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From Hassle to Hot Diggity! A Self-Storage Insider Shares Her Hiring Process

Hiring for a self-storage business can be really challenging. Here’s advice from an industry insider who’s responsible for the job at her operation on how to streamline the process and choose the best candidate.

Hiring staff for a self-storage business isn’t always easy. In fact, it can be a real chore. Still, it’s critically important to get it right! I’ve overseen hiring for my self-storage operation for the last eight years. Here’s a quick overview of my process and what I look for in a candidate.

I recently posted a part-time position on Indeed.com. I just needed someone to work one day per week and every other Saturday. More than 70 people applied! How do you weed out the poor candidates and narrow the list to your top 10, then your top three, and finally, the person you hope is the best choice?
The first thing I do is read every application. I’m looking for the best matches to my requirements. I’m also looking for correct punctuation and grammar, and whether they followed specific directions. Here are the questions I have them answer:

  • How many years of relevant experience do you have?
  • What’s the highest level of education you’ve completed?
  • Do you have a state-issued driver's license?
  • Are you authorized to work in the United States?
  • Are you willing to undergo a background check in accordance with local laws and regulations?
  • What about the role excites you and motivated you to apply? Please describe your interest in working with us.
  • When are you available for an interview or phone screen? Please list two to three dates and times or ranges of times.
  • Please list at least one professional reference and include contact information and your relationship.

The next thing I look at is experience. It doesn’t have to be in self-storage. Leasing agents, retail workers, rental-car agents and other service-industry roles can all carry over beautifully to the self-storage world. These people know how to take care of customers. They’re also accustomed to working weekends and evenings, so industry business hours will typically appeal to them.

At this point, I separate candidates into two categories: “interested” and “maybe.” I send these applicants a personal e-mail, thank them for applying, tell them we’ve had an overwhelming response and ask if they could answer a few more questions. My favorite is what do they like to do in their free time? The answers can be quite insightful. You’ll learn their likes, hobbies and interests.
On this particular occasion, I sent that e-mail to 17 applicants and only six replied. That made my job much easier. I scheduled phone interviews. Out of those six, I scheduled only two face-to-face meetings.
For this next phase, of course I want to know about their computer skills and customer-service experience, but what I really want to talk about are questions like these:

  • Why are they interested in the position? I want to hear this again in person.
  • Have they ever used self-storage? If they have, they know the customer’s perspective.
  • Since applying, have they noticed storage facilities around their community? It’s funny because when you’re in our business, you see facilities everywhere. This is a great ice-breaker because they generally all say “yes.”
  • What self-storage experience do they have? If the applicant has experience in our industry, I want to hear about it! I want to know about occupancy levels, delinquency accomplishments, ancillary sales, auction-procedure knowledge and community involvement.
  • Do they have any awards or professional affiliations they’d like to tell me about? Asking this question allows them to share important milestones such as employee of the month or ongoing education and certifications.
  • What issues have they had with past employers? This might include not feeling appreciated, gossip, low pay, etc. This is extremely important. I never want my employees to be unhappy, and I care about what’s important to them.

I can tell you that sometimes you simply click with people. I love it when an interview goes well, and applicants are proud of their accomplishments and confidant in their abilities. I also love to hear them say they’ve researched our company and our reviews are wonderful, or they think our properties are beautiful. I had one applicant who even researched me, read my self-storage articles online and was convinced he “had to have this job”!
A few final notes on hiring right: Always conduct background checks. Always put your offer in writing. And always dedicate a minimum of two weeks for training your new employee.

Come learn more from the author at the 2020 Inside Self-Storage World Expo, April 14-17, where she’ll present a seminar titled “Running With the Big Dawgs: What I've Learned About Building a Self-Storage Career.” Get details at www.issworldexpo.com.

Stephanie Tharpe is senior vice president of operations for A+ Storage of Tennessee LLC, which operates five facilities in Tennessee. She’s also vice president of the board for the Tennessee Self Storage Association, which named her the Tennessee Manager of the Year in 2012. She has been a featured speaker, roundtable leader and panelist at several national and state association conferences. She’s also been a moderator for Self-Storage Talk, the industry’s largest online community, since 2009. For more information, call 615.288.2162; visit www.aplustorage.com.

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