In the multifamily housing industry, having quality employees is not only a necessity for providing good service and keeping properties leased up—it is also a security issue. Onsite employees often have access to residents’ apartments—and to their most private and valuable belongings. Even those who do not have key access may have access to highly sensitive information found in resident files. For these reasons, it is critical to follow stringent pre-employment procedures. Failing to do so may leave you open to lawsuits.
When developing your pre-employment procedures, consider the following possible qualifying steps.
Applicants should be pre-qualified over the telephone before an interview is scheduled. Make sure that:
- Minimum requirements are met
- The applicant is not over-qualified
- There are no physical barriers to the applicant’s accepting the job—too long a commute, inability to work required hours, etc.
- Compensation will be mutually satisfactory
If an applicant does not meet the job specifications, he or she should not be scheduled for an interview. This saves time for both the applicant and the interviewer.
Applications for Employment
Prior to the interview, have the applicant complete an Application for Employment. This should be done even if a resume is available, as there is often information on the application form that is not contained in a resume. Additionally, the signed application provides the authorization to check references. Also, this procedure will give the interviewer an indication of the applicant’s ability to follow instructions and willingness to cooperate.
After the application has been completed, the interviewer should review this information before conducting the interview. The following areas should be checked:
- Desired salary—does it differ from salary of last job and, if so, can higher amount be justified? Is desired salary compatible with starting salary of vacant position?
- Starting date and willingness to relocate
- Acquaintances in employ of the company
- Has applicant ever been discharged from a position?
- Reasons for leaving past employers
- Gaps in employment history
- Prior felony convictions
- Prior Worker’s Compensation Injuries
Begin the interview by establishing rapport with the applicant and making him or her feel as comfortable as possible. Offer him or her coffee, provide a tour of the office, and make preliminary small talk.
After the interviewer gives a brief presentation of the company, all information on the application should be verified, with specific emphasis on past job responsibilities. The interview should ask open-ended questions, which cannot be answered with “yes” or “no.”
The interview should then explain the responsibilities of the position, presenting only facts. Do not paint a falsely rosy picture; this only creates high turnover in employees.
If a mutual interest develops, references should be verified. Ask the applicant if his or her present employer can be contacted. Have him or her give a “self-evaluation” of past work performance. If the applicant does not meet the job qualifications, the interview should be immediately ended. The applicant should not leave with any false hopes.
After the interview is over, the interviewer should record his or her impressions of the applicant, preferably on a standard form designed for this purpose. If there will be follow-up interviews, the interviewer should send all documentation, including his or her impressions, to the second and/or third interviewers.
Tip: Require a minimum of two interviews for all positions. For higher-level positions, require at least three interviews
Conducting reference checks is highly important, especially for positions that give employees access to either resident apartments or records. Prior to hiring higher-level employees, try to obtain a minimum of five reference checks covering the past ten years (including employment), as well as a credit check. For all other employees, strive for a minimum of three references covering the past five years (including employment), and at least one character reference.
Additionally, you should run a credit check for any employee who will access to cash, residents’ apartments, or residents’ offices; for those who have authority to negotiate, recommend approval, or sign contracts; and for those who are required to live on a property.
Establish clear guidelines for who is responsible for conducting reference checks and for what that person is required to do upon discovering any questionable or negative information. Let your employees know that those individuals responsible for securing references will be subject to termination or other severe disciplinary action if negligence or deviation from policy results in either termination of an employee for cause that could have been avoided by proper reference checks or legal action taken against the company or property that could have been avoided by proper reference checks.
If your state law allow, you may want to administer a pre-employment polygraph test to anyone who will have access to cash, residents’ apartments, or residents’ offices; and those with authority to negotiate, recommend approval, or sign contracts. These tests can be as a data-collection tool to provide additional pre-employment information in order to help select the applicant best qualified for the position.
If you do choose to use polygraphs, adhere to the following guidelines:
- Do not make commitments to the applicant during the interview (e.g., “If you pass the polygraph, you will be hired”). It should be explained that a polygraph is a part of the interview process, and that other applicants for the position are also being considered.
- Do not say that an applicant has “failed” a polygraph, as the primary purpose of the exam is an information-gathering device.
- If an applicant is not recommended for the position, he or she should not be told that he or she “flunked” the polygraph. The best answer to give an applicant is that there are other applicants being considered and that he or she will be contacted when a decision is made.
Applicant Evaluation Tools
It can be useful to develop a series of pre-employment tools to help evaluate the qualifications of an applicant for a specific position.
For example, you may want to have all maintenance applicants complete a maintenance knowledge evaluation, which assists in determining their skill level.