your questions will elicit a simple “yes” or “no” answer. 
Ensure you have cleared your schedule for the period of interviews. Nothing speaks of unprofessionalism more than taking calls or having to leave periodically to talk to other people. 
Every interview should have a time limit. On the whole, you will need no more than around 30 to 45 minutes to get to know an applicant pretty well. Also, by having a time limit, everyone is more likely to stick with the program, stay on track, and get the all important key information. As we said, it's not an informal chat.

Keep in mind that as the interviewer you will not get much out of the interviewees unless they are absolutely comfortable. It's important that you are able to form a positive connection between yourself and the candidate. You'll need your wits around you, as many applicants will have mastered the art of the interview, in that they may well appear charming and confident, whilst lacking the very skills you require. 

Check The References

Once you have identified the top two or three candidates for the role, then you should start checking their references.  Keep in mind that you can always train someone in technical skills, but you cannot teach someone to be friendly and confident with customers, as this is a quality that is more fixed in their DNA. There is a technique for checking references and it should include some of the following practices:

Ask the person listed on the reference how they know the candidate. This will help ensure whether their reference is valid or not.
Talk about the roles that you imagine the applicants will need to do and then ask if they have performed anything similar. 
Remember to keep your questions open ended as the last thing you want is to receive basic “yes” and “no” answers. 

Conclusion

One point that we haven't touched on, is that you need to be aware of. That is hiring laws in your particular area. Employment law is something you should take very seriously as any missteps can lead to expensive payouts at a later date. Ensure that you are within the limits of the minimum wage requirements and also be aware of all the benefits you are required to give any employee. At the end of the day, hiring people is not so difficult providing that you have a clear expectation of the roles that need filling and of the qualities and attributes needed to fill them. Whatever you do, try not to let your own personal bias come into the equation. Another point is that you should never make any decisions in haste, and you should never ever trust your “gut feeling”. Otherwise the whole process will end in expensive tears.

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