"Can you work these Shifts?"

Today, we are going to continue the discussion I started last week with: First Impressions - From the Front Desk.

Last month at IHRSA, Travis Wood , VP of operations for Sky Fitness and Wellbeing of Tulsa OK, delivered a wonderful lecture highlighting his take on customer service within the Fitness Center environment.  I have asked him to join this conversation regarding the front desk position; here are his thoughts:Travis Wood, VP of Ops. w Sky Fitness and Wellbeing

“In the fitness industry, I find it ironic that the position that we say can be the most valuable is also the position we put the least amount of emphasis in to the hiring process.  Think about this.  If you want to hire a trainer you look at certifications and experience.  You want to hire a childcare worker then you might submit a background check.   But if you want to hire a front desk worker, often the main question is “Can you work these shifts?”

I have to admit that I’ve been guilty of this numerous times and sometimes I’ve been burnt because of it.  While I still don’t think there is a full proof method, we’ve started a new approach that is allowing us to find the right people at a much higher rate.

Before you can find the right person, you have to outline what you are looking for.  For us, we’ve narrowed it down to three discernible criteria:

1.     Connector.  We are looking for someone who is engaging, an extrovert, and genuinely likeable.

2.     Regulator.   We want someone who can enforce the rules without being uneasy or off-putting.

3.     Contributor. We look for someone who is willing to help make a good thing better.

Once you outline what you are looking for, you have to create a way to identify that person when you see them.  The following are some examples of how we weed out prospects:

  • Group Interview.  We try to put a group in a room for a first interview.  It is usually led by the desk manager and the questions are meant to be open-ended.  While the applicants may be stressing over WHAT they are saying, we are actually spending very little time with that aspect.  What we want to know is WHO is answering.  We want the person that is willing to speak out when the pressure is on. 
  • Ask them a question that isn’t black or white.  After the group interview, the ones we’ve identified as prospects get a second interview.  This is where we start to press them a little bit.  What I’m looking for here is their ability to deliver when the pressure is on.  A potential role-play question?  “After all of the membership team has gone home, a good, active member brings in a guest who is underage.  Tell them no. Go”.  We judge on their presentation, their ability to communicate clearly, and their body language. 
  • Finally, we ask the candidate a few “company line” questions to get a feel for their ability to mesh with what we are trying to do.  Things like, “from a member’s eyes, what do you think is the most important aspect of the desk?” or “what would you look for in a health club?”  Our goal here is to get them to speak their mind and not what they think we want to hear.

Front desk, Sky Fitness and Wellbeing

I think so much time and effort is spent trying to train the wrong people in our industry.  Take a good look at your desk and ask yourself a simple question, 'If I were starting a health club tomorrow, would I want the person I have?'” 


Travis has really developed a tested and true system for on boarding talent within his environment!

Thank you so much, Travis for sharing your wisdom with us.  

Please share with me, Lindsey Rainwater your thoughts on this topic, hiring and recruiting for your front desk!