Hiring a new self-storage team member can be a daunting task. From recruitment to interviews to making the final decision, it’s time-consuming and requires careful consideration if you hope to bring in the best person for the job. The following offers pointers that I picked up from my own experience of the process.

Amy Campbell, Senior Editor

March 1, 2024

5 Min Read

Recently, a long-time employee left our company to pursue other career opportunities. This created an open position on our team, and we began the search for a new member. Because this person would work closely with me, I became involved in the hiring process. This is something totally new to me. Anyone who’s ever had to hire staff knows that it can be complex and stressful. It’s a monumental task and there’s a lot riding on your decision.

Fortunately, we work for an international company that’s adept at hiring. We’ve been guided through the process by a skillful recruiter. This isn’t the case for many self-storage companies, particularly smaller ones. Typically, the task of recruiting and hiring employees falls on ownership or even the senior property manager. If you’re like me and you’ve never done this before, it can be a bit overwhelming. Here are some pointers that I’ve picked up from this experience.

Know what you’re seeking. First, you need to understand what the position entails. This is as simple as creating the title and as complex as what the duties will include. It’s vital to include both hard skills, teachable and measurable abilities, and soft ones, which are essentially work habits. Start the list with everything you can think of, then whittle it down as you focus on the core elements.

For example, while it’s likely that you’d like your new employee to have computer skills, it might not be necessary for them to know your facility’s specific management software. Sales and customer service are top priorities, but maybe marketing isn’t because someone else handles those duties. Be specific about the desired qualifications as well as what’s expected of the position. This will, hopefully, entice people with the skills you seek and limit the applicants who don’t.

Write and post a great job announcement. Once you have your wish list, you’re ready to write your job announcement. While it can be tempting to include everything, try to keep it concise. So, adding renting units and collections is necessary, but you can probably skip “sweeping the sidewalk.” Again, think about those core duties.

Next up is getting the word out about your job opening. There are many online resources and most are free. But you should also consider untraditional outlets such as the local church or community center, your social media pages, or posting a notice in your office or on your website. Be sure to ask current employees if they know of anyone. Also, post your announcement in the “Job Fair” forum on Self-Storage Talk, the industry’s most active online community. Sometimes, hiring a recruiter is the best route. Not only do they have experienced hiring managers, they often have a pool of candidates at the ready.

The truth is that you should always have a recruitment outlook. That friendly and efficient server at your favorite restaurant could be your next employee. Perhaps you even have a tenant who might make a great part-time manager. Even when you don’t have a position to fill, keep an eye out for people who might be a good fit for your company.

Carefully screen applications. Many companies have forgone the traditional application in lieu of a résumé and cover letter. If you still require an application—either printed or online—make sure it’s current and free of errors.

Hopefully, you’ll be flooded with applicants. It can be overwhelming to peruse so many, so consider these tips on how to productively screen cover letters and résumés. The goal is to find a handful of candidates who meet your job requirements. These are the ones who’ll move on to the interview phase.

Prep for the interview. This step is critical! Before our first interview with a candidate, we spent considerable time deciding what questions to ask and what information we hoped to learn from our applicants. You can find tons of standard interview questions online, but avoid those that won’t tell you what you need to know—can this person excel in this role.

Focus on technical abilities and their past achievements. Stay away from questions that can elicit short responses and be sure to ask for examples. Self-storage isn’t a traditional career path, so one of your questions might be as simple as, “Why are you interested in working in self-storage?”

It's important to note that there are certain questions you should never ask during an interview. These include marital status, how many children they have or if they plan to have them, race, religion, age, disability, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.

Conduct a fact-finding interview. With your questions in hand, you’re ready to meet with your candidates. Often, the first interview will be by phone. This will help you quickly weed out applicants who aren’t ideal for the position. More interviews are also being conducted via teleconference. Of course, a face-to-face interview is ideal. If possible, have your candidate meet with other people on the team. This will offer a broader perspective of each applicant.

Be on time, dress professionally, make eye contact and smile. You should also have their information in front of you along with your interview script. Take notes so you can review them later. If you’re conducting a group meeting, have a conversation after each conversation to discuss the candidate.

Hiring a new team member is a big deal. If you err in your choice, you could open yourself, other employees and your storage customers up to a host of problems. At best, they simply underperform. At worse, they cause serious damage to your business in some form. So, take your time and find the right fit. When you do, everyone will benefit.

About the Author(s)

Amy Campbell

Senior Editor, Inside Self Storage

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