An image of a businesswoman answering questions in an interview is used to illustrate the concept of "interviewing the interviewer."

There are plentiful massage therapy jobs available now—at clinics, spas, hospitals and multi-therapist practices. If you seek employment and want to secure a position at the location of your choosing, you need to know how to have a successful interview.

Interview the Interviewer

You’ve just moved and need a place to work.

You love your work but you’re tired of running a business.

You’ve just gotten your license.

You want a second income stream in addition to your private practice.

You don’t like the isolation of working alone. You want to work with other people.

You need a steadier income while you build a private practice.

Whatever the reason, you now find yourself needing a job—which usually means you need to interview.

How do you approach interviews? Most importantly, how do you understand your position in an interview? Are you the supplicant, desperate to be accepted? Are you so focused on making a good impression on the interviewer that you forget that you’re also interviewing them?

Yes, you are also interviewing them. A great job is about so much more than a paycheck. The more the job fits you and your needs, the longer you’ll stay and the happier you’ll be.

What are some of the elements of a great job fit?

Compatible mission. There are many reasons to be a massage therapist. What’s yours? What motivates you? Helping the body repair itself? Providing a safe place for body and soul to relax? Helping clients reconnect with their bodies? Helping people move more freely in their body?

We all have the thing that makes it worth it to keep going on the days that get tough. The thing that leaves us feeling fulfilled and satisfied when we help make it happen for a client. It’s called your mission. Look for a workplace that allows you to live out your mission.

What you want to deliver. People come to us because they want something to change, they want us to help them achieve some kind of result. What kind of results do you want to deliver? What kind of work do you like to do? (This usually grows out of your mission.) Will this job allow you to do that, even encourage you to do that?

The experience. While our clients come to us for results, they tend to stay because the experience is also good for them. Some of that is the environment—what the setting looks like, what it’s like to be there. But some of it is also about you—your sense of humor, worldview and general energy.

Do you feel like you belong in this place? Are your sense of humor, worldview or other aspects of your personality appreciated? Do they feel like they fit with you? The more you fit, the more you can create the kind of experience that will keep clients coming back.

Client type. Given your mission, the kind of work you like to do, and the experience you create you’ve probably already learned that some people are a better match for you than others. What do you know about the kind of clients you tend to attract, the kind who are happy they’ve found you? The kind you look forward to seeing? Does that line up with the kind of clients this business attracts?

Professional connections. When we talk about word-of-mouth marketing, we’re actually talking about two sources: our clients and other professionals (massage therapists, dentists, physical therapists, etc.). What kind of professional connections does this business have? Are they productive? Are they the kind of connections that will bring in the kind of clients you like to work with?

A solid team. If you have to work with other people, it is best to work with a stable collegial team. That’s usually the result of good hiring practices and good management of the business.

How do you recognize a solid team? Low turnover is one indicator. Another thing to consider is how much experience the other massage therapists have. Is it a mix of experience? Is everyone new to the field? If you’re new to the field, it’s nice to have more experienced therapists you can talk to and learn from.

Business skills. If you are going to work for someone else, it makes a big difference if they are good at running a business! Just because someone is a great massage therapist doesn’t mean they’re good at running a business, especially a business that’s good for you.

How seriously do they take managing the business? Do they have a business plan? Do they understand what marketing works for them and what doesn’t? How much of their time do they spend running the business? This one’s a particular hot button for me: do they actually enforce their cancellation and no-show policies?

Stability. Most of us thrive in environments that are well-run, predictable, and reliable. It creates a stable environment where you can trust that you’ll have what you need and can focus on doing great work.

Longevity of ownership, leadership, and the team can be one sign of stability. Consistent policies—that are enforced—is another sign of stability. Be cautious about a practice that is regularly changing its focus or policies.

How to Have a Successful Interview: Questions to Ask

Certain questions you can ask in an interview help you see if the business is a good fit for you. When you’re asking the questions, you’re looking for two things: the answer and how the interviewer handles being interviewed.

Are they surprised, reluctant or even annoyed? That might suggest that they don’t see you as a peer but as a person one-down (because they have a job and you need one). They may not appreciate the interdependence of a good owner and a good team member.

Here are some suggestions for questions to ask during your interview:

“How do you understand the mission of this business?” Does their mission line up with yours?

“How would you describe your client base?” (Are these the kind of clients you want to work with?)

“What do clients come here for most often?” (Is this the kind of work you want to do?)

“Is there a personality type that you find is a good fit with your clients?” (Is your personality a good fit?)

“Apart from overt ethical violations, what’s a deal-breaker for you in your relationship with your therapists?” (Does the owner have healthy boundaries around unacceptable therapist behavior?)

“Have you ever had to fire a client?” (Can they enforce professional boundaries?)

“Have you ever had to fire, or can you imagine firing, a therapist?” ()How conflict-averse are they?)

“Who do you have the most active referral relationship with?” (Have they invested in referral relationships?)

“What’s your most effective marketing tool?” (Are they spending their time, energy, and money on things that work or just randomly doing marketing “things” and hoping for the best? Remember: their marketing fills your schedule.)

“What’s your policy with discounts?” (Unless carefully managed, discounts take money out of the pockets of both the business and therapist.)

“How long have most of your team been here?” (If other therapists tend to stay, there’s a better chance you will want to as well.)

“Who do you think is your most valuable massage therapist and why?” (What do they value the most in a massage therapist? Do you have what it takes to be valuable to them?)

“What percentage of your client base is returning regulars?” (Clients return because they’re happy with the work they receive and the experience.)

“Are there modalities you’d like to add to what you offer?” (Are these modalities you have or would like to get?)

“How often do you have to enforce your no-show or cancellation policy?” (It’s pointless to have a policy if you never enforce it. Since many of us are paid by the session, unpaid cancellations / no-shows mean lower income for you.)

“What are the biggest challenges you face as a business?” (How do they think about their business, its strengths and weaknesses, and where they want to go? Are they managing the business or is it just happening around them?)

“How much experience does your team have?” (Can they attract, and retain, experienced therapists?)

“How would you like to grow?” (Do they have a vision for the future that you can see yourself fitting into it?)

Some of these questions make more sense when you’re talking to a practice run by an individual versus interviewing with a franchise. You don’t have to ask all these questions, or even any of them, if you don’t want to. Pick the ones that will give you the information you need.

However, don’t be afraid to ask the kind of questions that will allow you to find a place to work where you can thrive and be a valuable addition to the team.

Kelly Bowers

About the Author

Kelly Bowers is the owner of the Healing Arts Business Academy and a retired massage therapist. She is the author of four books — Can I Deduct That, The Affordable Massage Handbook, The Accidental Business Owner, and Between Doormat and Diva. She is a regular presenter at national conferences, an instructor in professional training programs, and an NCBTMB-approved provider of continuing education. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. She lives in Durham, North Carolina.