People with personal training certifications are a dime a dozen. But trainers who are good at both training and sales are rare. These are the trainers who are never short on clients and fill every available time slot for the month.
If you’re a gym manager who wants to hire awesome personal trainers, you need to know what they do, how to seek them out for your gym, and ask the right questions during the interview and hiring process. Even if you’re not a hiring manager, it’s helpful for you to read through this and see how you could turn yourself into an ace candidate.
The qualities to find the right candidates
Most personal trainers who’ve been in the game for a while will know their stuff. The issue isn’t necessarily testing their knowledge per se, although knowledge is important. Instead, you need to check their social intelligence. At their core, these trainers are likely good at three things:
- Engaging in small talk
- Showing genuine interest in their clients
- Having clear expectations and showing confidence.
These are the kinds of behaviors we’re looking for. Translated to traits and qualities, we would like to look for the following:
You know that you need someone who has mastered small talk, has a genuine interest in people, and can explain things clearly with confidence. In other words, the ideal trainer has incredible communication skills.
During the interview, you can figure out how someone conveys his or her thoughts by asking the trainer to explain an exercise or a concept in-depth, as if you were the client.
In essence, you’re looking for an authoritative and confident, yet friendly and approachable tone.
The last thing you want is a trainer who will hit his clients over the head with jargon, or worse, doesn’t know how to properly say what he knows in simpler terms.
Here are some possible questions:
“Tell me how you normally introduce yourself to new clients. Walk me through your first session.”
“Think about an exercise that usually confuses people at first. Tell me how you’d explain the exercise to make it clear.”
Value and culture fit
The next important considerations are how this person would fit in your gym culture and whether he aligns with your own values.
If you’re not sure about your own values, you have some homework to do. Think about the character traits you might look for in a good person: trustworthiness, respect, and determination, for example. Also consider: What kind of person are you? What words do you want your members to use when they describe you and your gym? These words are the values you want your gym to be known for.
To get an idea of how personal values can translate into company values and a guideline for hiring, look at Zappos’ company values.
In short, if your candidate doesn’t share the same values as you and your gym, he or she will not be a good addition to your team.
Ability to do main tasks
Unfortunately, this is usually the primary qualifier that people take into account when interviewing. Well, he seems like he knows what he’s talking about, so we should hire him, some might say.
The reality is that the candidate needs to be able to perform the main tasks, yes, but only after being a good value and culture fit.
My belief is that you can teach people skills, but you can’t change their values, no matter how hard you try.
For example, if your gym has an emphasis on injury prevention and recovery, then a trainer who’s “great” and prioritizes heavy reps over form will become a huge problem in a hurry.
How to have an effective interview with your candidates
Behavioral interviewing is founded on the idea that past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior. In other words, all questions should be based on previous experience and situations.
Ask open-ended questions based on the candidate’s previous experience. Let her tell you a story. Let her show you how great she can really be. For example, you don’t care how she might handle a situation with a coworker whom she repeatedly disagrees with. You need to know how she actually handled an issue where her coworker was overtly rude to her in a meeting (e.g. how did she react? What did she say in response? Did she resolve the issue?).
So, how can you ask the right questions? Figure out what information you need to know that tells you they’re a good fit. For example, you probably want to know:
- Can they happily be around people all day?
- Do they communicate well? (Remember what they need to be good at.)
- Do they have the technical skills for the job?
Once you know the main trajectory for your questions, you just need to make sure you’re phrasing them correctly. For one thing, avoid asking simple “yes or no” questions. They’re uninteresting for both people, they hold no weight, and you get no information at all.
Instead, ask for a story.
After all, you want to know how this person motivated a hard client in the past. You want to know how they communicate and teach. So, make all questions open-ended and make sure they involve a past experience.
Some examples of interview questions:
“Tell me about your most difficult but successful client.”
“How did you figure out how to motivate them, and what did you learn?”
Most importantly, you need to be honest with yourself about the candidate. One thing I like to note is that people evolve; they do not change. A previously unambitious person who doesn’t like to step in and help with anything that’s not “part of the job” is likely not going to suddenly want to lend a hand.
During the interview and hiring process
Don’t hire immediately after an interview.
After you’ve interviewed what feels like a million people, it’s easy to want to make a quick decision and be done with it. In fact, you might find someone who you think is so perfect you’re ready to offer a job on the spot. Don’t let this cloud your judgment. I understand you could be trying to get through interviews quickly and get people working, but at what cost?
This person may be the perfect candidate, but hiring someone immediately after an interview gives you no time to think and make a well-thought out, rational decision. Instead, sleep on it for one night. If you feel just as excited about the candidate in the morning, go ahead and offer the job.
The last thing you want to do is settle for someone now and hope to upgrade later.
Bad hires are costly, not just in money. When you make a bad hire, it may cause your other staff to do extra work which can lower morale. Bad hires also won’t treat your customers the way they deserve to be treated, and you’ll spend twice as much time cleaning up the mess rather than taking the time to find the right fit in the first place.
Don’t hire only for personality.
We all want to work with people we like, but liking someone is not the most important factor. We all know this, but we sometimes unintentionally end up hiring the people we like instead of the people who are actually most qualified.
Hire for values instead.
If you all have the same values and are working for the same end goals, your team will be stronger and more motivated. Plus, it’s good to have a team filled with people of different backgrounds, viewpoints, and opinions. Diverse teams are proven to be successful.
All in all, interviewing isn’t complicated, but it is an exercise in understanding humans. The interview process takes time, but it’s worth the effort and wait to get the right people. It will save you time, money, and a whole lot of heartache (and headache).
Other Articles Trainers Found Helpful:
- 10 Things to Consider When Hiring the Best Personal Trainer For You By Jonathan Goodman
- 6 Things to Consider Before Starting Your Own Fitness Facility By Michael Zweifel
- How to Start Your Own Gym By Peter Dupuis