This article is about hiring right, hiring for a culture, and hiring for the long term. Unlike the endless tales of fisherman who claim of the big one that got away, let’s fish for the ones to keep, okay? The opportunity to dramatically improve one’s ability to catch the big hire and find the ones who fits within a culture, which in essence belongs within the school of fish called teammates, is possible. In fact, it can be as rewarding as a trophy fish catch. Some may even have a few above a mantle already.
It also touches on the all too familiar responsibility to a work environment of catching and releasing personnel. After all, who amongst us has chosen not to release that fish that can spoil the whole cooler, the one who ends up costing the spoiling of other fish? So, set the alarm early, pack up your gear & casting pole. Let’s talk about the worms and the contents of your fishing tackle box to help you with your catch before the early bird gets them.
The ideal audiences for this fishing expedition are senior leaders with hiring and releasing responsibility.
- Understand the options and benefits of technology tools for hiring right.
- Learn best practices of selecting the very best team members.
- Create a plan for the casting and recruiting process for the long term
- Realize there is a cost to keeping the personnel that should be released.
The process of hiring right is a daunting one. Time is tight for interviewing as many candidates as necessary; trust is higher than it should be for information on a resume, background checks cost money, references are often not cooperative or easily reached, and the biggest challenge of all, a disciplined process being in place. Despite a desire by all to have more discipline in hiring, without the assistance of technology, one is doomed to fail at finding it. Plus, various state Departments of Labor (DOL) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EECO) can wreck havoc on anyone’s record keeping if an investigation is started and verifiable hiring data is not readily available.
The days of receiving a cover letter and resume via the U.S. Postal system or electronically should be over for any hiring manager in a facility larger than 30,000 square feet and 50 or more employees. The time drag of filing and managing paper is not only inefficient, it likely limits the opportunity for hiring more candidates, more qualified candidates or, worse, exposes the business to DOL, EEOC and Human Resource (HR) issues.
The availability of cloud based software to aggregate various jobs posting sites into one central location to maximize applicant pools and qualified candidates is vast. Such companies as BirdDog HR, Jobvite, JobDiva, Kronos, Zip Recruiter and Career Plug. Many of these sites are terrific at coagulating job posts from the job listing companies that many clubs use alone use such as Indeed, LinkedIn, Simply Hired, Glassdoor, Facebook and Twitter. One of the valuable tools some use is to utilize benchmark assessments of top performers already in the company against the applicants with pre-screen tests of personality profile and aptitude. With an automated pre-screen questioning process, phone interview, in person interview, reference check and offer letter templates, discipline is a given achievement with these providers. Many of these recruiting companies are even mobile friendly making it easier for the candidates to apply.
A quick word about background checks; maybe even consider this paragraph a commercial for a critical step in the process of catching the right hire. It should not be a news flash that people lie about their past.
Now, forgiveness of family and friends is most certainly a gracious and good moral trait for some of us and in fact one that is encouraged. However, when it comes to business, we are not qualified to change the recidivism rate of those applicants who have challenged the law. Let the social systems and psychology experts do their work. It may sound harsh, however, let’s ponder the rhetorical questions such as the following: how is it that a front desk person who handles payments was charged with petty theft and credit card fraud that was missed either because a background check was not conducted, they did not volunteer the information during the application process or worse, they were given a second chance by the club?; how is it that it is a surprise when a personal trainer was arrested for reckless driving, speeding while driving with a suspended license takes cash payments under the table?; how does one speak to a parent of a child who was fondled while under a club’s care by a kid’s zone manager who had been arrested for assault, or worse was a sex offender?
Unless you are tied to an organizational or business mission requirement to give applicants a second chance, please conduct background checks. The $20-$40 for those background checks would be well worth the cost versus jeopardizing legal costs, the member and staff experience and the business reputation. Be sure too that those background checks cover the whole U.S. Many repeat applicants with checkered legal pasts know that many businesses do not conduct background checks and if they do, do not conduct them nationwide (more expensive, worthwhile option) and therefore move around quite a bit often from state to state. Seek legal counsel for the right background process for your business.
Selection Best Practices
1. The Workout Interview
Not many in our business likely conduct this form of a best practice; however, not many have experienced the success of the GoodLife Fitness in Canada, owned by industry legend David “Patch” Patchel-Evans. They have well over 310 locations so they know about hiring. Maybe it should be considered by all. According to Jane Riddell, Chief Operating Officer, cultural fit, pun intended is “more important than to hire for skills, abilities and experience” (Zabonick, 2014). Often, we hear of the importance of cultural fit, however, GoodLife Fitness takes the fitness piece of cultural fit to a very pragmatic level. “It is not about how fit one is, according to Riddell, “it is about their attitude and character assessment during the whole process and if they complain or make excuses” (Zabonick, 2014). Brilliant!
2. Engagement Cards
This is another great best practice from our friends north of the border to assist in measuring character and culture fit. Simply, cards are prepared with sentences such as, “I need the people I work with to support a healthy and active lifestyle” or “I need to consistently learn new skills and develop my current abilities”. The applicant is asked to pick a handful of cards with which they most identify.
3. Core Values Test
GoodLife Fitness also believes in caring. So much so that they ask candidates to write a paragraph from a list of their core values about what they mean to the applicant from their perspective.
4. Active Job Posts
Whether or not one is actively looking to fill an opening, keep job posts refreshed (meaning, re-post every thirty days through your cloud vendor so your listing is at the top of the list of job boards). After all, remember the acronym A.B.C. (Always Be Casting), often used by Disney and other great companies. The reason being is that current team members may be looking and it is not known or, current team members are working their way out because the business wants them to move on.
5. Robust Intern Program
Instead of looking for free or inexpensive labor, actively engage with local universities and colleges. Professors are always looking to provide students with an enriching practical work experience to match what is learned in the class room. Providing them real life and cross training opportunities could provide a staffing funnel for future managers. Plus, someone not tarnished by other cultures are likely more open, receptive and coachable to the culture important to the business.
6. Hiring for Personality Interview Questions
It is an art form to ask those open ended, subjective questions which solicit deeper belief systems and behavioral patterns of applicants. Many of the hiring software vendors assist in providing the more traditional and critical ones. If you subscribe to the notion of hiring for personality/character/values and train for skill, enjoy the quiz of personality questions at the end of the article. These questions will add to your tackle box of hiring for the best team members.
7. Knock Out Questions
These are questions that eliminate unqualified candidates and have predetermined answers to proceed with the interview process. Since it is well known that time is money, let’s be wise with it and not be spendthrifts. In the pre-screen portion of the cloud based software previously mentioned, no more than 5 questions should be asked with one being about the applicant’s salary expectations and the other about their legality to work in the US. Not only does the salary question provide recon information about their expectations, it can assist with eliminating those that do not fit within budget parameters. Include any certification requirements and cultural fit questions with your online pre-screen process as well.
8. Reference & Background Checks
Often heard on playgrounds of yesteryear; liar liar pants on fire, evidently, it still exists professionally. A former CEO at Yahoo and former Notre Dame Football coach lasted only four (4) months and five (5) days respectively in their roles after it was discovered they lied on resumes about their academic background. Consider adding this lure of reference, academic and background checks in your tackle box for hiring knowing that, according to Credit Donkey (Lake, 2015):
- 46% of resumes & applications have one discrepancy
- 33% of falsification on resumes has increased since the most recent recession
- 91% of students claim they would lie to gain employment, 41% actually have done so
- 57% of employers find that applicants lie about skills
Planning for the Long Term
It is incumbent upon hiring managers to not only be well versed on the technology side, it is important to plan. As the old adage goes, ”failing to plan is planning to fail.” Another great industry pioneer, Joe Cirulli, whose club Gainesville Health and Fitness (GHF) in Florida with over 450 employees and $17 million in sales, was named on Forbes 2016 list as one of America’s Best Small Businesses in 2016. They believe in thorough, detailed process. With over 2,000 applicants and hiring 50-100 new people each year, a robust hiring system is required. Clearly, such a process as below from GHF is a long term approach to catching and keeping the best hires possible (Zabonick, 2012).
- Create a hiring team and interview process centered on the GHF Core Values
- Develop the role of Hiring Coordinator
- 12 Week On-Boarding system and schedule
- Group Interviews
- Workout interview
- Offer & Selection
Cost for Not Releasing
Depending upon your perspective on accountability, number of progressive discipline steps necessary and level of empathy, keeping the ones you should release cost the business in nearly immeasurable ways. Consider these sobering statistics from Career Builder (Graz, 2013):
- The BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries, who house the largest number of employers who hire, report a whopping 84% as having made bad hires. The U.S. reports a staggering 66%.
- For the U.S. companies, the impacts of a bad hire include:
- Lost productivity, 36%
- Negative morale, 32%
- Client relations, 18%
- Few sales, 10%
- Cost to train replacements, 31%
Ask no less than 3 fellow current hiring managers 5 of the questions in the quiz below. Share your answers and have fun with them or create your own to match what you want to see in the new hire relative to traits, character and personality that fits the desired culture. This will assist greatly in catching the best and hiring right!
Activity: The Quiz
Hire Right Quiz
Choose an individual from 3 departments below and ask them each 3 of the 15 questions (Finn, 2016).
- Executive/Vice-President/COO/CFO/Area Director
- General Manager
- Front/Welcome Desk
- Kids Club/Zone
- Court Sports (Tennis, Racquetball)
- Group Fitness
- Personal Training
- Business Manager
- Youth Activities
- Sales Manager
- Marketing Director
- If you stub your toe on a piece of furniture, do you get angry? Yes or No.
- What is your favorite cheese, why?
- What would you do if you woke up one morning and there was a truck load of ping pong balls on your lawn?
- If Jack Sparrow and Arnold Schwarzenagger got into a battle, who would win and why?
- What did your last social media post say and why did you post it?
- Do you prefer the sunrise or sunset and why?
- In 30 seconds, could you tell me what you would do with a pencil besides write?
- If you were a cereal, what type would you be and why?
- Are you more of a hunter or gatherer, why?
- You are a new addition to the crayon box, what color would you be and why?
- Is your future based on luck or skill, why?
- When the interview finishes and you discover you won $10M in a lottery, what would you do?
- Why did you give the last gift you gave someone?
- If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
- What was the funniest thing that happened to you recently?
Burlingham, B. (2016, February 8). The Best Small Companies In America, 2016. Retrieved from
Finn, H. (2016, February 5). 36 Interview Questions That Are Actually Fun To Answer ... Retrieved from
Grasz, J. (2013, May 8). More Than Half of Companies in the Top Ten World Economies Have Been Affected By a Bad Hire, According to CareerBuilder Survey. Retrieved from
Lake, R. (2015, May 26). Beware: 23 Resume Falsification Statistics - CreditDonkey. Retrieved from
Zabonick, R. (2014, September 15). The Core of GoodLife – Club Solutions. Retrieved from
Zabonick, R. (2012, February 15). The GHF Interview Process – Club Solutions. Retrieved from