PT on the Net Research

A Fit Pro’s Guide to Winning the Talent War

What makes you stand out as someone who offers a unique, indispensable level of value, among all other candidates applying for the same position? It’s not what you think…

Knowledge, skills and even the most admirable of motives are all meaningless unless you can create a transformational experience that enables people to have what they truly want. When it comes to being hired by a new client or a new company, there are four principles that are essential to helping you stand out as the preeminent choice.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Understand the current hiring environment and identify what employers are looking for.
  2. Learn what is means to be the right person to hire.
  3. Identify the four H.I.R.E attributes and learn how to apply them during an interview.

Competition and Innovation

Peter Drucker, who is arguably one of the top business thinkers of the past one-hundred years, said that “the purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer.” That statement seems obvious enough, but he wasn’t just referring to the people who use a company’s product, he was referring to the people who deliver it. We are up against two emerging forces in our industry today: the ever increasing rise in both competition and innovation.

That means that, no matter how well positioned any organization believes itself to be within the marketplace, no matter the efficacy of the product they sell or how well designed their business plan may be, each organization is at risk of being commoditized. Increased competition and innovation also means increased customer expectation. Just like fresh water kept in an old plastic container will eventually taste stale, if the filter that a product is experienced through is not as refreshing as it is efficacious, this by itself increases the risk of it failing to create a point of differentiation that adds perceived value; which basically means that for the vast majority of companies in our industry, the choice is either distinction or extinction.

The Key to Being Hired

What a company is actually doing during the selection process is far more important than merely hiring an employee because the company is actually acquiring an internal customer. As an internal customer, you’re, at the very least, just as important as a paying member/client because you create the member/client experience and, therefore, to a large degree, the company’s reputation. Just think back on a time when you had a problem with a product you purchased and were met with indifference by an apathetic, highly frustrating employee. How did that affect your opinion of the company and the probability of you doing business with them in the future?

Hiring the right person is either the key to, or the lock on, an organization's potential for success; therefore, positioning yourself as the right person is the key to, or the lock on, you being hired as well.

So the question is, what attributes do companies hire for? Most people assume that what makes them stand out is knowledge and competence. That is like saying that what influences your decision on a hotel when you travel is whether or not they provide a bed in every room! A bed in every room is absolutely necessary, but far from sufficient. It’s what we offer beyond what we are expected to that makes the difference.

The H.I.R.E Attributes

In my decades of experience in management, as well as an industry consultant, I have learned that when seeking to H.I.R.E. a candidate, there are four non-negotiable attributes to look for, they are:

H - Highest Purpose

One of the most frustrating aspects of leadership and management is the on-going struggle managers face when they resign themselves to continually selling their team on not just what the company does, but why they do it. Further, many leaders find themselves buried under the weight of discouragement when, after years of an excruciating struggle, they come to the realization that you can’t teach the right things to the wrong person. Your manager should never have to sell you on the vision to the team, just like the coach of a sports team shouldn’t have to continually sell his team on why they should consider showing up for practice and playing the sport. Everyone on the team just agrees on the game they’re playing and that they are committed to playing it.

Rather, a far more effective and far less stressful frame to operate from is for both the company and the candidate to clearly identify what each entity’s mission and vision are and then determine if they are aligned with each other. In a sense, an effective manager is like a fine wine connoisseur; her job is to find just the right blend of people whose personal vison and core values complement those of the organization in order to create a customer experience that is as elegant as it is satisfying.

Your highest purpose is defined as something that you hold so sacred that you are unconditionally willing to commit your entire career, your entire life even, so that others can have that experience. Your highest purpose is not about your wants for yourself but rather what you want for others. The irony is that when you focus on the needs of others even more than your personal needs, most often you produce far more than team members who are solely focused on their own concerns, because in our industry we can only get what we want by helping enough other people get what they want.

I - Inspiration

If you were to walk into a management meeting and pose the question, “what attributes are most important in an employee?” it would be a safe bet to predict that many of the answers would be something like “discipline,” “will-power,” “motivation,” “responsibility,” “integrity,” and so on. While not many people would argue that these attributes are useful, even admirable, they’re not often sustainable. Too many managers spend nearly their entire careers trying to “motivate” employees to cultivate these attributes through the force of sheer enthusiasm and determination, only to find themselves exhausted by the process?

Similarly, many fitness professionals burn themselves out by trying to motivate themselves to success. The word inspiration means to “breathe life into,” to be stimulated from within. Consider one of the hardest jobs in the world: parenting.

Do parents always feel up to task? No.

Is parenting always enjoyable? Hardly!

Yet, how many times will a good parent wake up during the night, any day of the week, to tend to a sick child? Nearly everyone.

And how many of those parents need continual pep talks and motivational speeches? A good parent will embrace the rewards and sacrifices of parenting equally because of the meaning that child represents. They do not require continual admonishment in their outer world (okay sometimes), because they are inspired from within. When you are inspired, the position you’re applying for is not a simply a job, or a series of tasks and directives you will comply with in order to keep receiving a paycheck, but a reflection of who you are.

Effective managers understand that when inspiration is present, the attributes we associate with success, discipline, will-power, motivation, passion, integrity, innovation, creativity, etc. show up more readily and are sustained more easily. Further, when you are on a team, the effect you have on others is arguably more valuable than what you bring to the team on your own. Inspiration is infectious, which means it exponentially increases your perceived value in the mind of a recruiter.

R - Reinvention

What you know is not nearly as significant as what you are willing to learn. If you’re not coachable, in the mind of your recruiter, your performance is not sustainable. In today’s world, there is no such thing as a sustained competitive advantage, you must reinvent it continually. Just ask blockbuster video, remember them? Me neither. The condition of attitudinal-sclerosis, or hardening of the attitude, is a condition that is fatal not just to your career, but can metastasize throughout the entire organization. Therefore, the more coachable you are, the more hirable you are.

E- Eclectic

What is cool, infectious or even slightly unusual about you? Not unusual in a “needs to be either medicated or institutionalized” sort of way, but in a way that would enrich the color and dynamic of the team you’re applying for? In a business with such a complex interpersonal dynamic as ours, sameness is suicide. Being eclectic in today’s industry makes you credible.

In Erik Qualman’s (2009) book Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business, he asserts that:

The world has changed. People are far more plugged into and trusting of their social networks than they are of businesses incessantly competing for their mind-share. If the experience is not as visceral as it is professional, it lacks soul. Clients want a product that is credible, efficacious and individualized; however, what they need is to relate to the coach in a way that cultivates an environment where a transformational experience can occur. This is analogous to a wire: it can have the perfect structure and functionality, but if it’s never plugged into an outlet, it won’t have the energy to make anything happen. A company’s training, operations, products, systems and strategy is the wire, you are the outlet.

For an even more detailed look into the H.I.R.E attributes, watch the below video:

Applying H.I.R.E. During an Interview

In summary, here are some questions to ask yourself prior your next interview:

Click here to download a printable version to fill out.

Highest Purpose Questions

Inspiration Questions

Reinvention Questions

Eclectic Questions


Qualman, E. (2009). Socialnomics: How social media transforms the way we live and do business. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.