Preparing for Tough Interview Questions

Everyone wants to work closer to home. In reviewing a candidate for a position, the first thing considered is where our applicants live in relation to the job and will they be able to commute the distance on a daily basis. Our clients often require that maintenance personnel live within 30 minutes of the property in order to be “on call.”

There are many reasons that someone wants to leave a company, including more opportunity, moving to a different locale, learning new skills, and more money. We find that salaries are competitive for property management professionals at every level.

We covered briefly some of the questions asked on The Interview page, but want to go into more detail here so you will be prepared.

We always ask our applicants to call us immediately after an interview so we will be prepared when we speak to our client, who also will be called for feedback. One of my first comments to my applicant is “Were you asked any question that you could not answer?”

We certainly are not suggesting that you have “canned” answers to prospective questions, but we do suggest that you be prepared. We never EVER prep our candidates on answers. Our role is to provide the best-qualified candidate to our client, but you are the one who will need to do the job after you are hired. Only you know the answers to the questions that may be asked regarding your past job performances. Have your answers well thought out and be prepared to provide solid facts to support them.

“Why did you leave or want to leave your current company?” This is one of the first questions that we ask, and so will our client, so be prepared.

“Tell me about yourself.” This is the one that always threw me. What is there about me that would interest a prospective employee? And if I reveal too much personal stuff, will it work against me? If I reveal that I am a Georgia Tech fan and love to cook, will that be too much for a Georgia Bulldog raw foodist to handle?

Prepare for the question by staying on the professional track, if possible. “I love challenges and learning new skills. I enjoy being a mentor to my staff and celebrate when one of my team members gets promoted.” This is also a time to mention your education, the training and experience that has prepared you for this job. Mention briefly your accomplishments and any professional awards or designations followed by a slight hint of your personality. Share a small portion of what you do for fun, such as photography, sports, cooking, etc.

For those of you on the manager or regional level, you have conducted many interviews. Draw on your own interviewing experience when you were making a hire. What questions did you ask to determine if your applicant would become part of your team?

Those of us who work in property management are professional yet rather simple folk. We all want to determine the same goals for our owners or management companies. We want properties that generate income and control costs. We want to hire confident team members with proven track records of making a difference on their properties.

Be very sure of the answers to the most basic of questions. We had a regional interview with an owner in our office last month who called me from her car after the interview and said, “I blew it!”—and unfortunately she had. The tough question? The owner was from out of state and idly asked our applicant, ”What is the average cost to replace carpet in a 2-bedroom in Atlanta?” This was not a trick question—he simply wanted to know, and she didn’t have the answer.

There are many questions that can be asked about your day-to day-activities on a property and how you handled problems. Know yourself well enough to respond to any question regarding fair housing issues, employee disputes, and resident-related problems.

Interviewing is a two-way street. A professional property manager at every level will always have employment options even in a tough market. We understand you also will be “interviewing” our client so you can make the right career move.

When taking a job order for a manager or regional and it is confidential (meaning our applicant will replace someone already in place), I always ask our client: “What do you expect from your new employee that you are not seeing in the performance of your current employee?” This is a great question for you to ask during the interview as well.

Many of you who have worked with us have heard us tell you that when it comes time to make a decision whether to accept an offer, “This has to work for you first before it works for anyone else. If it is the right decision for you, it’s the right decision for our client and for us.”