The essential property management interview question guide

Jason Van Steenwyk
Jason Van Steenwyk | 5 min. read
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Published on September 15, 2016

Every property management firm needs good staff—and one great hire can be exactly what you need to take more time back for yourself on the weekends and trust that the office is in good hands while you’re on vacation.

But a bad hire can cost you (literally): According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average cost of an unsuccessful hire is around 30 percent of that individual’s annual earnings. These costs include the price of advertising an open position, interviewing multiple applicants, paying for background checks and drug screens, negotiating pay, filling out benefits and HR paperwork, inputting them into the payroll systems, and onboarding and training them (which, for property managers, may include licensure costs during the first 6 months of employment).

After all that, if the person isn’t a great fit, they can cost you in lost productivity, poor morale among coworkers, and lost goodwill and sales if the employee isn’t great with tenants and applicants.

Needless to say, you want to find the right employee on the first try. Here are some questions you’ll absolutely want to know about any employee.

Before we get started, please remember you need to adhere to anti-discrimination laws when conducting interviews. Even an incorrectly-worded, but well-meaning question can be a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, USERRA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and/or state and local anti-discrimination laws.

The Property Manager’s Guide to Interviewing Employees

Step 1: Involve the Team

As you narrow down the finalists, consider involving the whole team in the interviews. At Google, for example, applicants that make it through the initial round meet with four employees: Some direct team members and some from other departments for a cross-functional interview. They’ve found that though these interviews are costly upfront (four people taking at least 45 minutes off from their regular work), it’s well worth it to ensure a great hire in the end.

Step 2: Screen for Functional Fit, Not Just Brainpower

Google was once famous for asking applicants to complete a brainteaser to gauge cognitive abilities—but they found that this was never a great predictor of job performance. A great “functional fit” will have the basic technical and professional skills to succeed in the position, or is able to learn them quickly. Some sample questions for functional fit include:

  • What would you hope to accomplish in this role?
  • What do you think our company should focus on to be successful?
  • How would you increase revenue for a property?
  • What do you do to ensure rent delinquencies are low?
  • What is the biggest challenge our industry faces right now and what do you think should be done about it?
  • When you drove onto the property this morning, what did you observe?
  • How would you go about pricing a new rental unit?
  • Tell me about a time you’ve had to deal with an angry tenant and how the issue was resolved.

Step 3: Assess Cultural Fit, Too

An employee who’s a great “culture fit” generally shares their coworkers’ values and priorities, and is prepared for the work-life balance of a property management company. This person will get along well with different coworkers, even in a high-stress situation. But how can you tell all of that just from an interview? The Society for Human Resource Management suggests conducting behavioral-based interviews. Here are a few situations you may want to ask about:

  • Tell us when you may have had to do something unpopular at work, or something you knew would make someone angry.
  • Describe a situation in which you and your manager worked really well together and solved a difficult problem.
  • What role do you usually play on a team? Leader? Facilitator? Loyal workhorse? What makes you happiest?
  • Tell me about a time you were angry with someone at work and how you handled it.
  • What is an ideal work environment for you?
  • What management style do you need to perform your best?
  • How would your coworkers describe you?
  • Tell me about a time when you disagreed with a boss’s decision? How did you handle it?
  • Where do you want to be, professionally, in five years?
  • What is my personal assistant’s name?
  • Who’s the best leader you’ve ever worked with, and why?

Remember, while cultural fit is important, it’s important not to overdo it! Overemphasizing cultural fit can create blind spots, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by people with all of the same biases. A differing opinion may help you improve your business!

What are some of your favorite questions to ask during an interview? Have you ever implemented a riddle question, like Google? Tell us how it worked out in the comments below!

Read more on Team
Jason Van Steenwyk

Jason is a freelance writer and editor, as well as an avid fiddler. His articles have been published in a number of real estate publications including Wealth and Retirement Planner and Bankrate.com. He lives in Fort Lauderdale, FL with his cat, Sasha, and an unknown number of musical instruments.

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