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Massage Today
December, 2003, Vol. 03, Issue 12

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,

The recruits are coming through the front doors fast and furiously now, and it's up to you to assemble a successful team.

It wasn't long ago that you were applying for a job at the resort spa. Now, here you are on the opposite end of the job application, making your own judgments about who's a "keeper" and who's not. How can you possibly make such crucial decisions - decisions that affect not only your spa but the lives of others, as well? How can you look someone in the eye and tell them, "No, you're not good enough?" You weren't bargaining on this aspect of the process being so tough, were you? Well, don't worry too much. I'll give you a few pointers that should make it easier for you to go through this process.

Your spa consultant has already done a good job of winnowing out the best candidates from the dozens who applied. Now it's your turn to meet them face-to-face to receive that all-important, hands-on experience: the test massage. A while back, I gave you instructions for giving the best test massage, but I believe it takes an equal amount of skill to properly receive a test massage to consider a candidate's potential for employment.

Techniques for Receiving a Test Massage

Receiving a test massage is more work than it might seem. Sure, you're lying there with your eyes closed while someone gives you a massage, but the skill required to put a candidate at ease while trying to enjoy yourself and critique their performance is tricky.

I once hired the entire massage staff for a new mid-sized spa, which required me to receive over 40 test massages. Because of our deadline, I had to schedule three massages a day, every day for a week. This not only made it difficult to differentiate between candidates but also left me in a state of near-catatonia (by the end of the week I was bruised from bumping frequently into furniture!). Leave yourself enough time to savor the distinct qualities of each massage before moving onto the next. Schedule your test massage sessions with as much time between them as possible.

When you were giving test massages, I gave you the following advice: Do not hurt the person; ask for feedback, but not too much; be confident, but not too confident; and provide a whole massage. Look for these same qualities when receiving a test massage. Is the therapist sensitive to possible contraindications? Is he or she willing to help clients fill out an intake form and go over it with them? (I'll send you a sample intake form in a future letter.) During the massage, does the therapist ask pertinent questions about pressure and comfort? Is the therapist professional and sure of the technique, yet humble enough to change tactics if you ask for something different? Does he or she cheerfully offer a full-body massage?

Someone who fulfills these criteria will likely be a good choice, but look for other signs of potential success, as well. For example, when the airline companies hire flight attendants, they place several candidates in a room together and give them each a problem to solve. Airline officials observe the performances through a two-way mirror, but they are not concerned with who solves the problem. Rather, they watch for who helps their fellow candidates - they want to hire helpful people.

Look for these traits in potential candidates, too: helpfulness, compassion, cooperation, humility, and a positive attitude. Does the therapist want to clean up the massage room after giving the test massage? Do they pick up towels, linens or other things lying on floor? Do they smile and say hello to the other people they meet during the process (not just you, the person they are trying to impress)?

The Final Word

Finally, the hiring process comes down to trusting yourself. No matter how much you think you should hire someone because of a slick résumé or other factors, you have to go with your instincts (after checking references, of course). I've had to make some tough decisions. I once received a test massage from a blind Peruvian Indian. I wanted to hire him because he had fought against staggering odds to find success; however, his massage technique needed a lot of improvement. I was sorry to turn him down, but I had to be honest about the needs of the spa. Do what you have to do, Lou, and forgive yourself for mistakes you make.

Talk to you soon,

Steve Capellini, LMT

Click here for previous articles by Steve Capellini, LMT.


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