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Despite all the technological progress being made in the self-storage industry, most operations still require the support of humans. That means filling jobs. The following overview will help you with hiring. Get guidance for writing a good post, promoting your positions, interviewing candidates and making an offer.

Michael Baillargeon

January 19, 2024

7 Min Read
Self-Storage-Hiring

In an age in which technology is so widely available in the self-storage industry and many facilities automated or managed remotely, do we still need to worry about hiring human beings? As someone who’s experimented with all kinds of business models, I can tell you there’s no cut-and-dry answer.

Though inflation and rising interest rates are pushing many owners to explore the benefits of an unmanned operation, there are still situations in which a human presence is preferable or even necessary. Even a fully automated site can have staff needs. After all, equipment can break, litter and crime must be controlled, customers have questions, etc.

So, let’s talk about how to effectively and efficiently hire the best employees for your property. Following is an overview of writing and promoting job postings, interviewing candidates, and how to make an offer.

Job Announcements

Before you can create accurate and effective job postings, you need to fully assess your self-storage company’s needs. How many employees do you require, and how will you find them? If you’ve invested in automation, you may be able to get by with an extremely small team, but most facilities still need one great manager and an assistant.

Once you decide how many people you need and identify the pertinent roles, write down the specifics. For example, what duties will each person be responsible for performing? Maybe it’s sales, customer service, collections, site maintenance or some combination. Similarly, what character traits will make a person a good fit for the role? Is it dependability and punctuality? Friendliness? Think about your ideal candidate. What would that person be like?

You’ll also need to know what makes your company enticing to potential hires. What might inspire a candidate to choose your self-storage operation as the right place to start or continue their career? This could be salary, benefits, flexible schedule or something else.

Now that you’ve gathered all of this critical information, use it to write your job posts. The announcement is your opportunity to make a good first impression on potential candidates. It should be clear, concise and informative, beginning with why the prospect should be interested in your company. After all, it pays to have employees who connect with your mission and values.

To draw in candidates, it’s important to capture their attention right away. It’s often best to lead with your incentives and address job requirements further down. Discuss the skills and traits your ideal candidate should have in abundance.

Incidentally, you can use artificial-intelligence tools (Bard is my go-to) to help craft your announcement. A starting prompt might be something like, “Write a great job posting to recruit a self-storage manager who has the following skills and talents…” You can then adjust the resulting copy to your liking.

Once the description is complete, it’s time to get the word out. You can post your open position on your company website and online job boards, or list it with recruiting agencies. There’s a free place to promote jobs on selfstoragetalk.com, the online community hosted by Inside Self-Storage. You should also distribute the announcement along your industry network, including social media channels.

It’s also important to “go fishing where the fish are.” For example, if you’re looking for a great customer-service representative, give a business card to the barista who always gets your coffee right and engages in small talk. If you’re looking for someone who excels at keeping things neat and tidy, look to the hospitality industry.

Interview Process

Hopefully, you’ll receive promising responses to your self-storage job listing. Now, it’s time to begin interviews. This is your opportunity to learn more about the candidates. I recommend the following five-step system.

Step 1. Review resumes and cover letters to determine who looks great on paper. Scrutinize grammar, spelling and punctuation. (If they don’t take the time to make their resume right, will they take the time to do their job properly?) Watch for too many jobs in a short period and other concerning red flags. This should take one to two days.

Step 2. Screen your candidates for specific qualifications. If they came to you through a job board, they may have been pre-screened based on questions you had them answer as part of the application process. Others will need to be phone-screened to confirm they meet your non-negotiables, for example, being available to work on your required days. This should take one day.

Step 3. The group that gets through your initial screening should next go through a cultural-fit meeting. These interviews should always be conducted by two members of your team. The goal is to determine if there’s a good synergy with the applicant. Only candidates who get a thumbs up from both interviewers should be allowed to move forward. These conversations should take one day to schedule and up to two days to complete.

Step 4. Next is a subject-matter expertise interview. Use the same format as the previous meeting but with different questions. The interviewers should be selected based on their knowledge of the responsibilities the successful candidate should be able and willing to absorb. This should also take one day to schedule and one day to complete.

Step 5. Whittle down the remaining list to two or three candidates. Final interviews should be an easy chat between you and each potential hire. You already have team buy-in on cultural fit and job proficiency, so you just need to verify experience and goals as well as answer the person’s questions about your company.

I find that the decision is often quite clear by this point. If you’re leaning toward making someone an offer, try to figure out what’s most important to them and what they need to make the transition. For example, how much notice do they need to give their current employer?

The Offer

Once you’ve made a hiring decision, it’s time to present your offer. Ideally, this will be made to your top candidate on the same day as the final interview. (If you wait too long, they may accept another job.) The offer should be made by phone and followed up with a formal letter that details start date, salary, bonus plan, benefits and any pre-start expectations, such as background checks, drug testing, etc. The person needs to clearly and fully understand the opportunity.

I always ask potential new hires to accept or reject the offer within five days. This might change if the candidate asks questions, negotiates or seeks clarity; but if I send an offer and hear nothing in return, it’s a hard, five-day deadline.

Be prepared to negotiate. You should have created a budget for this role based on average market salary ranges for the position you're trying to fill; however, where you land on compensation should be based on expected return on investment. The conversation can only be a win-win if you know what the candidate is really seeking.

For example, I recently had a candidate ask for a base salary that was 15% above the top end of the pay range for the market. I asked what was behind their counter proposal, and they explained that they had accepted their current position for a lower salary than they believed they deserved because the employer made big promises regarding performance bonuses. Those incentives ended up being discretionary and amounted to nothing.

Once I understood this person had been burned and was looking for some security, I spent some time fully explaining our bonus plan and what they could expect. In the end, the candidate accepted the offer with the original base salary, and all it cost me was a few minutes of my time to learn their true motivations.

Hiring the right people is essential to the success of any self-storage operation. By following the above practices, you can find the employees who will help you grow your business.

Michael Baillargeon is chief operating officer for Hearthfire Holdings, a private-equity firm that specializes in acquiring and operating self-storage facilities. He has more than two decades of industry leadership experience, with wide-ranging responsibilities that have included operational management as well as third-party asset management. For more information, call 267.225.4373 or email [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Michael Baillargeon

Chief Operating Officer, Hearthfire Holdings

Michael Baillargeon is chief operating officer for Hearthfire Holdings, a private-equity firm specializing in acquiring and operating self-storage. He has more than two decades of industry leadership experience, with wide-ranging responsibilities that have included operational management as well as third-party and asset management. 

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