When All-Star Legacy owner Trisha Hart was making a key hire, all signs seemed to point to “go.” After all, “John Smith”* received glowing references from former employers and his background check appeared spotless. Hart flew Smith from the Midwest to her Virginia location for a trial run, after which she ended up hiring him. “Fast forward to three months later, when the cops are coming in giving him a subpoena,” says Hart. Smith had impregnated an underage cheerleader at his former gym and was later arrested on multiple counts of sexual misconduct. “I later found out [the other gyms] were giving great reference checks so he’d move across the country,” Hart shares.
Obviously, not all hires result in not-so-happy endings, but it’s clear that references and background checks are just one part of the bigger picture. Listening to your own instincts may be just as vital to making the right hiring decisions—and asking the right questions is the best way to get a feel for who a candidate really is. We asked human resources expert Shirley McAllister, CPP, for some pointers on what to look for in responses from a potential cheer employee:
“Honesty, integrity, high morals—however you want to say it, if the employee is working around young people, they need to be of good character,” says McAllister. One way to test an applicant’s honesty is to check up on all references and to verify the accuracy of all resume content.
Sample interview question for honesty: “What would you do if someone asked you to do something unethical or immoral?” or “In what business situations would honesty be inappropriate?”
2. COMMUNICATION SKILLS
Effective communication skills are crucial for any position—especially when working with kids in a sports setting. “Employees need to know how to communicate with the athlete, the parent, and co-workers,” says McAllister.
Sample interview question for communication: “How would you critique an athlete who may be doing a skill in the wrong way?” or “How would you resolve an issue with a co-worker?”
“Patience is a must when working with young people,” McAllister explains. “You need an even-tempered employee, not someone who will yell and scream, as that will accomplish nothing.” If possible, observe the potential hire in this type of environment beforehand to get a feel for how they’ll work under pressure.
Sample interview question for patience: “Tell me about a situation that really tested your patience and how you solved it.”
Our industry revolves around good energy, so finding someone with a positive, energetic attitude is a no-brainer. McAllister points out: “If the employee has a bad attitude, it can cause others in the group to have a bad attitude.” Encourage the candidate to describe the best and worst aspects of the job in order to get his or her take on work.
Sample interview question for attitude: “How would your mother describe your attitude toward work?” or “What are your coping techniques for a bad day?”
“Knowledge is essential to getting the job done. The employee can’t teach if they don’t have the knowledge to do so,” McAllister says. An applicant’s credentials and resume—particularly, the section that lists skills and experience—should clue you in on his or her knowledge. During the interview, ask specific, technical questions to get a better picture of their grip on terminology and skills.
Sample interview question for knowledge: “What do you think will be the next big skill or trend in the cheerleading world?” or “What rule changes do you agree and disagree with?”
Of course, busy gym owners may have limited time to get to know applicants, which means that educated guesswork will be necessary to find the right fit for the position. When in doubt, keep McAllister’s mantra for the ideal gym employee in mind: “a cheerful, friendly, outgoing person with good values and a great attitude.” Keep this in mind during the interview process, and you’ll be one step closer to making the right choice.
**Pseudonym used for privacy