Careers as fitness trainers and instructors are among some of the fastest growing, in terms of popularity, in the nation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2016 and 2026, employment rates of fitness trainers and instructors are projected to increase 10 percent. That’s certainly more than the average for all occupations. So, congratulations! Your career path has taken you into one of the quickest growing industries.
Unfortunately, with so much growth comes a lot of noise. It seems like every day someone is coming up with the next best supplement, gym equipment, workout regimen, you name it. This growth also brings a lot of new people in search of jobs to the industry. Some of who will show up at your gym’s door in search of an employment opportunity.
So, how do you sift through all the noise? How do you distinguish the candidate that chose to become a personal trainer after seeing a couple of Instagram posts and the candidate who genuinely has a passion for people, health, and fitness? The answer is that you have to ask the right questions during the interview process. It seems trivial on the surface but asking the right questions and knowing what to look out for in responses is a sure fire way to find the perfect fit for your gym.
Before we start, first and foremost, it is important that the candidate is a certified personal trainer by either the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) or the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). He or she should also appear to be working towards his or her own fitness goals. Just as you wouldn’t want a hoarder to clean your house, you don’t want a person that doesn’t work for their own fitness goals to give your members advice on how to achieve theirs.
After you have identified some qualified candidates, let’s brainstorm some good interview questions to ask your prospects:
1) What aspects of working for my gym are appealing to you?
This is a pretty broad question and it’s purposely constructed that way. It gives you a chance to see the candidate’s train of thought because there are so many different ways to answer. A good sign to look out for is a candidate that primarily speaks about their passion for helping people.
However, if they only talk about their own personal love for the gym, the fact they need money, or other reasons that don’t involve helping others, this is something to take note of and be cautious about. Candidates should have a love for people just as much as they love fitness.
2) How would you respond if a client asked for your advice on how to diet while working long hours?
This question puts the candidate in a client-trainer situation to see how they would respond in a real, on-the-job scenario. Make sure to follow up on this question. You want to encourage the candidate to expand on their reasoning. This will allow you to see the candidate’s knowledge and ability to give your members relevant and helpful tips.
Pay attention to whether or not the candidate responds in an appropriate way. Is the advice good or bad based on your own knowledge and experience? Does the candidate answer in a confident manner? If they don’t fill you with confidence, how do you think your members will feel?
3) What blogs or other resources do you use to keep up with current fitness news and trends?
Look for candidates that regularly check well-respected blogs and other fitness news sources. Some examples can be found here. Well-informed trainers will be able to give your members the most up-to-date information (Duh). The train of thought 20 years ago may not hold true today.
Remember when everyone wanted to banish cholesterol to the bottom of the ocean where it couldn’t hurt us anymore?
Watch out for candidates that use social media as their main source of fitness news. Social media can be helpful for a variety of reasons (like getting new exercise ideas) but it isn’t overly reliable as anyone can say whatever they want; unchecked by professional opinions. Bottom-line is there is a lot of great information on social media but there is also a lot of bad. Candidate’s that go beyond to respected sources will be the best for your business.
4) In ten years, what do you think you’ll be doing?
Look for a candidate that has ambitions and shows personality. If you don’t think your prospective employee has a promising future in the industry they’re probably not the best fit for your gym. A candidate shouldn’t be content just collecting a paycheck every week. They should be inspired and working on improving him or herself every day. That mindset is contagious and will spread to your members.
Watch out for someone that lacks ambition. Trainers should seek to motivate, not need motivation themselves. If you want your gym to grow, your trainers should be committed to that growth and want to grow alongside it.
5) What is your biggest weakness?
This is possibly the most cliché interview question that has ever existed but, there’s a reason for that. In a situation where you’re trying to present your best self, it’s difficult to admit your own faults. Look for a candidate that is willing to be honest and discusses how they’re addressing their weakness. Obviously, there is a line here. If your interviewee says “I tend to scream at my clients when they don’t listen to me”, there’s a good chance that person isn’t the best fit for your gym.
Watch out for candidates that won’t be fully honest, as this will ultimately diminish their credibility. A cliché question such as this can elicit endless cliché responses, many of which are not accurate and not totally truthful. If a candidate responds with something like “I’m a perfectionist” they’re most likely not being totally honest with you.
6) How will a tough week affect your workday?
At least one question about handling adversity is crucial to the interview process. Everybody goes through ups and downs and nobody handles them the same way.
That being said, all it takes is for one bad session with a trainer that doesn’t feel fully invested for a member to decide your gym is not the right fit. In every profession, it’s important to check your personal life at the door, especially for customer-facing professions, like personal training.
If your trainers are going to be scaring off clients every time they get a parking ticket, they may not be the best fit for your gym.
7) How would you increase our membership sales and retention rates?
This is a question about experience. Look for a candidate that has some fitness industry wherewithal and is able to craft a reasonable response with confidence. The more experience a candidate has, the easier it will be for him or her to answer this question.
Watch out for a candidate that seems disinterested or doesn’t have any ideas about how to improve your business. As previously mentioned, your trainers should be committed to helping your business grow.
Bonus Question: How tech-savvy are you?
Gym Management Software should be a staple at your gym because it can maximize your gym’s efficiency by reducing time doing administrative tasks. That being said, some gym management software is difficult to use or doesn’t provide all the aspects needed to manage your gym on one platform. This can be solved by using an all-in-one, staff friendly software that gets you and your staff out from behind the desk and doing what you love.
Another way to solve this issue is to find a trainer that is experienced, personable, knowledgeable, and willing to switch back and forth between different platforms doing mundane tasks in order to handle your clients’ accounts. We think the former is easier.
So, in conclusion, what does the ideal personal trainer look like?
Good question. Every gym environment is unique and thus different trainers will be a better fit for different types of gyms. However, there are qualities that all trainers should possess.
The best fit for any gym is a candidate that:
- Has a passion for helping people reach their goals
- Is informed and able to give good fitness and nutritional advice
- Has ambitions
- Is willing to be honest about their weaknesses and is working on addressing them
- Won’t let a tough week affect the way they conduct themselves in your gym
- Has some industry insights and experience
Have more ideas for questions? Comment them in the section below!