Episode 319

Your Interviews Should be More Like a Team Tryout with Ben Pickard

In this episode, Ben Pickard joins me to talk about why your interviews should be more like a team tryout.

[00:00:00] Hello, my friend on today’s episode, I’m speaking with Ben. And in this episode, we talk about how much it sucks to hire the wrong person for your team, how much mental energy time and money we waste by hiring the wrong person. And we give you some tips for how to improve your hiring process, specifically how to make your interview process more like a team tryout.

So instead of just talking to your candidates, you’re asking to see them in person. It’s a great episode for you. If you’re hiring or plan to hire more someday. So let’s dive in.

Welcome to the business for unicorns podcast, where we help gym owners unleash the full potential of their business. I’m your host, Michael Keeler. Join me each week for actionable advice. Expert insights and the inside scoop on what it really takes to level up your gym. Get ready to unlock your [00:01:00] potential and become a real unicorn in the fitness industry.

Let’s begin.

Hello, fitness, business nerds. What’s up? Welcome to another episode of the business for unicorns podcast. I’m back again today with Ben. What’s up, my friend. How are you today? I’m great. Thanks for having me. Yeah, I’m so excited. You’re here. Before we dive into today’s conversation, which is all about some kind of personal insights, Pro tips for hiring.

I want to just make sure you all know that for the first time ever business unicorns and perform better are coordinating efforts. We’re combining our superpowers to create something called the gym owner masterclass. Basically Pete, Mark, we’ll be giving kind of a gym owners an inside peek at the 30 plus years of combined experience running Cressy and Mark Fisher fitness.

And not only that. Ben is going to be joining Mark and Pete and together they’re gonna be sharing what’s working and not working for gym owners all over the world right now in this course to create more impact, more income, and more freedom. That’s what you all want. And this is going to be a really limited class.

Early bird ends March [00:02:00] 22nd. So if you get your tickets before March 22nd. A you’re more likely to get one cause it’s going to sell out fast and you get a really great early bird price of one 49, which is amazing. That price goes up after March 22nd. So to learn more about the dates and where it is and all that information, click down the links below and, and share it with friends because if you want to be there, you’ll need to get a ticket quickly.

Are you looking forward to it, Ben? I think it’s going to be lots of fun. Oh my God. For 149. I would have killed to have this eight years ago when my gym was started. Like I’ve seen the behind the scenes agenda. It’s going to be, I thought like we should be charging double. I’m not just saying that for marketing stuff.

I’m like, this looks awesome. Yeah. Yeah. I thought the same thing. And I think a big part of it is we really want to do our friends that perform better. Not a favor, but we’re going to do them a solid by putting I’m really amazing content and not having people have to bulk at the price. So I think one 49 is a steal.

I imagine if we do this in the future, it will be more than that. And again, the price will go up [00:03:00] on March 22nd listeners. So go join Mark and Pete and Ben at the first ever, and maybe, maybe we’ll do this a ton, maybe not gym owner masterclass. So go to that. Let’s pivot to today, my friends. Today, I want to talk a little bit about hiring, and I’ll start with this is that some of you on this call who own gyms don’t have to hire very much.

And so because of that, you suck at it. You stink at hiring because we don’t have businesses that are big that are that big. So you only have to hire someone maybe once a year. Twice a year. And we all know if you do something that infrequently, you don’t get the reps in, you just don’t, you don’t have very good systems because they haven’t been tested very much.

You don’t have the experience cause you haven’t done that many interviews. And so today we wanted to give you just like one or two tips that we think are critical for making sure that you maximize your ability to. Hire the right people for the right job. We’re not going to go through our whole hiring process.

In fact, we’ve had many podcast episodes about hiring in the past. You can go Google all of the ones from the past, but [00:04:00] today we really want to focus on something we call stress tests. Which is the part of the, actually you explain it, Ben, what are stress tests? Stress tests are the part of the interview where they’re doing something that closely mimics or imitates what they’d be doing in their job.

So an obvious example would be if you’re hiring a trainer or a fitness coach, having them Coach a session, see how does it work because you’re, we were believers in, you want to hire on attitude, not skill as Mike Boyle says, certified nice person. But you also want to see some of the soft stuff. Like how are their communication skills?

How do they do under pressure? It’s not just, can this person coach the absolute shit out of a squat? Do they feel comfortable in switching in front of a group? Did they show up prepared? Are they nice? It’s really easy for people to fake it in an interview, like a couple hours together. You can put on a mask.

Yes. When you’re in your element. Let’s just talk about that for a second. Yeah, let’s just talk about that for a second. I can make anyone like me for [00:05:00] an hour, right? It’s not, cause sometimes I’m really not that likeable, but give me an hour and know that this person has a potential to hire me or it’s, this is not true in my life, but let’s just say for, as an example, like meeting my, my, my partner’s in laws, my.

My partner’s family, I will be so nice and so mannerful. And so I can turn it, we all can, we can turn it on and turn it off. And in job interviews, it’s very easy. Just give them what you think that they want as someone who’s being interviewed. And as an interviewer, your job is to break through the bullshit.

Your job is to break through, you know, really, how is this person when things are tough? I know how they’re like when they’re at their best, because they’re here showing me that right now. They got dressed up, they’re smiling, they were on time. But really, what are they going to be like after we’ve been working together for a few weeks or a few months or a few years?

And it’s really hard to do that if your interview process is only like a few one on one conversations. [00:06:00] Cause that’s not real life. That’s not actually their job. So the stress test is, I’m stressing this because I think it’s so critical. It is the most, one of the most important tools you have as a hiring person to hire people and really get a peek into what are they really like.

Will we ever know when a hiring process, maybe not, but this is the closest we’ve ever become before we dive into all the strategies. I know you started mentioning them, Ben, can you just say a little bit When people don’t do this. When people don’t have a stress test in their hiring process, what are some of the outcomes we’ve seen?

Let me list a bunch of bad things, Michael. Yes, exactly. I want to scare them. Yeah, there’s definitely the shit we made a bad hire and we had to let them go a few weeks in, which you just lost a bit of money and a lot of time. Say it’s been worded to me as this person’s different than I thought they were.

Because they were putting on a show in the interview and then it turned out to be like a dick or worried about, I don’t know, they’re nickel and diming on [00:07:00] stupid policies or whatever. Um, maybe they’re, you can just, you can, it’s always, it’s hard to identify a misalignment of values, but it usually comes with a feeling of friction or discomfort.

I can be like, Oh, that person doesn’t share my value. Number three, but you are going to be like something about this person just grinds my fucking gears. And you’re going to have that your clients are going to notice, especially in a client facing role, which almost every hire in every gym is client facing and be like, who’s this person?

They don’t seem like they’re the right fit. Yeah. And I guess at the end of the day, you’re going to, you’ve said yes to somebody. So that means you had to say no to hopefully a few other potentially good candidates. Now a month goes by and you hired the wrong person. You had to pay them for that month.

Now you have to go back to the fucking drawing board because the three people you said no to when you pick this person now have other jobs and you’re back to square one. That’s the picture we want to paint. Yeah, 100%. And that’s real. When Unicorn Society members come to me, Hey, I just hired this person with me for a few months.

I don’t think it’s going to work out. I’m like, okay, walk me through the [00:08:00] hiring process without fail. Literally nine times out of 10, when I get to, okay, what did you do for the stress test? They’re like, well, We didn’t do one. And I’ll say this. I’ve been that person at MFF. We don’t have that many examples of bad hires at MFF.

But the ones we do have, we didn’t do a stress test for. And again, I’m not trying to paint it like a silver bullet. Like when you do a stress test, you’re not 100 percent guaranteed to get the right hire. But it is way more likely because you’re spending money. Bending more time with the person, under pressure, demonstrating skills they say they have.

And when we haven’t done that, we’ve also made some bad hires. And so just don’t be me. Don’t be me. So let’s just talk a little bit about what this looks like. Let me just share this. The way I think about stress tests is this, is that let’s just say I’m hiring someone and I say, Tell me about a time when you excelled at Convincing people to buy something in a sales conversation.

And they’ll go through and give me examples of times when they sold. The thing you want to do next is, [00:09:00] okay, show me. Let’s do it right now, alright? I’m gonna pretend, you know, in the classic example in HR, sell me this pen. Give you five minutes to prepare, and you just sell me this pen. Or someone says, you know, say, oh, give me examples of times when you did group fitness classes, when you taught group fitness classes.

Yeah, I did it at this place, and everyone loved me, I was the most popular trainer. Okay, are you comfortable coming back and showing us? Like show us, I’ll give you 15 minutes to take our people through a quick workout, maybe our team, maybe a few trusted clients, right? Doesn’t matter what the job is, but the point of a stress test is, Oh, you say you’re good at that.

Okay. Show me. That’s it. That’s the energy of this. And I mean that in the most positive way. Yeah. I believe I want to believe you. Great. So just show it to me. Um, but yeah, give me a few examples, Ben, of, of what this has looked like for you or what examples you’ve seen from Unicorn Society members. Okay.

Great. Yeah, absolutely. It’s fun to highlight there because you said it. I think it’s worth repeating. This isn’t like a bitch. I don’t trust you. Actions speak louder than [00:10:00] words perspective. Sure. This is me from like an Oh, wow. It sounds awesome. That’s a skill you developed over time. And you’re really proud.

I’d love to see that in action. Can you show me? We’re not just sitting there scowling at people were like giving them a chance to you. If you, I don’t know if you’re walking into a, like an artist’s shop and they were raving to you about coffee beforehand about how good they are at art, they’re going to want to show you their work.

And this is coming from that place of like optimism and curiosity. So I wanted to double down on that because. Originally, oh, show me comes across as like combative as hell. And that’s not what we mean at all. Totally. Yeah. I think for the purpose of this podcast, I wanted to seem a little bit cynical and in real life and in real life, like I want it to be generous, but in this podcast, I’m like, no, I actually don’t believe you until you show me.

I actually, I don’t know that you’re good at that. You telling me you’re good at that is actually not helpful to this process. You showing it to me, me talking to past references who also tell me you’re good at this thing. All of that builds up this body of evidence. Oh, [00:11:00] they are really good at it. They told me they’re good at it.

The references told me they’re good at it. And then they showed me they were good at it. And that last, they showed me is the most important part because they’re not just showing you they’re good at something. They’re showing you they’re good at something under pressure. In a new environment, right? And that makes it even harder to be good at the thing, even if you’re good at it.

And so I think that if they can have a great sales conversation with you under pressure or show you how they interact with clients on the floor under pressure, or make up a warmup or a program on the fly under pressure, then you know, they’re really good at it because that interview process adds a lot of pressures.

Yeah. How about some examples? Yeah. So the easiest one to do a stress test for, in my opinion, is hiring a trainer slash fitness coach slash coach, whatever the terminology you use in your facility is, because it’s really just getting them to teach a version of whatever you offer. So if you’re a large group training, they’re probably, you’re probably going to want them to do a large group training session.

If you’re mostly small group training, you’re probably going to want them to do a small group training session. Same applies for one on one. And there’s [00:12:00] a few different ways to do this. Probably the absolute best, which in my opinion, which is also the most, most logistically challenging to pull off is if you do small group training with four to six people in a session, you get four to six, your clients to come in.

And this person coaches those clients through some stuff. Clearly that’s logistically very challenging. You’ve got to get clients to come in. You get the idea, but you can definitely do a. Like a practical interview where you could have two or three of your staff pretend to be clients and have the same goals and obstacles that your avatar does.

And this prospective candidate like teaches through whatever appropriate amount of time you feel necessary. Probably wouldn’t do like a five minute warmup only, but you also might not need to do a full one hour session. I would probably have one person, ideally you being an observer more than a camp, more than a client, because you can see what are the things that do really well.

What are the things that are doing less? Well, because we want to see, as Michael had mentioned earlier, is there an alignment between what they say [00:13:00] they’re good at and what they’re actually good at, or are they full of hot air, but to like, I’ve had this conversation numerous times, your ideal candidate might be out there.

Someone who’s got exceptional soft skills and incredible punctuality and integrity and has. Bachelors of kinesiology or human kinetics, and they interned at Cressy’s place, and they’ve got a decade in the industry. And that person’s also a unicorn. You’re probably going to get somebody for most of us who was like a couple of years experience, maybe a client who wants to become a coach.

So we’re not just evaluating for how good is this person at doing this thing? We’re seeing that they tell us the truth about where they think they’re at. And more importantly, If you are going to hire them because nobody’s perfect, you just want to know what are the gaps you got to work on? Did they not know the technical coaching side of things or is a little bit more communication and soft skills?

Yeah, 100%. I’ll give you a few examples for non fitness jobs. If you’re hiring a front desk person or a salesperson or a GM [00:14:00] of some kind, anything that you expect them to be good at in their job, you can test for. So even at the, even the lowest level part time, I don’t mean lowest level, the most entry level position, part time front desk person.

Yeah, I’m at lowest level of your org chart. I would still have that person come in and do even a 15 minute stress test. Hey, five o’clock is our busiest time. I’m just going to have you stand in front of the front desk and introduce yourself to people for 15 minutes. I’m going to be there with you. I just want to see how you interact with people as they’re coming in.

Good example of a very simple test. Basic stress test doesn’t take much time, but you can just see them in real time, introduce themselves to strangers. Do they start conversation? Are they friendly? Are they warm? Do they shake hands? Do they hug? Do they, what do they do? Same thing with a salesperson, obviously, that’s a pretty easy one because you want them to sell you something.

But someone like a GM, so someone like a GM, I want to have some project management skills. I want them to have some, Some conflict resolution skills. I want them to have some planning skills. So I might say to them, Hey, for your next interview, I want you to come with like a [00:15:00] five, 10 minute presentation and walk me through a project that you had to manage, walk me through the timeline and your deliverables and how it went.

And so you can give them some heads up and ask them to come with a little presentation or a little one sheet. And I’ve done that many times for past jobs, right? To come in and present something because part of the job was me being able to present and communicate my ideas to a team. And so don’t be afraid to ask something of them.

And listen, I’m not saying that we want to create these gauntlets. Of a hiring process. Like I’m not, we don’t need our hiring process to be an American ninja warrior, but I think asking someone to come in and demonstrate their most competent skills for 10, 15 minutes, it’s not too much to ask, especially for a way well paying job sought after job, not too much to ask people to do.

Um, the. The last thing I’ll say on this, and I’ll be interested in your final thoughts here, Ben, the last thing I’ll say is, I don’t know if this will resonate with many of you. I think for people who have any sort of performance background, either athletic performance or theater performance or art performance, you really want to reframe interviews to [00:16:00] be more like auditions.

Interviews in many people’s minds often are, people think of that as conversation, that the interview is, we’re just going to talk. We’re going to talk. I’m gonna ask you questions. You’re going to answer them. And that’s not sufficient in our work because so much of what we’re asking people to do is more of a performance.

We’re asking them to show up and be on stage, whether that’s the front desk or on the floor with clients or on sales calls, we’re asking them to perform. And just like athletes, you don’t hire anyone for the NFL without watching them on the, do their sport, right? I don’t know if it’s called an audition, right?

But I think that there’s like people who go out and scouts and like, Tryouts. Okay. They call tryouts. Great. So let’s use the tryout language. Right. But think of your interviews more like a tryout where you want to actually watch them perform than just have a conversation about their past performance.

Yeah. Other thoughts from you, sir? How do you, yeah. I was just processing. I love that idea because one of the things I’ve been trying to do, and again, I’m, I definitely fall into the [00:17:00] category of compared to people who hire a lot, I’m bad at it. There’s places that are, there’s people’s jobs whose, their job is just to hire people and fire people.

Like that is a department that most gyms probably will never have. And I’ve been trying to shake up my interviews when I’ve done them. Granted, I have the luxury of having someone else run them for me now of like, how do we make it not just sitting two or three of us in a closed room asking behavior based interview questions?

Don’t get me wrong. Those are way better than not behavior based interview questions, but it’s still easy for people to put on a show. And I’ve tried things like. The first meeting, if you have the capacity for it, or you don’t have a lot of candidates, take them out for a coffee and I’ll intentionally try to get, if I lead with some vulnerability, they’ll drop their guard.

I’ve done some stuff where this is more interviews process, but I tell them in advance, they get the expectation set that they are interviewing us. They are to come prepared with questions. They have 40 minutes. They can ask us anything they want. There’s nothing is off limits. And I’m just seeing like how prepared did they show up and that’s, it’s shaken it up a little bit.

So it’s not just them asking the standard, like, where do you want to be in [00:18:00] five years? If the trolley is going to go on two different tracks and here’s the consequences of each, like that stuff doesn’t work that well. So I love the audition. Try out thing because you’re right. We’re not putting on a Broadway show with every single session, but it’s still a show and people need to have that instead of just reflecting back.

We heard you say, I think my final thoughts are if you’ve been thinking about the stress test and. You’re not really sure what to do. Michael did a great job laying it out. What are some of the skills that they’re going to need to demonstrate in this job? What’s one or two of those skills that you could do a mini thing about if it’s sales, Jordan Belfort this and get them to sell you a pen, if it’s doing like team communication, get them to, maybe it’s a head trainer role, get them to do a little 20 minute in service for you and another trainer, get them to hang out at the front desk and see if they.

Are they friendly and excited to meet people? Admin staff do typing tests and they have to send me a screenshot of their results and I don’t think that’s quite perfect for a stress test, but if you want an admin position that’s a lot of computer work and you type 37 words a [00:19:00] minute. You’re slow. I’m not getting hired on that one.

No. So yeah, it doesn’t have to be, it doesn’t have to be this big one and a half hour, second interview, massive performance. It could be like, what’s one or two of the key skills. What’s a way that they could show that? Cause you’re right. You don’t want to make it a gauntlet where they’re. Indiana Jones running from the boulder through spikes and skeletons and all sorts of crazy stuff people are gonna balk at and be like, Hey, this isn’t a 300, 000 a year position But if they actually want the job, you can totally get them to do something for 10 to 20 minutes 100 percent good Indiana Jones reference.

That’s good. Thank you. Yeah. All right I think let’s leave it there because we keep talking about this and listen friends There’s also other a lot of other aspects to auditioning. We do not cover auditioning I just called it auditioning. I took my own bait. There’s a lot of other aspects to interviewing slash auditioning slash tryouts that, that we didn’t cover today.

So do go back and listen to past podcasts for some of the more structure of how to structure this process. But [00:20:00] no matter what your process is, it should have a stress test. And I think we gave plenty of good examples on here today. So I hope that’s useful and you’ll start that right away on your next hire.

All right. Thanks for a great conversation. Ben. It was a really good one as always. And listeners, if it is before March 22nd, go get that early bird rate for our, our master class with perform better. We hope to see you there links down and down on the show notes. Looking forward to it. Hope to see some of y’all in Rhode Island.

Yeah. Go join Ben. It’s going to be a blast. All right. Thanks for a great conversation. See y’all in the next one. Bye Ben. Bye. Bye.