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The Language of Job Postings

Dig a little deeper into your dictionary to craft a job posting that captures the perfect new fitness staff member.

If the world as we know it were coming to an end and it was your job to find skilled individuals to rebuild society, how would you pick the “right” people? If you chose wisely, they all would flourish; if you chose unwisely, everyone would flounder. When you’re hiring for your organization, use the same careful consideration.Avoid ending up with the wrong people—and with similar, potentially disastrous results.

There is nothing more important to your personal and professional success than hiring great people. Nothing. So where do all these great people come from? Where do you find them? If you want to hire superior fitness professionals, then use a system designed to hire superior people instead of a system that just fills jobs. This article focuses on how to refine your job-posting skills and capture the best of the best.

What Are You Looking For?

When you are considering adding a member to your team, first take the time to understand what skills you are looking for. Sit down and really think about what would make someone successful in that position. For example, if you have an opening for a membership service associate, you would probably say that the right person for the job would have good communication skills. Obviously, this person would have to be organized and like to work with the public. You might even go so far as to say that this person would have superior customer service skills and be able to handle challenging situations.

What you are now doing is describing what it takes to do the job, not describing the right person for the job. Although it sounds like you are looking for specific traits, what you are really trying to do is understand the type of person who excels in a membership service role.

We all have star team members who excel in their roles. You probably find yourself wishing you could clone them because they do such exceptional work. You reward yourself for hiring such talent and cross your fingers the next time you have to hire. Did you ever stop to think why you got lucky and hired those people? What attracted them to the position? Why are they doing so well? What makes them excel at what they do? The answers to these questions are paramount to finding more people just like them.

The Language of Job Postings

Whenever you create a job posting, you typically use the same language. Take a moment and ask yourself the following:

  • What phrases most commonly appear in a job posting (e.g., “team player,” “good communication skills” and “exceptional customer service”)?
  • What do you think those words mean? Can you dig deeper?
  • What are you really looking for in a potential team member? Are you looking for someone who is collaborative and likes to share ideas? Someone who is good at expressing herself in every situation? Maybe what you need is someone who can connect with people in a meaningful way.
  • How do these phrases get you closer to attracting those people? How do these phrases push those people away?

Ads need to describe what’s in it for the candidate, not what’s in it for the facility. Spell out and describe the kind of individual who is capable of filling the job. That’s where performance-based job postings come in.

Write a Performance-Based Job Posting

When you write a performance-based job description, you are crafting the position in such a way that it attracts only the candidates you truly hope will respond. Imagine you’re a fisherman who casts a net and scoops up every type of fish, plant and rock. You might get what you want, but more than likely you’ll also get a lot of what you don’t want. In this scenario you must sort through your catch in hopes of finding something worth keeping. This takes time, energy and money. But what if you could cast that same net and catch only the “fish” you want?

How do you go about casting your specific net? First, forget what you know and have learned about traditional fitness-related job postings. Review some of the standard descriptions, and it will become painfully obvious that most postings are too generic and cast too large a net. The more descriptive you are about the qualities and outcomes you desire, the more likely it is you will find a high-quality applicant.

For instance, saying that you are “looking for a team player who has a good work ethic and possesses excellent communication skills” does not actually weed anyone out. Very few people who read that ad would not apply, because all of them think they have those abilities. Be specific. This means you must truly understand what type of job you are filling and what qualities or talents the ideal person should possess.

For example, if you are looking for a customer service representative, what talents do you expect this individual to have? A typical response is “good communication skills” or “customer service skills.” But what does that really mean in the context of the skills and abilities a candidate must exhibit? See if you can pick up the difference between the following two sentences:

  • We are seeking a customer service representative who has the ability to make people laugh and feel inspired to work out.
  • We are seeking a customer service representative with excellent communication and people skills.

Do you notice the difference between the two sentences? The first one is specific and invokes outcomes of behaviors. Candidates who read this sentence would have to think about whether they are the type of person who makes people laugh and feel inspired. It challenges applicants to contemplate their abilities and how those abilities translate into measurable outcomes. The second sentence is very generic. People generally perceive themselves as possessing good communication skills and people skills. What does the description “people skills” mean, anyway? Below is another example to illustrate the difference between a typical posting and a performance-based one.

  • XYZ Athletic Club in Vancouver is seeking motivated, enthusiastic, high-energy personal trainers who have a passion for helping others obtain their fitness goals.
  • XYZ Athletic Club in Vancouver has an opportunity for a personal trainer who has the business acumen to generate $4,000 in monthly personal training revenues, create one to two monthly client social activities and establish an 80% client retention and satisfaction rate. The right candidate to join our team should be known for having integrity, capabilities and the ability to deliver results.

Candidates applying for the second posting will consider their abilities and skills before sending their resumés. They would have to know from experience whether they are capable of achieving those specific metrics. There is also no doubt about the expectations of the position. People who apply for this position view themselves as being able to deliver what you are requesting. You may still find the odd rock in your net, or the wrong fish trying to wiggle through, but the right description will make finding the right fit a lot easier when it comes time to sort through the catch you’ve brought in.

Get Onboard

If you use a performance-based job posting, you will probably receive fewer resumés; however, the ones you get will be worth reading. Try this approach for your next job posting, and test whether or not you start attracting the right people. Thanks to the tough economy, now more than ever there is a growing pool of people looking for jobs. How much time do you want to spend weeding through piles of resumés? Staffing already takes up a significant amount of your valuable time and energy. Put a little extra effort in your initial ad, and it will pay off.

10 Time-Saving Interview Questions

When you’ve narrowed down the list of people you want to interview, use the following questions to give you a better idea of the individual sitting across from you and what his or her true abilities are:

  1. How has your background prepared you for this position?
  2. Give me an overview of your current job. What was your most significant accomplishment there?
  3. One of our objectives is _______________. What is the most relevant experience you’ve had achieving something similar in other jobs?
  4. One of our objectives is _____________. If you get the job, how will you go about accomplishing this?
  5. We expect everyone working for us to make some mistakes and cost us some money during their employment. What are some of the most significant mistakes you’ve made in prior jobs, and what did you learn from them?
  6. What are some of the books, tapes and DVDs in your personal-development library at home?
  7. What was one of the best experiences you’ve had in your current job? What was one of the worst? Why would you say things worked out as they did in each case? Start with the best.
  8. What were your five biggest wins in any job or combination of jobs?
  9. How would you feel if I told you the interview wasn’t going very well at this point?
  10. If I told you the interview wasn’t going well, what would you do to turn things around?
Donna Hutchinson

Donna Hutchinson owns On The Edge Fitness Educators. Based in North Vancouver, British Columbia, she is a fitness business coach and author of How-To Guide to Starting Your Own Personal Training Business. In 2007, she was nominated for the Women of Excellence Award and the Business Person of the Year Award. Find out more at www.edgefit.ca.

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