The hiring process for a trek leader at Bikat Adventures is a lengthy one. This is primarily because the roles and responsibilities of a trek leader do not just end with treks. Bikat Adventures is one of the few organisations in India that has made technical mountaineering expeditions accessible to the trekking community.
When you join Bikat Adventures as a Trek Leader, our primary goal is to nurture you into a full-fledged Mountaineering Expedition Leader.
Naturally, there are a number of qualities we look for while hiring. These qualities, unfortunately, are not the kind that can be gauged in a single day or over a couple of rounds of interviews.
This is the main reason why our hiring process is lengthy.
So, how long does it take for us to hire a Trek Leader?
It takes us six months to hire a trek leader at Bikat Adventures.
The hiring process starts with a basic round of interview where we get to know you, your background, passions, why you want to build a career in trek leading etc.
This is followed by a technical round or what is commonly known as the Adventure Professional Workshop at Bikat Adventures.
“The Adventure Professional Workshop is a one-day affair where we meet the applicants in person and pose situation-based questions to them. These questions are more often than not inspired by crisis management instances that have cropped up in the past on our treks and mountaineering expeditions.
Apart from this, the technical skills and knowledge of a trek leader are also assessed during this workshop”- Pankaj.
Based on one’s performance in the Adventure Professional Workshop, an applicant is then sent on a test assignment with one of our senior trek leaders. This assignment is paid and is instrumental in helping us gain better insights into how one approaches on-field work.
This is followed by a couple of more field assignments (all paid) which are chosen based on the challenges they offer in terms of weather, terrain, group sizes and participants’ experience levels.
Feedback is then collected from our senior trek leaders, local staff members, and participants to assess the applicant’s performance on-field. If it is found to be satisfactory, the applicant is then hired as a Trek Leader.
“Such a lengthy hiring process is needed because of the capricious nature of the job. No institute or mountaineering course certification can prepare anyone for the real-time challenges encountered on-field. This means we cannot arrive at a decision based on an applicant’s qualification on paper or efficient handling of one crisis alone.
To be able to think on the feet and make wise decisions on the go come only with extensive exposure, experience, and practice which is the major reason why the hiring process is designed the way it is.”- Pankaj.
There are a number of qualities we look for in our applicants during this six month engagement period.
"To begin with, the obvious, a certification in Basic Mountaineering Course from one of the recognised mountaineering institutes in India is mandatory for everyone.
Other certifications, like AMC and Search & Rescue, while preferred, are not deal-breakers for someone just beginning their career in trek leading.
What is given greater precedence, however, are the behavioural aspects.
How does s/he work under pressure?
Can s/he think on their feet?
Are they respectful towards the local staff?
How efficiently can they get work done?
How quickly do they learn new things?
In my opinion, these are the tougher qualities to imbibe, build upon, and master. A candidate who shows tenacity in these areas is usually more preferred than someone qualified in an advanced mountaineering course.”- Pankaj
The second reason why we don’t insist on the advanced mountaineering courses is because of the Annual Training Program we hold at NIM. This training program was built with the specific purpose of bridging the knowledge gap between what is taught in the mountaineering course and what is required on-field to handle treks in our portfolio efficiently.
“Back in 2016, our Operations Team at Bikat sat down and identified all the risks one can run into while trekking on any of the trails in our portfolio.
We then correlated these risks with what was taught in a mountaineering course (BMC, AMC, and Search and Rescue Operations available in India). This helped us identify roughly 12-13 areas of knowledge-gap that needed filling in, in order to be able to handle the itineraries in our portfolio capably.
For example, no institute in India teaches Flash Flood Emergency Procedures or handling of Forest Fires.
Similarly, avalanche rescue and navigation is taught only in the Search and Rescue Operations Course, which trek leaders generally opt to get certified in at a later stage.
Knowledge of Navigation (taught in Search and Rescue Operations), in particular, is crucial for trek leaders irrespective of what stage of the career they are in.
So, we approached NIM for help in building a specialised training program that would equip all our trek leaders in handling each of the risks we had identified. It took us six months to design the training modules, and in 2017, we held our first Annual Training Program for our trek leaders in the NIM Campus."- Pankaj.
A trek leader who has had a year’s experience in the firm then undergoes a systematic career growth all the way up to an expedition leader.
To give you a gist, it takes approximately five years to become a full-fledged expedition leader at Bikat Adventures. We studied various Mountain Guide Programs offered abroad before building a format.
A trek leader is evaluated on a number of factors before a promotion is offered.
These include but are not limited to their experience level, skillset, course certifications, batch sizes handled, etc.
To learn more about the career growth one can expect at Bikat Adventures, please refer to the following article:
Lastly, we encourage our trek leaders to pursue activities outside of trek leading. At its core, Bikat Adventures is a learning-based adventure organisation.
Many of our trek leaders are also skilled cyclists, rock climbers, and certified skiers. We nudge them to build and grow their skillset by assigning them to our cycling expeditions, skiing courses and other activities in our portfolio.
Other than this, many of our trek leaders are also active members in our in-office teams like Operations and Sales. So, applicants with multiple skillsets get brownie points.
To learn more, take a look at what our trek leaders have to say about working at Bikat Adventures in the link below:
If you are interested in beginning your career in trek leading with us, please use the link below to submit your application: