Brian Sutton MS, MA, NASM-CPT, CES, PES
Stacey Penney MS, NASM-CPT, CES, PES, FNS
Fitness professionals need to understand the importance of a well-written resume. It doesn't matter if you’re applying at a local health club, university, or sports performance clinic, your resume may hold the key for you to land your dream job or prevent you from even being considered.
A resume is a selling tool that outlines your education, skills and experiences so employers can see at a glance how you can contribute to their company. In other words, your resume is a brief written snapshot highlighting the qualities you possess.
Purpose of a Resume
A resume does its job successfully if it does not exclude you from consideration. Your resume’s job is simple—to land you an interview! In many cases, it may take less than thirty seconds for employers to decide if your resume ends up in the “consider” or “reject” pile. Therefore, your resume needs to quickly capture the reader’s interest. Most hiring managers will not spend too much time looking through each resume, so it must promptly and accurately describe who you are, what you do best, and how you can be a benefit to their company.
The most effective resumes are clearly focused on a specific job title (i.e., Certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor, Fitness Manager) and address the employer's stated requirements for the position. The more you know about the duties and skills required for the job—and organize your resume around these points—the more effective your resume will be. And the more you know about the employer and the position, the better you can tailor your resume to fit the job.
1. Contact Details: Name, address, telephone, e-mail. All of your contact information should go at the top of your resume.
- Your contact information should be up-to-date. If you’re a student or constantly moving, it is best to use a permanent address, such as your parents.
- Avoid nicknames.
- Use a professional e-mail address.
- Check your voice mail message. Make sure it conveys a professional message to potential employers.
2. Education: If you’re a new college graduate, list your education before your work experience—especially if you have a limited amount of work history. If you’re a fitness professional with little to no college experience, list your work experience first. Listing your most attractive features before anything else will help give a good first impression to potential employers.
- List your most recent education first.
- Include your degree (A.S., B.A., M.S., etc.), major, institution attended, and minor/concentration.
- Include your grade point average (GPA) only if it is higher than 3.5 and you have limited work experience. If you have several years of work experience, this information is more relevant to employers and trumps the importance of a GPA.
- Mention academic honors.
- List all fitness certifications and advanced specializations (i.e., NASM-CPT, CES, PES).
3. Work Experience: List all work experience that has taught you important and applicable skills. Many skills can be marketed to fitness employers besides exercise and nutrition (especially if you’re lacking fitness-related work experience). For example, previous jobs emphasizing sales, customer service, leadership, and multi-tasking should be included on your resume. List all work experience that relates as closely as possible to the position you’re applying for.
Include your work experience in reverse chronological order—that is, put your last job first and work backward to your first relevant job. Include:
- Title of position
- Name of organization
- Location of work (city, state)
- Dates of employment
- Describe your work responsibilities with emphasis on specific skills and achievements.
- Emphasize how past experiences help qualify you for the position you’re applying for.
4. Other Information: List important information that may prove beneficial for employers to know about you.
- Special skills or competencies (ex. Microsoft Office, Web Design, Photoshop)
- Leadership and/or teaching experience (ex. Scuba Instructor, Community College Instructor)
- Participation in sports, bodybuilding, fitness workshops or conventions, or continuing education courses
- Charity and volunteer work
- Professional memberships
5. References: Most employers ask for three references. It is recommended to list your references on a separate sheet of paper. It’s much better to use space on your resume for important skills, experience and education. You may note at the bottom of your resume: "References furnished on request."
When listing professional references include:
- Reference’s Name
- Job Title
- Phone Number
- E-mail Address
If possible, choose references that hold positions in a related health and fitness field. In this instance, employers will be interested in feedback about you from someone who was in a position of responsibility and authority that can judge your work experience, professionalism and reliability. Avoid listing family members as references. Former managers, supervisors and professors make great references.
Ask permission to use their name and contact details as references. Share if you’ve had a name change since you worked with them so they recognize your new name. Forward them your current resume so they can be prepared to speak about your strengths and potential for the types of positions you are seeking.
6. Cover Letter: Some companies won’t even consider your resume without a cover letter. Use the cover letter to introduce you, your skills, and how they directly apply to the position.
- Include the same contact details as your resume.
- Personalize the cover letter with professional greeting and closing lines (Dear Mr. ABC, Sincerely).
- Thank the reader for considering your application.
7. Revise: You've written your resume and cover letter, now it's time to have them reviewed and critiqued by a peer or mentor.
- Check all spelling (Microsoft Word has a spell check feature).
- Read them out loud, word for word.
- Ask a mentor or peer to perform a grammar review.
- Ask another friend to proofread. The more people who see your resume (and cover letter), the more likely misspelled words and awkward phrases will be seen and corrected.
8. Design: These tips will make your resume easier to read and/or upload into an employer's computer database.
- Use clean high quality white paper.
- Use 8-1/2- x 11-inch paper.
- Only print on one side of the paper.
- Use a font size of 10 to 12 points.
- Use plain, easy to read fonts.
- Choose one typeface and stick to it.
- Avoid italics, script, and underlined words.
- Do not fold or staple your resume.
- If you must mail your resume, put it in a large envelope.
9. Online Resume Submissions: Many of the bigger organizations now require that candidates submit an online application. After all the work designing a top-notch resume, you may need to do some quick redesign (don’t panic!) to get your online application and resume noticed. Some online programs will search your application for key words that were in the job description. Make sure you incorporate some of them throughout your materials (and this also includes the cover letter). The online submission process will probably include text boxes that you can copy and paste sections of your resume, like previous work experience details.
A few points to remember:
- Include job description key words.
- Save a copy of your responses and revised resume.
- Review and adjust formatting when copy/pasting materials.
- Save a copy of the revised resume (and cover letter) in a pdf for uploading.
- Name this revised resume with your name and the position you are applying for, with correct spellings.
One of the challenges of submitting applications online is formatting. Most sites will allow you to upload a complete copy of your resume. It’s important to save a copy of your newly revised resume in a pdf format for easy uploading.
Personal training is one of the fastest growing occupations in the country. As the general population continues to grow and live longer, while suffering from unhealthy lifestyles consequences of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure (to name a few), the services of certified personal trainers to help improve their quality of life becomes vital. Subsequently, the demand and expectations for certified personal trainers is also on the rise. Therefore, it is increasingly important for personal trainers and fitness professionals to effectively write a first-class resume to better reach those in need of their services.
For a listing of open fitness jobs, check out NASMjobs.com