I'm a Studio Owner. Here Are 5 Non-Obvious Things I Look For When Hiring Fitness Instructors

Feb 02, 2021

Interviews and auditions look nothing like they used to pre-COVID, but they are still happening. Being prepared and knowing what your fitness manager or studio owner is looking for, is the key to getting hired. 

I’ve been a POP Pilates instructor since 2017, a POP Pilates Master Trainer since 2019, and the owner of SOAR, a fitness studio in my town.

I'm so excited to be where I am now, but none of this happened overnight. POP Pilates was the first fitness certification that I ever received. I had done POP with Cassey since 2009 and loved every single aspect of it. I knew I had to share this love with others, but rest assured, I was nervous to dive into it.

I didn’t have any ties to anyone in the fitness industry in my town so I took a receptionist job at a local cheerleading gymnasium that also held group fitness classes. The owner was so excited that I was studying for my POP Pilates Instructor Training and she promised to put POP Pilates on the schedule once I passed my certification. She believed in me and that's all the motivation I needed to get through my training. 

Once I got certified, the real work began. Where else could I teach? Could I make this my full-time job?

I started to send out cold emails to gyms, studios, and universities pitching POP Pilates for an audition. Not everyone wrote back to me, but I kept going. I kept circling back to my why and didn't let up. This was my calling. 

Eventually, I landed 2 more spots, one at a local university rec center. One small group fitness class at a time, I began to build a community and saw that something was missing. My town needed a dedicated space for fitness with a warm and loving vibe. And you know what? I was the one who could build it. 

In April of 2018, I opened up my own fitness studio, SOAR, to fill that need. A place where we could celebrate self-love through movement and make exercise fun and doable. Before COVID, we were housing nearly 30 classes per week, bringing in well over 1,200 students per month. Currently, we are doing about 1⁄4 of that but we are starting to see an increase in new students.

When we first opened, I had only one other instructor teaching classes and it took me a while to trust myself to hire others. I knew what I wanted the atmosphere to feel like in the studio and I had made some hires early on that weren’t a good fit. After auditioning so many instructors and trainers, I wanted to make it easier for all of us and share what I look for when I'm hiring. 

At the end of the day, the goal is to serve our students. They are what matter. I could go on about how you should have great cues, know your anatomy, and start class with a great introduction. But, you already know this.

This list covers the less obvious traits. The next time you hop into a fitness audition, make sure you make note of these five things to help you stand out from the crowd.

1. Be coachable. It is so important to me that my instructors are teachable, meaning being open to feedback. You could be the best instructor I’ve ever seen but without a humble attitude, I will remember your attitude more than your talents, and students will feel the same way. It is 100% okay to be confident in your abilities to instruct but never act like you are the best thing the fitness industry has ever seen. It truly takes away from your talent to instruct.

2. Be authentic, be you! I am never looking for cookie-cutter instructors. I am looking for instructors that can allow their light to shine and their story to be told through fitness, whatever that story may be. The instructors who have been successful at my studio and who continue to have a core following are those that make themselves relatable to their students. They are trusting you with their insecurities and goals. They aren’t looking for perfect. They are looking for a connection.

3. See the bigger picture. I’m always looking for instructors that are willing to work on building a community around them. Remember, one thing that keeps students coming back to classes is connection. If you only focus on going through the movements as you teach,  you may not see as many returning faces. I love meeting instructors who want to become part of the studio in a big way and who are open to sharing new ideas and opportunities so we can both help each other grow.

4. Put yourself out there. I'm always looking for instructors to be proactive in marketing themselves because it shows me that they're invested in themselves and the studio.  Ever heard of the phrase, “Your vibe attracts your tribe”? Well, integrating that authenticity with your self-promotion will help you attract that tribe you are looking for to fill your class and build that community we talked about. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there!

5. Be flexible. Sometimes, especially when trying to get a new platform off of the ground, timing on the weekly calendar may need to shift and change until a sweet spot is found. You may even have to start with subbing (don't worry, we've ALL been there). Really rigid availability will make it harder for a studio to find a spot for you so be open to changes until we find what works best!

I know that the nerves of auditioning or interviewing can be crippling. I’ve walked into a room where 3-4 people are watching me do choreography that I suddenly forgot, but know that the most important thing you can do is ​be yourself!

Let your light shine! You’ve taken this chance for a reason. You’ve got the resources through the POP Pilates Training and you’ve got the support of the POP Army. Remember that we all start somewhere and you have just as good of a chance as anyone else, all you have to do is give it yourself.

Jessica McHugh is a wife, mother, and studio owner from Morgantown, WV. She is the owner of Soar Fitness Studio, a NASM Certified Personal Trainer, and an Antigravity Instructor. In 2019, she was nominated and named the first-ever POP Pilates Instructor of the Year. In February of 2020 she was nominated and named Best Personal Trainer in her city. She believes that her calling is to motivate and inspire others with one simple philosophy; self-love through movement.