If you’re considering pursuing a position in a spa, your best bet is to be informed about what employers in the spa industry seek in massage therapists and whether you’re well-suited for success in this setting.
In many ways, practicing massage therapy in a spa is similar to practicing massage in other settings: Once the door to the treatment room is closed and a client is on your table, you’ll tap the same skills and techniques to relax and treat your client that you would elsewhere.
Most of what makes working a spa job different from practicing in other settings occurs outside the treatment room and reflects the values, rules and procedures of the spa itself.
Customers Are Always Right
As a rule, a central theme among spas is close attention to customer service. Prices at spas are typically higher than local massage clinics because the business is selling not just a massage, but a massage experience.
This may include use of amenities, such as steam rooms, saunas, juice bars and relaxation areas, but most certainly it includes a superior and polished approach to treating a client as a special guest.
Massage therapists play an important role in this, and they are expected to act not just in the capacity of a massage therapist, but also as a host to the clients’ experiences.
This means therapists should be well-versed in the spa’s full-service menu and product selection, so they can provide knowledgeable answers to client questions.
Therapists also need to stay aware of a client’s full schedule of services, so they can guide clients from one service to the next and help create a fluid experience.
Plusses of Employment
Therapists who work in spa settings often sacrifice some of the scheduling freedoms that come with private practice. Typically, you’ll have a regular schedule of hours that you are assigned to work each week.
This means there is an expectation you will be at work and ready to take clients, whether or not you are actually booked with services.
Different spas have different policies when it comes to downtime; some will require you to stay on-site and wait for updates, while others may allow you to leave the premises and be on call for incoming clients.
On the plus side, therapists working in spas can typically leave the administrative, marketing and janitorial work to others. Most spas have full-time receptionists to book appointments, a marketing team to acquire new clients and a cleaning staff to handle laundry, vacuuming and other housekeeping duties.
Supplies and products are typically provided by the facility for your use, and you never have to worry about moving a massage table from place to place.
Polish Your Resume
Once you decide you want to work in a spa environment, the next step is to work on your resume. Rest assured managers develop the ability to filter through resumes to choose viable interview candidates, despite the fact that a piece of paper can’t convey the quality of massage techniques.
Massage employers value several qualities beyond massage ability, and many of those traits are easily conveyed in a resume. According to Lori Lobascio, who as of this writing was spa manager at The Spa at the Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort in Charleston, South Carolina, longevity at another place of business shows commitment and reliability, both highly valued attributes in employees.
Having specialized training in the services offered by the facility where you’re applying will also attract an employer, as it will reduce and simplify training time.
While some spa employers require previous massage experience (Lobascio, for examples, says only candidates with two or more years will be considered for her spa), others will interview you right out of school, provided your resume and cover letter make a strong professional impression.
According to Peter Rubnitz, owner of Urban Oasis in Chicago, Illinois, “We will absolutely hire a new graduate, provided the applicant went to a top school and has a compelling story to tell.”
Previous non-massage job experience can provide value on your resume, if you’re able to draw upon qualities or skills learned in another field.
For instance, if you worked for 10 years in a customer service position, the combination of your company loyalty and your well-developed people skills will weigh in your favor.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, a resume should convey seriousness about your chosen profession, with emphasis on continuing education. If you’ve taken courses beyond the basic massage curriculum, be sure to highlight that.
“We want to see that the individual has a commitment to continuing education, which demonstrates passion for their trade,” says Rubnitz.
There is a difference between those who are serious about pursuing and mastering their craft and those who practice massage simply to make extra money. Employers seem to agree that the most successful therapists are driven by a genuine desire to help people.
Where Do You Want to Be?
Before sending out your resume, do your research. Think about how you would look for the type of massage you would like to perform and the environment in which you would like to perform it, and then think about how people find facilities that meet their needs.
Some of the most common sources of new business for spas include word-of-mouth, Internet searches and referrals from physicians or other health practitioners.
If you want to perform therapeutic massage in a spa setting, get online and use your search engine to look for businesses promoting that type of work.
Not only will you find employers who offer services that match your preferences, you will find employers who are reaching clients searching for those services.
Ask friends, who are in the know, where they would go if they were looking for the type of massage you’d like to perform, and then research those businesses.
Visit spa Web sites or better yet, go to places that interest you and request a tour or receive a service, and select a facility where you feel at home. Then send your resume to your favorite places, and include a personalized cover letter that will set you apart from the pack.
The Cover Letter
You can bet top employers with market savvy and solid reputations receive many resumes from prospective employees, and a form cover letter is not going to distinguish you from the pack. Employers report that a solid, customized cover letter, showing specific knowledge of and interest in the business to which you’re applying, can make all the difference.
Recognizing that hiring a new employee, training them, introducing them to their staff and clientele requires significant investment of both time and money, employers want to know the person they’re hiring is going to stick around. A form cover letter says, “I want a job,” whereas a personalized cover letter says, “I want a job with your company.”
Moreover, look at the cover letter as a place where you can tell your story and let your personality and passion shine through. According to Rubinitz, “We’re hiring personalities as much as we’re hiring technical ability.”
Ace The Interview
Once you’ve secured an interview, you’ll want to be prepared to make the best possible impression on your prospective employer. A good rule of thumb: Consider what an employer values in an employee, and use the interview as an opportunity to demonstrate that you possess those qualities.
First and foremost, show up on time. A spa setting requires employees who are punctual and know how to stick to a tight schedule, so arriving late for an interview raises a giant red flag. Never schedule an interview when it’s sketchy as to whether you can make it, as a late cancellation on an interview may end your chances of ever getting one.
Next, you’ll want to keep in mind that the massage business depends heavily upon first impressions. There are not many professions where you meet someone and within two minutes, they’re undressed and alone in a closed-door room with you.
You must make the type of impression on your prospective employer that he or she would expect you to make on his or her clients: “relaxed, but professional, clean-cut and knowledgeable,” says Rubnitz.
When you meet, make eye contact, smile and be sure to offer a nice, firm, therapist-strength handshake. Avoid unusual hair color, visible tattoos and facial piercings—because no matter how unfair, there are still plenty of clients who find these trends disconcerting. Remember, their comfort is key.
Typically, both a verbal and a practical interview will take place. During the verbal interview, the employer will look to get a sense of who you are, why you chose the field of massage therapy and whether your personality is well-suited to the establishment.
You should be prepared to answer questions about how you define yourself as a massage therapist: what type of work you most enjoy and in what areas of practice you excel.
It’s always a good idea to have a list of insightful questions ready for the interviewer; those that show an interest in the spa’s business philosophy will reflect especially well on you.
Rubnitz says questions regarding pay scale and benefits are best left for a second interview or upon receiving an offer.
Most prospective employers will require one or two demonstrations of your massage work, otherwise known as the practical portion of the interview. (If they don’t, you should be wary of the facility’s quality control.)
For this portion of the interview, the interviewer will want to experience your work from a client perspective. You should be able to perform a comprehensive verbal intake, where you check for special health considerations, contraindications, previous injury and preferences.
While you may feel a bit nervous, make sure you listen carefully to the requests of the interviewer and customize the massage to meet his or her needs. Be sure to check in with the interviewer once regarding pressure, but most of all, listen to the cues of his or her body.
“The best massage therapists need little verbal guidance because they follow their intuition and stay focused and present throughout the service,” says Lobascio.
After an interview, follow-up is important, but remember there is a fine line between persistence and stalking.
Avoid calling before the time an employer says you’ll be contacted (although a handwritten thank-you note is always a welcome gesture)—but beyond that date, it’s a good idea to check in and reiterate your interest in the position, as doing so shows genuine interest.
About the Author
Natalie Tessler is the president and founder of Spa Space, a large day spa located in downtown Chicago, Illinois, which opened in 2001. Tessler regularly speaks to students, entrepreneurs and angel investors on the topics of capital-raising, business plan development and entrepreneurship. She also does consulting for new day spa businesses.