In the news

Hiring a Top Notch Staff

Insights from Patti Komara

Esteemed gymnastics school owner and entrepreneur, Patti Komara, draws from her experience as a business owner to provide her insight on hiring.

There are many reasons for making sure that you hire the best possible staff, including:

  • The success in this business is determined by Staff/Facility/Curriculum (staff being the most important, because we are a service business)
  • There is a great nationwide shortage of labor-it’s an employee’s market
  • Finding reliable employees is like squeezing water from a rock
  • The people you bring aboard need to have the right qualifications, but they must have the right morals and principles to mesh with yours or it won’t work. They need to fit into your culture. When values are clear, decisions are easy.

The #1 hiring mistake is not hiring the most qualified person for the job.

To hire the best person for the job you must:

  1. Hire personality and attitude
  2. Hire a qualified person whose lifestyle fits the job you need
  3. Hire for appearance and impression: clothes, posture, gestures, handshake (i.e. Disney allows no tattoos or body piercings)

Here are some points to keep in mind:

  • 95% of success in management is selection
  • Stanford University study states your ability to put together a team of great individuals is one of the keys of executives on the fast track- Lee Iaccoca always gives the credit to his team of executives that he put together to get Chrysler back on track.  Within 3 years, he fired and replaced 35 of the 36 top people.  He needed new blood
  • Don’t be afraid of hiring new people
  • Good instructors are not born.  They’re trained, communicated with, respected, and taught to meet customer’s expectations
  • Give the customer what they expect-and more 

Recruiting is Important

How do you recruit? Think about your “network” of friends, recruiting resources, business connections and students and the people that they know. You should be using:

  • Classified ads (in conjunction with mobile program… mention loves children)

Sample: Do You Love Children? Lake County’s largest gymnastics school is growing! Part time teachers needed for evenings and Saturdays. We train. (219) 865-2274. 

  • Professional Contacts (Chamber of Commerce)
  • College recruitment offices
  • Always network (get to know rec centers, YMCA, etc.)
  • Direct mail to daycares, high schools, colleges
  • Your former students (grow your own)
  • Your current students (TNTs- You can up the ratio by 2)
  • Job splitting (hire less qualified people for spotting, helpers, etc)
  • Parents of your students
  • Friends of your staff (referral incentives/bounty payment-tie it to a length of time the new employee must stay)
  • Your family
  • Set up your own job bank (always be on the prowl)
  • Promote yourself at local parades, fairs, sponsor teams
  • Ads in trade journals/internet
  • Posters on local college bulletin boards
  • Display ad, not classified
  • Former Staff (boomerang bunch)
  • Cheerleading squads at local schools

Be creative and add your own ideas. There are no limits here!

The Application and Interview

It is a good idea to videotape or audiotape your interview. Your candidates give more honest answers if they know they are being taped, but make sure you get their permission. If you decide to use video-taping, you must videotape everyone.

Your application should ask normal questions with a list of skills they can demonstrate as well as a sample lesson plan that they must write out.

When you look at the candidates’ applications:

  1. Look for holes in time frames
  2. Unusual items or events
  3. Turnover of previous jobs
  4. What was the focus, previous jobs, awards, education, experience
  5. Look for these context clues-presentation (spelling, grammar and creativity)
  6. Gymnastics knowledge

It is a good idea to ask open-ended questions. This illustrates the candidate’s thought process and indicates if they are a good listener.

Always ask: “Based on this job description, why are you the person best suited for this job?” 

Good examples of interview questions are:

  1. What does a person need to be a good gymnastics teacher?
  2. What was the most difficult part of your previous job?
  3. Why did you leave?
  4. Where do you see yourself in five years?
  5. What work related task did you find most appealing?
  6. What part of this job do you think would be most important?
  7. How did you handle a recent problem at work?
  8. How would you handle a six-year old boy who wouldn’t stand where you told him?
  9. What would you do with a crying three-year-old?
  10. What would you do with a four-year-old who wouldn’t participate?
  11. What if a child was hitting another student?
  12. Finish these sentences:
    What children want most from a class is…
    What parents want most from a class is…
    The best way for a child to learn is…
    I would discipline a child by…
  13. What does positive reinforcement mean?
  14. What is the maximum number of kids you can handle in class?
  15. What is your favorite event to teach and why?
  16. Do you have your own transportation?
  17. When wouldn’t you be able to sub?
  18. What is the hardest skill you can demonstrate and why is that important?
  19. What is your greatest asset that you could bring to this company?
  20. Tell me about your most recent accomplishment.
  21. Describe your best boss.
  22. What is the most useful job-related criticism you’ve ever received?
  23. What do you believe is the perfect balance between employee freedom and owner controlled work atmosphere?
  24. What is it about you that has made you successful so far?
  25. What is the age group you most prefer to teach? Can you be silly? You’ve got to be silly to teach kids.
  26. What would you do if you saw a peer stealing money, stamps, or equipment?
  27. What would you do if you smelled alcohol on a coach’s breath and knew they had been drinking before class?
  28. How would you handle a fellow staff member if they were talking to you between classes?
  29. Get up and teach me a cartwheel
  30. What do you think a job like this pays?
  31. Do you need a certain amount of money? Would you be upset if we didn’t need you at a certain point in your shift and we said you could go home?
  32. What would be “perfect hours” for you?
  33. What do you do in your spare time?
  34. What motivates you to work?
  35. Do you have any past injuries or health problems?
  36. If you get the job, how soon could you start?

Not-so-good questions to ask:

  1. How did you get along with your co-workers? (Rarely a true answer)
  2. You like kids, don’t you? (leading)
  3. What college did you attend? (Answer already on application)
  4. “Chitchat” while you look over the application (prepare ahead of time)
  5. Problem areas according to our state laws: height and weight, occupation of spouse, credit rating or financial status, military release
  6. Don’t say “permanent job or employment”

Illegal questions:

You cannot ask questions that indicate age, race, creed, sexual orientation, ethnic origin, marital status, sex, and number of children.

Ending the Interview:

In concluding your interview, you may want to ask:

  • When they think the interview is over and you’ve stood up to see them out, ask them if I met their last boss at a social function, what would they say about you in one sentence?
  • Is there anything else you’d like to tell me about yourself?

Checking References

Most states offer some protection and it is important that you are aware of what your state provides. Check to see if you live in a state with Employer Immunity Status. Is your state “qualified” or “absolute”?

Be sure to require transcripts from colleges/high school.

  1. You may want to ask your candidate “When I call your references what will they tell me about your attendance record?”  If they don’t want you to call a present employer, ask them to name a co-worker you could call.
  2. If the reference you call will not comment say something like, “Ninety-nine percent of the times when former employers don’t want to comment, it’s usually a negative reason.  Is this the case here?”
  3. Ask the previous employee why your candidate left and compare to what the applicant said.
  4. Ask questions like:
    How does Janine handle stressful situations?
    How well does Ann relate to coworkers?
    How would you characterize Laura’s greatest strengths and weaknesses?
    How far do you think Chad could go in this industry as a coach and how would he be most successful?
    And the big one: Would you re-hire Sally?
  5. If they are hesitant to answer questions, just ask them to describe the applicant’s strengths
  6. Know the difference between references and background checks
  7. Ask them, “When I call your references what will they tell me about your attendance record?” If they don’t want you to call a present employer, ask them to name a co-worker you could call.
  8. If the reference won’t comment say something like, “Ninety-nine percent of the times when former employers don’t want to comment, it’s usually a negative reason. Is this the case here?”
  9. Ask the previous employee why your candidate left and compare to what the applicant said.
  10. Ask questions like, How does Janine handle stressful situations; How well does Ann relate to coworkers; How would you characterize Laura’s greatest strengths and weaknesses; How far do you think Chad could go in this industry as a coach; How would he be most successful; And the big one…Would you re-hire her?
  11. If they are hesitant, just ask them to describe the applicant’s strengths/weaknesses.

Trust your Instincts

If they don’t seem right, they’re not! Don’t hire them if you feel uneasy. It will cause you more trouble down the road.

Write this down, “I will not lower my standards”. Hiring sub par candidates leads to firing sub par employees.

Try the “Fire/Rehire” tactic. Ask yourself if you fire your entire staff on Friday whom would you rehire on Monday? Why not? This teaches you whom not to hire.

Special Notes:             

  1. Try to ask the same questions to all the candidates. Take notes and leave time to record your impressions when they leave.
  2. Think of PIE when you think of interviewing! It is as easy as P-I-E-prepare, interview, evaluate
  3. Interview length should be about 20-30 minutes
  4. Make them feel special, “Hold all my calls, except my family.”
  5. The second part of the interview is to teach out on the floor with a staff member. We’re looking for: relating to the kids, did they talk much, know how to correct a skill, seem enthusiastic, jump in and help or need to be told what to do, eagerness to learn, etc.
  6. Avoid instant decisions. Don’t promise them anything.
  7. Don’t say they are under-qualified or over-qualified. Just say, “Our management team felt we’ve hired the person best suited for the job.
  8. Don’t tell one person they didn’t get the job until the one you selected shows up and your happy with them.
  9. If you know you’re not going to hire them, a good interview conclusion is: “I’ve been interviewing for a week now. If you don’t hear from me tomorrow, assume I’ve filled the position. Thanks so much for your time.”
  10. When you’re called for a reference, tell them you’re in a meeting, but will call them right back. Use that time to see who the company is: “Is it really a new company?”

If you like this information, Patti goes into depth on this subject and many more on her website

About Patti Komara

Patti Komara has owned a gymnastics school in Dyer, Indiana since 1969 offering gymnastics, dance, swimming, and a fitness-based educational preschool called Gym-N-Learn. Patti began speaking at national seminars in 1981 and has led hundreds of training workshops. Patti’s Tumblebear Connection has produced more than 80 instructional DVDs. She has written books on yearly lesson plans for the internationally known Tumblebear Gym Program, School-age Gymnastics, Dancing GymBears, YogaBears, CheerBears, Gym-N-Learn, and her very successful Swim Program. Her programs are sold across the USA as well as in more than 20 countries such as France, Saudi Arabia, England, China, Australia, Canada, and Ireland. Patti co-authored the original USAG preschool KAT certification program. In 2003 she was named USAG Business Leader of the Year. In 2005 Patti was selected as Client of the Year by Action International and in 2006 was given the national service award by USAG. In 2009 Patti began formal consulting for those in our industry and in 2010 her gym, Patti’s All-American, was named in her local newspaper as “Best of the Region” once again. Patti currently has over 6000 subscribers to her “In the Loop Monthly E-Newsletter” which she has published since February 2007. In 2010 she was one of five other gym owners named to the USA Gymnastics Task Force. In 2011 she was one of 14 named to the USA Gymnastics Business Advisory Ambassador Team. Contact Patti: (219) 865-2274,


Share This Post!

Share This Post!

Schedule a Call or Demo

See Jackrabbit PayTM in Action

Fast and easy online scheduling

Choose one of the options below to be directed
to our online scheduler to select a day and time.

Just need some questions answered?
Contact us at any time.