Each and every day, self-storage manager résumés cross my desk. As a director of manager placement, one of my duties is to oversee the staff that places managers at storage facilities nationwide. I receive about 20 to 30 résumés a week from managers looking to make a change from their current positions. Most of the time, these managers are seeking employment prior to leaving their current company; therefore, they prepare a résumé and begin the confidential journey to secure a new job.
Some of the résumés impress me at first glance. Others, I am afraid to say, look as if my 12-year-old son had written them. I realize not everyone knows how to prepare a professional-looking résumé. For those who don’t, I suggest contacting a service that prepares résumés for a small fee. Remember, you only have about 15 or 20 seconds to make that first impression. And like the old saying goes, you never get a second chance!
Most software programs have templates to help you make a professional résumé. These include Microsoft Office, Works and Publisher, just to name a few. You can also purchase an inexpensive résumé program for around $10 from any office-supply or software store. It is money well spent. Please, don’t forget to use your spellchecker. If you don’t have a computer, any Kinko’s or similar place has computers to rent for about $10 per half-hour. You can write your résumé there, put it on CD or disk, and take it with you for future updating.
There are two ways you can create your résumé: chronological style or functional style. The first is the most commonly used. It lists your job titles and places of employment, along with dates of employment, beginning with the current or last position. These are usually listed on the left side of the page. The typical job duties/descriptions are listed to the right.
The functional-style résumé is used when a person has either an abundance of similar experience or a lack of it. It can better the chance of a candidate whose experience may look weaker on a chronological résumé. It can also be useful for those in the midst of a career change, such as those applying for a district-manager position from a facility-manager position.
Whichever type of résumé you choose, the most important information to include is your name, address and telephone number including area code. It should be at the top of the page, centered, in large type (at least 14- or 16- point) and an easy-to-read font. Don’t use a Roman or script-style font. You are trying to be professional, and if you fax your résumé, some fonts don’t fax well. You might try faxing your résumé to yourself from another location so you can see how well it prints. For résumés you mail, use a nice-quality paper. Don’t use a paper that looks like marble or has a heavy texture. Your text will get lost in the “busyness” of the paper.
Know your audience, use the vocabulary and speak the language of the selfstorage industry. Describe your experiences from an accomplishment point of view. Use strong, active words, for example: achieved, expedited, managed, ability, capacity, leader, actively, substantially and effectively. All information should be in a positive perspective. Again, use the spell-checker and proofread your résumé!
When submitting a résumé, also include a list of references. I suggest having a separate sheet, as references may change from time to time. And make sure your list is current and up to date. I don’t know how many times I have wasted time and money calling references with wrong or disconnected numbers. First get permission from your references to use them, and make them aware someone might be calling them for a recommendation on you.
When I speak of references, I mean business references, such as past employers or supervisors. I don’t care about past tenants who say how great their experience was storing with you—I need to know what kind of employee you were. Family, friends and other storage managers don’t count as references either.
If you can obtain letters of reference from employers prior to leaving their employ, get them. They should be submitted with your résumé to prospective owners along with a cover letter. This cover letter should be an introduction of sorts, outlining a little information about you that is not reflected in your résumé.
You might want to take a sentence or two to explain the reason you are seeking a change. Be honest about why you want to change positions, especially if you have only been at your current position for a short period of time, say less than six months. Were you a start-up manager and moved on after five or six months? Was it a new facility that didn’t open on time, so you had to leave?
If you desire to leave a position due to a “clash in personalities,” attribute it to personal reasons and be prepared to explain during the personal interview. But remember what your mother always told you: If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Don’t dwell on a negative reason—be positive and just say it would be better to find a position more suited to you, and your old company can find someone more suited to its needs.
Besides your professional-looking résumé, cover letter, letters of reference and reference list, include any certificates you have received from attending seminars or training classes. Once you have submitted your materials, be prepared for a phone interview, which is probably more important than a personal interview. Just as with the résumé, you never get a second chance to make that first impression. If you come off as disinterested, distracted or unprofessional over the telephone, you will never get to the next step of the personal interview.
Be prepared to ask questions during the phone interview, such as: Is rent due on the first or anniversary date? What are the hours of operation, gate and office? What are the facility’s occupancy and delinquency levels? What software program is used? What security is at the site? What about housing arrangements (if any), base wages, bonus programs, other employees? What is the background of the company? How many sites does it have? What is the company philosophy and reasons for needing a new manager?
Explain your achievements and objective in seeking a change of employment. If it is a position you are interested in, tell your interviewer that. Ask for a personal interview when the company begins that process. Then be prepared.
At the interview, show up a little early, dress professionally and have a copy of your résumé, letters of reference, certificates, cover letter, etc. Put your best foot forward and be positive. Remember, you will not always get the job, even though you thought the interview went well. Don’t get discouraged. Keep trying, and when the job that is right for you comes along, you will get hired.
Larry Truitt is the director of manager placement for Mini-Management Services, a Santa Barbara, Calif.-based consulting, management and manager-placement service. For more information, call 805.898.3753.