Fitness Job Interview Steps To Success

So you’re a personal trainer looking for a job.  You have a personal trainer job interview coming up and you don’t know what to expect.  If this is you, you’re not alone, but don’t worry.  I’ve interviewed personal trainers before so let me try to demystify the job interview process so you are better prepared, know what to expect and improve your chances of getting that personal trainer job. After you read this, also see my post How to Be a Personal Trainer, where I give you advice on how to get into the business.


How Do I Get a Personal Trainer Job?

Before you get to the interview, you have to set it up right? Well maybe.  For a lot of people, getting a job in fitness may be as easy as walking in the door of your gym and having the fitness director say “do you want to be a personal trainer?”  I know that sounds odd, but trust me, that’s pretty much what happens at a lot of big chain gyms.  In fact it’s basically what happened to me too!  But, for a lot of other people, they have to go and search for a personal training job, so let’s now talk about some job interview steps to success to improve your chances of landing that job in fitness you’re looking for.


Getting A Fitness Job. How To Do It?

If you are looking to get a job as a personal trainer at a gym, odds are you probably have a few health clubs in mind that you want to apply to. This is what I suggest you do.  Have your resume in hand (put it in a pad folio for safe keeping) and walk into the gym and ask to speak to either the:

  • General Manager (GM) or the Fitness Director

These are the people who have the ability to hire personal trainers or to schedule an interview.

If you dont have a resume, here are my resume steps to success.

If neither the GM or Fitness Director is around, ask to speak to the Manager on Duty (“MOD”).  This is basically the shift manager who is in charge of things when nobody else is around.  They can probably either set up the interview or give you information about when the people in charge are around who can help you.

Sometimes you may be asked to complete an employment application right on the spot or you may be asked to come back another day to meet with the manager and complete an application.

If you are told to return at another day, make sure you show up on time for the interview.  Being punctual says to the gym manager that you are serious.

If you have several gyms that you are interested in, apply to all of them and then choose the position that’s best for you.  This way you don’t have to wait for any single gym to call you back.


The Fitness Job Interview Process

Most people get stressed when they go into the interview but they shouldn’t be.  Think of it this way:  The gym is looking to hire somebody and you are a worthwhile person and will be an asset to the gym so, “why not you!”.

Seriously, be proud of yourself and believe in yourself.  To help you along, here are some sure fire job interview tips to help you outshine your competition and make a great impression.


Look At The Gym Website

I’ll bet the gym you want to work at has a website.  Look it over and get a feel for what the gym is about.  If there is a list of personal trainers on the site, look them over and take notice of their specialties and certifications (and how they compare to yours).

If the health club is a big chain gym (Retro Fitness, Planet Fitness, etc.), try to find out statistics about the health club – how many gyms are out there, the mission statement of the health club, what kind of equipment is used, health club trivia, the name of the CEO etc.

For example, if you are applying at Bally Total Fitness, you better know who Jack Lallanne is – since he had a BIG role in the creation of Ballys.

Bottom line: employers take pride in their business and they like it when you know about what they do.


Dress Appropriately For The Job Interview

Sure, as a rule, personal trainers have a pretty casual dress code but that doesn’t mean you should go into the interview wearing jeans.  I suggest you wear something like shoes, khakis, and a nice buttoned shirt.

Unless you are interviewing to be a fitness director or general manager of a health club, I don’t think you need to wear a suit – unless the personal trainer job you are looking to get is at a ritzy, high class facility like Canyon Ranch etc.

For a lot of personal trainers, dressing for an interview can be a pain in the butt but trust me, this will help you stand out.  Most people who are interviewing for the job will not dress for the occasion.  So, if you do it, the employer will remember you!


The Fitness Resume

If you don’t have a fitness resume, create one.  It doesn’t have to be fancy and if this is the first personal trainer job you hope to get, odds are, you won’t have much work experience.  That’s ok.  The fact that you bring a personal trainer resume to the interview will help you outshine all the others who don’t bring a resume (most won’t).

I have already written about how to make a resume so read that for specific information and details.  Remember to keep the resume to about 1 page at the most.  Employers are just looking for a summary of your experience and expertise.  They will often ask you questions about what’s in the resume anyway, so summarize everything.

If your serious about being a successful personal trainer, your resume should contain your website. If you don’t have a website, its easy; just follow these steps and you’ll have a website in about an hour.

Fitness Job Interview Questions

What questions will you be asked during a personal trainer job interview?  I covered this stuff in chapter 12 of my book on personal training so if you have that book, check it out for more info.  If not, let me try to give you a heads up on some of the most common questions people get asked on job interviews – fitness job interviews too.

I suggest you think about these questions and come up with answers ahead of time.  That way you don’t get blindsided during the interview. Trust me, some of these interview questions WILL come up.

  • Why do you want to work for us?   You WILL be asked this!
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Why should we hire you for this job?
  • Why did you leave your last job?


This is actually pretty important stuff.  I don’t want you to stumble over your words during the interview, so please do think about the answers to these questions.  I suggest you write your answers out and say them in front of a mirror a few times so they seem natural.


Do You Have Any Questions?

At or near the end of the fitness job interview, the employer will ask you this very important question: “Do you have any questions for me?”. Most people say “no” but this is a huge mistake.  This is your moment to shine!

Do ask questions because this will say to your perspective employer that you have actually thought about his/her organization and are truly interested in what they do.

Where do you get these questions from?  Well, for one, checking the health club website can bring up all sorts of questions about the organization.

A few questions you might also want to ask include:

  • What is your philosophy of personal training?
  • How many members does the health club have?
  • What’s the average age of a member of the health club?
  • What do you feel is the biggest issue facing your fitness department today?
  • How many clients does your average personal trainer have?
  • How many clients does your average personal trainer see per day?
  • What is the split in revenue between the club and the personal trainer? Tip 50/ 50 is usually average.
  • How do personal trainers obtain their clients?
  • Are personal trainers only paid when doing personal training or is there an hourly wage also?
  • Do personal trainers with more fitness certs make more money per client?


Another question that I highly recommend you ask during the personal training interview is “what are your emergency procedures?” I guarantee that you will probably be the only person who EVER asked that question!

By asking this important question, it shows to the gym manager that you are thinking about what enviably WILL happen at the gym.  Sometimes people get injured – and unfortunately, sometimes people die  – during exercise.

Most personal trainers – especially newbies – don’t know this.  Unfortunately, the managers of health clubs are also GUILTY of never mentioning this fact either.

As a result, new personal trainers are totally caught off guard when something bad happens at the gym. Be prepared!

If anybody had ever asked me “what are your emergency procedures?” I would have hired them on the spot because that is someone who I could depend on if, God forbid, that terrible day happened.

Obviously if you ask this question about health club emergency procedures, you should have a CPR / AED certification so you can look good to the gym manager.

If the manager says “That’s a good question! I don’t know what the emergency procedures are” then this may not be a health club that you want to work at.  I’m not kidding.

Most health clubs in America -and their staff – are woefully unprepared for a medical emergency.

Read my review of Gym Emergency Procedures for more insights. I have a LOT to say about this…

After The Fitness Job Interview

This is another great way to outshine all the other people applying for the fitness position.  When you get home from the interview, write a hand written thank you letter to the person who interviewed you and mail it to them.  Just a few sentences is fine for the letter.  For example you might say:

Dear Mr. Hastings,

Thank you for the opportunity to interview for the position of personal trainer at Fitness Club One.  I will look forward to learning of your decision and hopefully working with you in the near future.


Sign your name

Remember, don’t email this to the person.  Mail it!  Also it’s very important to write the letter out – DON’T type the letter.

Hand-written Thank You say to employers that you took the time to do it – and that speaks volumes about you!


Those basically the high points of doing well on a job interview.  If you remember these points I am pretty sure you will make a good first impression and have a better chance of getting that personal training job, than people who just walked in the door of the health club and asked “are you hiring personal trainers?” Also see my post on how to be a personal trainer for more information as well as my post on how to get clients using Craigslist.

What do you think?


  1. Judy says

    Good advice! I would ask one more. Many times, personal trainers are expected to sell fitness packages. If that is the case, I would suggest asking if the company provides sales training, and if so, is the employee paid during that time.

    • Joe Cannon says

      That’s a good point Judy. I also would like to know if gyms give people sales training. Its a good question to ask before accepting the job!.

  2. Christallin says

    I sent a resume out this morning to Compel Fitness in Essex MD. They responded immediately and I have an interview there tomorrow at 3:00 P.M. I will use your tips. Do you think its appropriate to wear a white blouse and black skirt? I was going to wear yoga pants and a jacket to look the part but I’m rethinking this after your dress suggestion for men. What do you think? Maybe I can take the gym clothes with me in case they want me to demonstrate some exercises.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Christallin, what job are you applying for? personal trainer? If yes, dress nice, casual./professional I think what you said you would wear sounds fine and I like the idea of having gym clothes in your car just in case (you can even mention this to them during the interview as it will show your willingness to work there and show off what you know).
      I tried to look up Compel Fitness but they didn’t seem to have a website. That might have given you good info about them but since they are in your area you probably already know about them.
      just be yourself during the interview. The fact that you researched them this much so far – and they responded so fast to you says you will likely do well and they like what they see on paper. You are probably already standing out as the best candidate before you even step in the door!
      let me know how the interview goes.

  3. Christallin says

    Joe I just did some research and most agree that the interview is the place to display your professionalism first and foremost. The interview is the business negotiation and one must negotiate from a position of power. One’s appearance will convey that message. I was slightly confused coming from the mental health field where I would definitely wear a suit. But I’ll just tone it down a bit. Please keep me in your prayers for a successful fit. thanks!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Im sure you will be fine during the interview. Yes fitness is casual but I even fitness managers apprecaite it when people look presentable during an interview. I did manage to find a website for Compel here it is They look like a new chain. their website says they were started in 2008. That may be why their website didn’t show up when I googled them. I’m sure that will change in time.

  4. Christallin says

    Hi Joe. The interview went well, unfortunately the amount of pay they were offering was a cross between an insult and a joke. After I asked incredulously about the rate, the interviewer quickly offered me the Director of Personal Training position instead. He stated that that would probably be a good fit for me. We’ll see. I better stick to Life Span Coaching and Fitness for now!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Christallin, yes that’s a problem with fitness in the gyms, they often pay less than other sectors of the health care system. If you are doing well as a Life Span Coach than I say keep with it. Id also suggest you get a website and start blogging like I do. I have more fun blogging than you can imagine!

    • Bill Stovall says


      I’m glad you shared your experience. I too am scheduled for an interview with NYSC (NY Sports Club) tomorrow and am concerned about the pay. I’m currently in a Director role and am not looking to get rich, but I’m not looking to make minimum wage either. Can you share a little more about the range and the ultimate outcome?

  5. Christallin says

    Hi Joe. Yes, it is time for a website. Love writing. I do a lot of motivational writing, health, wellness, and beauty tips etc. on Facebook and I was the Pastoral Counseling Expert on the website. I have a lot to expound upon:)

    I cannot fathom how gyms have the audacity to expect people to have college degrees and all kinds of certificates in this, that, and the other and don’t want to pay people. Anyway, today was a great day and I am blessed. I have a new business card, I would send you a copy, but don’t know how. You new web site design looks great!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Thanks Im just looking over the website now and starting my tweaking. It will allow me to send out newsletters a lot more frequently than I currently do which is once a month. Yes I know about gyms and pay dont get me started lol. Ill send you an email if you want to send me your biz card

  6. kalen says

    Hey Joe!

    This was the first article I came across when I did my google search and I have to say this answered many of my questions. I recently just finished a course in personal training and now I’ve started my internship required for the certification. I called around to some local gyms asking if they do these internships, some said no and some just didn’t return my call. I gave Bally’s Total Fitness a call 2 days later and a manager contacted me and we made a date to meet. I was excited and nervous at the same time. This is something that I wanted to do for a long time, so I was kind of nervous for the interview. Anyway, I went in and met with the manager for about 30 minutes and surprisingly he didn’t ask me any questions at all, not even “Why Bally’s.”

    I was kind of surprised by this. All in all, during the two days I met with the manager I realized they are all about business and getting people to sign up to a package, and not really whether or not I was certified. Needless to say I filled out some paperwork including an application and he explained to be that he will send my paperwork out and tells me to give him a call in a week or so.

    I feel a little skeptical about this, but this is something I really want to do. I know a big part of being a personal training is selling yourself, but I just don’t want to go into something that will not allow me to show my skills as a personal trainer but rather my selling skills, I would have applied for an insurance company. Is this how most gyms operate? Will I benefit in the long run?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Kalen, glad I’m showing up fast in Google searches! Ballys is interesting because they do tend to be very “sales” oriented. Recently 171 Bally Total Fitness clubs were taken over by LA Fitness. I wonder if this has to do with the Bally business model. Ask the manager of your Ballys if your club is one of the clubs that has been taken over by LA Fitness. If yes, LA Fitness corporate may have some additional steps you may need to take. As for your interview I am very surprised that the manager did not ask you about your certs etc. that’s definitely not how it usually goes. Sometimes the big chain clubs put people in managerial positions who don’t know much about running a health club; rather they are just good at sales and managing people. Its possible that the person who interviewed you did not know anything about fitness or different fitness certifications. A good check of this is to ask the manager some personal training questions and see if they know the answers.

      Having said all this don’t be nervous and don’t worry about any of this. You will probably have to attend regular Bally fitness personal training meetings (ugh!) but overall look at this as a learning experience. learn as much from them as you can – what you think they do right and wrong – as this will help you in the future. Also ask about who you will get clients. will the sales people give them to you – or will you have to get them yourself. If the sales people pass out leads, make friends with them as this can help you 😉 Overall, look at this as a learning experience and you will be fine. Ballys has been having problems for a while now and they need you more than you need them. Keep me posted on what happens :)

    • Bill Stovall says


      Thanks for sharing. I’ve been a long time member of Ballys and noticed a change over the last few years thats consistent with your description. Like you, I’m in “internship” phase and have seen mixed results with responses with call backs. Tomorrow, I’m meeting with NY Sports Club. How’s your transition going?

  7. Brendan says

    Thanks again for your class, I actually got hired recently as a PT at Sport Fit in Laurel. Its all exciting and a new change from waiting tables. Your website helped a lot for when i went into the interview. And your book continues to give me new information.

  8. wilfrid adjanohoun says

    hi Joe
    All your tips are definitely great. I will have an interview next monday, after reading this, i feel better prepared and more confident. i will have, i am sure a successful interview.
    Thank you Joe

    • Joe Cannon says

      Wilfrid, thanks for your kind words and do let me know how your interview goes and if there was any part of the interview that I didn’t mention. That would be great if you could do that and good luck!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Renee, the same things apply to front desk. check out their website and see what the club is about. ask them if there is room for advancement (sales etc) and do you get a commission if somebody renews there membership at the front desk.
      Also ask them what are their emergency procedures especially. you will be the nerve center or very much associated with the nerve center if something bad happens at the gym. Atfer you have your interview will you write back and let me know how it went and what questions they asked you. Id really apprecaite it if you did.
      Good luck on the interview!! :)

  9. says

    Great advice, working out at your prospective fitness club/gym can be a great way to network with the management. They will be able to see you are friendly, serious about fitness, and that you are knowledgeable about your own fitness regimen. On your way in or out of the club you can simply strike up a casual conversation with the GM or fitness director if they are out on the floor and get yourself known… without them even knowing. I was able to land a great starting job at my own gym, and eventually moved up to building manager, it all started by being a friendly patron.

  10. Matt says

    My Dad’s coworker got an interview set up for me at International fitness in Boise, ID that just opened in May of this year. It’s not for any particular position, the manager just wants to know my background in that field. How should I prepare for the interview and what should I expect during the interview?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Matt, Id have a resume ready for the interview. Since you dont know what job you’d be interviewing for just make your “objective” on the resume general, like “I am looking to gain more knowledge about the health and wellness industry.” You didn’t tell me your background/education ect so list everything on your resume. If you dont have a cert or background I doubt they will put you through a mock workout.

      I think the interview will probably last a few minutes, just to get to know you better and get an idea of where they might be able to have you help them.

  11. ikram says

    Hey Joe! what about when the fitness directed says that he will call you and set up a training session where i will have to train him??? I want to be fully prepared on the scenario that he will give me and i want to prove that i can do it even thou i have only one certification for AAAI. I need some advice and tips.

    • Joe Cannon says

      ikram, first off dont deprecate yourself that you only have one AAAI cert. its not the cert that matters. its what the person knows. That said, this is what I suggest.

      1. before the manager ask them if they have any health issues or issues to neck, shoulders knees, elbows or low back. you need to know about injuries before the workout. Ask the manager if you should assume they have already completed the health history form. if they say no, tell them to get it and fill it out.

      2. if they are basically healthy (they likely will be) put them through a circuit training program (1 set per body part) with 8-12 different exercises. remember to warm them up first. I doubt if your mock workout will last an hour
      (or even 30 minutes).

      3. if they say you didnt push them hard enough tell them that since you didnt know them well you didnt want to run the risk of causing rhabdomyolysis to occur – odds are the fitness director has no idea what this is and if they dont, you just showed them how smart you are 😉

      let me know how it goes!

      • Mikki says

        Thanks for this reply, Joe! I needed it. I have two interviews tomorrow and I’m nervous. For both I will be training other trainers. I am newly certified so I’m still fresh to the water.

  12. J.J. says

    Hi Joe,

    I’m in the process of interviewing for a personal trainer job at a gym. I’ve read through your interview preparation article but didn’t see when it is appropriate to ask about how much you will earn per hour when training clients.

    Should you wait for the interviewer to bring it up? Wait for the 2nd interview before asking?

    Also, for the on floor assessment part of the interview what should I expect to encounter

    • Joe Cannon says

      good question and Im glad you asked! If the interviewer does not bring up the topic of salary by the middle or end of the interview, you should. If they dont bring it up just ask the question “may I ask about the compensation?” If you are interviewing for a personal trainer position they will probably give you a salary as well as a commission pay (that you get for personal trainer sessions). They will often lump these two together to make it sound more jucy. For example they may say something like “if you do X personal training sessions per week, this will amount to $$$ per year.”

      Don’t be too impressed with the total yearly salary they toss at you because doing XX personal trainer sessions per week is not guaranteed (only the salary is guaranteed). You might do it and you might not do it.

      Also ask about health insurance if you are working full time. See if there is 401K too if you are full time (ask if they match your contributions if you take advantage of the 401K).

      As for the hands on floor assessment part of the interview, you may get it or not. Sometimes they will bring you in another time to do it. If they do want you to put them through a mock workout, follow these steps

      1. make sure they have filled out health history forms first (ask them “should I assume you completed the health history forms, PAR Q, waiver etc?”)

      2. if yes ask if they have any medical issues (if yes you need to take them into account)

      3. easiest program to do is a circuit program. If they ask why, tell them since you dont know them, you dont want to risk rhabdomyolysis. Odds are they wont know what that is so you just showed them how smart you are :)

      Hope that helps!

  13. J.J. says

    Thanks for all the information and for taking the time to answer, Joe!

    As far as the word “rhabdomyolysis”, I can barely pronounce it much less know what it means, so I’ll probably not mention it to avoid a confused look on the interviewer’s face!

    • Joe Cannon says

      JJ, I show you how to pronounce it in my post on rhabdo. Don’t worry about pronunciation because most wont know what it is anyway. just trust me. you could pronounce it completely correctly and they will still be confused. Use this as a way to turn the tables on them and teach them something!

      if you teach them something they will always remember you – forever. That’s what you want!

  14. J.J. says


    What should I expect from a 2nd interview (floor assessment) with a larger chain gym?

    I’ll be meeting with the head trainer. Will it be demonstrating exercises for him/her. Should I have a pre-set routine in mind beforehand? (i.e.warmup/stretch/resistance training/cooldown)


    • Joe Cannon says

      JJ, just follow the steps I mentioned above and you should be ok. Don’t be intimidated by the title “head trainer” because often thats just somebody who generates the most revenue or who oversees the training department. head trainer does not always mean the smartest trainer.

      Odds are they wont worry about you warming them up or cooling them down or stretching. They are mostly concerned with you properly showing people how to do different exercises. They want to see if you know what you are doing. If you know how to properly perform the exercises, know the major muscles used, give helpful tips / feedback during the workout you will be ok.

      If anything different than this happens, please do let me know.

  15. J.J. says


    It pretty much went how you described above. After a brief interview, I had to demonstrate to the head trainer a variety of exercises.
    They said they would let me know in a few days but I was wondering if I should send a quick e-mail to thank them for their time and see if they decided to hire me yet. Is that being pushy or is that showing initiative? Or is it better to wait and let them call me?

    • Joe Cannon says

      J.J., Good Im glad I was on target with that.

      Writing a little thank you note is a good idea. Some interview experts say its good to actually write the note and mail it to them rather than email (sending via real mail says you put more though into it). I think either way is good because most people would not do this (so odds are they will remember you).

      Don’t ask for the job in the note just say you really appreciated the person taking the time to meet with you and you look forward to hearing from them in the near future.

      let me know if you get the job!

  16. J.J. says


    Unfortunately, they said they’re not bringing new people on-board currently but for me to try back again.

    Since I’m having no luck with the big box gyms, I might look into doing mobile training. (Who knows? maybe it’s a sign!)

    Thanks for your great website and tips, you were very helpful!

    • Joe Cannon says

      J.J. dont worry about it. there are plenty of gyms out there. keep asking. I still think YMCAs are a good place to work as are Jewish community centers too so try them also.

      Before plunking down any money for mobile training certs make sure you investigate them (there are certs and organizations out there). Im not sure if there are any mobile training organizations out there that are considered the “best”. Its a very wide open field.

      keep me posted…

  17. Jae says

    Hi Joe, I wish I had discovered this website sooner!
    I recently interviewed for a Personal Trainer position at 24 Hour Fitness. I wasn’t sure what dress I should wear, so I decided to trust my instinct with a business suit (it felt like an overkill, but better safe than sorry, I guess.)

    The interview questions were fairly standard from what I expected, with hypothetical questions asked at the end of my interview.
    I didn’t want to ask anything about how they pay their trainers because I didn’t want the fitness manager to think that I was already guaranteed for the position. Coming from my Teaching background, we negotiate our pay after we’ve been accepted for the job.

    I went to follow up on the job, but the fitness manager told me during the interview that he was in the recruitment process and will make the final decision this coming Friday. Should I still follow up on the job position and send an email thanking him for the job interview? (He prefers email because it’s more easily accessible to him when he’s not training a client.)

    • Joe Cannon says

      Jae, Yes I would still send an email thanking him for the interview. I’m sure he was impressed with your business suit too. Nothing wrong with a suit during an interview.

      Don’t be shy asking about the pay during the interview in the future. After all you dont want to waste your time if they are not paying a salary that you cant support yourself with.

      Glad you found my site Jae :)

  18. Brendan says

    I asked about the emergency procedures and the guy looked at me like I was crazy and said “dial 911”.
    I don’t have a good feeling about this interview to say the least…

    • Joe Cannon says

      Brendan, interesting. So the guy who interviewed you could not show you any specific emergency procedures at that club? Health clubs need to have these emergency policies in place. just calling 911 wont be enough. what does the staff do in th meantime? just sit there and do nothing??

      What gym was this if you dont mind me asking?

      • Brendan says

        Big Sky Fitness in New Britain, CT. I was very surprised because it was one of the nicest facilities I had ever seen and he seemed very knowledgeable and professional up to that point.

        • Joe Cannon says

          Brendan, shocking. Sounds like they don’t have any emergency protocol in place. If you get the job, maybe that is something you can bring up to them. their members deserve it.

          • Brendan says

            I agree, I don’t think that facility would be a great fit for me.

            On another note, I had a more successful interview today at Healthtrax. This particular facility is very focused on sales and I was asked more questions regarding my ability to sell training packages than my training ability.

            The interview went well and I was immediately invited back for a second, but this will be a practical interview in which I will need to put a manager through a sample workout and then attempt to sell a personal training package to the fitness director. I have noticed these practical interviews are pretty common and was wondering if perhaps you could touch upon that as well.

            I am thinking maybe just a basic circuit style full body routine

          • Joe Cannon says

            Brendan, yes its hard to go wrong with a circuit routine for people you dont know the health history of.

  19. J.J says

    Hey Joe!

    Thanks for your advice/tips in preparing for job interviews in the fitness field. I was fortunate to find work at a gym and appreciate your insights and help.

  20. Holly says

    What would you do differently if you were applying for the GM position of a club?
    I have to do a workout tomorrow…They are just assessing how comfortable I am in the gym. Not level of fitness.

    Any suggestions of how I should handle that? I’m guessing weights and then treadmill? Should I do total body or just focus on one thing?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Holly, I’d do a full body workout. Pretend you are showing the person their first “free / intro” workout. That way you will show them a bunch of different things. They may ask you questions during th workout so be prepared for that. I’m guessing they want to see how comfortable you are in front of other people as well as how comfortable you are on difference pieces of equipment. Just be your self and don’t worry about the other gym members.

      As for what would I do if I were applying for the GM position. Is that what you are applying for? I’d think about where the club is now (membership, staff morale, staff retention etc) and where it might be in the future -and give them some ideas of how how I could help get them to that point. let me know how things go and good luck!

  21. Heidi says

    Does fitness experience other than certifications count in job offerings? I do powerlifting and olympic lifting. I have participated in several meets. Would mentioning this be beneficial in an interview?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Heidi, yes since you have special experience yes bring this up in the interview and also listed it on your resume also. you will still need a personal trainer certification however. exercise or not, having a cert is pretty much standard in the fitness industry.

  22. Shannon says

    Hi Joe. I really liked this article, I have an interview at Planet fitness, and I truly didn’t know what to wear. So I went with a chic look, I decided to wear a sun dress with my gym shoes. Hopefully I’ll get the job!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Shannon, I think that is an ideal choice. Keep me posted if you get the job. Do me a favor also and if they do hire you, let me know if Planet Fitness teaches you what to do if a medical emergency happens. They just got into hot water recently because of a terrible case of a young girl who died at a planet fitness. the front desk person didnt seem to know what to do. Im always curious about the emergency training health clubs give fitness staff and those who work at the front desk.

  23. Cristina says

    Hello Joe,

    I’m sure you don’t remember me considering how many seminars and certifications you do…I took your personal trainer certification course on march of 2013. I got certified so that I could have a part-time job on the side. I was working with TSA at the time. So basically I was put in a position where I had to quit from TSA and saw my financial future in jeopardy. This happened a few days ago…I came home with no job and no prospects of having anything else lined up.

    Well, thanks to you and your wonderful advice (20 questions for personal trainer interview) I was able to walk in a new gym that just opened 2 weeks ago and got hired on the spot!

    I will be getting paid full time plus commission (way more than TSA), its right next to my house (yay! no more driving 3hrs a day) and I get the same health benefits! I have to say thank you…thank you for blogging, writing and especially that last tip (what are the gym’s security measures). That made a huge difference in the interviewer’s eyes and was able to get that job within days of me leaving my other one.

    Thank You Joe!!


    • Joe Cannon says

      Christina, THANK YOU for writing and congratulations on getting a job that that quickly. For what its worth, I wouldn’t like driving 3 hours everyday either! I’m really glad asking about the gyms security/emergency procedures made such an impact on the person doing the interview also.

      Keep me posted on your progress and I do remember you from the class I taught also :)

  24. dnj says

    What would be the best way in going about making a demo? I have an interview coming up as a group fitness instructor, and they require a short demo of what the class will be about. I have so much I would like to say and do, but I need to sort of condense everything into a 15 minute time slot.

    Any suggestions?

    Thank you :)

    • Joe Cannon says

      DNJ, I admit I dont know much about group fitness certs as that’s not what I do but Id say treat the demo as you would a regular group fitness class. Don’t try to condense everything you’d do to 15 minutes but rather just start out by saying “if this were a real class, I’d do XYZ” and so on. That way you get the preliminary stuff out of the way. Then do what you’d normally do in the class. Try to get the manager and whoever else is there to join in the class demo with you. That way they are not just watching you but also taking part in the demo as well.

      does that help?

  25. Abraham says

    Halla Joe
    thnx 4 all these tips it’s like I have got the job before going to the interview. My dress code is now covered all thnx to u.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Abraham, you are very welcome! I’m happy I was able to help and good luck on the interview! Let me know how it goes :)

  26. Atrjr says

    Great piece on the interview process, I am a new personal trainer and trying to start my career. I am a little nervous about my interview tomorrow because it a totally different industry for me. Its at a YMCA, so I don’t know what to expect. I am actually going to head out and grab your book too. But is there anything different I should be aware of from a YMCA to a gym?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Atrjr, one of the big differences between most gyms and the YMCA is that the Y is a non-profit organization while most gyms are “for profit.” You might try to work that into your interview somehow to show them that you are aware of this. They might like to hear that you think the way they think – more about helping people than profits.

      I think you’ll like my book and do let me know how the interview goes tomorrow :)

  27. lindsey says

    Hey Joe! What a wonderful resourceful website you have for new and future fitness professionals!! I’m in the process of switching careers ( pe teacher to trainer) and a lot of interviews…actually all of them have follow up with a “give me a workout”. Not that I’m not confident in providing skills coaching exercises etc.. it is just difficult to know where they start off for weights, reps sets given the closed scenario.

    I went thru one with warm ups and circuits but he said lets just pretend I’m warmed up. This next one is 30-45 min with “no contraindications and looking to lose weight and build strength” scenario. Without knowing their history, initial assessments etc is it OK to create a circuit, full body push pull legs and core , 3 sets, 12 rep with cardio at end and dynamics to warm up.

    Like I said it just gets tricky setting reps sets intensity without knowing what stage they are in and aiming for. Any advice on presenting general circuits to fit for interview, and how that’s deemed “appropriate”? Thank u so much in advance.!! Keep rockin!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Lindsey, I understand your reservation to provide a mock workout for someone you don’t know and I think you touch on an issue that I dont think we in fitness think too much about. What are our liabilities if we – a person applying for a job at a gym -are asked to put a total stranger through a workout, without us getting medical clearance or reviewing their health history. This is something that happens in gyms all over the world every day as people apply for jobs.

      You can put what I know about the law in a thimble (and have room left over) but I believe that if you did a mock workout with a gym manager and the manager was injured somehow (or had a heart attack), that their health club insurance would cover them. I dont believe you would have any issues either because the gym manager gave you permission beforehand. If you already have personal trainer liability insurance, it will usually cover you anywhere -including applying for a job (you can always call them to ask). I’m sure an attorney could give a much better idea of this.

      One thing you might try is make a little “waiver” yourself and have the gym manager sign it before you put him/her through the mock workout. The document would be simply worded (1-2 sentences) and say something like “I am healthy and I give Lindsey permission to put me through a mock workout as part of my evaluation of her skills as a personal trainer during our job interview process.” Have them sign and date it.

      I’m sure the manager would look at you as if you were from outer space, but you could say to them that the workout might be aggressive and since you are not yet an employee of the gym -and know nothing about their personal health history – you want to protect yourself. This could actually work to your advantage because it says to the gym manager that you think ahead and are professional.

      That said, I’ve never heard of a trainer hurting a gym manager etc. during a mock workout. I’ve also never heard of any law suits from this either.

      I’m sure some people will read this and think I’ve lost my mind. I’ve never heard of anyone doing this during a job interview, but you got me thinking about this and, being the “worst case scenario:” guy I am, I wonder if this might be appropriate? I know an attorney could speak much more intelligently on this than I am. I’ll see if I can find one to address this.

      I do think your idea of doing a circuit training workout is appropriate. Even if they say no contraindications, you can tell them that since over 80% of people who hire trainers are beginners (and women over 40) a circuit training program would be most appropriate for this population.

      Hope that helps Lindsey. Keep me posted on how things are going for you!

  28. bryan blade says

    Awesome article, I’m heading down to my personal trainer interview Next Monday, and i sure hope this helps , thanks a lot.

    PS: this has been bugging me for a while, but do personal trainers instruct groups like group fitness instructors? Or is it usually one-on-one? Is a Group fitness instructor certificate required? Cuz I’ve seen some trainers instructing groups , while some don’t

    • Joe Cannon says

      Bryan, some gyms require personal trainers to have a group fitness instructor cert before teaching a group class just the same way as gyms probably will require a group fitness instructor to have a personal trainer cert before working with people one-on-one. That said, some gyms may be relax in this especially if they are short staffed. I feel who ever teaches personal training or group classes should have current certifications to do so because they are often different forms of instruction. While there are exceptions to almost every rule, the stuff group fitness instructors learn usually does not include instructions on how to do different free weight/machine exercises. Personal trainers are usually not good at teaching group classes either esp those that have a lot of choreography or which contain large groups of people.

      Good luck on your interview and let me know how it turns out!

      • bryan blade says

        Thanks, btw, is it possible they might come up with a random scenario to test your skills and knowledge? Let’s say , you’re training an obese client, and they want you to provide a workout program immediately for that client.

        • Joe Cannon says

          Bryan, yes its possible – and I think they will do this. Generally when faced with a scenario like this, I recommend circuit training as its the safest and often best to use with special populations. who are you certified by?

          • bryan blade says

            I am ACE certified, just a few months ago, and I know I’m not as experienced as others when it comes to dealing with “special populations” , such as those with Diabetes, lower back pain, hypertension, asthma and such. I only read about them, but i never trained a client with such conditions before.

          • Joe Cannon says

            Bryan, ACE is a fine and respected cert and I dont think you’ll have a problem finding a job or getting this job next week. As long as you are willing to learn about special populations as you train them you will be fine. A very good book about them is the ACSM chronic diseases and conditions book. I like this book because it gives very nice summaries of the conditions, how to test them and how to train them

            The ACE special populations book is also very good and devotes entire chapters to a bunch of special needs groups.

            I own both of these and recommend to them to all trainers to have in their libraries.

            you might also like my other post, Certified But Never Trained Anyone for more info on what might show up in your interview.

  29. Tyler Gosley says

    Joe, this is an awesome site. It has helped me create my fitness resume and gain the confidence I need to rock my interviews. I just left my small business in Vermont to move to California to learn more about the trade. Im applying to everywhere and I got my first interview tomorrow at Stevenson Fitness. Your advice has been taken to heart. Thanks again.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Tyler, that’s fantastic! I am SO glad I was able to help you! Keep me posted on how things are going too :)

      • Tyler Gosley says

        Hey Joe, the interview went awesome. Much different than i was used to. They did a joint interview where I was interviewed with another job candidate. I actually think it worked out in my favor. Before I could send out my thank you letter, i received an email from them today (not even 24 hours since my interview) asking if I could come in and join a small group training session and then train one of their trainers. I take it this is a good thing.

          • Tyler Gosley says

            Hey Joe, I just wanted to let you know that I officially got offered and I accepted the job at Stevenson Fitness. Its a perfect fit for me and once again I have to thank you for your amazing blogs. They definitely helped. THANK YOU!!!

  30. Jen Bauer says

    I have a second interview which entails me assisting with a group Bootcamp style actual class. The ower will be assessing how I would ‘fit’ into their facility as a training coach. I believe the clients’ reactions to my style will pretty much determine whether I am offered a position. This will also be my first time training clients that are not family or friends. I believe the majority of the clients are 40ish moms. Any advice?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Jen, don’t worry about the reactions of the people in the class. just be yourself and teach the class and see what happens. No reason to make you over-think this. I’ve always said teaching a group class is harder than one-one-one personal trainer. Few thoughts about it:

      Be sure to tell the people to work at their own pace
      I’m a fan of using the RPE scale to gauge exercise intensity

      Since you mentioned bootcamp, you need to be aware about rhabdomyolysis. if you are not, here is my review of rhabdo. Do read the comments too. I would not be surprised if even the people who run the gym don’t know about it. If you can work rhabdo into your conversion with the gym management, this may be a way for you to rise to the top (most trainers dont know what it is).

      Let me know what happens.

  31. Jen Bauer says

    Joe thanks so much for the information. I am currently studying to take my CPT exam through ACSM and just briefly read about this and I’m not sure if this topic is discussed in their materials in further detail. I can let you know once I’m done studying and reviewing all of their materials.

    I was pleasantly surprised that I knew what you were talking about, which means I am retaining. I was also surprised how much more serious this is and how trainers can do some serious damage if not properly educated. Thanks for the quick reply and I’ll check back after the interview.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Jen, thanks and yes do let me know if ACSM covers it. My book –Personal Fitness Training Beyond The Basics – was the first in the US to cover rhabdo.
      Im so glad you are retaining the material!! :)

      keep me posted on how you are doing with ACSM. After you finish the test, I would like to interview you for my site so your insights can help others who are studying for ACSM.

  32. Jen Bauer says

    I will absolute keep you posted on the upcoming interview. As for answering any questions you have regarding ACSM, I’d be happy to when I’m done studying and certified. However, I currently work 40 hours a week, have 2 kids, workout 6 days a week and my professional background is legal not science. This means it may take a while :-)

    Thanks for the tips.

      • Jennifer Bauer says

        Hi Joe! I am finished, passed the ACSM-CPT last week after a slight detour through Action’s certification. I basically took Action as a gauge to see how well my paralegal brain was comprehending anatomy, biology and the science involved with designing safe effective programs. If you are still interested in interviewing me regarding the ACSM’s coverage of Rhabdomyolysis as well as Action’s coverage I’d be happy to speak with you.



      • Joe Cannon says

        margie, in that case, id say yes. If you have the group exercise cert that might make you more valuable to a gym because they can have you more stuff -teach classes and do personal training.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Margie, Some gyms may pay more to trainers who have more certs but not always. Having a group exercise cert and a CPT cert does mean you can do more stuff so in that way a trainer might make more money. It depends.

  33. Margie says

    Thank you for the reply.. I have had a few interviews but no bites yet… I’m gonna keep going… I love this blog no will keep you posted…

  34. Marcus says

    Hi Joe,

    My name is Marcus and I recently was hired as a trainer for compel fitness. I will be making 18 dollars and hour and I am certified with NCCPT. Compel is an organization that provides the clientele for their trainers.

    Do you think that 18 per hour is a good starting rate for a trainer working for a chain gym? Also I was able to attain my NCCPT cert for free through the gym I work for now, do you think that means they are invested in a trainer such as myself?

    I start work this Tuesday and I will be shadowing the training director. I would really like to bring home a lot of income this winter. I also have a certification with aaai/isma, do you think I should be paid more for having 2 certifications?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Marcus, will you be making $18 for every hour you are at the gym or $18 per hour for only the personal training sessions you do? If its $18 for hour, every hour, then that is not too bad for just starting out. If on the other hand its $18 for ONLY the time you are doing personal training, then that also is not too bad to start although Id ask if you are also getting paid when you are not doing personal training (is there a different rate for training vs non training hours?).

      Some gyms pay more to trainers who have more than one cert, while others dont. Some gyms pay more to trainers who generate the most training income while others don’t. There is no firm rule here. Each gym will have its own policy.

      I’m glad you will start out shadowing the personal training director. that’s preferable if you have no training experience.

      • Marcus says

        Hi Joe,

        This is Marcus again.I will be getting paid 18 dollars per hour of training sessions. Each training session is back to back and is 30 minutes . No training session is allowed to exceed 30 minutes. With all that said let me know what you think.

        I am also getting my exercise science degree in one more year of schooling and I would like to get my CSCS. What are some ways to study and prepare my self within this year to be ready to sit for that exam?

        My last question to you is, what do you think about receiving a masters degree in strength and conditioning? I have a idea that I want to chase my dreams and of becoming a football strength coach guru.

        • Joe Cannon says

          Hi Marcus
          If the gym gets you the clients, then making $36/ hour is not bad for a gym trainer. If you have to get your own clients then you might not be making that much each hour. Will you be paid for time that you are not training, ie, if you are doing “floor time?” That is good question to ask. I’d hate if you were not paid if you were not doing personal training.

          when prepping for the CSCS, I recommend you get the NSCA book and the pack of practice tests they offer. I dont think you need anything other than that. that is what I used.

          who offers a MS in strength and conditioning? Ive never heard of that type of degree. Is that a certification organization or a college degree? Have you ever spoken with a football strength coach about how to do this? that might save you a lot of time and money. If you dont know any, call up a local college and find one. Another option is to look them up in Linkedin.

          Have a great NYE and 2015 :)

  35. Marcus says


    They showed me the position as $18 per hour and I have an hour to train two clients. All sessions are 30 minutes. I do not get paid for floor hours and the management provide the clientele.

    George Washington University has a MS program with a concentration in strength and conditioning. I think the program is fairly new. Thank you So much for your insight Joe. You are very helpful. Please give me your thoughts on these two subject matters.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Marcus, lets see how it goes with the job. If they can give you clients it has potential to make you some money. If they want you to spend time there trying to get clients – while not making money – then it might not be. Give it a few weeks and see what happens. Speak to the other trainers there about how they feel about the program and how long they have worked there. If they have worked there long, it might mean there is long term earning potential.

      Before spending money on the MS program – and possibility going into debt – speak to some people who are now doing what you want to do. You can find these people on and the university might also have coaches to speak with you also.

  36. says

    This is an older post, but since I have my first PT interview tonight, I’m getting a little worried! I have 0 experience in the field – professionally, anyway. I’m at least interviewing at the gym I’ve been going to for over 4 years, so that helps. However, I will have to have a 2nd interview that is a practical assessment, and since I have never trained anyone or even had my own personal training session, I have NO idea what is expected of me.

    Am I supposed to know how to create a workout session for someone right off the bat?? Or does each gym have their own standard thing going on? All of a sudden, I feel like I don’t have a clue about working out, but yet the gym is my crack. haha.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Nikki, have you been certified in personal training? If no, then I wonder why the gym is even considering you for a personal trainer posistion if you dont, as you say “have a clue.” If you have been certified, who are you certified by? I’m just curious and depending on the organization I may be able to help give you insights. Whats the name of the gym? that might also help me give you an idea of what to expect.

      Nice website by the way – love the name :)

      • says

        Thanks:) I just got my CPT through NASM. It’s Lifetime Fitness. I’m probably freaking out more than necessary…I feel like shadowing would help put me at ease, so hopefully they do that!

        • Joe Cannon says

          Will Run :) Im sure NASM covered program design so you may be over thinking this. They may have you put somebody (manager etc) through a mock workout to see how you do. this wont be a problem. just do a circuit and be sure to tell them which muscles are used and common mistakes. it shouldn’t take more than 20- 30 min if they do this. Since this is your first job I do feel shadowing other trainers for a couple of weeks is a great idea. Ask to shadow their “best” trainer and remember the best trainer is not the one who generates the most income or who has the most clients :)

          Keep me posted on how it goes tonight too!

  37. Angel says

    Hey joe. I’m 18 and have only recently attained my trainer certification through issa. I have little experience training clients. I was wondering if my age would be a downside when applying for a trainer position.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Angel, While its possible in some circles for people to judge you based on your age, we all have to start somewhere so I would not let that stop me. I think the best defense against this is to be totally professional when you are in the gym. If you conduct yourself in that way, then I believe that will far than make up for any issues that might, in theory,arise.

  38. Steve Cole says

    Hi Joe,

    I wanted some advice in regards to a practical training session as part of the interview process. I notice that you recommend doing a circuit training program. I am curious to know what you definition of circuit training actually is?

    Are you talking about body weight exercises (8-12 exercises) 30 seconds rest at the end of each circuit (x3) or doing machine based training (maybe a combination of both) Would you train men or women differently?

    Could you for example, suggest a suitable program?

    I appreciate your help and congratulations on your website

    • Joe Cannon says

      Steve, a circuit could be any number of exercises but is usually 8-12 different exercise stations that target the major muscle groups. rest periods of 30 sec or less are usually used. As a rule they are usually safest for special populations, cause the least DOMS and will let you demonstrate a variety of exercises in a short period of time. While they could use body-weight movements, they don’t have to. Generally they can involve any combination of machine, body-weight, free wt or cardio exercises. they are limited only by your imagination.

      Are you prepping for for a gym interview?

  39. Cris Strong says

    That was a great article! At this point I don’t really have a lot of experience, although I am a certified personal trainer. I think what really stuck out was not my education/training. I think they responded well to my sections on “Volunteering & Community Involvement”, “Accomplishments & Award” and at the end I had a “Personal Summary”.

    Your section on having questions to ask them, and the emergency plan were awesome! I totally blew the Fitness Manager away! She had transferred from another gym just a couple months ago and realized she did not know of a plan. She immediately made a note to find it out!

    Thank you so much for your help!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Cris, that is fantastic! Thanks so much for letting me know. I’m so glad I was able to help you :)

Leave a Reply and Join The Conversation.