How to Hire the Right Staff for Your Gym

By Alizée Valette

Published 22 June 2007

As owner or manager, the staff you hire for your gym has a huge influence on client retention. In fact, 78% of customers have canceled a transaction they were about to make because of a poor service experience. Delivering an amazing client experience is important and it often hinges on your ability to hire the right staff for your gym. But the hiring process can be pretty tricky, especially when it’s done by someone who is not an HR professional. To hire the perfect employee for your gym, whether it’s a personal trainer, a receptionist or a manager, you will need to go through each stage of the following process.

In order to help you make the most of your recruitment process, Dennie Noecker, Vice President at JLR Associates and former CEO at Momentum Fitness, gives us his most valuable advice. Read on to get the best tips.

Before the Interview

1. Create the Perfect Job Description

This is the most important step when hiring an employee for your gym. Way too many job descriptions are only focused on describing a person, the detailed academic requirements,
or the industry-related background skills necessary for the position.

However, they often forget to explain the main requirements of the job. This often leads to hiring unsuitable candidates due to wrong expectations about what the job is actually about.

The job description needs to describe the precise responsibilities of the future position as well as the primary performance objectives, which “are the first filter in your selection of the candidates,” as Noecker explains.

So how do you determine these objectives? Simply identify the goals that need to be achieved by the new employee to consider them a successful hire.

Goals can be based on different factors such as:

  • Timeline (for example, what needs to be done within the first 6 months or first year)
  • Sales targets (“A new membership sales representative should bring in x clients per month”)
  • Client experience (New trainers need to have 95% client satisfaction scores)

Make sure goals are realistic and clearly explained in the job description, and make sure you set goals for both hard and soft skills.

Hiring process and job description

2. Selecting the Best Job Candidates

In order to invite only the best candidates to an interview, a few more steps are required. The first step is to only select the candidates that already have a proven track record when it comes to your primary performance objectives.

This will allow you to narrow down the list of candidates by inviting only the ones who fit the description for an initial phone screening.

If you have a large amount of candidates, email works well to streamline the process and get you on the phone with the right candidates more quickly. And instead of typing the same messages again and again, recruiting email templates are a neat tool to have at your disposal.

During the phone interview, perform a work history review with every candidate. Ask them to describe their previous jobs, projects, etc. If they have a gap in their resume, ask for the reason why. Also ask why they decided to leave their previous company, and so on.

“A potential red flag I’m always careful with, is when a candidate has moved from company to company very frequently. Always ask them about this,” says Noecker.

The work history review should take around 20 minutes.

You can then take 10 minutes to focus on previous challenges they have faced. It’s better to speak about their previous successes and failures than just a bunch of responsibilities and job specifics. According to Noecker, “doing a work history review will prevent about 50% of the mistakes in the hiring process”.

At the end of this process, you should know if it is worth proceeding with a face-to-face interview with the candidate.


The Interview

1.  First Impressions Are Dangerous

Don’t put too much faith in first impressions. Though our rapid cognition is usually pretty accurate, misreading someone the first time we meet them can always happen. Even the best candidates can be stressed or nervous during a face-to-face interview. You have to make an effort not to let first impressions cloud your judgement and consider the candidate objectively.

Dennie Noecker’s advice here is to “adopt the opposite attitude of what you feel.”

This means:

When you really like a candidate, be more critical, ask more precise and difficult questions. On the other hand, if you have a bad impression of someone, try to be more open-minded. This will improve your chances of getting to know the candidate better and correct a misguided first impression.

You also have to be fair to all candidates and allow the same amount of time for each interview. Otherwise, you will tend to be more easy-going and nice with someone you personally appreciate and that only ensures a strong possibility that you recruit someone that you like, not someone who’s a good fit for the job.

Remember: You’re hiring an employee, not a friend.

After every interview, follow the golden rule of Lou Adler, author of “Hire with your Head” and wait 30 min before deciding if you like a candidate or not. This will help you the consider everyone objectively.

2. Red and Green Flags

During an interview, there can be signs that give clear indications about the candidate and their motivation. They can be good or bad. Be aware of them so you catch them quickly:

Potential red flags:

  • Only gives vague information
  • Gives no details
  • Tells stories that you cannot verify
  • Frequently moves to new companies

Potential green flags:

  • Gives very precise details
  • Has already had success in the primary performance objectives in a previous position

3. The “Culture Fit” Factor

Tons of hiring mistakes are made because people put more value in culture fit than in job fit. But in order to build a great company culture, you need a great team! Building a desired company culture begins by hiring a great team with amazing workers.

You have to first filter the candidates on their ability to meet the primary performance objectives. Only afterward can you select candidates for culture fit which is of course still pretty important.

Indeed, if you want your team to do a great job, you need to find the right balance between every co-worker, as well as between the direction and the employees. It’s important that everybody gets along on:

  • Works related level (e.g.: what is expected from them, cf. primary performance objectives)
  • The way of doing their job (e.g.: the behavior you expect from your employees when they are at work).

Are you applying for a job?

Be sure to check this article by JLR Associates which will help you avoid the most common mistakes when being interviewed.

After the Interview

Check the references

In order to protect yourself and your company, always check the references given by the candidate. If one of your hires messes up badly, and you didn’t do your homework and checked the references, it might lead to nasty negligence lawsuits.

Furthermore doing it after the interview will also help you verify the information that the candidate gave you. In fact, 71% of employees are not engaged with their work, and you don’t want this kind of people to work for your facility.

hiring process

Key Takeaways

It’s sometimes very difficult to dismiss an inadequate or incompetent employee, that’s why you better find out if someone is a good fit for your gym before hiring a new staff member:

  • Create the perfect job description that clearly communicates expectations and responsibilities
  • Pre-screen candidates with phone interviews
  • Be careful with first impressions
  • Learn to recognize red flags (and green flags) during the interview
  • Take the time to form an unbiased opinion
  • Always check references!

If you follow the hiring process outlined above, you should be able to prevent at least 50% of the most common hiring mistakes and hire great employees for your gym!

Bonus: The Essential Positions to Fill

Building a star team is not only about who you recruit, but it’s about putting them in the right position in your team. Each position requires different skills and knowledge. For a crash course in building a core team for any gym, check out this infographic:

Infographic - Key Team Members in a Gym

Alizée Valette

French Communications Officer. I love traveling, reading and also chilling sometimes. Watching series is quite a big part of my life too (Damn you Netflix!).


???? Black Friday ????

Schedule your demo before Dec 2!