You Have an Interview—Congrats! Now the Real Stress Begins

It is natural to be somewhat stressed in unfamiliar territory, and stepping into an interview with a complete stranger who also may be having a stressful day may cause an attack of nerves.

We worry about getting the interview, then preparing for it: What should I wear? What should I say? Will they like me? Will I like them?

Enough! There are steps to take to lessen the strain. First, a good night’s sleep! We remind our applicants to chill out and go to bed early if at all possible. I admit there have been times that we have had to call applicants last minute with short notice that actually were in the middle of walking vacant units or, in the instance of last week, in the middle of an eviction when I called to have them meet with our client that afternoon because he/she would be leaving town. Not an everyday occurrence, but it does happen! And when this does, we will take a few moments to calm you and prepare for the meeting.

What to Wear

Always have your complete interviewing outfit and shoes ready to wear. We have asked many of you to change clothes in a McDonald’s for a lunchtime interview and then change back to company career apparel before returning to the property. We do understand that you may dress casually during the day, but first impressions are important.

Check the clothing code of where you are interviewing so that you will understand the standard. We have one client that all personnel on-site (excluding maintenance) and regional level are in suits, closed-toe shoes, and suit-and-tie for the men. If you stop by one of their properties to pick up a drug screen application or drop off a resume and you are dressed casually, the interview stops there. Lessen your stress by knowing what is expected of you.

See our Dress for Success page for more information and suggestions.

Where Am I Going?

We will give you as much information as possible regarding the location of the meeting, but ultimately it is your responsibility to be there. Many confidential meetings are set at a Starbucks in the early morning. If you don’t know the exact location, drive to it the day before if possible. Arrive early—but not too early, as all you will do is wait and worry. Take the time to freshen up, take a deep breath, and remind yourself of the confidence we have in you by arranging this meeting.

First Steps

Remember what your mom said all those years ago: Sit up straight, smile, and everyone will like you. The first impression is the best one and you want to appear confident, calm and in command. Smile, perform a firm quick handshake, and be aware of your surroundings. If you are in their office, compliment a picture on the wall, the view from the window or notice their Diploma or CPM on the wall. A compliment allows opening conversation before the questions begin.

The Interview

“What is the most difficult thing you personally had to handle on a property this past year?” This is one of my favorite interview questions, but remembering the situation will also help you relax. Did you handle a flood, a fire, an incident that hit the six o’clock news (and then having to explain that one to your owner), a renovation, or a lease-up? Remember how you handled this situation while protecting both your residents and owners before you answer. You are a proven problem solver and your confidence will come through during the interview.

Know Your Resume

Be prepared to explain any gaps in employment (do NOT leave any past employers off) and any jobs of short duration. Be prepared to explain why you want to leave your current position or why you have already left. Were you terminated? You need to have a short, plausible answer ready and move on. Don’t become defensive, evasive, or lie. Life happens, and we often see that an applicant simply was not a good fit for a past company or property and will blossom under a different style of management.

How to Answer the Questions

In short, you should answer with direct, to-the-point answers. Don’t chatter, but be responsive. Listen to the question and form your answer with your own experiences and how you may have solved a similar problem. Now is also the time to share some of your past accomplishments and successes. Show your energy and passion for your work.

Trick or Tough Questions

Be prepared to answer any “what if” questions. “What if you had a flood or fire?” “What if you had to terminate someone?” “What if a resident became abusive?” The list goes on, and all are situations you have handled successfully in the past. It is also fine to relate any lessons learned during a crisis that will allow you to handle it better or differently in the future.

You Gave a Wrong Answer

Try to relax, take a deep breath, and simply say, “May we return to your last question? I am not sure that I answered it fully.” Your honesty—and ability to think under duress—will be noted.

The Ending

This part is just as important as the beginning of the meeting. You may be asked if you have any questions. Of course you do, beginning with “How did I do?” I think it’s perfectly fine to ask, “Based on our talk today and my experience, do you see that I might become part of your team?” A firm, friendly handshake started the conversation and also ends it.


We do not expect compensation to be discussed at this first meeting, but we will prepare you how to handle the situation so this will not in any way be stressful.