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This Gym Owner's 5 Tactics to Crush Your Next Interview

Justin Ochoa
Feb 5, 2019

One of the things I looked forward to the most about being a gym owner is the opportunity to create a personal trainer internship program.

I think internships are such a valuable tool for young professionals because it’s an opportunity to mesh your studies with real world application. And more importantly, in an environment that could eventually be your career surrounded by colleagues who share the same passion.

On the flipside, it’s also an opportunity for experienced coaches to sharpen their skill set by seeing what the younger coaches are doing and learning from them as well. It’s a two-way street, or at least it should be.

With Spring and Summer right around the corner, our facility has our eyes set on hiring an intern and many professional and collegiate level strength programs are doing the same. In fact, we’ve been actively interviewing prospects for about 2 months at this point and I’ve got some notes physically written down that I wanted to share with anyone looking for an internship in the near future.

If you want to work at a gym, here are 5 internship interview tips that will help you stand out.

Communicate Enthusiasm About the Role

This seems like a no brainer, but I can’t tell you how important it is to stress that you remain ENTHUSIASTIC about the ROLE during your interview process. You should be focused on getting the position that is available.

Staying focused on the specific position available lets hiring managers know that you’re in it for the right reasons with no hidden agendas. Instead of talking about what the internship is going to do for you, try to talk about the value that you’ll bring to the organization.

For example, I had a candidate tell me: “Working here will be such a great experience for me to get my feet wet in the industry.”

Yes, that’s part of the goal of an internship, but I already know that we’re going to help you get your feet wet. I’d much rather hear about how you’re going to provide value to our team in your role.

Talk about what you plan to GIVE more than what you plan to TAKE.

Establish Some Genuine Rapport

It’s always great to make a genuinely nice connection with your potential co-workers. Do some research on the staff and program so you can be loaded with ammo that could spark some small talk that doesn’t revolve around the internship.

Small side conversations give you and the interviewing staff a chance to just get to know each other on a more real level.

Find out alma maters, former athletic careers, friends in common, favorite teams in common, etc.

Once you get your foot in the door with any kind of genuine rapport, swing that door open and never look back. After all, your day-to-day activities at work is going to be very different than getting grilled in an interview. Small talk will help you (and the interviewing staff) get a more realistic vibe of whether it’s a good fit or not.

Dress to Fit In, Not Impress

This is always tough for our industry. There’s no standard dress code like there is for a sales job. I’ve interviewed interns who wore a suit. I’ve interviewed interns who wore sweatpants. Neither really changed my opinion of the candidate like the other things on this list. Personally, I’m more of a sweatpants guy anyway, but that’s another story.

The key is to dress to fit in, not necessarily impress. It’s always nice to be formal (even if you’re overdressed) on an interview, but you can get creative with ways to fit in and still look nice

For example, we take our sock game seriously at PACE Fitness Academy. Our staff wears crazy-designed socks and encourage our athletes to do the same. We post that on social media a lot, too. If a candidate did their research they could easily win us over with a simple outfit.

  • Black Dress Shoes
  • Black Slacks
  • White Short Sleeve Golf Polo
  • AMAZING SOCKS -- “I saw on your Twitter that you guys like to wear crazy socks…

Boom. I’d pretty much just verify they aren’t a serial killer and hire them on the spot. You can apply this attention to detail in many ways at your gym interview. It just takes preparation and creativity.

Look nice, over-dress when in doubt and try to make yourself memorable with some sort of creative addition to your wardrobe. It could be as simple as wearing team colors, but the thoughtfulness and preparation will be evident to the hiring staff.

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Follow-Up ASAP

Everyone knows to follow up. But I want you to take it a step further. Follow-up with a hand-written thank you card and mail it out the same day. Here’s how you do it:

First, buy some plain general thank you cards. Nothing too crazy, just a nice looking stationary. Go crush your interview like a boss. Leave the interview and write the thank you note IN YOUR CAR before you leave the parking lot. Say specific things, use specific names and include details that are fresh in your mind. Don’t make it a book, but maybe 4-5 lines of very clear and concise thoughts. Finally, go take it to the post office and mail it out that same day. It will likely be delivered by the next day.

This is a huge personal touch that will set you apart in a major way. Not to mention, it’s simply another way to follow-up, which you should already be doing by phone or email a few days after. This will keep you fresh on the minds of the hiring staff and really make you a memorable candidate.

Ask Questions

Last, but definitely not least, ask questions when you have the opportunity to do so. The final conversation of every bad interview goes like this:

Manager: So, ya got any questions before you go?

Candidate: No, I don’t think so…

Really? You don’t have ANY questions? None?

Then you either already know it all or you don’t want to be here anymore. Arm yourself with 3-5 questions that you MUST ask no matter what. This way if 1 or 2 of them naturally come up during the conversation, you still have some to fire out with they inevitably ask you if you have any questions.

Here are some easy questions that extend the conversation (which gives you more chances to prove you’re a great hire).

  • So, would you mind walking me through what a typical day may look like in this role?
  • What are the next steps of this interview process?
  • What is the most impactful way I can make myself valuable in this role?

These questions will usually lead to some longer, more in-depth answers that can prolong the conversation and give both sides a lot of great info.

As you prepare for your upcoming personal trainer internship interview, remember that you have a lot of value to add to a staff. Do your due diligence ahead of time and create an environment for yourself that allows you to shine and secure the position. Most of all, be YOU.


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