Being Prepared to Hire Your New Facility Manager
By Pamela Alton
In the past, it was not unheard of to have a facility manager for 5, 10, 15 years or longer, but that is an exception to the rule nowadays. It is not unusual to see managers turn over every 12 to 18 months now and, as an owner, you must be prepared for the changeover. There are several reasons I am seeing this occur. First of all, as a whole, we are a more transient society then past generations, with extended family located all over the United States. Managers sometimes change positions to be closer to their grand children or aging parents. In the last several years, our industry has seen an explosion in facilities being built and, just as the manager has to compete for tenants, owners are competing for managers. If a manager feels they are not being paid well or treated fairly, they can wait six months and almost bet that there will be a new facility within five miles of them where they can seek employment. As such, owners will have to become more competitive in their compensation, bonus and retirement packages, which I have discussed in past articles.
Once you have taken the steps to finding management candidates, then you must begin the tedious job of interviewing to select the manager that will meet your goals and objectives and suit your facility location. The best candidate will work to make your site a profitable one--for both the owner and manager.
Preparing for the Manager
Even if your current manager has been with you for years, at some point you'll likely be faced with having to interview and hire new staff. Being prepared for the initial and follow-up interviews will make this an easier step in the hiring process.
Before you begin the interviewing process, you need to define the "job description" and list the criteria that the candidate must meet to be hired for the position. Review all resumes or job applications and look at criteria such as personality, previous experience, knowledge or expertise. Choose only those candidates you feel would suit your needs. Schedule your interview appointments, making sure you are prepared for the initial interview.
When the candidate arrives, have them read a written job description, which you should prepare beforehand. It might even be good idea to have them sign a job-description acknowledgment form stating that they understand the job duties and are willing and able to perform them. This will not only make it perfectly clear what the job entails, but it also could cover you from any possible job discrimination suits because you didn't hire a particular candidate for your facility.
Interviewing the Candidates
During the interview, create a positive atmosphere, ask that all incoming calls and interruptions be stopped and have your office and desk well organized. Stand and greet the candidates in a friendly and relaxed manner, control the discussion and have an agenda outlining the topics you will be discussing. This well help you keep focused should you go astray in the interview. Have a notepad handy, listen carefully and take notes. Ask open-ended questions, such as: In what ways did your previous job prepare for this position? Describe an unpleasant work situation in the past and explain how you handled it. What would your previous supervisor tell me about you? How do you feel about anniversary due dates vs. first of the month? How would you handle a suspected break-in at your facility? What kinds of challenges do you feel bring out your potential?
You are interviewing this person to learn about their abilities and personality. You want them to open up so ask questions that get them talking: What did you enjoy best about your last job? What did you enjoy least? What will your supervisor tell me are your two weakest areas? If you were hiring someone for this job, what qualities would you be looking for? If you could change any one thing about the management at your last job, what would it be? Why did you leave, or why are you looking to leave your last job?
Questions such as these get the candidate to think and respond with more than a plain yes or no answer. Avoid questions such as: Do you feel you are qualified for this position? Would you consider yourself ambitious? Do you consider yourself a good decision-maker? Did you get along with your last owner/supervisor? These questions are likely to illicit only a "yes" or "no," and require no elaboration.
Legally, there are certain questions you cannot ask during your initial interview process. Some questions can be asked after a person is hired, but if these questions are asked during the interview, they could be turned into a discrimination lawsuit. Remember: It's not what you say, but how you say it. In other words, the way a question is worded will determine if it can be viewed as discrimination.
In general, it's best and safest to avoid questions dealing with race, color, religion, marital or family status, or economic status.
Concluding an Interview
End the interview in a friendly manner. If the candidate is not right for the job, tactfully tell him so. Allow him to save face. You might simply state: We appreciate your interest in working for our company, but we have a number of applicants. One of the other applicants seems a little better qualified. Could we keep your application on file in case something else comes up? Thank you again for your interest.
If a decision cannot be made yet, tell them so, but also assure them you will let them know on a specific date and time, and follow up, preferably by phone.
If the applicant is right for the position, tell him you will check his references to discuss his employment history. If everything works out, extend him an offer and, assuming he accepts, discuss a start date and time. When he arrives, give him an employee package to fill out (more on that later). If you do a background or credit check, make sure you receive a written authorization to obtain these items.
|As examples, take a look at the following "wrong" and "right" ways
to word questions and obtain information about candidates:
Making Your Management Decision in the Event of a Tie
Every now and then we get lucky and have two great candidates and the choice over which one to hire becomes a big issue. If this happens, look over your notes and ask yourself these simple questions: Which candidate would I rather work for? Which candidate wouldn't I want to go to work for my competition? Which candidate would fit best on my team? And which candidate do I feel I can best delegate the important responsibility of managing my facility?
Once the Decision Has Been Made
Once you have made your choice of management staff, checked their employment and personal references, and discussed your policy and procedures with them, then it's time to have them fill out the employment package. This package should include: letter of employment, apartment lease (if an apartment is included), change-over management form, I-9 forms, W-4 forms and state tax-withholding forms (if applicable in your state). The manager should sign all required documents before starting work or allowed to move into the on-site apartment. They should also be given an employee orientation and begin their in-house training program.
Hiring personnel for your site is not always an easy task. It can be time-consuming and frustrating at times. People won't show up for interviews, and some that do will be totally unprepared. Sometimes hiring is a gut instinct, sometimes we make the perfect match, sometimes we don't. Just remember, if a manager is not working out as hoped, do not waste time, replace them immediately and begin the process all over again. If you have a good manager, train them well, communicate with them, compensate them fairly, give them attainable goals to challenge their talents and reward them for achieving these goals, then both you and your manager will be in a win-win situation.
Pamela Alton is the owner of Mini-Management, the largest nationwide manager-placement service. Mini-Management also offers facility management in the Western United States, policy and procedures manuals, sales and marketing training manuals, inspections, audits consulting, new start-up training and training seminars. For more information on the various services offered by Mini-Management, call (800) 646-4648.