The Smart Way to Hire New Trainers

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I’ve been hired by over a dozen major health clubs and studios to personally design their “non-dues” revenue departments and hire their trainers. I can tell you from experience that there is a DEFINITE right and wrong way to hire fitness professionals. In the beginning I used to care about and look for all the wrong criteria when hiring… that all changed about 4 years ago and now I enjoy working with positive team members and CPTs who work hard and make my life easier. Check out what I do differently ->

What I started doing differently was FOCUSING on each applicants personality!

More on that in a moment, let’s first get into the entire hiring process:

I’ve outlined all the steps below that you should follow for success:

Step 1:

Know exactly who and what you are looking for. Full-time, part-time, fill-in, bootcamp instructor, etc

Step 2:

Choose the CPTs start date – I hire 30 days out from their official start. This gives me 2 weeks to hire and the CPT gets to give their 2 weeks notice to their current work place. I also want 1 week to train each new CPT (although, my training only takes about 3 hours on 2 different days…)

Step 3:

Let your other CPTs know that you are hiring and tell them why… and why they shouldn’t worry that it will take leads away from them! (this is too often overlooked and if you do this step your current CPTs will be happier with you rather then seeing a new face walk through the door unexpectedly…)

Step 4:

Place and ad on for FREE (although my city now charges $25.00). There’s simply no need to pay for an ad in a local paper, etc. I typically get over 50 APPLICANTS with just my one ad running. It’s really a fantastic advertisement if I do say so myself ; )
It did take me about 3-4 tries to get it right.

Feel free to edit it to make it your own!

Here’s my CL AD to HIRE NEW CPTS:

>>> Download CPT Ad for Craigslist

Step 5:

Make sure to use a “blind email address” so that CPT candidates don’t email or call your studio – it wastes your time and your staffs. I also have the resumes (CV’s) and cover letters sent to my assistants so that he/she can go through them and weed them out by using my specific criteria listed in the advertisement.

Step 6:

Email back the 6-10 people you like most and set up a time that week to conduct a PHONE INTERVIEW. There’s NO need to invite anyone in yet and waste your time (I”M big on guarding my time since I have so little of it free). If a candidate can speak articulately on the phone and carry themselves professionally then you can invite them in. Remember, “speaking intelligently and professionally” is a HUGE part of our jobs.

Step 7:

Invite 5-6 people in for an in-person interview. Ask them a pre-set list of questions about their background, training experience, knowledge of working with specific clients, who they most enjoy working with, why they’re leaving their current job, what they can offer, how they work on a team, etc. Then ask them to take you through or design a quick program on the fly for client “x.” Tell them the contraindications for that client and that client’s goals. See if they’re quick on their feet on not…

Step 8:

Make notes on each candidate and let each one know that you will be contacting them with 3 days to give them an answer or request for a 2nd interview.

Step 9:

I only do a 2nd interview with the person I am looking to hire. All I’m basically doing is giving them additional details about the position, the pay, the hours, etc and making sure they don’t blow it… at the end of the interview I offer them the position and ask for an answer right then. If they need to think about it, I will give them until the following evening.

Step 10: After they accept I email everyone else back who I did an in-person interview with and let them know that although they were great at this time I have decided to go with someone else and that I will keep their resume on file if a position should open up in the future.

WOW, that was a lot… but it’s all there!

NOW for the BIG KEY to hiring:

After I make sure everyone has one of the top certifications and credentials I need a way of filtering people out. I used to hire the smartest person who interviewed for the job, but that ended up being a huge mistake… I quickly found out a lot of guys with Master’s degrees ended up not being able to relate to or connect with their clients.

Therefore, they were quickly without any clients!

Not exactly good for business, so I sat back and assessed who my best CPTs were and also the people in the industry with the best track record for client retention…

What I found out was that education was 2nd since clients didn’t know one ABC certification from the next NSCA one…

I realized the #1 trainers for retention were the ones with the most ENERGETIC, CARING, and OUTGOING personalities. Clients really latched on to these CPTs genuineness and developed real friendships with these fitness pros.

In the end it’s all about getting clients results AND developing lasting friendships where clients can’t wait to come back and meet with your every week EVEN AFTER THEY”VE GOTTEN ALL THE RESULTS THEY WILL GET!

So, my advice is to hire on personality after you’ve already sorted through anyone who isn’t qualified – don’t base your hiring decision solely on education like I used to… you’ll have way too much turnover and you won’t be doing anyone any favors in the end!


Comment on this Content

  • Michael Warren

    Hi Stephen,

    What can you recommend regarding the hiring process and the lack of legit certifications?

    I’ve started fielding resumes recently and i’ve run across one too many trainers that have these “massive clienteles”…but they either have no certification or a fake certification. One of those certs you get online in about 5 minutes by paying for it.

    What the heck is going on? I realize that our industry has a barrier to entry lower then ant knees, but cmon. One guy even told me he just “trains” people off of stuff he sees on youtube. And his clients see great results from it.

    So I guess my question is, what can be done about this? I screen for legit certifications, but can these guys be reported or something? I mean it’s ridiculous!

    (I guess that was more of me venting then a question.)

  • Kris Stokes

    Stephen, I’ve been with Smart Studio Systems for a while now and I love the content! It really has been a game changer for my business! I am wondering if you could help me out with an issue I am having though. I live in Texas and Craigs List in my area is pretty dead. I am having trouble figuring out where to find quality trainers to hire. I still post on Craigs List and have tried sites like Indeed ($$) but short of standing outside of other gyms (haha) I don’t really know where else to look. I seem to get 1 or 2 resumes a month from people interested in learning how to be a personal trainer (non certified with no experience) but I am needing to find some quality professionals who are ready to jump in and get started. Sorry this is so long. Thanks for your thoughts.

    • Hi KRis,

      Thanks for the email!

      Your problem with finding good trainers, is unfortunately, everyone in this industry’s issue!

      We’re all going after the handful of good CPTs in our area… that’s also why I pay the best and offer the best environment. It’s short money in the long-run to have great people working for you, enjoy coming to work everyday, and have very little turnover (our average person works 5+ years for us).

      I still mainly do Craigslist, post on our FB page when hiring, put a link on our website for careers, and also ask clients, friends, etc. If someone mentions that they know a good trainer – we go to them!

      I’ve tried “Indeed” and all the other services, but they’re not that great. I have had luck going to local Perform Better, etc. seminars and networking with local CPTs there and giving them my business card. Lastly, we’ve posted to the NASM job posting site with minor success…

      Hopefully this helps and my advice is to always be posting for your next trainer – since it may take months to find them!

  • John Gonzalez

    Hey Stephen quick question regarding the employer trainer split. What is considered “fair or standard” when it comes to that? I have a trainer now and the split is 60/40 for me if I provide the client and 60/40 in her favor if she brings in the client to the studio herself either through a referral or her personal marketing. Thanks for your help!

    • Hi John,

      Great question and that 60/40 or 40/60 split is what I would call “standard.”

      At my studio we start at about a 50/50 (we provide all clients) and then it ends up around 40/60 after a few years of employment with us. I chose this pay structure so that I would pay the best in my city and therefore attract the best people. Remember, you can’t grow with constant turnover, so I figured that if I lost a CPT once a year and had to replace them I would essentially lose 4-5 months of their income split…

      When I did the math I realized that paying them a few more dollars per session was the way to go. The great news is that I’ve had the same people now for over 5 years (and growing!).

      In the end I would just build in an incentive program for staying with you. I personally want to make sure there is no other place that can pay them better than I can…

      Right now, we’re adding a few more dollars per year in session increase. That equates to about a 3-5% pay increase per year.

      Hope this helps!

  • Kris Stokes

    Do you have a job application as well for the applicants to fill out or do you only require the resume from them? If so, is it generic job application or one you made yourself?

    • Hi Kris,

      We don’t use job applications, since we’re evaluating how well the potential CPT presents themself through their resume, over the phone, and through email. We look for professionalism and caring, since those are harder to teach. (Teaching someone to be a great technical trainer is the easy part…) Hope this helps!

  • Sheila Townsend

    Hi Stephen,

    Just wondering , what do you include in your CPT’s/staff binder? (payrolls sheet, session tracking sheet? A copy of their policy agreement and non-compete sheet?)
    What else?

    • Hi Sheila,

      Basically, they get a copy of all the sheets in the welcome packet to study and learn. We also take them through 3 comp sessions before they even meet with a client. And then, we follow up after each complimentary session to see if there were any sticking points or questions.

      They also get copies of our liability waiver, doctor referral form, a price sheet for them to memorize (not show clients) and anything else they may need with a client.

      Also – NEVER give them these forms as a Word doc or Excel sheet. Always print them out and have them make copies, or put a PDF on the office computer. This will allow them not to change the format of the document, or potentially steal it from you… it happens, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

      Hope this helps!

  • Brad Pugh

    Is it hard finding someone that is able to be patient during the 90 day client building process? In other words….I sometimes get people that are needing to be paid full time hours asap…..just wondering if you run into this issue? Does this make sense?

    • Hi brad,

      They are certainly worried that they are only making a few hundred dollars per week initially, but they are doing it with the knowledge that they will be successful within 4 months.

      We also allow out CPTs to keep their jobs at their former place of employment for 30 days as they transition into our studio – as long as those hours do not conflict with the clients sessions we set them up with.

      The best thing we’ve found is that we show them how all the other CPTs around them are completing the number of sessions they’d like to and it keeps them positive that one day soon they will be as well…

  • Jeremie Guarderas

    I have a question about insurance:

    I hired this trainer as an independent contractor – Is he consider my employee by law?

    he wants to know if I can add him as an “Additional Insured” for any location I have him work out of (bootcamp, 1-on-1’s) since he is an employee of mine

    Would he be covered by the umbrella policy?

    • Hi Jeremie,

      You’d have to check with your accountant or tax lawyer to be sure, but in Massachusetts 1099 contractors are not employees.

      All my independent CPTs are required to carry their own insurance and renew it yearly. It’s only about $200 and it’s also required by my personal insurance agency that insures the studio.

      Hope that helps!

  • Joel Gottehrer

    This is really awesome! I cant wait to start interviewing

    • Don’t forget to check out the newest post on the 10 Tips to Watch Out for When Hiring New Trainers!

  • Hi Norman,

    I keep between 36 – 42% depending on the pay structure with that trainer and what type of session is rendered. Sometimes it’s as high as 50% for a group class.

  • Norman Belanger

    What percentage of the training fee goes to the trainer?