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Finding and Hiring Qualified Personal Trainers

Discover the best ways to hire trainers who meet your organization’s needs.

Because of the relative infancy of the personal training industry, directors regularly face many stumbling blocks. In this series of articles, IDEA Fitness Manager will cover various challenges that plague personal training directors. We launch the series with a closer look at how to find and hire qualified personal trainers.

Hiring the right trainers is key to the success of your training team. When trainers leave, your organization faces a potential loss of both clients and revenue. Decrease possible losses by spending time not only finding the right people but hiring and training them correctly.

Finding Qualified Trainers

Sometimes you are fortunate enough to receive numerous personal trainer résumés. At other times, however, your hiring options are limited. Because a career as a full-time trainer can be challenging—due to early morning and late evening training hours and fluctuations in client numbers and wages—the life span of a personal trainer is often brief. On average most trainers stay with an organization for approximately 18 months.

One of the least effective ways to hire any employee is to choose someone just because you’re desperately in need. Therefore as a manager you need to be prepared for trainer turnover so you can hire the best people for the job. When looking to hire new trainers, you can
explore internal and external options.

Internal Options. Your internal hiring pool includes staff who currently work for your organization in other capacities. A fitness instructor, front desk staff member or weight room supervisor who has shown an interest in becoming a trainer is a good first choice. Although these employees may not have training experience, they understand your organization’s vision and mission, and your members are familiar with them. A novice trainer with a
familiar face can often increase a client base faster than an experienced outside trainer. With certification, training and recognition, a current employee can
become a fabulous trainer within a short period. Opt for internal hiring whenever possible.

External Options. If your facility has a great reputation of being the place to work, résumés will automatically come your way. However, if you haven’t received any good résumés lately and are unable to groom current employees to become trainers, you must look outside. Start by posting applications on your company website, attending fitness job fairs, hosting personal training workshops and building relationships with the fitness and recreation departments at your local colleges or universities. External searches are often successful
if you pinpoint your requirements. Shy away from generic postings in newspapers.

Is it better to hire trainers with little experience and mold them into the style of trainer you prefer or hire experienced trainers and start them right away? There is no right answer; the best option depends on the needs of your organization. Before you hire new trainers, however, make sure they meet your established criteria (degree, certification, experience). You can even look them up on IDEA FitnessConnect to see if their certifications are up to date and “verified”. Also, heavily consider their attitudes. You can always teach specific skills required for the job, but changing people’s personalities is extremely challenging.

Hiring Qualified Trainers

Regardless of how qualified trainers look on their résumés, interviewing
all applicants is an important step. Conduct a fairly formal, structured
interview. Use specific, preplanned questions. Ask yourself whether these particular trainers would motivate you to get the results you want. Would you feel encouraged by them? Do they have that certain charisma necessary to help clients reach their goals? If you answer no to any of these questions, keep searching. Even though trainers may be nervous in an interview, trust your first impressions and gut instincts.

After an initial interview, ask potential trainers to complete a simple task (work out in the club’s weight room or take a short quiz) and report back to you once the task is completed. Failing to follow up on the request or being late in doing so is an immediate sign that they are not interested in working for you. Don’t hire them.

Once the first task has been completed, have each applicant audition by training you in a 30-minute session. Provide the potential trainers with a specific training scenario and set up an appointment with them. As a manager, you will be able to judge firsthand their actual training skills.

Once applicants have successfully completed the initial requirements, make sure they have already checked out your competitors. (You want them to be sure your facility best meets their needs!) If they have and you are happy with their performance, hire them. Reiterate the job requirements, establish a starting wage and set up an orientation plan.

Training New Trainers

The first 2 weeks are critical to a new trainer’s success in your organization. Make sure you create a positive experience for each new hire from the first day. Establish a hiring and training plan that includes signing a contract and setting specific dates for administration and marketing training. Give new employees orientation manuals that review your organization’s vision, mission, motto, policies and procedures.

Next have new trainers shadow current trainers. Shadowing provides an opportunity for new trainers to meet specific clients, establish rapport with coworkers and increase their knowledge base. The experience level of the new hires will determine how many hours you require them to shadow.
For example, a person who has never trained before might shadow each of your current trainers at least twice. If you have 10 staff trainers, this would take approximately 20 hours. Experienced trainers might shadow for just
5 to 10 hours to become familiar with the clientele, the procedures and the other trainers. Once new hires have completed their shadowing, meet with them to review what they have learned and observed.

Finally, ask trainers with less experience to train a fellow staff member for four complimentary sessions. These sessions allow new trainers to practice their skills and feel more confident
before taking on their own clients. Once new hires complete the administration and training processes, they are ready to get started. A good way to
finalize their training is to give them
an informal quiz that emphasizes key messages you want them to remember. Although the up-front training of new trainers may appear detailed, a thorough orientation increases the success of your new hires.

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.

Independent Contractors Versus Employees

Do you want to hire personal trainers as employees or independent contractors? Consider which type of worker meets your company’s needs. The following points are some of the pros and cons of each type:


Pros: Contractors are independent, require less management time and are responsible for all their own expenses. If the relationship is not working out, ending it at the end of the contract is fairly easy.

Cons: You have less control over independent contractors. Making additional demands outside the requirements of the initial contract can be difficult. Plus, if contractors decide to move on, clients very often leave with them.


Pros: With employees you can be more hands-on, “uptraining” them and establishing additional requirements if needed. Employees tend to work in a full-time capacity.

Cons: If things don’t work out, “dehiring” an employee can be difficult. There are also more expenses associated with employees, such as uniforms, taxes, employment insurance, marketing and managing.


Concerned about your place in the new fitness industry? We have 40 years of experience supporting pros just like you! Let’s create a new wellness paradigm together—IDEAfit+ is the extra edge you need. Once you team up with IDEA, be sure to take full advantage of all the benefits of membership.

Krista Popowych

Krista Popowych inspires fitness leaders, trainers and managers around the globe with her motivating sessions. She is the 2014 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and a three-time (2016, 2008, 2003) canfitpro Canadian Fitness Presenter of the YearShe is Keiser’s global director of education, as well as a Balanced Body® master trainer, JumpSport® consultant, DVD creator, published writer, Adidas-sponsored fit pro and IDEA Group Fitness Committee member.

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