Many self-storage owners will tell you recruiting and hiring staff often keeps them up at night. It’s one of the most important decisions for a company and one of the hardest to make correctly. Even those who are generally successful with hiring won’t get it right all the time.
Don’t worry, though. I’m going to help you get some more shut-eye! The following approach will help you gain more control in your recruiting and hiring process and improve your odds of staffing success.
A Recruiting Mindset
When it comes to recruiting for your self-storage staff positions, you need to believe it’s as important as any other cornerstone process. Think of it as being similar to a facility acquisition. The buyer (employer) and seller (potential hire) must complete due diligence to determine the best outcome for both parties. It takes consistency, patience and persistence to achieve the end goal.
Staff recruitment is critical and complex. Every self-storage business needs people. To begin, establish a method that’s true to who you are as an organization, then remain accountable to it. With constancy, you’ll generate results. If you break your cycle, you’ll find yourself with a limited pipeline of job candidates.
One option is to centralize the recruiting function to a single employee within your organization. This person should aid in forming department plans and execute on the overall hiring strategy. A long-term investment in this role is also cheaper than working with recruiters or attempting to disseminate the responsibilities among several individuals and teams.
Finally, always track your recruiting efforts. Any wins will keep you motivated in the face of losses. Train your entire team and create a culture in which everyone is involved in bringing in new talent.
The Job Description
Taking a nontraditional approach to writing your self-storage job descriptions can help you recruit and hire more effectively. Investing time to do things right at this stage is critical, especially if your company is fast-paced or understaffed, or you don’t have a solid onboarding and training program in place. A well-written description serves as a guide for your entire hiring process. Here are a few important dos and don’ts:
Don’t: Publish a long list of bulleted job duties.
Do: Take those job duties and turn them into four to seven core objectives for the role. Ask yourself, if someone were to come in and perform all these job duties exceptionally, what outcomes or goals would be achieved?
Objectives are always changing per position or property. A standing list of job duties won’t screen for what needs to be accomplished by this individual. It’s easier for people to say, “Yes, I have done that job duty in the past,” vs. “Yes, I have worked on a compatible objective in the past and here was my result.”
Don’t: Only use your job description when posting for the position.
Do: Consider the description as a planning and implementation tool. This’ll enable everyone involved in hiring to assess the candidate using the same criteria. It’ll also give the potential hire a road map for what defines success in their role.
Once you have a solid job description, it’s time to promote it. Consider these diverse avenues to attract talent:
- Promote your job openings internally. Encourage and reward referrals.
- Use applicant trackers, which will cast a wider net through syndicating to more job boards than individuals.
- Offer reimbursement for LinkedIn Recruiter Light and allow your employees to be headhunters for the company. Each subscription gives you a certain number of messages to send to industry peers. Many of us in self-storage are small and mighty, so everyone needs to be a recruiter.
- Indeed is a top recruiting resource that provides account managers to help you. This person’s job is to give advice on the tools and data at your disposal and how to target your position so it reaches your audience more effectively.
The Application and Screening Process
The recruiting effort can be difficult to maintain in a self-storage operation because the owner and other staff are often juggling so many duties. Whether you’re trying to hire several people or only looking for one or two, the desire to fill a void quickly can often override the instinct to follow a good process. The truth is it’s a candidate market. Your hiring method must be efficient or your potential hire will be gone. But quality should never be sacrificed for speed. Remain true to your process.
Don’t: Underestimate the efficiencies that are created when you take the time to properly lay the groundwork for your open positions. A lot of time is saved in good planning, especially when there’s interdepartmental and external collaboration involved.
Do: Prepare anyone involved in the hiring process with the assessment criteria for each candidate and a clear understanding of their contribution to the process.
Don’t: Lose track of your candidates. It sounds obvious, but people can fall through the cracks during interview coordination or if they wait too long for follow-up. Just as in sales, time kills all deals. So does poor communication.
Do: Establish an acceptable communication cadence. If possible, designate a central point of contact for candidate communication and interview scheduling.
Do: Let the candidate know what to expect up front. If you move them on from the screening phase, prepare them for what’s involved in getting them to the final stage.
Do: Invest in an applicant-tracking system. If you don’t find one that’s practical for your company size, invest the time to detail recruiting from start to finish on an Excel spreadsheet. When you have multiple people coming in for several roles or in different stages of the hiring process, this level of organization is really necessary.
How do you ultimately choose the best self-storage job candidate and not waste anyone’s time during the interview and selection process? Consider these tips:
Don’t: Go into an interview unprepared.
Do: Prepare scripts and focus questions for candidates’ technical abilities and cultural criteria. These can screen people out at any stage.
Do: Focus on successes and failures in all areas of your job-description objectives. You can tell a lot about a person by how they take accountability for their failures or what elements they include when describing their wins.
Don’t: Accept that someone is detail-oriented or a good leaser just because they say so.
Do: Actively listen and always have a follow-up question for any response. Ask for real-life examples that relate. Even entry-level candidates should be able to relate an education, volunteer or personal experience to demonstrate proficiency or ability to take on a new skill.
By the end of interviews, you should have collected a good selection of of stories and examples from candidates that’ll enable your hiring team to score them in job criteria. Are they an A-level player, B or lower? As uncomfortable as it is, you must eliminate a candidate the moment anyone on your team realizes that person doesn’t meet company standards. Yes, it can be painful to have a promising candidate fall out of the process at this point. You’ve already invested time into this person, and that’s one less candidate in the pipeline. Stay the course.
Once you’ve chosen the person you’d like to convert from candidate to self-storage employee and are ready to make the offer, give them a call. Your excitement won’t convey the same way via email. Talk about whether the job is right for them. Do you know their top priorities? Are they most fixated on family, freedom, fortune, fun? Maybe something else? What can you offer that helps them achieve their professional and personal goals?
Upon verbal acceptance, issue a formal offer letter the same day and stay in touch with your new employee in the time leading up to their start date. If your offer isn’t accepted, ask them why. If they chose another position, ask for feedback on what was different or better about the other offer.
First impressions are important, and onboarding is your first opportunity to make the work experience positive for your new hire. Keep a close eye on them at least through the first 90 days to ensure they’re getting the attention they need and adapting well to your team and culture.
Also create a checklist of all the core processes and information in which you want this person to be well-versed after their initial trial. Make sure it covers all the details and resources necessary to set them up for success. This structured support will provide better team integration and add a layer of protection to your recruiting investment.
Determination and Consistency Are Key
Hiring employees for your self-storage business can be stressful and even demotivating, but the above tactics will help smooth the path. The most important thing is that you find the right person for each position, even if it takes a bit longer to do so. For more insight to how you can improve the process, consider your company’s past and current hiring metrics and ask yourself:
- From where do your best job candidates and employees usually come? Can you put more money or resources toward those sources?
- On average, how many “touches” does it take before you make a job offer?
- How long does it take candidates to get through your hiring process from start to finish? Are there any consistent bottlenecks you can fix?
Remember, keep your mindset strong and don’t get discouraged. Remaining consistent and true to your self-storage hiring practices will generate job candidates at the volume you need, and that’ll help you get those precious nighttime ZZZZs.
Whitney Hamm is the director of people for Spartan Investment Group LLC, a self-storage development, property-management and real estate firm that operates the FreeUp Storage brand. With 13 years of experience in human resources and business management, she’s responsible for ensuring the company’s operations run smoothly and provide a good experience for the team. She’s spent more than six years handling recruitment in various startup environments. To reach her, email [email protected] or connect with her on LinkedIn.