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Massage Today
March, 2001, Vol. 01, Issue 03

Spa Letters

By Steve Capellini, LMT

Author's note: The Spa Letters column features news, personality profiles, trends, and plenty of professional possibilities for LMTs in the spa industry. The style is epistolary, meaning the articles are letters to a fictional massage therapist friend of the author.

Dear Lou,

So you've landed your first interview for a job in the spa industry.

Congratulations! It wasn't as hard as you thought it was going to be, was it? I told you spas are very much in need of qualified, motivated individuals to make their programs work. In fact, spas are more employee-heavy that almost any other industry. According to a study done last year by PricewaterhouseCooper, there are over 104,000 full-time employees in the spa industry, and over 45,000 part-time employees.

This observation was echoed by Nancy Griffin a friend of mine in the spa industry. Who has done an in-depth analysis of the spa industry. This is what she says regarding the employment picture in spas: "Creative compensation strategies and continuing education will go a long way in creating employee loyalty. Strategies must be developed to minimize employee loss. Turnover is costly to any industry, but is especially damaging in the spa industry because of the high cost of training per employee."

That's right. Spas, like any industry, have trouble retaining qualified employees, so they're hoping you not only qualify for the job you're going to interview for next week, but they also hope you're going to stay with the job for a long time to come. What could be better than that?

I know, I know all of this information is fine, but it doesn't do much to calm your nerves about the upcoming interview. OK, then, let's get to work.

In Human Resources

Since you're applying at one of the big resort spas in your area, you're probably going to have to do a preliminary interview. Depending upon who interviews you, this can either be a fun experience or a rough one. Probably your biggest challenge is going to be keeping your positive attitude. It's easy to get awestruck and depressed by the impersonal atmosphere in some of these larger corporations. You end up sitting in a little plastic chair for hours and taking a test that has nothing to do with your skills as a massage therapist. All I can say is, keep your head up! It gets better.

The most important points you need to get across to the human resources interviewer are the intangible, yet crucial qualities that make you a superior candidate for a position in this fine, upstanding company. Qualities like honesty, loyalty, punctuality, and disciplined focus on the job at hand, for example, are important factors when considering anyone for any position. But it's tricky to just walk in and say, "I'm honest, loyal, punctual and disciplined." Instead, let your résumé work for you, as I suggested in my last letter. Be humble, attentive, and patient. Mostly, stay positive.

The Spa Director

I'm confident that you'll make it to the next step, which is meeting with the spa director. This may very well take place in the spa facility itself, so watch out! Many applicants, when they first step foot in the opulent surroundings of a first class spa, are overwhelmed by the atmosphere, and a little intimidated by all the marble, the muted colors, and the seemingly rich ladies floating around in robes. Remember, this fancy place needs your services to be successful. Just take a deep breath and relax.

Share with the spa director your vision of yourself in the spa industry, speaking with conviction about where you see yourself a few years down the road. You want to show your serious intentions of remaining with the industry (hopefully at this spa), learning as much as you can, and eventually moving your way up to more responsibilities. Be careful here, though. You don't want to appear too greedy or overanxious. For instance, I was recently interviewing a newly graduated massage therapist for a position at a spa project I'm working on, and he said he wanted to start on the management team right away, for a competitive spa director's salary. Needless to say, this individual never even started as a therapist, and I think he'll find it hard to get a job in any spa with that kind of attitude.

It's all about balance, Lou. You want to look extremely eager yet also aware that there are ropes to be learned. This spa director you'll be talking to can be your ally in that respect. Listen to what he or she has to say.

The (Gulp) Test Massage

If you've never given a test massage before, the experience can leave you standing in a puddle of your own sweat, mired in a complex swirl of emotions, the most prominent of which include fear and self-doubt. I know - it's happened to me. The first test massage I gave was to my instructor in massage school in order to graduate. It was one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life. (Hint: don't eat bean burritos directly before giving the test massage.)

You don't have to go through the same pain I did, though. Just relax as much as possible and follow a few simple guidelines:

1. Don't hurt the person you are massaging.

I know, this probably sounds ridiculous, but I received one test massage from a fellow who kept banging my own hand into my head as he massaged my arm. This went on and on until I had to ask him to stop. Remember, the person receiving the massage wants you to be good. You can help create that impression by not being bad.

2. Ask for feedback, but not too much.

Give a nice, courteous, sensitive massage, asking for feedback a few times during the hour. Adjust your massage accordingly. If the interviewer wants a light relaxing massage, give it to her, even if you're a steadfast deep muscular therapist. You need to show a breadth of skills to work in a spa. Also, don't do anything too "far out," like breathing in sync with the "far out," like breathing in sync with the interviewer throughout the entire massage, or crawling up on the table for some esoteric manipulations. Think simple, straightforward massage.

3. Be confident, but not too confident.

I received a test massage from an applicant who had several years of experience and was very confident and nonchalant about his prospects of getting a job. The problem was, he was too confident, to the point of not really caring. I felt that he was burned out after too many years of doing the same thing, and that his soul wanted to be doing something else. His massage was good, but he didn't get the job.

4. Give a whole massage.

You'd be surprised how many candidates come in thinking that a little massage will show the full range of their abilities. This is a mistake. Unless the interviewer requests otherwise, assume you will be giving a full-hour massage. This is more than just courteous; it shows that you can perform the job you're applying for, which in most spas is usually full-hour treatments.

Well, once again, Lou, I hope this information helps you a little. I'll be eagerly awaiting news from your interview.

Good Luck,

Steve Capellini, LMT

Click here for previous articles by Steve Capellini, LMT.


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