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How to Nail a Job Interview

How to Nail a Job Interview | American Council on Exercise | Exam Preparation Blog | 3/20/2013


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For many newly certified pros, the first interview with an employer can be extremely intimidating. First of all, what are you supposed to wear? Do they care about your educational background, or is it more about personality? We asked Elizabeth Minton, Director of Personal Trainer Development at Equinox, to answer some of our new pros’ frequently asked questions about the interview process for a fitness professional. Elizabeth offers great insight into what employers are looking for in new trainers, as well as some Do’s and Don’ts during the interview process.


If we’re interviewing at a gym, should we dress in gym clothes or business casual?

Unless the employer specifically says fitness attire, I would recommend business casual—you can't go wrong that way. Some of our applicants come in business suits and it's nice to see that they have respect for us as a potential employer, as well as the desire to represent themselves professionally.


How should we prepare for the interview?

Practice sales skills. Many applicants that come are prepped to articulately express their education highlights and "passion" for fitness and a healthy lifestyle—and certainly, these are exceptionally important in becoming successful. They neglect, however, to prep for questions regarding how they will leverage their passion to create a viable business for themselves—in other words, selling and recognizing that we need to "sell" our expertise.


Do you prefer we bring a resume or a portfolio with us?

Absolutely—bring extra copies of your résumé. Portfolios are nice, too, particularly with client testimonials and success stories, but make sure to be sensitive to time by only showing one or two of your top accomplishments.


What do you look for in a Personal Trainer?

  • Do you prefer a college education?
    Yes, but a sincere desire to learn (especially on-going learning) is much more important.
  • What personality types do you look for?
    We look more for characteristics than types—genuine, social, outgoing, fun to be around—though these traits need to be balanced with being professional and driven.  Clients  pay to spend time with a trainer  two to four hours per week, so we have to ask ourselves, "Do we want to be around this person more?" and we usually have a good gut answer.
  • Do you prefer that we have previous experience and, if so, where do you prefer we get this if we just recently got certified?
    Previous experience is helpful when it comes to understanding the lifestyle of a trainer and how much hard work one must put in to create and maintain a full roster of clients. That being said,  candidates who  bring negative habits or jaded attitudes from past employment are undesirable. Some of our best and most successful trainers are ones that we have developed from the beginning of their careers. At the end of the day, it probably comes down to the individual.
  • Do you prefer we have our own liability insurance?
    It's always a good idea.


What are some Do’s and Don’ts when responding to interview questions?


  • Listen to what is being asked and answer that question—going off on tangents is usually a sign that you are unfocused and not listening.
  • Have two to three key points as to why you should be hired and make sure to work them into your answers (where they fit, of course!).


  • Talk over the interviewers—let them finish their questions and thoughts fully before responding.


What are some Do’s and Don’ts with regards to body language during an interview?


  • Make eye contact. This is huge—especially if there are multiple interviewers.
  • Smile! It's amazing how many candidates are so nervous they forget to  loosen up and smile, which is a huge mistake!  No one really wants to be around someone who doesn’t smile.
  • Match and mirror—it's crucial that you match the energy of the interviewer.


  • Fidget—it's distracting.
  • Slump in your chair—this is not a good way to properly present yourself in fitness (or at all!).



For over 20 years, Equinox has created an unparalleled experience that engages members in fitness and well-being, delivering transformative results. There is a growing portfolio of properties across the United States, as well as international locations in London and Canada. Equinox clubs are uniquely designed to provide unprecedented service, innovative fitness programming and restorative wellness treatments all setting the stage for the ultimate in performance and rejuvenation. Equinox has the distinction of featuring the most sought after personal trainers, group fitness instructors, strength and cardio equipment and experts in wellness. Using the most progressive and innovative techniques, the Equinox team motivates members to achieve results.