Do you want to hire employees for your self-storage business who can contribute to your success and profitability while adding value to your culture? Those of us who’ve been hiring—and firing—facility managers for a while can admit we’ve sometimes hired in a rush, hoping the candidate will be our “savior behind the counter.” But sometimes even a great employee can be wrong for this unique job.
Following are 10 secrets to successful hiring to help you choose the right person for your self-storage operation.
1. Write a Great Job Description
The best job descriptions don’t just outline duties, responsibilities and necessary skills. They also articulate how you want the work to be done, and the moral climate in which the company operates. If you’re a fiercely competitive company that likes to pit stores against each other, say so. If customer care is critical, ensure your candidate is empathetic.
Most self-storage businesses don’t have job descriptions in place for their various positions, but you need to set the expectations at the start. Recruitment planning identifies the specifications for the position so you know the skills and experience you’re seeking. It also addresses how you’ll publicize the position, who’ll review applications, and who’ll participate in first and second interviews.
You also must decide who’ll participate in the selection of the employee and who’ll provide input. This is a key step in a successful hiring process. You need to be clear about how interviewers’ input will be used by the hiring manager.
2. Know Your Talent
An important step in the posting process is to notify current employees when there’s a job opening. Are you sure there isn't internal talent who might seize the opportunity? Inside hires tend to do well, so if you promote from within, you’re likely to reduce your risk.
You want to encourage the employees who already work for you, so know what talent you have before you go looking for fresh faces. Whether you’re a small or large self-storage operator, offering career growth is key to showing employees you value them. Don’t overlook a golden candidate who’s already on your team because you want to avoid opening another position.
If you don’t believe you have any qualified candidates already on your payroll, you can post the position externally at the same time. However, your in-house applicants may surprise you with their talent and skills. If you do post the position outside, let your inside candidates know so you can avoid any misunderstandings.
3. Align Your Values
Make sure your hiring process is consistent with your company’s core culture and values. For example, there’s no point in saying teamwork is important and then letting one person make the hiring decision. If you say you value instinct, then doing a wide array of personal and professional assessments probably isn’t the way to go. If you value creativity and risk-taking, don’t ask ridiculously hard questions that humiliate those who can’t answer them.
What are the characteristics of a successful employee? Consider the following:
- Stable work record
- Well-groomed appearance
- Willingness to accept the conditions of work (hours, pay, duties, etc.)
- Ability to communicate (answer questions intelligently, converse easily)
- Pleasant personality (sincere, positive attitude)
- Common sense
The applicant’s tone of voice during the interview can be an indicator of his outlook on life. Be wary of whiners and complainers. Watch for confidence (not to be confused with arrogance) in their walk and talk. Also, consider that during the interview, the applicant is a guest. How did he handle this role?
4. Never Sell Your Organization
Interviewing should be about unfettered exploration, not persuasion. You shouldn’t sell your company, and the candidates shouldn’t sell themselves, either. What you’re after is an intelligent, adult discussion about what constitutes success within your organization and within the candidate's professional and personal life. The stories must be honest and appropriate.
5. Listen for Dissenting Voices
If everyone on your team loves your preferred candidate, something’s wrong. No hire is perfect, and there should be some dissenting voices around the table. What are the person’s weaknesses? These might not be critical, but they must exist. It’s better to identify them—and figure out how to accommodate them—early.
6. Perform Background Checks
Check references and backgrounds for your candidates during and following your second interviews. Confirm all claims by the candidate including education credentials, employment history and criminal background. Where possible, the best source of information is the applicant’s past supervisors.
7. Watch Salary Negotiations
How people manage money will tell you a great deal about how they’ll handle customers. If you don’t like what you see, pull the plug. If they state a dollar amount on the résumé and later change it during the interview, they may constantly be looking for a bump before it’s earned. Be careful of the 50-cent and hour “jumpers.” Check work history thoroughly.
8. Assign a Mentor
Most organizations are bad at explaining themselves. Each new hire should have someone he can turn to with questions—and this mentor shouldn’t be the boss. In fact, everyone in your company should be good at mentoring. After all, if you’re great with co-workers, you’re more likely to be great with customers. Mentoring new hires is also excellent leadership training for other staff.
9. Start With a Trial Period
You never know a person until you see him in action. This applies to the employee and the person hiring him. For both your sakes, agree to a joint review after one to three months. Provide honest feedback and ask for it in return. No new hire is ever as alert and insightful as he is at the beginning. Most companies lose all sense of how they come across to outsiders, so this feedback is precious.
10. Be Welcoming
How you welcome your new employee lays the groundwork for retention. Stay in touch with your new hire from the time he accepts the job offer until his start date, and then continue to build the relationship. Let co-workers know when the new employee will begin, issue a welcome letter, plan the onboarding process, and make sure the person feels warmly welcomed during the first days of work. If you do this effectively, you’ll have an excited employee who’s ready to set the world on fire.
Employee turnover costs time and money. Your goal should be to hire the right person the first time. Rather than rushing to fill a position, write a thorough job description and determine your staffing needs before the search begins. Make hiring your next self-storage team member a group effort and everyone will benefit.
Susan Haviland is the owner of Haviland Storage Services and a partner of industry consulting and training firm Self Storage 101. She has more than 27 years of industry experience, from serving as a site manager to acting as vice president of operations at Extra Space Storage Inc. and Price Self Storage. She's a frequent speaker at industry conferences and tradeshows. For more information, call 866.360.2621; visit www.selfstorage101.com.