One of the biggest challenges in any business, and in particular the health club industry, is building a great team. The easiest way to build a great team is to hire great employees, a practice that requires a systematic approach to recruiting and selecting the best available employees to serve on the team. This article examines this process and breaks it down into several logical steps.


Develop a Hiring Model and Posting for Each Position. The first step in recruiting is to create a model of what the employee profile should be. A hiring model is a shortened version of the job model that identifies the values, attitudes and skills expected for each position.

Place the Postings/Models in the Appropriate Areas. When the manager is ready to recruit, the facility should place its hiring models/postings with the right lead sources. Logical posting locations include the following:

  • Local 2-year and 4-year colleges can be excellent sources of employees. If you seek fitness staff, contact the college’s kinesiology department. On the other hand, if you are looking to hire swim instructors, you might get in touch with the coach of the college’s swim team.
  • The ads seeking new employees should be posted on the appropriate career-center websites for the respective specialty areas you hope to fill. For example, when you seek to hire fitness staff, the websites for the main certification agencies would be excellent sources. If you were looking for massage and spa employees, you should contact any institution/entity that might be aware of individuals who would accommodate the club’s needs, such as the local massage schools, the American Massage Therapy Association, etc.
  • Consider creating a career-center website for your facility. Companies such as Tennis Corporation of America, ClubCorp, Wellbridge, Lifetime Fitness, etc. have developed their own recruitment sites.

Develop Internship Programs With Colleges. Possibly the best recruiting tool is to develop an internship program with local colleges and high schools. By creating internships, your facility can provide learning opportunities for those students who have an interest in fitness and health and, at the same time, give you a chance to evaluate each intern’s potential as a future employee. In fact, many of the top club companies in the industry offer internships. These companies report that their best employees often are those individuals who have previously served in internships.

Recruit From Other Service Industries. If you seek staff who have a servant’s heart and understand how to work within a hospitality/service business, consider recruiting from similar businesses. Recruiters should carry business cards and—if and when they observe a worker whose performance aligns with your facility’s culture—hand the worker a card and invite that individual to visit.

Employee Selection

Once you’ve identified consistent feeder systems to bring potential employees to your door, it’s time to separate the cream from the milk. There are a few dependable techniques for doing this.

Compare Applications and Resumés to the Hiring Model. The first step you can take when deciding who to hire is to compare every application and resumé, via a checklist, with its hiring model (job description). With this method, you can subsequently rank the applications and resumés by how closely they align with the hiring model. Performing this step will help you limit the number of candidates that graduate to the next step of the selection process.

Use Multiple Interviews. Every candidate should go through a series of interviews. The first interview should be conducted by the immediate supervisor and should focus on uncovering the basic values, beliefs, attitudes and skills of the applicant. This first interview can be conducted using a structured interview format and checklist. The goal of the interview should be to evaluate the candidate against a specific model. If the candidate meets the expectations of the first interview, then a second interview should be conducted with multiple members of the team, using a structured format. The second interview should be more detailed than the first and should focus on role-play situations, based on predetermined questions that are designed to be value indicators of success in the health club business. If the candidate gets through the second interview successfully, then the third interview should be conducted in a team format with several members of the team present. This interview can be more free-flowing than the other two, because its primary focus is to determine if an appropriate fit exists between the team and the applicant.

Consider an Industry Profile. Many facility operators and managers employ personality and job-profile surveys that are designed to help compare a candidate’s personal profile against the known attitudes and attributes of a successful employee. These profiles are usually available through human resource organizations and private companies that are focused on profiling new employees. As a rule, these profiles measure such key attributes as leadership, communication, teamwork, work ethic, relationship skills, etc. By comparing the profile of a candidate with the standardized profile of a top-performing employee, you can obtain a better reading of the candidate’s potential for success.

Only Hire From the Top of the List. After completing all of the aforementioned steps, develop a list of potential candidates, with the best candidate placed at the top and the others ranked in a priority order. Leaders should make an effort to let their team help compile the rankings. Once the rankings are completed, they should initiate the selection process by contacting the candidate at the top of the list.

Developing Job Descriptions and Compensation Agreements

One of the keys to building the team is providing each employee with a job description (model) and a compensation agreement. These two documents are two of the most critical tools in establishing expectations, offering encouragement and providing evaluation. In reality, the job description and compensation agreement are not documents as much as they are living roadmaps for the employee.

Building the Job Model

The job model is a roadmap for the employee because it establishes the expectations that facility management has for that person’s job and details how the job interacts with the tasks of other members of the team. Building a job model involves the following steps:

1. Begin With the Job Overview. The first part of the job model is a simple paragraph that summarizes the primary responsibilities and accountabilities of the job. This narration should be clear and direct.

2. Identify Whether the Position Is Exempt or Nonexempt. The job model should detail how the various positions in the club are to be categorized. For example, a fitness director would be an exempt position, while a personal trainer would be a nonexempt position.

3. List the Essential Accountabilities of the Job. The essential accountabilities of the position involve the top five behaviors/areas for which the employee will be held accountable. Collectively, these factors should reflect the big picture. For example, employees might be held accountable for their department achieving its annual budget target for revenues.

4. List the Secondary Accountabilities. Secondary accountabilities involve those areas/behaviors over and beyond the aforementioned essential accountabilities for which the manager will hold the employee accountable. These areas are not tasks; rather, they are areas of accountability. For example, employees might be held accountable for completing their work schedule each week.

5. Identify the Reporting Lines. This factor involves clarifying whom employees report directly to, whom employees have indirect reporting responsibility to, and whom they supervise. For example, an employee might report to the operations manager, but be expected to work with the fitness director when needed, and be responsible for the personal trainers.

6. Identify the Physical Requirements of the Job. This stipulation is an OSHA requirement. It involves identifying the specific physical tasks, such as lifting, walking, etc., that are required by a particular job.

7. Identify the Educational Expectations for the Position. This measure refers to the fact that the club should provide a listing of any educational requirements for the position, such as certifications, licenses, etc.

Building the Compensation Agreement

Every employee should receive a written compensation agreement, in addition to a copy of the job model for the position. A compensation agreement is a nonbinding understanding of the compensation that will be provided for performing the duties expected of a specific position; it is not a contract for employment. The compensation agreement should be consistent with the accountabilities of the job and spell out in detail for the employees exactly how they derive their personal earnings. Building a compensation agreement can involve several critical elements, including:

Nonexempt Hourly Employees

  • Identify their hourly wage and share with them the changes in that rate for overtime and holiday work.
  • Identify what benefits they are eligible for as nonexempt employees.
  • If employees are being paid by commission only, make sure the commission structure is outlined completely and provide an example template so that they can see how it works.
  • For employees paid by commission, also include a second hourly rate that can be applied for holidays and vacations.

Exempt Employees

  • Identify their base salary. This step should be communicated in terms of the club’s standard pay period and also reflected in an annualized amount. For example, the employee will receive a base salary of $2,000 every 2 weeks, equal to $52,000 annually.
  • Identify any incentive or variable pay, based on performance. Make sure that employees understand clearly how their variable or incentive pay is given. For example, employees have the potential to earn $10,000 at year-end if they achieve 100% of their revenue goal and will receive a percentage of the $10,000 in proportion to the percentage of the revenue goal they achieve (i.e., $5,000 for reaching 50% of the assigned goal, etc.).
  • Identify all benefits provided, including vacation, education allowances, medical, profit sharing, etc.

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