Your people are your business. All the blood, sweat, tears, and money that you pour into making your gym a success are at the mercy of the people you employ. Great employees will make people want to be at your gym and will underscore your marketing efforts. On the other hand, staff who are lackluster, ho-hum, or bland will undermine everything you’re trying to achieve.

That’s why finding and hiring the right staff for your gym is so important. In this article, we drill down on 6 keys to doing just that.

Overview

Here’s a quick precis of the 7 keys to finding and hiring great staff for your gym …

  • Know Your Ideal Candidate
  • Write a Great Job Description
  • Involve Your Team
  • Track New Talent Pools
  • Think Ahead
  • Do Reference Checks
  • Nailing the Interview Process

Know Your Ideal Candidate

You should never aim to simply hire to fill a spot. Rather you should make a list of the qualities that you need to see in the ideal candidate. There should be some overriding characteristics that you require regardless of the specific requirements of the position. They may include …

  • A positive attitude
  • Great communication skills
  • A sense of urgency
  • Passion & Empathy
  • Strong work ethic
  • Coachable
  • Team player
  • Fitting in with the company culture

These are things that are intangible. You can’t discern then from reading a list of qualifications on a resume. You will need to determine whether the candidate has these qualities through the interview process and by phoning referees. 

Obviously, positions such as personal trainer and gym instructor will require qualifications and skillsets related to the position. But unless your employees display the qualities listed above they are not going to be an asset to your business. 

When it comes to experience, as opposed to qualifications, I personally feel that less is more. If you bring onboard people with a lot of experience, you are likely to end up with a bunch of individuals who are doing their own thing rather than a team who are working toward a common plan. This is just as true of a sales force as it is of a team of instructors. 

It is far better to have people with less experienced but a real willingness to be coached. More important than experience is a good work ethic, the willingness to move beyond their comfort zone, and a solutions driven approach. 

Let’s now drill down on some of these key qualities

Communication Skills

An employee who has a friendly personality and is able to engage gym members to make them feel good about their visit is an invaluable asset. But you need more than a person who has the gift of the gab. They also need to be able to listen with empathy and understanding. They will be dealing with people from all walks of life and so will need to be able to relate to all of them with ease. 

Passion & Empathy

While you don’t necessarily want staff members who are obsessed with exercise, they should genuinely live a healthy lifestyle and be able to express their passion for fitness. If they’ve got that sort of passion, they will love to be working in the fitness industry and that feeling will be obvious in the way they comport themselves. 

Good fitness employees should display empathy towards gym members, including those who are struggling to lose weight or otherwise achieve their fitness goals.

Fitting in With the Company Culture

As you are interviewing a candidate, ask yourself whether the person will fit in with your company culture. Will they gel with your style of management? Will they require too much nurturing and attention or are they dynamic go-getters who will be off and running out of the gate? 

Write a Great Job Description

An effective job description can get the best people in front of you. It will weed out those who don’t have what you need and make it clear just what your expectations are. Bullet point the skills needed for the position as well as the academic qualifications, if any, that are required. Include the types of qualities that we’ve already discussed.

A great job description begins with the job title. I suggest staying away from terms like ‘Rock Star’, ‘Guru’ or ‘Ninja’ as research shows that they are likely to put off potential applicants. The best bet is to keep it simple with terms that the majority of people will relate to.

Under the title, write a brief paragraph that provides an overview of the position. Include the main function of the position, and then show how it fits into the overall business structure. I suggest using inviting language such as ‘Come join a passionate team …’

When writing your job description, get the input of your existing staff. They will be able to help to refine the application to reflect what is actually needed on the gym floor. 

You should add information to the job description that reflects the culture of your business. Do not use gender-specific pronouns. Mention any workplace perks that come with the job. Remember that the application needs to do more than alert the public to the vacancy; it should sell the potential applicant on the value of applying. 

Before publishing your job description, make sure that it has been thoroughly checked for spelling and grammar checked as well as being proofread by more than one person. Even the smallest error may be enough for a potentially great employee to decide they don’t want to deal with you. 

Involve Your Team

Rather than just putting it upon your own shoulders to fill a new position, involve other key players in the process. If you are hiring a front desk person, they will be interacting with all other staff on a daily basis. So, why not have some of those people sitting in on the interview process. 

Other staff members might see something that you don’t in a potential candidate. Or they might ask an insightful question that you didn’t think of. It could be that they pick up a potential red flag in a candidate that went right over your head. 

Involving your team in the hiring process has another powerful benefit. It enhances the sense of teamship and shows that you have trust in their judgment. 

Track New Talent Pools

When most new businesses are looking to hire, they’ll typically put ‘Now Hiring’ flyers in the window, and post on the online job boards. Often these methods don’t work. 

I recommended looking for uncontested market space. For example, could the position be filled members follow-ups might live in another state. By looking outside your local area, you’re able remotely? A person employed to handle retention calls, inactive member calls, and new to tap into new talent pools.

You could consider marketing to seniors, stay-at-home moms, disabled folks, or veterans. Moms who are reentering the workforce now that their children are at school is another potentially uncontested market space. The more you put your mind to it, the more new talent pools you will come up with. You are just as likely to find the gems you’re searching for in these uncontested pools as in the time worn avenues where the best talent is likely to have already been swallowed up. 

Once you have identified your uncontested market space, look for ways to market your job opening to them. Tap into social media groups in your target niche and spread the word online. 

Think Ahead

To keep your business growing, you need to be constantly building your pipeline. When it comes to marketing, you need to be collecting new contacts. If your sales team doesn’t have anybody to talk to, your bottom line is going to take a hit. Develop a similar mindset regarding recruiting. 

Don’t wait until you need to fill a position before you start looking for candidates. Build an email database of potential employees. Collect business cards. Talk to people who impress you. Ask them if they’ve ever considered working in the fitness industry. Offer to send them information about what you do. Take their card and give them yours. Then add them to your email database so you can contact them when a position comes up. 

Do Reference Checks

It’s important that you make the effort to follow up on the references that are included in the job applicant’s resume. 

Ask what the applicant did well and what they did not excel at. What could they have done a better job at? Ask if the person you are speaking to would be happy to rehire the applicant and, if not, why not. Drill down on the qualities that you are looking for. Ask, for instance, if they would describe the applicant as empathetic, passionate, driven, and possessing a strong work ethic. Are they coachable?

Nailing the Interview Process

Once you have received job applications and whittled them down to the 3 or 4 more promising candidates, you should schedule interviews. During the interview make use of open-ended questions. 

Here are some sample questions that you may want to use …

Tell me about your own interest in health and fitness?

What type of training do you do?

What makes you different from other candidates?

How would you structure a new client’s workout plan?

How do you motivate gym members?

Tell us about how you show empathy in a work situation?

Talk about how you have handled a situation where you had to deal with an irate customer?

Tell me about the most difficult client you dealt with and what you did to meet their needs and keep them happy.

As mentioned earlier, I recommend having 2 or 3 of your staff members sit in on the interview. Allow them to ask their open questions and then debrief after every interview, taking notes on the impressions of your staff members. 

Once you have interviewed all of the candidates, take your time before making the final decision. Even if a candidate appears to be perfect for the position, I do not recommend offering them the job on the spot. Take a day to really think things over. It can be easy to be taken by a winning personality but that, in itself, does not guarantee a great fit. If you feel just as strongly the next day, discuss it with your team. If the consensus is positive, then you should offer the position to that candidate.

What To Look for in a Personal Trainer

Whether you are bringing a personal trainer on board as an employee or working with them as a contractor, you need to make sure that they’ve got the skills and qualities that will reflect well on your business. 

Personal trainers are going to be one of the most visible of your employee groups. When your members look at them, they won’t care if he’s a contract worker; they’ll connect his actions and attitudes to your business. 

Personal trainers will have certifications to testify to their ability to train clients. While you need to check those qualifications, you should put more weight on the social intelligence of the trainer. Good personal trainers need to have the ability to converse easily with others, to engage in small talk with clients, and to respect professional barriers regarding what they discuss and how they physically interact with clients.

You can assess the trainer’s communication ability by getting him or her to explain in-depth how to do a typical gym exercise. You want to see them do so in a way that is confident, and authoritative while also being conversational.

Look for a personal trainer who knows how to motivate a range of types of people. Not everyone responds to the in-your-face sergeant major style, so they should also be able to adjust to clients who thrive off a quiet ‘You’ve got this’. 

Summary

Nailing the hiring process is the key to getting great people on board. And great people are the key to a successful gym. Here’s a reminder of the 7 keys to finding and hiring awesome staff for your gym …

  • Know Your Ideal Candidate
  • Write a Great Job Description
  • Involve Your Team
  • Track New Talent Pools
  • Think Ahead
  • Do Reference Checks
  • Nailing the Interview Process

Work through this process, being sure to constantly build your potential employee database all year round, and you’ll be able to discover the employee gems that will make your business sparkle.

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