How to Nail Your Yoga Job Interview

by Lucas Rockwood (DYT, Master Trainer)

Whether you just graduated from yoga teacher training and are trying to land your first job or if you’ve been teaching for years but are looking for something new, interviewing skills are essential and gravely lacking in the yoga industry.

Here’s my background: I’m a career yoga teacher, so I’ve been interviewed dozens of times. I’ve also been on the other side of the table, with years of experience hiring teachers. I’ve hired over 60 instructors to date to work for me in my studios, workshops, and training courses in five different countries. So, I have insights into this process that I’m happy to share.

The sad fact is that most yoga teachers are unprofessional, unprepared, and unemployable. I don’t say this to be cynical, I say it because it’s true. If you can present yourself as a pro, you have a huge advantage and you’ll land jobs even if you’re the least-experienced person being considered.

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Top Tips for Nailing the Yoga Instructor Interview

(1) Dress Like a Yoga Teacher. Wear yoga clothing. This is the professional attire of a yoga instructor, so dress the part. Make sure clothes are newish (not tattered), clean, and not wrinkled or smelly. Err on the side of conservative attire—nothing too small, too tight or too revealing. If the interviewer asks why you’re wearing yoga clothes, tell them you’re teaching (or taking) class right afterward.

(2) Clean Your Hands, Feet & Hair. These little things matter. Get (or DIY) a manicure and pedicure, pull your hair back so it’s out of your face, and look as if you’re ready to walk in the door and teach. Behind closed doors, studio managers complain about disheveled yoga teachers all the time, and I’m embarrassed to say, I neglected this myself for years. It matters. Clean up.

(3) Do Your Homework. If at all possible, take class at the studio where you’re interviewing. The very first thing I do when anyone applies to work for me is check our studio software to see if they’ve ever come to class. If not, it’s a bad sign. Someone who really wants the job will usually take class as a student.

Next, read the website and pay attention to what it says. If the website says that the studio is all about fitness, then prepare for that conversation. If the website says the studio is focused on spirituality, make sure you can fulfill that expectation.

(4) Tell Stories. When the interviewer asks you a question such as, “What is your favorite class to teach?” try to always loop it back to a story. “I just love teaching Vinyasa Flow… I have this student named Linda, and it’s been so rewarding to see her go from X and now she’s at Y.” This will give you, as a teacher, three dimensions. It will also make your interview more memorable for the person interviewing you. On paper and in person, yoga teachers look a lot alike. They all have some Yoga Alliance certificate, they’ve studied some Thai Massage and traveled to Bali or India at some point. But really, who are you? When you tell stories, the interviewer can relate to you, remember you, and connect with you as a person. It’s a simple way to stand out.

(5) Ask Questions, Lots of Questions. The more you can get the studio manager/owner to talk about themselves, about their studio and their vision, the more they will like you and feel aligned with you. It’s strange but true. Ask simple questions to learn more about the person interviewing you at every opportunity.

Example Questions:

  • What is your vision for the studio?
  • What is the most challenging thing about running this studio right now? How could your teachers make it easier?
  • Who is your best teacher right now? What makes her the best?
  • What are the most important qualities you’re looking for in this new teacher?
  • What problems or challenges have you had with teachers in the past?

Keep in mind, most interviewers are just as nervous as you are—sometimes more—and they are usually not prepared. This means if you ask good questions, you’ll help them communicate their needs, wants, and dreams, and you can then share how you can be of help.

(6) Don’t Bring Up Money or Schedules. One of the most irritating things yoga teachers do in first interviews is to talk about money or schedule issues. These topics are irrelevant until there is a real possibility of working together. If the interviewer brings it up, then talk about it; but otherwise, keep quiet and save it for a future conversation. The interviewer barely knows your name at this point, so it’s silly to start talking about your Tuesday night conflict or your salary expectations.

(7) Say Nice Things. If you took a class at the studio, compliment the studio owner on something: the teacher, the sequence, the vibe, the bathrooms, whatever. Studio ownership is very challenging, sometimes thankless work. Give some appreciation and respect, and you’ll see how quickly you’ll connect with your interviewer.

(8) Don’t Criticize Anything. Many teachers I’ve interviewed lecture me about what yoga is or is not. I’ve had interviewees point out my teachers’ faults and assure me they can do better. Some have suggested schedule changes or temperature changes. Was there some truth to their criticisms? Of course. But I am not looking for unsolicited feedback during a job interview, and due to negative transference, your criticisms will often be remembered as negative feelings about you. Stay positive. It’s a better choice.

(9) Don’t Offer to Teach a Free Class. Many teachers assume they are doing you a big favor by offering to teach a free demo class. In reality, it’s the other way around. A studio manager is doing a huge favor by dedicating 60-90 minutes for your free demo class, so take is seriously if it’s requested. Firstly, show up early (at least 15 minutes), follow the studio policies for check-in and setup, and do your best to fit into the flow of their existing structure.

(10) Follow Up. Two hours after your interview, send an email to the studio owner saying thank you and let them know how excited you are by this opportunity. Don’t offer to teach a free class, don’t tell them you’d like to meet for coffee, just say thank you and let them know you’re excited. Copy/paste this message below.

————————–
SUBJECT: Great to meet you!

Dear NAME,

It was great to learn more about ABC Studio. After speaking with you, I’m even more excited by this opportunity than I was before we met. Please let me know if you need any further information from me in order to make a decision. Thanks for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Regards,

Your Name
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(11) References. Most studio owners are not diligent enough to actually call your references (but they should!), but many will ask. Prepare in advance and have two professional references available. You can often get away with non-yoga references from other work experiences or using students as references, but a teacher who cannot dig up two references is highly suspicious.

(12) Say “Yes” to Invites. It’s very common for studio owners to test their applicants’ enthusiasm by inviting them to a class or workshop. I often give applicants a one-week pass to my studio and then watch what they do. Top applicants take a bunch of classes, get to know the teachers, and email me to say “thanks.” Low performers don’t bother to do anything. If you’re invited to a studio party, workshop, or class, say yes.

(13) Clarity is Rare – Be Clear. Most yoga teachers cannot articulate well what their classes are like, what their background is, and what they are doing as a teacher. Get clear, and show up ready to convey clarity on demand.

Example Question: What are your classes like?
Sample Answer: I teach Vinyasa-Flow based classes that are athletic and dynamic. I always include Sun Salute and standing poses, inversions, and hip openers. My classes are challenging, but not intimidating. I always give options for all levels and keep the group moving together as one.

Example Question: Why did you become a yoga teacher?
Sample Answer: I was working in advertising and realized that my yoga practice was more important than my corporate job. I didn’t think I could make it work as a career, but I’m figuring it out. It’s much more rewarding than my previous job.

Example Interview Question: Why are you interested in our studio?
Sample Answer: I took a class with Lisa, and I really loved her straightforward approach. It was a hard class, but really fun. We were sweating and laughing at the same time. This fits with my approach to teaching.

(14) Be Yourself. Many yoga teachers try to “act the part” of a yoga teacher. That’s silly. Just be yourself. It’s rare to find a grounded, authentic yoga teacher, and it’s very much appreciated. Don’t go into the interview trying to fit a stereotype; just be yourself.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I got my first teaching gig before I was even certified to teach, and I landed high-profile jobs where I was the least-qualified applicant. I did so by being professional. The yoga market is only crowded at the bottom. As soon as you differentiate yourself in the ways we’ve talked about here, you’ll find doors of opportunity swinging open again and again.

I hope these tips help you land your dream job.