By Pamela Alton
The time has come to find a new self-storage manager, but where do you begin? Unless you’re a major player in the storage industry—one who receives unsolicited résumés daily—you’ll likely resort to other measures to find your new employee. Gone are the days when you placed a newspaper ad. Today there are numerous job-search websites, employee-placement services and free-listing sites where you can post job openings confidentially.
Another way to find great job candidates is to ask other facility owners, managers or staff if they know of any good people seeking new opportunities. You might already have a pool of experienced full-time staff members—your relief managers! They’re trained in your company policies and might be looking for a chance to move up the ranks.
Once you have a stack of possible candidates, the real work begins. Below are the five phases of the interview process. Follow these steps to ensure you find the right manager to fill your open position.
Phase 1: Phone Interviews and References
After disqualifying applicants who didn’t meet your criteria, begin calling the ones who do. Try using a guide sheet when conducting the initial phone interviews so you stay on track and get the most from the conversation. Keep notes about your discussion, particularly notable qualities of each candidate and any red flags.
Next comes the first elimination process. At this point, you should be able to narrow your list to a handful of qualified applicants. These are the people for which you’ll verify references.
Don’t be surprised if a lot of companies you call for references won’t give you anything more than employment dates and position. Don’t put too much stock in employer references, as it’s just a small part of the hiring process. Also, don’t limit references to former bosses or human-resources departments. Consider current or past co-workers, personal or business references, and even a manager’s tenants.
If the person is currently managing a facility, consider conducting a mystery phone shop to evaluate his sales skills. This can give you a fairly good indication of whether to pursue this candidate. If the phone shop goes well, it’s time to set up a face-to-face interview.
Phase 2: The In-Person Interview
In phase two of the interview process, you’ll continue to hone in on the best candidate for your position. You should be able to whittle your list to two to three applicants.
First, be prepared for the interviews. Give the candidate an application and essay questionnaire at the beginning. These will give you a chance to see the person’s handwriting, spelling, punctuation and common sense. Here are some questions you can add to the form or ask in person:
- How do you feel about rate increases?
- How would you handle a possible break-in?
- How do you feel about first-of-the-month vs. anniversary due dates?
- How often do you make collections calls?
- What would your last employer say about you as an employee?
- Why are you looking for a new job, or why did you leave your last one?
- If we conducted a background check, credit report and drug testing, what would we find?
- Why should we hire you?
At this point, you’re determining if this person is going to fit into your organization. Does he have the skills to do the job? Also figure out if your personalities mesh. Can you work with this person on a daily basis? You can’t put a square peg into a round hole! Consider each person’s talents and match them to the job duty. Those who don’t make the grade should be eliminated. The rest will move on to phase three.
Phase 3: The Follow-Up Meeting
If your job candidates are currently managing a facility, have someone you know conduct an in-person mystery shop. See how the manager conducts himself while showing the property. The shopper should note the overall cleanliness of the facility and the organization of the front office. Finally, does the manager look and act like a professional? This person will be the face of your company and, right or wrong, people will judge you by your managers.
If the manager isn’t currently employed at a storage facility, move on to the follow-up meeting. This is when the candidate meets you at the facility where he’ll be working—but only if it’s appropriate. It’s acceptable if your current manager has given you notice or is retiring. If you’re current manager doesn’t know you’re looking to replace him, be more discrete.
Phase 4: Background Checks
Next up is the background check, credit report and drug test. Don’t be surprised if you see people with bankruptcies in the last five or six years due to the recession. This doesn’t mean a person can’t manage your money; it probably just indicates that someone in the family lost a job or weathered hard times, much like many Americans.
Background checks are similar. You have to consider what the report contains. Did someone have a “driving under the influence” charge 10 years ago or last year? Drug testing is another option. However, some drug-testing companies only test for harder drugs, since many states have legalized marijuana for recreational and medical use.
Phase 5: An Offer of Employment
The final step in the hiring process is to make an offer of employment to the candidate you feel is right for you, your company and the facility. You’ll meet again with your new manager and give him a “Letter of Employment” stating his job duties, goals, wage, bonus/benefit program, etc. If you have an onsite manager’s apartment, a separate “Resident Managers Apartment Lease” should be included with the package.
Once you’ve hired your new manager, he should be enrolled in your company training program. This should be in a classroom setting, not just a day or two of on-the-job training. All employees, whether they’re new to the industry or experienced, should complete a program that covers your company policies and procedures, employment forms, sales and marketing plans, maintenance tasks and schedule, and collections and lien-sale protocol. Once this training is complete, your new manager can begin his hands-on training at the site.
If you have a position to fill, the sooner you start your hunt, the better off you’ll be. It might take up to two weeks before you begin phone and personal interviews, or longer depending on your applicant pool and the time you can devote to the process. If your candidate is currently employed, he’ll need to give his employer two or three weeks notice. Give yourself at least 30 to 45 days, if possible, for the entire hiring process.
We’ve all been there—putting out the fire after a manager gave little or no notice, which led to a hiring rush job just to fill the spot. Sometimes we’re lucky and it works out. More often, it becomes more work. If you did hire the wrong person, begin a new search now and correct your error as soon as possible.
If you take your time to find the right candidate, give him proper training, treat him with respect, give him the authority to manage the day-to-day operation, pay him well, and design a motivating, achievable bonus program, it’ll be a win-win situation for everyone.
Pamela Alton is the owner of Mini-Management Services, a nationwide self-storage manager placement service. She also conducts audits and inspections, manager training, and feasibility studies. For more information, call 321.890.2245; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.mini-management.com.