Need More Team Members? The 7 Best Practices For Hiring Massage Therapists

If it isn’t already obvious, the old practices for hiring massage therapists aren’t as effective as they used to be. With the candidate pool now significantly more passive, you’ve got to up your game if you want to attract & high massage therapists to your spa or practice. 

Here are some tips to help you attract qualified talent: 

Best Practice #1 – Take The Right Mindset & Approach

In the past few years, the hiring market has changed. Your ideal therapists are most likely already working somewhere else where their job is “good enough.” Relying on active candidates, and old methods of hiring are becoming less effective every day. 

How & Who You Hire

Take a moment to assess which approach you’re going to take to find your best-fit people: 

  • ‘Restrained’ Hiring – We rely on the initiative of interested candidates to fill our job vacancies. 
  • ‘Proactive’ Hiring – We go directly to the candidates using active & forward recruitment strategies. 

These approaches will attract two totally different types of candidates.

The first being ‘Active Candidates’ – the massage therapists who are actively searching for job postings, and ‘Passive Candidates’ – the massage therapists who may already be employed, or are otherwise not checking out the latest job postings.

Your Hiring & Pay Philosophy

Taking the right mindset also extends beyond just your recruitment strategies. While it’s not often discussed at a small business level, there are also 2 other key approaches to filling your staff with the best possible talent. 

The first is the most common – known as ‘Top-Down-Hiring’ – In this approach, the owner says to herself.

 ‘If we charge X, and supplies cost Y, and I want a profit of Z, then I need to hire at $$/Hr” 

This approach has been the standard approach for most businesses, in most industries, and when there’s a very high pool of active candidates, it’s an effective approach. However, there is another way to recruit and attract the best people, even when the market is small. 

The other approach, which many owners miss, is referred to as ‘Bottom-Up-Hiring’. In this approach, the owner is asking herself 

What does it actually cost to have the BEST person possible to fill this role? If they’re looking for $XX, I want to retain a profit of Z, then I need to make the following changes in my business…’

The bottoms-up approach can often require a deep look into the numbers of your business, and some intense research and reflection for the business owner. It’s on her to find the sweet spot between meeting her own needs, the needs of the business, the needs of the client, and the needs of her team. 

In any case, with the right mindset and approach for your market, you’ll find greater success in your employee search efforts. 

Best Practice #2 – Revisit Your Employment Offer 

Let’s get this out of the way. If you aren’t receiving any interest & responses from MTs, then odds are that what you’re offering is not competitive enough. Expectations for salary, benefits, and more have completely changed in just the last few years. 

Salary & Wages 

As an employer, you need to know your numbers and be mindful of profit. However, a few dollars to you in hourly pay or commission percentage can mean a measurable difference in the quality of life for your employee – and in return help, you hire a highly talented therapist.  

The exact percentage or hourly wage will vary depending on the market. In many cases, paying a 70% equivalent commission or above in wages will create an unsustainable business, if the practice is going to grow a large team. Paying 30% and under in equivalent often isn’t enough to attract and retain qualified therapists. 

Massage therapy is a demanding job, and employers should be asking the following question. What does someone need to earn in my area to have a full-time MT job (~20-25 client hours) and pay all of their bills?’ When taking a top-down hiring approach, this question is often never asked, and salaries are based purely on the business’s financials with little to no discretion about the life of the therapists employed. This number will serve as a starting point to calculating the right wages for you and your team members. 

In addition, look at what other clinics in your area are offering and what type of MT(s) they have employed. You are in competition with those clinics and should be prepared to act so. If you can offer more than a 10% pay increase above their existing job, it can be enough to start the conversation. 

As a small business owner, it can be very scary to think about increasing wages. Make your life easier, and hire the most expensive talent you can afford. Advertise the higher salary, and turn away anyone who’s not a good fit. 

Benefits & Non-Salary Perks 

While salary is one of the biggest areas of focus for massage therapists, it doesn’t mean it’s the only criteria that people are using to make their decision. When putting together your employment offer, think about everything you have to give to your team members.

Will MT’s have to worry about washing their own linens? Do you already provide the necessary equipment for different modalities? Do you offer paid vacations? Sick time? Insurance? Paid CEUs? Free or discounted treatments? And so on. Be sure to highlight all of the benefits and perks of being employed with you. 

At the end of the day, selling your employment opportunities should feel similar to selling your services. You should strive to have an employment offer so good, and a job so attractive that your ideal therapists can’t help but be drawn to you. 

Best Practice #3 – Write A Better Job Ad 

Let’s be direct – candidates know their worth, and don’t have time to deal with mediocre, subpar, and nonspecific job postings. If you aren’t willing to put effort into your job ad, why should you expect the right person to be interested in working for you?

By creating a better hiring ad, you can greatly increase both the quality and quantity of your responses. Here are a few areas to consider including or highlighting in your job ads: 

  • Pay & Employment Structure – Will your team members be independent contractors or employees? Will their pay structure include some form of commission or be a flat rate? What is the pay structure for hands-on massage vs non-massage hours? In any case, these details and the expected take-home pay should be clearly listed 
  • Job Duties & Expectations  – What duties or responsibilities besides hands-on hours will be expected or required? Will they be responsible for cleaning, sales, and/or client check-out duties? Are the therapists expected to attract their own clientele? 
  • Availability & Working Hours – Beyond being part-time or full-time, what are the available hours and specific shifts? And/or if the hours are flexible, what is the minimum number of hours a therapist is expected to work? 
  • Client Load – Is your spa or practice already turning away clients? Will a new therapist start and immediately have a full schedule, or will there be a ram-up period? Give candidates an idea of what they can expect when they first join with your company.
  • Location – List where you are. Include street names as well as local landmarks & references. Make it easy for candidates to estimate their commute time without having to look it up. 

Best Practice #4 – Showcase Your Values, Story & Culture

It’s easy to think about marketing your practice to showcase things for your clients, but how about for potential employees? It’s not enough to just have a career page listing your available jobs. Highlight what it looks and feels like to be an employee of your business.

  • Broadcast your values & work culture  – What does your business stand for? What do you stand for? People want to work in a place that provides more than just money. Share your story, vision, mission, company values, and articulate the culture as often as possible. 
  • Have a career page on your website. You want candidates to share the same goals, attitudes, and general outlook in your business. A careers page can be the perfect place to show care all of these things. Use this space to also shares stories from you the owner, or from happy employees. 
  • Be active on social media – Show your face, your team, and your practice! People want to know where & with whom they’re working. Having a social feed full of stock images says nothing about the people who work at the company. This also tells candidates that you are actively promoting your team and helping keep their schedules full. 
  • Demonstrate a clear structure of growth. If you want to hire therapists who will stay, show them a plan of what their career could look like over the long term. Demonstrate what growth can look like in terms of management but also therapist-only paths. Will people be encouraged to start their own practices? In any case, show your candidates what their options are when growing with you.  

No matter how you do it, it’s up to you to sell yourself as a business and paint a picture of what it’s like to work for you. People will spend roughly ⅓ of their time in and at your business. Whether it’s through video, text, or word of mouth, it’s up to you to show that it’s a place that’s worth it. 

Best Practice #5 – Create A Premium Hiring Experience 

Most practice owners will put a large emphasis on creating an amazing client experience, yet totally neglect the hiring process. For new therapists, the hiring experience is a reflection of what a therapist can expect once they are employed. 

As owners, it’s up to you to give the same care and attention to create a premium hiring experience, just as you would for your clients. Here are a few things to create a better hiring experience: 

  • Make the application easy to access and complete. Massage therapists are less willing to go through frustrating online applications. Make it easier for your ideal candidates to apply. 
  • Do a 2-Step Interview. Splitting an interview into 2 more parts can be a win-win. By doing a video or phone interview before the in-person portion, you can weed out poor-fit candidates while also being respectful of candidates’ time. 
  • Pay for the hands-on interview. It’s surprising to find in 2022 that employers are still asking therapists to give their labor for free. Show that you value and respect your candidate’s time by paying for the practical portion of their interview. 

Remember, while active candidates are looking to engage with you, with passive candidates, you’re trying to engage with them. By creating a premium, or even above-standard, hiring experience, you can start the conversation off on the right foot, and show your candidates how much you value them. 

Best Practice #6 – Go Beyond The Job Boards

If it hasn’t been clear by now, you cannot apply your previous mindset and approach to hiring qualified therapists. Standard hiring ads on job boards are not going to cut it if people aren’t actively looking. It’s time to get creative. 

While many massage therapists are browsing what’s available, the vast majority of passive candidates are NOT waiting for positions, nor are they actively searching through job posts. You have to go directly to the therapist if you want to fill your practice with ideal candidates. 

Where To Look Beyond Job Boards 

Consider where else you might find candidates outside of traditional online job boards. 

  • Connect with the community – Outreach programs and community involvement aren’t just great for finding clients, they can also serve as marketing for potential employees. 
  • Connect with schools – Find out the ways you can partner with massage schools. While this won’t take care of your immediate hiring needs, it can open the door to creating a symbiotic relationship with recent massage schools and recent graduates. 
  • Encourage word of mouth – Don’t let it be a secret that you’re looking for more massage therapists. Encourage your existing team members to tell their network, and let more people know in yours. 

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, hiring enough of the right massage therapists is a crucial aspect of ensuring the success of your spa or practice. By following some of these best practices, you can create a thorough and effective hiring strategy, and meet the demands of your business.

From defining clear job requirements and conducting comprehensive interviews, showcasing your positive culture, and more, you can build and grow your team of skilled and dedicated massage therapists.

Free Download – The Massage Hiring Toolkit

Darryl "DJ" Turner

Darryl "DJ" Turner

I help wellness practice owners scale their income, impact, and freedom. I believe practitioner-owners should build their practice in a way that it not only generates income, but allows them the freedom to step back and live a life they love.