Apartment Management Take-Charge Interviewing


Apartment Employees: Take-Charge Interviewing

What is it about interviews that makes us think we can “wing it?” We’d never go into any other important meeting unprepared….as professionals, we are accustomed to doing our homework and getting our ducks in a row. Whether we write it down, or just think it through, we typically have a solid game plan.

But sometimes, planning for interviews slips through the cracks—or goes out the window. Maybe it’s the chemistry we feel with applicants, maybe it’s their impressive appearance, or maybe it’s just because we just don’t have the time to really prepare. Whatever the reason, “winging it” in an interview is not a good idea. Without a plan, you are more likely to lose control of the conversation, forget to ask important questions, or simply waste time talking about irrelevant matters. Even worse, you might inadvertently talk your way into dangerous areas; remember, under Equal Employment law, there are a number of questions you cannot legally ask.

Developing a Interview Plan

To get the greatest return on your time when interviewing—and to protect yourself from liability—you need to develop a consistent structure for your interview process.


  • Make a list of questions to ask every applicant. Your questions should focus on past experience, present responsibilities, and odds for future success with your company. In addition to ensuring that you get all the information you need, asking every applicant the same set of questions is good insurance against charges of employment discrimination.


  • Obtain and review each applicant’s resume/job application before meeting with him or her. On a separate sheet of paper, make notes of any issues you want to consider or discuss in the interview. If your company asks applicants to take a personality test, be sure to review the test results prior to the interview to help you identify any other potential issues.

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Make sure the applicant’s resume is accurate. Studies indicate that 40-50% of people embellish or exaggerate on their resumes. You can verify the accuracy of a resume by “talking through” the applicant’s job history. Start with the first job on the applicant’s resume and ask (listening carefully and taking detailed notes):

– I see you worked at (name of company) from ___to__. Why did you choose that firm?
– What were your responsibilities, and how did they grow?

– Who supervised you?
– Why did you leave?

If the applicant’s answer agrees with the resume, continuing asking these questions for every job listed. If an answer does not agree, ask him or her to clarify the discrepancy. This will ensure that he or she actually KNOWS what’s on his/her resume.


  • As you go through each prior job, you can also ask questions to solicit information about past performance, strengths, weaknesses, and relevant experience. These questions might include:


– In your position at (name of company), which duties or responsibilities did you feel you were best at?

– Which did you find most challenging?

– Which aspect of the job did you like most?

– Which did you like least?

– What’s the most important thing you learned from that job?


  • Spend more time listening than talking. If you are not careful, you can easily fill up the bulk of the interview detailing the responsibilities of the job, listing the qualities and skills needed, and explaining why your company or property is a good place to work. This is especially easy to do with applicants who are quiet, nervous, or uncomfortable talking about themselves. While it is certainly important to convey information about the job and the company in an interview, job one should be finding out about the applicant.


  • Keep questioning if you are not satisfied with an answer, and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. If an applicant has accidentally given a vague, confusing, or unsatisfactory answer, he or she will be grateful for the opportunity to clarify. On the other hand, an applicant who seems uncomfortable or offended by a legitimate request for more information may be trying to hide something.


  • After you have discussed the applicant’s work history in depth, it is time to look at how well he or she might perform in the future, in your organization. You can gain a sense of this by asking open-ended factual and behavioral questions such as:


– What is your greatest accomplishment?
– What was your greatest disappointment?
– How do you like to be managed?
– What situations motivate you?

– What situations frustrate you?
– Do you consider yourself successful?

– How would you describe your ideal job?

– How do you respond when someone become upset with you?
– Give me an example of a project you completed despite obstacles.


  • In addition to evaluating how well the applicant would perform the job duties required, consider what effect he or she would have on the existing employee dynamic. Every work environment has its own culture—and it’s possible for someone to have all the right skills but still be wrong for the job, if his or her personality doesn’t fit into that culture. Think about how the applicant would work as part of your team.


  • Have more than one person—and, if possible, three people—interview the applicant. Different people notice different things, so having more perspectives will help you get broader, more complete assessment.

What You Can (and Can’t) Ask


When you are developing your interview plan—and during the interview itself—it is critical to know what questions you can legally ask and what ones you can’t. There are a number of subjects you must approach carefully. The table below provides examples of acceptable and unacceptable questions for those “touchy” subjects.


Subject Acceptable Unacceptable
Age If hired, can you provide proof that you are at least 18 years of age?


What is your date of birth?

What is your age?


Residence What is your present address? Do you own or rent your residence?

Give the names and relationships of persons living with you.


Photograph A photograph may be required after hire for identification card or other I.D. purposes.


Submit a photograph with your application form or after the interview.


Education List your academic, vocational, or professional education and the public and private schools you have attended.


List the dates you attended or graduated from high school or college.
Citizenship Are you a citizen of the United States? If not, are you prevented from becoming legally employed because of visa or immigration status?


Of what country are you a citizen? Are you or other members of your family naturalized citizens? If so, when did they become citizens? Do you intend to become a U.S. citizen?
National Origin/Ancestry What languages do you read, speak, or write fluently? (Only if another language is a job requirement.)


What is your lineage, ancestry, national origin, descent, parentage or nationality? What is your native language?


Height and weight None, unless employer proves that a bona fide occupational qualification is involved.


What is your height and/or and weight?
Arrests and convictions Have you ever been convicted of a crime? Have you ever committed a crime? Have you ever pled “no contest” to a crime?


Have you ever been arrested? Have you ever been charged with a crime?


Marital or family status None. Are you married? What is your spouse’s name? How many children do you have? Are you pregnant? Do you plan to have children? Do you have reliable daycare?


Organizations List any professional, trade, or service organizations you belong to.


List all social organizations, clubs, societies, and lodges you belong to.


Disabilities Are you capable of performing the necessary assignments required by this job in a safe manner?


Are you disabled?

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