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Scott Poston, M.S.

Founder & President

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Characteristics of a Successful Fitness Pro

The Problem

The thrill of the hiring-hunt is very exciting. With each new resume that pings your inbox you cannot help but imagine how this new hire will positively changes your department’s DNA, and maybe even helps move the needle on your entire club culture!

But buyer beware… ambitious candidates are not always crystal clear on their experience. In an article posted to CMAA’s blog, “Resumes: Does it have to be truthful or is there a creative leeway?” you will learn that embellished responsibilities account for 38% of all lies on resumes.

Hiring is important, no doubt. In fitness, it is absolutely crucial. If a personal training business was easy to build, then the turn-over rate would not be so high. The average career (not job, but career) in personal training lasts about three years. It is a tough place to make a living, but it can be done with the right mentoring.

For every ten fitness professionals you hire, maybe one will become a top performer. That’s frustrating, certainly, because every fitness pro you hire is hired with the expectation of becoming that next top performer. But something always gets in the way—ambition, inability to connect with members, fear of failure, intimidation, competing interests, etc. At some point you realize that hiring is really, really hard. Wouldn’t it be great if you have a crystal ball and you could see a candidate’s future before making the job offer?

You sort of do…

The Solution

If you have a large enough staff then you have a top performer or two. If you have a small staff of maybe just four or five fitness pros then it is more difficult to say that the top performer among them is exemplary.

1000 Hills Fitness identified this crystal ball, and polished it off. We embarked on a six-month process to interview, analyze, and categorize the characteristics of our fitness pros. We were looking for characteristics that separated top performers from the rest with the hopes that we could someday use this guide to inform hiring decisions.

Think of all of the characteristics that you look for in a hire. Here’s a quick peek:

Curious Adventurous Balanced Scholarly

Friendly Polished Empathetic Kind

Creative Diplomatic Experienced Genuine

Agreeable Self-sufficient Leader Deep

Energetic Witty Attractive Intelligent

Honest Loyal Principled Athletic

Adaptable Humble Charming Passionate

Cooperative Courteous Dynamic Personable

1000 Hills Fitness identified seven characteristics of successful fitness pros (success was defined as number of sessions completed per week over a 3-month period). These qualities are considered fundamental in top performing fitness pros:

Goal setting Persistent Strong work ethic

Passionate Responsible Magnetic personality

Good listener

The next and obvious question is, “How do you test for these skills?” You cannot simply ask an interviewee if they are passionate about fitness, or if they consider themselves a responsible person. Your interview questions have to subtly probe for the answers.

Goal setting—Successful private club fitness pros are avid goal setters. They know what they want to accomplish and they have a plan. A good interview question may be, “What projects are you working on these days?” or “What are you training for?”

Persistent—Building a fitness business requires a tremendous amount of persistence. Obstacles loom daily, and so do opportunities for new solutions, and breakthroughs. Top performing fitness pros refuse to give up. During the interview, listen for words like adapt and change used by the candidate. Ask about a recent failure too. They may reveal how hard they worked against all odds.

Strong work ethic—It was Thomas Edison who said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” A good question to ask to get to the bottom of work ethic is, “What did you do to prepare for this interview?” or “What do you know about the club already?” if you want to take a softer approach.

Passion—This might be the most important characteristic, but there's more to it than just having a passion. The person must be capable of exuding passion (few are). When you love what you do, and have the confidence to share it, then others can feel it and see it shining brightly. Passion has a gravitational force of its own. In an interview situation, passion is a difficult characteristic to uncover. Search for topics the candidate is passionate about (e.g., their kids, an outdoor recreation, vacationing), and then dial in to that topic. If the person is capable of exuding passion, then you will see it. The candidate must be passionate about fitness.

Responsible—Top performing fitness pros also take responsibility for their results. They do not blame tough competitors, the economy, or situational road blocks. They feel in control of their destiny. This is one of the easier characteristics to identify. Ask about a recent failure, but don’t ask why the failure occurred—that is too big of a hint to the candidate for what you are assessing.

Magnetic personality—This requires little explanation and is the most difficult to come by. You will know in the first 5-minutes if the candidate is magnetic. Few people are. It’s icing on the cake if you can find a fitness pro that everyone wants to be around. Due to its rarity, don’t pass on a candidate if s/he lacks magnetism. The reverse is worth mentioning too. If the candidate is magnetic, but doesn’t shine in the other six areas, then it's ok to pass.

Good listener—Highly successful fitness pros know when to talk and when to listen. As you may expect, listening is more important. Members will tell you everything you need to know if you have the patience to listen. These candidates listen carefully, and you should be able to see this characteristic from a mile away. If s/he interrupts you often, or asks a question and then proceeds to take guesses at the answer, or asks a question that you already answered, then it’s a good chance this candidate is not a great listener.

If you need practice interviewing fitness pros, then start now. Post a job and interview as many people as possible—practice. Interview people that you may not normally interview too. You might even find a diamond in the rough.

Interviewing is both an art and a science. Hopefully, this article helps you with some of the science (i.e., what to look for in a high performing private club fitness pro).

About 1000 Hills Fitness

Founded in 2011, 1000 Hills Fitness is a leading private club fitness operations manager and consultant, combining more than 40 years of operations excellence with private clubs and luxury commercial clients. The company has the expertise to cover every aspect of delivering a high value fitness and wellness experience for Members while reducing the high costs and stagnation often associated with the industry. The firm can provide an operations evaluation, staff development, strategic planning, equipment procurement, program development, recruitment, pre-opening of your new facility, and full-service supervision of your fitness and wellness areas in order to elevate the Member experience and enrich the overall value of the Club. For more information, visit or call 303-325-2640 to connect.



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