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Interviewing techniques.

In today's fast-paced environment, what continually sets the successful management companies apart are the people who actually do the everyday work. Too often management companies entrust millions of dollars in assets to managers who are incapable of managing property.

All of us have at one time found that the people we just hired lack the necessary skills and/or background to succeed. This is costly to the company and unfair to the individual hired. In addition, clients get the impression that the management company does not know what is doing and look for another company to manage their portfolios. If there is one thing that will cause our companies financial ruin, it is not hiring the right people.

How can this problem be avoided? The answer lies in spending a little extra time in interviewing candidates, making sure we have hired the best possible candidates, and having a list of questions that will allow us to comprehensively evaluate an individual without the candidate being able to give answers that he or she thinks the interviewer wants to hear. This article provides a list of questions that are designed to get into the candidate's mind and determine whether or not he or she can handle the job.

Interview preparation

Good interviewing is a technique developed over time. The questions must come comfortably, and there must be a reason for the question being asked. Take 15 to 20 minutes to prepare for the interview:

* Review the job description of the position.

* Review the candidate's resume. Make notes of questions to ask about the resume.

* Have a list of 30 to 40 questions.

* Block out sufficient time (45 to 60 minutes) for the interview.

* Make sure there are no interruptions during the interview.

* Have the candidate fill out an employee application and thoroughly examine the application prior to the interview (looking for information left off, directions not followed, and so forth).

* Pay attention to feedback from the receptionist at the front desk, where the candidate will likely have his or her guard down: Did he or she arrive on time? What did he or she do while waiting for the "on-stage" interview?

* Have a clear idea of the qualities the company is looking for.

Basic interview tips

* Utilize the 90/10 rule: The candidate talks 90 percent of the time, and the interviewer talks 10 percent of the time.

* Do not be afraid to probe further with phrases like, "Tell me more," "Give me an example," "What supports your answer?", and so forth.

* If a candidate is having difficulty in answering a question, just be silent or say "Just take your time," and allow the candidate to finish without interrupting.

Carefully prepared questions are the basis of an interview, but good interviewing techniques are essential for obtaining the information needed.

* Listen to what the candidate is really trying to say.

* Ask the same questions of each candidate. This will assist in comparing applicants.

* Note body language.

* Ask questions which require narrative responses rather than questions that can be answered with a simple "yes" or "no."

* Never accept an answer at its face value. Continue with: "I don't quite understand," "How so?", and "In what way?"

The course of the interview

The actual interview is broken down into five different stages: exploratory, work history, education, self concepts, and goals.

The exploratory questions are designed to put the candidate at ease and develop rapport. These questions should bee general in nature and somewhat impersonal, but at the same time casual, so as to allow for easy responses:

* Did you have any trouble finding the office?

* In what extra-curricular activities did you participate in school?

Remember, your are looking for a pattern in the responses, not the specific answers given.

In conducting the interview, you must listen for the pattern of the candidate's answers. For example, if the candidate answers several times that he did not like all the paperwork in prior jobs, and the position he is interviewing for involves paperwork, you probably do not have a viable candidate. Past performance is a great indicator of future performance.

In order to note patterns, you must listen intensely to what the applicant is telling you. If you are not sure what the applicant is saying, probe the responses.

From the applicant's resume, ask the following work history questions for each job the candidate has had:

* What are three things you liked about this job? What are three things you disliked about this job?

* Why did you leave this position?

* Of all the positions you have had, what job did you like the most, and why?

* Of all the positions you have had, what job did you like the least, and why?

* What is the most important thing you have learned from your work?

* Describe the ideal job for you.

* Who was the best supervisor you ever worked for, and why?

* If I called your present supervisor, how would he or she describe you in three words?

The main reason for asking educational questions is to determine if the applicant's educational background is sufficient to meet the job requirements.

* Tell me about your education.

* What was the most important thing your learned in school?

* What subjects did you like the most in school, and why?

* What subjects did you like the least in school, and why?

You need to bear in mind that human beings basically act as they see themselves. Therefore, questions that assess self-concept are an important part of an interview. Again, you are looking for patterns and not specific answers to questions.

* Give me four words that describe your strengths.

* What is your number one weakness, and what are you doing about it?

* Tell me four things that people like about you.

* Tell me two things that you would like to change about your management style.

* Tell me how you differ from the first impression you make.

* How would you want me to manage you?

* If I think you are doing something poorly, how would you want me to handle it?

* What motivates you, and why? What de-motivates you, and why?

* How do you motivate your subordinates?

* What is unique about you?

* How much money would you like to be earning in three years?

* In this field, what characteristics do you think are necessary for someone to have in order to achieve success? Which of these do you think you have? Which of these do you lack?

* If hired, what might cause you to leave this job?

* Drawing on your past work experiences, what have you done that you are proud of, and why?

* What have you done that you are not proud of, and why?

* Describe an incident in which you failed to motivate a subordinate.

* Describe how you work under pressure.

* Describe what the term "teamwork" means to you.

* What, if anything, are you not willing to do to assist the goal of the company or team?

* What qualities are you looking for in a company?

In this series of questions, you are trying to determine if the candidate has clearly thought out what he or she wants to accomplish in his or her life. How motivated is the candidate in achieving his or her goals?

* Tell me five things you want to accomplish in the next 12 months.

* Tell me your goals for the next five years.

* Tell me about your goals and what you are doing to achieve them.

The conclusion of the interview is the opportunity to answer any questions that the applicant might have. It is also the point at which to sell the company. The applicant should be left with a positive impression about the interviewer and the management company.

Assessing the applicant

Immediately following the interview, the manager needs to sit down and assess the applicant. One way to quantify your perceptions is to assign points to each question and compare the scores of each candidate. Ask the following questions and rate the applicant from 1 to 5 on each of these questions:

* First impression: Was the applicant punctual? well dressed? personable? open and frank?

* Individual aggressiveness: Applicant's work history.

* Work ethic: Will the applicant go the extra mile?

* Communication skills: Did the applicant listen to your questions and understand them? address the questions you asked? ramble on?

* Conscientiousness: Will this person pay attention to detail?

* Cooperativeness: Is this person a team player?

* Flexibility: Can this person work under pressure?

* Personality: Will this person be agreeable to work with? Ask yourself, "How would I manage this person?"

In summary

These interview questions are only general guidelines. Naturally, there are hundreds of questions one can ask, but remember, do not look for specific answers. Rather, look for patterns in the applicant's responses.

If these simple techniques are followed, upper management will go a long way in improving the bottom line by hiring the right people. Brian Van Holm, CPM [R], is president of Club Properties, Inc., of Atlanta. He has developed over $140 million of new construction of apartments and shopping centers in his 24 years in property management. His company manages over 3,500 apartments, 200,000 square feet of shopping centers, and over 450 single-family houses. His companies employ over 150 people. Mr Van Holm is a member of the board of directors of IREM's Atlanta Chapter.
COPYRIGHT 1991 National Association of Realtors
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Van Holm, Brian
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Date:Jul 1, 1991
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