Interviewing 101: What to Do…and NOT to Do
It’s about that time of the semester again: Next week, FPTI students will get the chance to network with many of NYC’s top fitness employers as they gather on our training floor for the quarterly FPTI Career Fair. They’ve been working hard with our faculty this week to get their resumes organized, with the goal, of course, being to set up interviews for internships or jobs in the weeks to follow.
That said, we figured it’d be a good idea to reinforce some essential interview dos and don’ts.
After all, a polished cover letter and resume may get you an interview, but a solid interview is what ultimately lands you the job.
So, here are a few important things to consider when preparing for an interview in the fitness industry:
What to Wear
Even though you’ll be wearing gym attire on the job, business casual is the way to go for the interview. No need for a suit, but a clean, wrinkle-free, button-down shirt or blouse and a nice pair of pants (NOT jeans) or a skirt (for the ladies) is appropriate for your initial interview. Your practical interview usually comes next, and this is your chance to show your skills on the training floor in professional looking (preferably black) gym attire.
What to Ask
Although your potential employers will be asking plenty of questions of you, they also expect that you ask them relevant questions. This shows that you know what you want and are genuinely interested in their company. Here are a few questions that you should ask ANY employer in the fitness industry:
1. What is considered “full-time” and how long does it take to get there?
Most personal training jobs are hourly, which means you have to uphold a certain number of client sessions for a certain amount of time in order to qualify for and retain benefits. Most companies require a certain number of months of “full-time” employment before benefits kick in, and some also take them away pretty quickly if you don’t uphold your hours – so you’ll definitely want clarity on all of these points. It also helps to know the average length of time that it takes to get up to “full-time” status, whether there is a minimum sessions requirement (a “quota”) and how the company helps you keep your sessions up. You’ll want to know upfront exactly what you’ll be looking at.
2. How are trainers paid?
“Hourly” may mean you get a fixed rate per session, or it may mean you get a percentage of what the client pays (and clients may pay different rates). You may or may not get paid for floor shifts. Some companies also offer bonus structures; for example, if you conduct a certain number of sessions per pay period, your payout per session in that pay period increases. All of these structures will significantly affect your paycheck, so you’ll want to be aware of them.
3. What is required for advancement?
Most companies require a combination of certifications, number of sessions and time with the company before moving up a tier or level in pay. You’ll definitely want to know what these requirements are and where your FPTI education fits into their system. Additionally, you’ll want to know where you’ll be starting on the pay scale and what the highest achievable level is.
4. What benefits are offered?
Although you may need to uphold a certain number of sessions to qualify, you’ll want to know what benefits beyond increased session rates are available to you. Education reimbursement, transportation reimbursement, health insurance and 401Ks are all common elements of a compensation package, so be sure to ask about them all. Additionally, paid vacation is not the norm in personal training, so be sure to ask about time-off policies and procedures and how they affect your income and overall quality of life.
What NOT to Do
1. Do NOT be late. Under no circumstances is this acceptable, especially in an industry where time is money and you live and die by the clock. If by chance some unforeseen emergency comes up and you’re running behind schedule, notify whomever you’ve been in contact with regarding your interview as soon as possible and explain the situation. But seriously, don’t be late.
2. Do NOT arrive to the site more than 15 minutes early. Granted, being late is not acceptable and being early is a good thing; but there is such a thing as too early. Arriving way ahead of your scheduled interview time can seem invasive and create an unwanted feeling of being rushed on the part of the interviewer. Get to the area well ahead of time, but then go wander around for a bit or find somewhere to get a cup of coffee to kill a few minutes.
3. Do NOT go overboard with questions about what the company will do for you. It’s important to ask questions about the company. And yes, you need to find out certain information via questions like the ones above in order to make the right decision. But remember that you’re selling yourself as well, and showing the interviewer that you are a good fit and can contribute to the company is what will land you the job. So for every compensation question that you ask, make sure you also ask at least one pertaining to culture, environment, longevity, education or something else relevant to the overall work experience.
Some Final Tips
1. Greet everyone with a smile and a firm handshake. You only get one chance to make a good first impression and it’s usually formed in just a few seconds (if that).
2. Maintain eye contact. Even if only thinking, sometimes loss of eye contact can be mistaken for dishonesty. So look your interviewer in the eye when speaking, as well as when listening. Just don’t be creepy about it…
3. Take notes. You should bring a pen and pad to jot down a few relevant things. This shows you’re interested but are also in the process of making a decision, which gives you an upper hand. Writing is also a good excuse to break from the dreaded awkwardness of too much eye contact.
4. Use open body language. This will make you seem approachable, which is an important trait as a personal trainer. Avoid crossing your arms and using fidgety movements that can make you seem nervous and distracted.
Keep these points in mind, and you’re bound for successful interviews. Good luck, students!