Interviewing is like anything else — you learn by trial and error. Some questions reveal a lot about the coach you’re interviewing and some are a waste of time.
After interviewing a lot of coaches, and experimenting with different questions, I’ve put together an outline that might work for you. Maybe it’ll save you some energy and frustration. :)
Give Some Background
Introduce yourself and give a brief description of what you’re looking for in a new team member.
“Hi, I’m Emily. I’m the owner of this box. One of our coaches left recently, so we’re looking for someone to take over his classes asap. We have 2 other coaches on staff and we offer 8 classes 6 days a week. We have about 220 members who are mostly nine-to-fivers or students, between the ages of 20 – 55. They spend a lot of time sitting in front of their computers, so they come here to be active and get fit for weekend adventures. We are a community-oriented gym whose focus is to make anyone who walks in the door better than they currently are. A few of our members participate in local comps but, for the most part, our gym is about just being better at life.”
Giving the coaching candidate a little background information on your gym and members helps the candidate better understand your needs. This means they will craft more specific answers to your questions, making interviews much more efficient.
Break the Ice
Remember: They’ve rehearsed this little interview with a friend — or a mirror — dozens of times, so they’re probably a bit wound-up at this point. You can instantly put ‘em at ease by starting the interview with a question they can quickly and easily answer. It’s the only way you’ll get a real sense of who they are, how they think and what they want.
Here are a few questions you could ask:
- Where did you grow up/Where are you from?
- Have you ever played any sports?
- What do you do for fun?
- What are you passionate about (other than CrossFit)?
- When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
- If CrossFit didn’t exist, how would you pay the bills?
- What’s your favorite thing to do outside?
Ask Good Questions
When you’re interviewing someone, you’re evaluating what type of person they are and how they will fit with your team. These questions are a simple way to get people talking so that you can get a sense of their knowledge, personality and drive.
So let’s dive in —
- What is CrossFit?
I would look for two answers here. The candidate should know the actual definition (constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity) along with some sort of working definition they could give to a brand new person who just walked into the gym.
- How do you keep your fitness knowledge up to date? What do you do outside of coaching to improve your craft?
This is important because it will tell you how active they have been in their own growth process. If they have put in a lot of effort here (read books, taken additional courses, apprenticed, etc.), it will show that they’re passionate about coaching and have an interest beyond just a job. You’re looking for lifelong learners — people who can talk about nutrition, olympic lifting, and mobility with some confidence. Coaches who love to coach will nerd out about this stuff.
- What do you know about ___ (insert your gym’s name)? Why do you want to work with us?
This is a good way to hear the outside world’s view of your gym. It also separates the candidates who did their research from the ones who didn’t.
- What is your philosophy towards being a coach? In your opinion, what makes a good coach?
There are so many answers to this but in order for their answer to mean anything to you, you need to have an answer for this yourself.
- How would you approach a client who’s putting too much weight on their bar?
You need a leader who can kindly manage members’ expectations while also helping them achieve optimal fitness levels. Sometimes this means telling clients to remove some weight and focus on the mechanics, other times it means telling them to add weight and go harder.
- It’s a new member’s first day at the box. What questions do you ask him/her?
You are looking to see if they have done this before and if they are comfortable approaching strangers and starting a conversation.
- If a member has a ___ (insert body region) injury, what modifications do you recommend for ___ (insert movement).
Be looking for a movement that preserves the stimulus in whatever situation you give them. In other words, make sure they don’t sub sit-ups for pushups.
- Why did you become a CrossFit coach?
Its always good to hear peoples motivations so you can get a sense of where they are coming from.
- Why should I hire you?
Give them a chance to pitch themselves. To be a good coach, you have to be confident without being arrogant.
- Why did you leave your last job?
Just good to know. If it’s because they stabbed a member, maybe rethink hiring them.
- What do you think we are looking for in a coach?
It’s similar to the “Why should I hire you?” question, but this places more emphasis on qualities they think you value instead of focusing on what strengths they have and how that could benefit your program.
- Do you have any questions for me?
This should always be asked. Their questions will reveal a lot about what they’re looking for, where they’re at in life and what they’re focused on.
Follow Up and Test ‘Em
Are your spidey senses tingling? Do they seem like they could be a fit for your community?
Invite ‘em back to observe one of your most experienced coaches lead a class. Then put them in the hot seat by having them lead you, or if you are feeling good about them, let them lead your members through a session. If they pass that test, chances are you have a good one.
Next, I suggest giving the coach a one-month trial period before he/she is officially hired. After that first month, you should feel confident in your decision to keep them forever or to let them go.