Ask laser tag managers what they look for in a prospective employee, and they’ll often answer with one word.
“Personality,” said Monique Walker, manager at Castle Laser Tag in Bowie, Md. “In this business, you work directly with people, children as well as adults. So if you don’t like kids, in this job, you’ll get bored quick.”
“When you are here, you’re constantly interacting with the public,” which is why personality is the number one asset for employees, affirmed Stacy Roberts, who manages the laser tag arena at T-Rex Fun Spot in Hot Springs, Ark. “Our employees have to explain to patrons how to play the games.”
Within a 20-minute conversation, Roberts said, he can tell whether a prospective employee’s personality will be a good fit at the laser tag arena, which is part of a larger family entertainment complex owned by his parents, Donald and Judy Roberts. With the right attitude, it doesn’t take more than a day or two of working alongside more experienced staff to get up to speed, Roberts added.
When she spots someone with a particularly attractive manner, Kimberly King has been known to stop potential hires on the street for Castle Laser Tag in Gaithersburg, Md., where she is the long-time manager. “If I see someone with a good personality, I’ll ask them if they’re interested in working here,” she explained. “I’ve found a lot of really good people that way. In this business, customer service is so important, especially dealing with kids.”
King takes a proactive approach to recruitment, visiting local high schools to scout for prospective workers. “I do look at this as a first job for someone in school,” said King. “And by going directly to them, I can see who’s really interested in holding a job.”
King said she likes young workers because “they’re teachable,” as she put it. King teaches new hires by training them through various positions around the facility, beginning with the cashier desk. “That’s where I really need people all the time,” King said, noting that as many as 1,000 patrons can visit on an average weekend. After the cash register, new staffers learn to handle the arcade redemption center, serve as a laser tag marshal, and lead birthday parties.
“We have a training module where we pair an experienced employee with a new hire and role-play different scenarios before an actual customer comes in,” King explained.
Many laser tag centers, with limited hours and relatively small staffs, keep training minimal. One day of shadowing an existing worker is sufficient for most new hires to learn the ropes, managers said. “We’ve only got seven total employees, so they learn quickly how to multitask,” said Monique Walker at the Castle Laser Tag location in Bowie, Md.
XP Laser Sport in Laurel, Md., has a 90-day probationary period, during which new employees are expected to get proficient in a variety of key areas, said Manager Leona Imonti. During the initial employment, workers “shadow” veteran employees as they learn to handle the front desk and laser tag arena, and to serve as hosts for parties.
Once the first three months are up, a manager reviews the employee’s task checklist, and a decision is made as to whether the worker’s performance constitutes a good fit at the facility.
After 12 years at XP Laser Sport, Imonti said the most important qualities in a prospective hire are the availability to work weekends and having one’s own transportation. “Laser tag is a weekend business — Friday, Saturday and Sunday are the big days — so we have to count on people to be able to be there,” Imonti said. The busy facility is open six days a week.
“You never really know in advance how an employee is going to work out,” reflected Bob Lockwood, who for years has hired mostly high school and college age youths in his role as general manager at Chasers Laser Tag in Naperville, Ill. “I once hired this guy who had a terrific resume, dressed to the nines… And he turned out to be a complete bag of hammers!” The worker was inept and conflict prone, Lockwood added, “but if you looked at him in the interview, he really looked awesome. He had the swagger, everything.”
That’s why Lockwood hires based on personality, but pays careful attention to early performance. His new hires don’t qualify for tips while they shadow more experienced employees, helping out as they learn the ropes. Once they’re able to work independently, Chasers’ 10 employees earn about $8 an hour plus tips at the facility; Chasers Laser Tag is open just three days a week and has annual attendance of about 150,000.
“I think everybody is looking for nice people with a good attitude, people willing to work hard,” said Lockwood, who has worked at Chasers for 22 years. “You can kind of tell right away.” But not always.
Who Works The Front Desk?
Why Is This Person Chosen For The Job?
“The front desk is the first point of contact, so it reflects on the whole business. You need someone very personable, who smiles and is good with the customers and has a good voice on the phone.” — Kimberly King, manager, Castle Laser Tag, Gaithersburg, Md.
“One or two of the more responsible employees. At the front desk, you’ve got to be able to multitask — work the register, greet customers as they arrive, handle birthday parties.” — Monique Walker, manager, Castle Laser Tag, Bowie, Md.
“Most of the time it’s me at the front desk. I’ve been here the longest, so I know things best.” — Leona Imonti, manager, XP Laser Sport, Laurel, Md.
“Typically, it’s [our] owner or the general manager. The front desk is the most critical spot.” — Bob Lockwood, general manager, Chasers Laser Tag, Naperville, Ill.
“One of our more experienced employees.” — Stacey Roberts, manager, T-Rex Fun Spot Laser Tag, Hot Springs, Ark.