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Nailed It! How Not To Get The Job (in Fitness)

Nailed It! How Not to Get the Job (in Fitness)

A few days before Thanksgiving, I received the resume of someone applying for a position as a personal trainer at our gym. After scanning the resume, I wasn’t sure this person would be a good fit for our team – MMA fighting and Strongman competitions were heavily stressed, whereas our clientele tend to be runners, urban professionals, and retirees. I figured I would think about it for a few days, and get back to the applicant after the holiday weekend. Sunday night, however, I received the following email from the applicant:

                  “Hello Mrs west I was just checking if you received my last email with my resume attached if you did great if not would you respond back and let me know as soon. As possible cause I have a few offers on your he table and if you are not intrested(sic) in bringing me in for an interview I’m going to move along with the others thank you”

Yeah…needless to say, I let him pursue his other offers. Based on this email alone, he blew any prospect of an interview. If he couldn’t send a proper email to someone from whom he wanted a job, how was he going to communicate with clients? I wish I could say this was an isolated case of incompetence. Unfortunately, this is just the most recent case I’ve seen. Here are some of the most common ways to ruin your chances of being hired.


  1. Uh…resume? Do I need one?

Why would you need a resume, after all? It’s not like you’re applying for a “real” job. This is the fitness industry, and, hello, look at you – you’re obviously into fitness. But since you still have the resume you did when you were in school and needed a summer job, let’s use that one. I’m sure the person in charge of hiring will know you’re certified in something.


A new study done by The Ladders, an online job search company, reveals that recruiters spend an average of 6 seconds scanning a resume (http://cdn.theladders.net/static/images/basicSite/pdfs/TheLadders-EyeTracking-StudyC2.pdf). Your resume has to stand out and be succinct if you want to make it past this first glance. When I look at a resume, what I want to see, in order, are the following:

  • Certifications
  • Job History
  • Education


  1. Nine, nine-ish – what’s the difference?

So you have an interview at 9am. As long as you get there around that time, that’s okay, right? Because you’re not really a morning person, and you couldn’t figure out what to wear, and you weren’t sure how long it would take to get there. But what’s the big deal, you made it there and you’re only ten minutes late.


This is the fitness industry – we run on appointments, sessions, and class times. Whomever is interviewing you is most likely not sitting in an office all day. Your interview is going to be scheduled before, after, or around classes, training sessions, or busy times at the gym/studio. Plus, and I cannot stress this strongly enough, you are applying for a job that requires you to make and keep appointments. If you cannot show up for your interview on time, we will assume you will not show up for your classes/sessions on time. Show up for your interview ten minutes early, have a seat, and pull yourself together.


  1. I love a job where I don’t have to dress up.

And where better to show off your expensive Lululemon outfit than your interview? Or better yet, just show up in a tank top and shorts so the recruiter can see your awesome shape, because that’s all he/she is really going to care about.


Listen, I love a job where I don’t have to dress up, too. But I already have that job. You don’t. Don’t show up looking like you just finished a workout. Show up looking like you want a job. This is a relatively informal industry, so formal business attire isn’t necessary. But showing up in nice street clothes (good jeans/pants/shirt/sweater) lets the recruiter know that you’re interested in making a good impression. If you’re not sure whether the interview is strictly an interview or a try-out in which you’ll be asked to demonstrate exercises/tricks/instruction, ask the recruiter prior to you appointment if you should bring exercise clothes.


  1. I’m a special snowflake…just like everyone else.

Right, you’re an awesome trainer/instructor because you’re certified, you’re really into fitness, you’re enthusiastic, and you’re a good motivator. Guess what? So is everyone else in fitness. Oh my gosh, what a surprise, right?


The question I ask that stumps 90% of people I interview is this: “What makes you special?” I want to know what makes you stand out from the other 15 trainers I already have on the team. Look at it this way, if I’m on the phone with a prospective client, what can I tell him/her about you that will make them want to spend money to train with you? One of my highest producing trainers is 60-something years old and a little overweight. And yet she is one of the most easily marketable trainers I have. Why? Because she is one of the few trainers who takes a very holistic approach to fitness. She’s concerned with her clients’ lifestyles, fitness, stress levels, and nutrition. That makes her stand out from other trainers. Figure out what makes you different – training style(s), way you communicate with people, killer class playlists, etc., and market your differences.


Under the gregarious personalities, blasting music, and lycra clothing, the fitness industry is still a business. Those doing the hiring/managing are looking for trainers/instructors with creative, outgoing personalities and strong work ethics. Don’t underestimate or ignore the traditional business practices that will get you hired.

Sarah West
This Post Has One Comment
  1. I think the order of what you should glance at should be:
    1) Education
    2 or 3) Certification or experience

    Why is the fitness industry one that allows you to have an unrelated education, some random certification you can get in a weekend, and 20 years of doing trendy exercises? This is a problem. There are plenty of kinesiology and exercise science grads to hire. Stop hiring people without the degree.

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