Help Finding Good Help

by Chalene Johnson on Jan 01, 2001

How much time do you spend trying to hire key employees? Here are proven techniques to find the right people for your workplace.

In my experience, the number one mistake managers and owners make when hiring new help is failing to look beyond the stack of employment applications. Great employees already have jobs. Most people with jobs do not fill out employment applications unless they’re really unhappy with their current situation. The quicker you reshape your approach to hiring, the sooner you can build your facility’s dream team.

Define Your Dream Employee. Before you can hire great employees, you must know what type of individual you are seeking. List the attributes you most desire for each position in your company. Listing the ideal qualities of workers for each department in your club does two things: (1) it clarifies the needs of your business to bring focus in your own mind; (2) it helps current employees understand what’s expected of them and prompts their assistance in the hiring process.

Steve Barns of the Eastside Athletic Club in Omaha, Nebraska, defines his dream employee for the facility’s front desk operation: “Someone who actively takes an interest in other people. Someone outgoing and positive who can handle a lot of responsibilities at once. It’s a part-time position, so I find a lot of my best people at the local colleges.”

Be sure to enlist the assistance of other employees when creating your list. This action will help illuminate the expectations of everyone.

Start Your Search Effectively. Once you have defined your ideal workers, finding them is often just common sense. For example, if you need to hire a salesperson with exceptional people skills, the ability to “close the deal,” a great work ethic and a pleasant demeanor, then go out and be a customer! Spend some time anywhere that employees are paid a commission. You may be surprised at how quickly you will spot new recruits. If you need someone who loves kids, has patience and experience, then look for a mom, a grandma or a student.

Margaret Wolf, a corporate wellness director in Baltimore, Maryland, already knows where to find her star employees: “I get my best instructors from my class members. They already take classes and are familiar with the formats and the other members. They seem to be a little more dedicated and available to teach.”

Don’t Hire...Recruit! Prestigious universities do not wait for top athletes to send in enrollment applications. Admission directors and coaches recruit them! Likewise, if you want a winning team, you must seek out and recruit star players.

Wherever you go, be on the lookout for exceptional people. When you spot one, give the potential employee your business card. Tell the person you are impressed by the service rendered and suggest he or she call you about an employment opportunity.

“Running classified ads has not worked very well for us in hiring sales people,” explains James White, a general manager for 24 Hour Fitness in Aliso Viejo, California. “I’ve had much better luck when I spot someone who I think would be a good fit for our team and ask him or her to call me.”

Of course, many of the positions in your facility must be staffed by people with specific experience and education. Recruiting these individuals is a more difficult task and requires a more savvy approach. As you network within the health and fitness industry, be alert to the top candidates for employment.

Make Recruiting Mandatory. If you want to ensure that you’re getting top-notch employees, the managers of each department at your facility should be required to recruit. Managers should be directed to hand out business cards each time they encounter worthy employee candidates. Remember: Excellent leaders handpick their staff, as opposed to allowing employment applications to dictate the success of their facility.

Make Incentives Work for You. As part of your recruitment program, offer incentives or rewards to employees who recruit other qualified team members. If the new employee works out, give the recruiter something special—for example, 25 percent off his or her next purchase at the club or a free half-hour massage.

Remember, when employees recommend new team members, they place their own credibility on the line. “I get my best employees from my best employees,” says Deborah Nimphie, area manager for the Michigan Athletic Club in Lansing. “When someone recommends another person, it seems to create a greater sense of responsibility in both people. I have hired as many as four referrals from the same employees.”

To Nimphie’s point, your best employees know how to spot a good work ethic in others. Most will not recommend someone who will place a burden on the entire team. As a manager or owner, build a referral pipeline.

Forget the Fire Drill. If you wait until you are completely short staffed to implement new hiring strategies, then you will have no other recourse except the fire-drill method of hiring. This method involves a panicked series of telephone calls to the last 10 people who turned in employment applications and then selecting the first person available. The result is typically a second-rate employee.

Do not put yourself in the position of rushing to hire. When you are under pressure to fill a void, you tend to gloss over important warning signs. Think about it: National Football League teams spend the entire year studying potential candidates before making draft choices. Do not hire your next player under the gun.

Determine Your Facility’s Uniqueness. As a manager or owner, you should be able to list what makes your business stand out quickly and confidently. Most people would love the opportunity to work in the fitness industry! Beyond the obvious, what does your company have to offer? Flexible hours? Competitive pay? Opportunity for growth? Before you recruit and interview, know fully what candidates will want and what you have to offer them.

If you do not have what candidates want, consider revamping positions to attract individuals who will make your facility successful. For example, if all the best personal trainers are working for your competitors, find out what it is that they’re getting! Find out what competitors have to offer, then match or better them.

Make the Interview Work for You. The interview process is your last chance to make sure you hire a hero, not a zero. Just because someone looks good on paper does not necessarily mean that he or she can really perform. When interviewing, allow the applicant to do most of the talking. The more you listen, the more the candidate will reveal.

“Every time I have to interview someone, I brush up on my interviewing skills,” says Donna Meyer, corporate director of group exercise for 24 Hour Fitness in Laguna Niguel, California, and the 2000 IDEA Program Director of the Year. “I went many years thinking I knew how to interview. It wasn’t until I bought a few books on the subject that I realized I was giving people the answers I was looking for.

“Now I like to give people a simple assignment to bring completed to the interview. What they produce under a little pressure is very revealing.”

Anyone can hire a good employee. Great employees are a rare commodity, yet worth their weight in gold. If you are no longer willing to settle for good employees, you must take a proactive approach to recruiting the great ones!

Looking for a job in the fitness industry? Use the IDEA Job Board to find the perfect job for you. Want to post a job? Click here.

Want more from Chalene Johnson?

IDEA Fitness Manager, Volume 13, Issue 1

Find the Perfect Job

More jobs, more applicants and more visits than any other fitness industry job board.

© 2001 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Chalene Johnson

Chalene Johnson IDEA Author/Presenter

Motivational speaker, seminar leader, celebrity fitness trainer, the creator of Turbo Kick, Turbo Jam, Turbo Fire, ChaLEAN Extreme, Hustle, PiYo and many other health club and consumer workouts. A small business expert, she's helped dozens to create 6 and 7 figure incomes in less than 5 years. A highly sought after and entertaining speaker, Chalene speaks to groups from corporate America to small business organizations, sharing her personalized and tested Social Media formula. Chalene has developed many self-help and personal development programs such as CarSmart and The Social Media Success Kit - just to name a few.