Achieving Must-Hire Status - Where Interns Routinely Miss Opportunity

Hoping to score that dream coaching job at the conclusion of your internship program?  Stop trying to impress the boss and start trying to make a lasting impact on the influential people who actually hold the keys to your future.

A short list resides in my mind as I type this sentence.  This list contains the names of the first five current or former interns I’d approach if a paid coaching position were to open at one of our two Cressey Sports Performance (CSP) facilities.  While the list is continuously evolving, the way to earn a spot on it rarely changes, and is routinely overlooked.

The Most Common Mistake

There is one sure-fire way to blow an opportunity at earning “must-hire” status at CSP, and that is by wasting your time and energy trying to impress myself or Eric.  At this moment in time, we operate two strength & conditioning facilities, manage the CSP brand, have wives who would love to see more of us, and have toddlers wreaking havoc in our homes.  We don’t have the time or attention span to focus on identifying our next great hire without the insight of others.

There are three different types of gatekeepers who influence the ongoing development of our short list here at CSP.  Here’s some insight on how to go about earning their seals of approval during the internship process:

1. Clients

You know what makes my job a whole lot easier…having a client stomp into my office to declare that I am an idiot if I don’t intend to hire intern so and so.  I have never hired a single coach out of our internship program who failed to inspire more than one of our clients to share this type of unsolicited advice.

We’re in the business of customer service, and your ability to inspire our clients to speak up on your behalf is a whole lot more impressive than your attempt at offering a thought provoking question for Eric during staff in-service.  Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz articulated this best when he said “The only competitive advantage we have is the relationship we have with our people, and the relationship they have built with our customers.”

If you can’t create raving fans during your time on the training floor, you can’t work for me.  It’s just that simple.

2. Staff members not named Pete or Eric

A coaching position at our Massachusetts location became available on October 1st of this past year.  With our absolute busiest period ahead, we knew that we needed all the competent coaches we could get during the months to come.  So, why did it take us 10 weeks to get a new coach on the training floor?

We actually started and ended our employee selection process during a single meeting.  I explained our need for a new team member and asked for suggestions from the rest of the staff.  All seven of my employees promptly told me that we needed to hire Nancy Newell, a coach who had wrapped her summer internship here at CSP just 5 weeks prior.  I explained that both Eric and myself wholeheartedly agreed, but there would be a catch to making it happen…Nancy was two and a half months away from completing her graduate program at SUNY Cortland.

“Are you guys prepared to pick up the slack that comes with being under-staffed and over-crowded if it means that you get to add the personality of your choice to the team in the long run?”

Yes.  Seven yeses, as it turns out. 

Earlier this week I asked Nancy what she did to set herself apart from her peers as an intern. 

“Nothing complicated.  I vacuumed the office every single night even though the checklist called for alternating days because I believe that there’s no such thing as an office being too clean. I volunteered for the tasks that others went out of their way to avoid. I made a habit of reminding myself that coaching is fun, and it was reflected in my body language.”

In short, Nancy focused on doing the little things well, and she did so with a smile on her face.  Her colleagues took notice, and it ultimately earned her a job.  When 100% of my team vouches for you, there’s a 0% chance I will stray from their advice.

3. Trusted professionals within our network

The last piece of the employee selection puzzle for me is collecting insights from professionals I know and trust who have had the opportunity to observe a candidate in action.  Guys like Matt Blake, Mike Reinold and Eric Schoenberg have accumulated their fair share of hours in the midst of the chaos that is a busy CSP.  They all have an appreciation for the type of personality that thrives as a member of our staff.  Most importantly, they’ve got nothing to gain or lose from us adding a new face to the team.

Before I ever pull the trigger on a job offer, I approach these guys for their unbiased take.  The interns who’ve made an effort to engage with these personalities around the gym during their time with us tend to end up on the fast track to a spot on our short list.

The Takeaway

Roughly 100% of our former interns have the technical skill set and training knowledge necessary to competently perform the job of full time strength coach here at CSP.  Unfortunately, a much smaller percentage of this population will take the steps necessary to position themselves as a can’t-fail candidate to be our next great hire.  If you find yourself participating in an internship at CSP or any other similar fitness facility with the hopes of getting hired out of the program, your to-do list should look a little bit like this:

  1. Create raving fans.
  2. Earn the trust and respect of your colleagues.
  3. Appreciate the fact that someone is always watching how you handle yourself around the gym.

Opportunities are never lost; I can assure you that someone will take the one's you've missed.