Backroads Trip Leaders: FAQs & Answers
"It's not every day that you can walk into a brand new work environment and feel totally supported from all angles."
Dave Green - Leader since June 2010
Q. What's the pay?
A. Backroads Trip Leaders receive compensation like many people in the service industry: base pay + gratuities from guests. As you will see on the website, Backroads covers many field expenses while working to mitigate out-of-pocket expenses while on the road. We also have a comprehensive benefits package outlined in our job & lifestyle page, so please review for further details. Rates of pay will be outlined in more specific detail for finalists chosen for a phone interview.
Q. How much will I work?
A. The job & lifestyle page has the most accurate estimate of days worked for new Trip Leaders. Your own availability and start date will likely impact the amount of work you receive. If you seek the most work available, we counsel applicants to attend the earliest possible hiring and training events, minimize your time-off requests during the summer, and stay available to lead through our fall peak (the end of September).
Q. I'm in school/at my job/otherwise committed until mid-June, OR I have to return to school/other commitments at the end of August—can I still get hired?A.
- June restrictions: Not problematic, provided you can attend a hiring & training event. Dates available here.
- September restrictions: Ideally, we seek U.S. and Euro-based leaders to be available through our fall peak, which is the last week of September. Please let us know during the phone interview if you have concerns about that time frame.
Q. I applied before. What do I need to do to be considered for the 2013 season?
A. If you applied previously (i.e. prior to November 2012) please fill out an application again to activate your status in our database. Any reference letters previously sent will be on file, but you are welcome to send more recent letters if you choose. We require a refreshed driving record report and resume.
Q. How much time will there be between my training and my field entry?
A. It depends on which Training Block you attend. In 2013 we will be running an early Training in February. Some Leaders, particularly Leaders with good Italian or French, will begin working within a few weeks of finishing this Training Block. Those who come to this early Training Block but don't speak European languages or won't be working in Europe, may have 3 months off before work begins in earnest in the US. Generally speaking, New Leaders enter the field between 1 – 21 days after having graduated from Training. Training Blocks in April and May tend to have longer gaps prior to field entry than Training Blocks in June and July. However, leaders who graduate from the earlier Training Blocks also tend to work more over the course of the season.
Q. Where will I work?
A. Please review the job & lifestyle page for more information. Leaders receive their trip leading assignments near the end of the training process. Several factors determine where you might work, including an individual's experience, language skills (if applicable), availability and, above all, our company need.
Q. I don't live in Europe, but I'd like to work there. Is that possible?
A. Leaders based in the U.S., Canada and Europe are eligible to work in Europe, and we do send a small number of new leaders overseas in their first season. You must also be able to confidently drive a manual transmission van, pulling a trailer with guests in the vehicle with you. If you haven't driven a manual transmission car for years, it is to your benefit to practice as many hours behind the wheel as possible. The most commonly assigned destinations are: Tuscany, Loire Valley, Provence, Czech or the native country/region of the employee. Manual transmission driving skills, language skills and European travel experience are key factors in attaining a schedule in Europe.
Q. What if I only really want to work in one location?
A. If you have expertise in a particular region where Backroads runs trips, this works well for both Backroads and you. As a matter of fact Backroads is motivated to find qualified local Leaders, men and women who can offer our guests an insider's perspective, in ALL of the regions where we are running trips. Please tell us during the phone interview if you have a strong desire to lead only in one area.
Q. I do not have legal work authorization for any of your hubs listed on the application. Can I still get a job leading trips for Backroads?
A. To be an employee of Backroads, an individual must be legally authorized to work in the U.S., Canada or France. Our European subsidiary (located in France, and our legal working hub for all Europeans), can not employ anyone who doesn't hold European citizenship or a French work permit. Some Trip Leaders who don't meet this requirement work for Backroads as self-employed subcontractors, and this possibility may be considered by Backroads on a case-by-case basis. Some applicants have also obtained work visas to make themselves eligible to work for Backroads, and this is encouraged as well. Unfortunately, Backroads cannot sponsor an individual seeking a work visa. Work permits or visas must be obtained separately, on the applicants own, prior to being employed.
Q. Do you have part-time and full-time Trip Leader positions?
A. Yes. We have several leaders who lead only a few trips (or even one trip) a year, and others who lead year-round. Backroads is an exceptional employer in the industry in that we have more year-round work to offer than our competitors. However, the reality is more travelers book vacations with us in the summer than the winter, so there is less work from November-March than during the peak months of July-September. If you seek part-time work, we require you to be available during our domestic peak season: August-September. If you seek year-round work, you'll be happy to know we reward this work based on performance on trips, regional expertise and language skills (not just seniority, although that is a factor as well.) Most new Trip Leaders do not receive winter trip leading work based on these factors, although in 2010-2012, 10% did work over the winter period. (Note: a vast majority of our winter work schedules include the latter part of December as this is the most popular time for travel. Often a leader must choose between trip leading or celebrating holidays at home.)
Q. Which hiring event may I attend?
A. Attendance at a hiring event is by invitation-only. Attending a hiring event is required in order to be considered for the position. When we conduct our phone interview we will ask you to indicate your availability and preferences for our hiring events, should you be selected to attend. Note: If you are invited to a hiring event, we will assign that date for you, depending on many factors, including your preferences and our needs. If invited, you will receive a comprehensive packet of information to help plan the next steps.
Q. If I am living abroad, will my travel to a hiring event be covered by Backroads?
A. We will consider sponsoring candidates qualified to attend a hiring event on an individual basis, and focus mostly on those interested in working in their home country, far from a Backroads hub.
Q. Do Trip Leaders get flown home in between trips?
A. No, once leaders leave their hub at the start of the season, if they choose to travel home in between trips, the cost is theirs. Backroads pays for leaders to travel between regions for work and provides subsidies for time off in regions as well.
Q. Does an applicant need to be a capable bike mechanic?
A. While most of our applicants do not feel confident in the full-range of bike mechanic skills when they first apply, Backroads leaders must be confident in their ability to fix typical bike issues in the field such as fine-tuning shifting, changing pedals, swapping saddles and fixing flat tires. It is to your benefit to start learning and practicing these skills early, keeping in mind we test applicant's skills at hiring events. Here are some of the skills new leaders are expected to have mastered before they start leading trips: Replace a rear derailleur cable and properly adjust shifting in under fifteen minutes. Replace a flat tube while checking the tire and rim tape for problems in under five minutes. Remove and replace both pedals in under two minutes. Remove and replace a saddle in under two minutes.
Q. How do I get a copy of my driving record? Do I really need one? Can I bring it to the hiring event?
A. For more information on how to obtain your driving record, please see the how to apply page. We understand it can be time consuming to attain, although more and more states are providing reports via the web. If you are European, your insurance company should be able to provide you with a copy of your driving record. Rest assured, we will not hold up your application if that is the only piece missing. However this information is required and essential for insurance purposes. Your report must show any accidents or infractions on your record. If you are sure your driving record is clean, you may hand deliver it to the hiring event, although if you have infractions, you may be disqualified on the spot from becoming a Trip Leader.
Q. Have you received the documents I sent you?
A. Once you have submitted your application you will be directed to a page acknowledging that your application has been submitted. At any time you may return to your application to upload supporting documentation. On that page receipt of each of your supporting documents will be clearly recorded, signifying that they have been received. Beyond this we will not be sending any additional confirmation.
Q. May I request an informational interview?
A. Unfortunately, we are unable to grant requests for informational interviews due to the high number of applications we receive. If you're interested in learning more about the job, please review the comprehensive information posted on this website. As we require Trip Leaders to be self-reliant and capable of finding answers for themselves we feel this process accurately represents the working reality for Backroads Trip Leaders. Of course, you may have questions unique to your situation, and we welcome an exchange and will strive to answer any questions you may have during the phone interview.
Q. Beyond leading trips, what other types of work does a Trip Leader do?
A. Trip leaders take on a variety of roles during the season. While leading week-long trips is a primary duty, leaders also fulfill additional complementary tasks as a part of their scheduled duties. Some of these activities are integral to trip leading, others help round out a leaders' season to offer more employment (because a Trip Leader cannot lead a trip every week! Supplementary work allows for a break in pace, but still gives earning potential.)
Responsibilities may include:
- Driving the van and trailer from the leader hub location to the trip start destination.
- Familiarizing yourself and doing light research in a region where you'll be leading a trip.
- Working a "prep day", one day prior to the trip start, to prepare for the trip.
- Performing additional duties that take place on trips. For instance, when not trip leading, you may be assigned as a:
- Camp Assistant—responsible for camp set-up and clean up, luggage handling, assisting the camp chef, and a flexible support team member.
- Camp Chef—in charge of cooking and cleaning up all meals for guests.
- Van Support Driver—additional driver assigned to a trip to support guests enroute as needed, shuttle guests to varying locations, assist with bike issues and provide general trip assistance.
Q. Where will I be sleeping during trips and between trips?
A. While Leaders are leading trips their accommodations generally match those of our guests. When leading Inn Trips Leaders share a "Leader Room" that is typically in the same hotel as our guest's rooms. The "Leader Room" will never be more desirable than our guest's rooms, but in almost all cases it will be onsite. Note that while Leaders have shared accommodations, each leader will have his or her own bed or sleeping space (sometimes a roll-away, and rarely a sleeping bag and pad on the floor). When leading Camping Trips, Leaders tend to sleep under the stars, but a tent is always available if desired or if the weather looks threatening. Between trips Backroads provides accommodations either in inexpensive hotels in the gateway city, or in Leader Houses around the world which are described on the job & lifestyle page.
Q. How do I learn about the Camp Assistant position?
A. U.S. and Canadian citizens who are 20 years of age and older may apply for a Camp Assistant position in North America. To read more details on the position, please visit our Camp Assistant page.