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Hiring new employees

7 Strategies to Find the ‘Right’ Employees for Your Self-Storage Operation

Hiring is one of the most important tasks in operating and growing your self-storage business. Follow these seven strategies to evaluate manager candidates and find the right fit for your organization.

Hiring is one of the most important tasks in operating and growing your self-storage business. It’s crucial to find candidates who are a decent fit for the facility, your company culture and the role that needs to be filled.

Potential employees are everywhere, with many good prospects in the market. However, hiring someone “good” doesn't guarantee he’ll be a success in the storage industry or within your specific company. Your process needs to go deeper than looking for a good candidate; you need to hunt for the right candidate. Follow these seven strategies to evaluate prospects based on the specific needs of your company and job role, filtering down to a select few who’ll fit well into your organization.

1. Fill the Intended Role

Make sure you know what you want from the position you’re trying to fill. Success is dependent on your ability to understand the skillsets needed for the job and how to spot certain traits within an applicant.

Every self-storage operation is different, and each role within your company may require a unique set of abilities. Some roles are customer-facing, while others are internal in nature. Also, an employee’s success at one company doesn’t mean he’ll be effective at another. For example, your operation may have very strict guidelines and well-defined duties, while the candidate is used to flexibility; or you may be less rigid and require someone with the ability to self-start, but the candidate needs structure.

Either way, you’ll need to identify prospects who fit within your company framework. It’s important to look for qualities that will complement the role for which you’re hiring. For example, if you’re filling a sales or management position, you may want someone with strong communication and leadership abilities.

2. Look for a Track Record

Investing in and training a new team member can take a lot of time and valuable resources, so it’s important to know if your ideal candidate will need to be committed for the long or short term. Then compare the track record of each applicant with the requirements of the role. For example, if you’re looking for seasonal or part-time help, you may not need to spend as much time investigating candidates’ skillsets as you would for a full-time employee; whereas if you’re hiring a permanent facility manager, you’ll want someone with a stable history.

You want your full-timers to be committed to your facility and the company for the long haul. Depending on your onboarding process, you could spend months training them on the specifics of property management. Permanent positions require someone who’s willing to accept training and coaching, and open to becoming a loyal, successful team member. The career track record of seasonal help, on the other hand, may not be as important.

3. Match Experience to the Role

Know the level of experience you seek. In some cases, you may need someone with self-storage experience, while other times you may be better off hiring someone who has relevant job experience from outside the industry.

If your operation handles processes radically different from local and regional competitors, you may be better off recruiting from outside the business. Some employers find this preferable, as team members can then be trained to the company's unique culture. Some candidates with industry experience can be tougher to train and find it more difficult to make the transition from their old ways. Understand what you want, and choose whether you’d benefit from someone with self-storage or broader experience.

4. Note the Level of Professionalism

Professionalism and a positive demeanor are hard to train. You want employees who take themselves and their roles seriously. If they don’t, they may not be able to handle job responsibilities or represent your business to the standards you expect. You want employees to be good company representatives, on and off the clock.

Professionalism may be the biggest deciding factor of the entire interview process. A candidate could possess all other desirable qualities, but if he can’t represent himself and the business professionally, he won’t be successful.

5. Listen Closely to Responses

A quality candidate knows how to do basic research before an interview. Even a quick run through of your company website and a Google search about the self-storage industry can provide rudimentary knowledge.

Asking a few job-specific questions will help you identify the candidates who have relative experience. A person with prior self-storage experience should be able to tell you the qualities that make your company stand out. Someone from outside the business should recognize the industry you’re in and be able to identify the challenges your facility might face. It’s important to note their responses. How they answer questions may tell you a lot about their ability to solve problems.

6. Get Feedback From References

Solicit feedback from at least one reference. While candidates probably aren’t going to list anyone who would give them a bad review, references can still provide insight to the scope of a person’s experience and the qualities he possesses.

References are also a good way to get a glimpse into an applicant’s past roles and professional reputation. Ask about his successes and failures. A good reference will be able to share valuable information that a candidate may not be able to articulate about himself.

Save some of your basic interview questions for the reference instead of the applicant. Candidates are generally prepared for the most basic inquiries with canned responses. Saving these for a reference may give you a better understanding of the applicant’s true actions.

7. Make Them Audition

Assign each applicant a small, specific project before or after the interview. This is a good exercise if you want to measure their seriousness toward the job and your company. You can learn a lot about a person this way.

Use the results to compare candidates. If you’re looking for someone with prior industry experience, tailor the audition toward that. More generic assignments may be appropriate for jobs that need broader experience. Either way, tasking a small project will provide insight to each person’s quality of work and effort.

Remember, your company is unique. It’s your responsibility to ensure you hire someone who’s the right fit for the job and your organization, otherwise he’s likely to struggle. When you have an opening, list all the qualities your ideal candidate should possess. Use these as your guide in evaluating prospects. Your business will benefit when you know how to match the right employees to the appropriate roles.

Joseph Biard is operations manager for U Storage, which operates four self-storage facilities in Arkansas. He leads a growing team of facility managers and works to develop the company’s operational framework. He has experience in team development, sales and marketing management, budgeting, and facility maintenance. To reach him, e-mail joseph@myustorage.com; visit www.myustorage.com.

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