Tourism has been booming in the recent years. Cheap flights and a desire to escape the boring routine of one’s home city, and perhaps also of their corporate life, at least for a short weekend, has brought in a wave of tourist to just about any major or historical city.

But people are lazy to learn about the sights, or to discover the places like we did back in the day, talking to strangers, making contacts. Now everyone walks either staring on the screen of their smart phone, or listening to a tour guide. Or maybe not listening at all, they just find it easier to have someone take them through the city, as if they were dogs on a leash. No need to think, and perhaps that’s the purpose of the entire city trip for most travelers.

Anyway, tour guide is a decent job. You won’t earn much from your employer–if anything at all, because free city tours are becoming the new standard. But you can earn a whole lot on tips from the tourists–if you are a good guide, and perhaps know how to ask for the tip in the right way. Let’s have a look at some questions they may ask you in an interview for this interesting job.


Why do you want to work as a tour guide?

You should focus mostly on the value you can bring, to both your employer and the tourists, with your skills and passion for this work. Say that you are an excellent talker, and also a decent listener. You can articulate clearly, and you do not find it hard to memorize names, dates, and loads of other stuff a typical tourist guide talks about during the tours.

What’s more, you see this as an opportunity to learn more about the city, something you always wanted to do anyway. And meeting new people and making connections is also something you are looking for. Summarized and underlined, you believe to have what it takes to become a great tour guide, and that’s exactly the reason why you decided to apply for the position.

And perhaps it also suits your schedule at school (if you still study), or basically it fits well to your daily routine.


In your opinion, what makes a great tour guide?

The best tour guides do not merely speak, not giving a damn about whether their audience listens, or is half asleep. Great tour guides try to engage the people in the conversation. They ask questions, they observe the reactions of their audience, and they even have a few styles of talk, or even different descriptions ready for the same building or event, fitting various demographic groups.

Of course, a great tour guide should really know the area of their tour. They shouldn’t merely have the story ready for the main sights of the city. If someone asks about a small square, or some half-broken church at the corner of the street, they should be able to tell at least a few words about it. More than anything else, they should have a true passion for their work, which reflects in both their knowledge and talk.

You may spend eight hours on your feet, talking, walking in the city, in any weather. How do you feel about the proposition?

Unless you are confident about your ability to handle the job, they will hardly offer it to you. Ensure them that you are used to walk for a long time in the city. What’s more, you are not only used to it, you love wandering around, and your feet never hurt, because you are so immersed in the beauty around you, that you forget any pain you may feel.

And you are a talker, you talk a lot in your regular life. Surely, it may be challenging for your voice at the beginning, because talking so much one can lose their voice during the day, but you are sure that once you get into the groove, it won’t be any problem.

When it comes to weather, you do not see it as a showstopper either. You will carry an umbrella if it rains and wear warm clothes when it is cold. And a hat when the scorching sun tries to cook you alive. Simple as that.


Imagine that you lead a diverse group of people around the city. How would you ensure that everyone is engaged?

You probably won’t succeed to make everyone engaged, even if the group isn’t diverse. But while interviewing for the job, you should at least try to show some ideas.

One of them is simply switching between different ways of talking, and maybe also joking, from one sight to another. You will talk in a fitting way for young guys at one point, and then, once you come to another monument, you switch to a narrative fitting for the older part of  your audience.

Or you can say that you believe that your passion for work, and the enthusiasm in your voice won’t let anyone bored during the tour. Because enthusiasm is like a flu, and when they see how passionate you are about the things you describe, they will also follow and share your enthusiasm.


Do you speak any foreign languages?

Speaking a foreign language is a big plus, especially if you will lead tours in a big metropolis, or in a city that attracts visitors from all around the world. They can certainly have their iPods or download some app that will help them with the translation, but it’s not the same like talking to a tour guide… What’s more, foreigners are ready to pay much more money for a guide who speaks their language.

I suggest you to do the following: mention all languages you speak, even on an elementary level. And emphasize that you also want to learn new languages, or improve on your skills in this or that language. You can even say it is one of the reasons why you apply for a position of a tour guide–to have a chance to talk to foreigners, and to improve your language skills along the way.

Imagine that one of the tourists complain about your tour, saying that you speak too fast, or move to quickly. But other tourists seem to be satisfied. What will you do?

In the past, it was an unwritten rule that the tour guide maintained the pace fitting to the slowest (or dumbest) tourists in the group. But that’s not really how it works in 21st century… You will often have a strict schedule, and as soon as you end one of your short city tours you’ll start another one.

Logically you can’t afford to prolong a one hour long tour to 90 minutes, just because someone walks extremely slowly or asks dozens of questions.

Say that you will try to find the right balance between the satisfaction of the group as a whole, and the satisfaction of each individual tourist. The schedule also plays a role… So, if there is time, and you aren’t in a hurry, you will adjust your pace to the slowest tourist.

But if you are in a hurry, and cannot afford slowing down, you will simply apologize and politely explain to them why you can’t really slow down. That’s about the most you can do for them anyway…


Other questions you may face in your interview for a Tour Guide job

  • Tell us about a time when you went above and beyond for the customer (in one of your former jobs).
  • This job is quite repetitive–you will do the same tour day after day. What do you plan to do to stay motivated in the job?
  • What are your salary expectations? What payment model do you prefer, a fixed hourly wage, or tips from the tourists?
  • Imagine that one of the tourists was extremely loud and disturbed the other tourists with their behavior during the city tour. How would you deal with such a situation?
  • Tell me about three things you find most interesting or most amusing about this city/museum/other place.
  • What is your availability (what days and hours can you work)?
  • Why should we hire you, and not one of the many other applicants who try to get this job of a tour guide?


Conclusion, next steps

Interview for a job of a tour guide belongs to tricky interviews. They typically won’t ask you any particularly difficult questions, but they may screen you out for some reasons that you cannot really control–for example that you do not speak loud enough, or that you have an accent that some tourists may find hard to understand, especially foreigners.

What’s more, a job of a tour guide is very popular, especially in smaller historical cities, where students cannot really find that many vacancies for the summer period. So you may end up competing with ten other people for the position, which obviously makes things more difficult for you.

In any case, you should focus on things you can control, while preparing for the meeting with the employer. Try to prepare good answers to the questions, and learn as much as you can both about the city and about their tourist agency. I hope you will make it, and wish you good luck!


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Matthew Chulaw
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