Whenever you hire a new instructor, the stakes are high. Every new hire you make has a significant impact on client retention and your company’s culture. That’s why the success of your studio is largely dependent on your ability to assemble an all-star team of instructors.

To find the best instructors in your area — the people who will have a wait list of clients for nearly every class — you have to do more than post a help wanted ad on a local jobs site or industry blog. Here are seven strategies for finding the most talented instructors around.

1. Recruit when you don’t have a job opening. You should always be thinking about hiring, even if you are fully staffed. Every person in the industry that you meet should be viewed as a potential future hire. Keep a database of people you meet that you’d like to work with someday and find ways to keep in touch. By doing so, you can fill your next opening with an employee you want on your team, rather than hiring a mediocre candidate because you need more staff ASAP.

2. Figure out where the best candidates hang out and spend time there. Attend conferences and Meetups, join Facebook groups and read niche fitness blogs. The more time you spend with other instructors and fitness enthusiasts outside of your studio, the more buzz you’ll hear about particular teachers worthy of recruiting and hot programs you’ll want to look for on resumes.

3. Connect with reputable certification programs to develop successful recruiting and training practices. Because many fitness certifications require instructors to take continuing education classes to maintain their status, establishing a relationship with a good certification program will provide you with access to both new and experienced instructors who have the appropriate skills and education. For example, the owner of a Pilates studio may want to reach out to their local Pilates Method Alliance or Stott Pilates.

4. Build an amazing reputation as an employer and you’ll have qualified instructors lining up to work at your studio. Create a culture that rewards instructors who go the extra mile to recruit and retain clients. Implement strategies that will make your current instructors happy and, therefore, more likely to sing your praises as an employer.

How you structure instructor compensation will have a lot to do with how attractive your studio is to all-star instructors. You may want to consider instituting a base salary plus per-client reward program or a tier system that in which an instructors’ per class pay rate increases as they consistently fill their classes. The key to making these compensation strategies work is to help instructors set compensation goals and support them in achieving those goals.

Generating positive word-of-mouth about your studio’s employee culture doesn’t have to cost you anything. Recognizing and promoting your instructors can go a long way toward creating a happy team. Feature your instructors on your studio blog, interview as an expert on certain topics, promote them like mini-celebrities on social media and single them out for good work in you studio meetings. Another way to create a positive company culture is to publicly support your instructors in their outside interests, such as charities, races, sports teams and hobbies. Share that information with your clients. It’s essential to show your instructors that you support them both in and out of the studio.

5. Be clear about the qualities you value in an instructor. Writing out a job description can be enormously helpful in figuring out who an ideal candidate is. You have to be perfectly clear on what you are truly looking for in an instructor before you can identify an all-star. Take professionalism as an example. You can say that professionalism is important, but what are your standards of professionalism? Is it arriving early for class to greet all the clients as they enter the studio? Is it giving clients his or her email or cell number so they can be reached directly? Does professionalism mean staying up-to-date with all the latest techniques and gear? Or is it all of these things? Make a list of ideal qualities and be as specific as possible.

In addition setting your personal expectations for your instructors, there are a few universal characteristics common among all good fitness professionals, including:

  •      Outgoing, welcoming and fun personality
  •      Excellent fitness technician
  •      Great communicator and connector
  •      Considers themselves a coach, not just an instructor

6. Ask interview questions that can help you spot these qualities
Once you have determined what qualities make an instructor an all-star, you have to develop interview questions that will help you discover if a candidate has those qualities. Asking the generic, “So, tell me about your prior experience,” won’t provide the right information you need to make a hiring decision. Dig deeper by asking questions similar to these:

  •      What evaluations do you conduct on a new client who wants to begin a fitness regimen?
  •      How important is nutrition to you? Do you make dietary suggestions to clients?
  •      How do you simultaneously help clients at different levels of physical ability during a workout class?
  •      Tell me about a time when a client was unhappy with your work. How did you handle the situation?
  •      Imagine a client is discouraged during a class. How do you keep him motivated?
  •      What training regimen would you offer a client who says he strictly wants to lose weight?
  •      How would you increase your clientele?
  •      Why did you become a fitness instructor?
  •      What fitness certifications do you have and from which programs? Why did you choose those programs?

7. Try before you buy
When you believe you have found a winning candidate, ask him or her to teach a class and pay a per diem rate. This will give you a good insight into the instructor’s potential and ability. You will see the dynamic he or she creates with the clients first hand. You may want to ask one of your other instructors and employees to join you in taking the candidate’s class. Getting feedback from trusted employees can give you a fresh perspective on the candidate.