If the time has come for you to find a new job in the self-storage industry, where do you begin? There are many websites for anyone looking to find a position such as CareerBuilder, craigslist, Indeed, Monster, ZipRecruiter and WorkingCouples. There are also trade magazines and placement services.
But finding available positions is the easy part; being prepared for what comes next is harder. The following advice will help you build a résumé and cover letter that gets noticed, assemble your references, and nail the interview. Now, go land your self-storage dream job!
For many, the first step in the job search—creating a résumé—is the hardest; and writing one that gets noticed can be challenging. You only have 15 to 20 seconds to make a good first impression with this document, so it needs to count.
Your résumé should be brief, readable and easy to understand. No one wants to read a book about your life. If you don't grab someone's attention quickly, chances are you’re not going to be called for an interview, no matter how experienced you are.
When designing your résumé, keep it simple. Put your name, address, phone number and e-mail at the top. There are many websites that offer free templates and advice on how to design a professional, eye-catching résumé. A quick tip: Never use a fancy font or one that’s too small and hard to read!
There are two styles you can use to create your résumé: chronological or functional. The first is the most common. It lists your job titles and employers organized by dates of employment, beginning with the current or most recent position. The dates are usually listed on the left side of the page.
A functional-style résumé is used when a person has either an abundance of similar work experience or a lack of it. It can better the chance of a candidate whose experience may look weaker on a chronological résumé. It can be useful for those during a career change.
The biggest mistake most self-storage managers make is writing a résumé that’s too wordy. If you’re applying for another management position, you don't have to explain your job duties. We all know what they are. Don’t include items such as renting and cleaning units, showing space, making bank deposits, and so forth. On the other hand, if you’ve had duties that were more comprehensive than those of a typical facility manager, include those details. For example, you might have trained new employees, designed the company’s policy and procedures manual, or served as the marketing director for all locations.
A prospective employer is mostly interested in length of employment at each facility you managed, the number of units you managed, which management software you’re proficient in, and increases in occupancy and income during the time of your employment. Use bullet points under each position to make it easy to read within that 15- to 20-second overview.
Once you’ve written your résumé, use spell-check, and then read it slowly, looking at each word. Be careful about spelling, grammar and word choice. There’s a difference between there and their, and manager and manger. Both are spelled correctly but with very different meanings. Spell-check may not pick up on these or point out that they’re used incorrectly. That’s why it’s vital to proofread—more than once. You might even ask someone else to check it. A second set of eyes certainly won't hurt.
As an extra precaution, e-mail the finished document to yourself. Does it look professional? Are the margins set correctly? Is the font too small or big? Finally, print a copy. How does it look? Do you need to make any changes? If so, this is the time.
Include a cover letter with your résumé. This is your letter of introduction to a prospective employer, outlining information about you that’s not reflected in the résumé. Include your contact information at the top, just in case the two pieces get separated.
When writing your letter, it’s important to know your audience and use the vocabulary and language of the self-storage industry. Describe your experiences from an accomplishment point-of-view. Incorporate strong active words such as: achieved, expedited, managed, ability, capacity, leader, actively, substantially and effectively. All the information should be positive. Again, use spell-check and proofread.
Include a sentence or two to explain the reason you’re looking for a change in employment. Be honest and truthful, especially if you were at a position for a short time—say, less than six months. Were you a start-up manager? Was it a new facility that didn’t open on time so you had to leave? If you left due to a “clash in personalities,” say you left due to personal reasons. Finally, include information about your certifications, training or professional accolades.
It’s wise to include a separate sheet of references from direct supervisors. Don’t use former tenants who’ll say how great their experience was when storing with you. Your references should be people who can attest to what kind of employee you were. Family, friends and other storage managers don’t count.
Ask your references in advance if you can list them and let them know someone may be calling. Make sure your list contains current contact information for each person.
If you can get a letter of reference from each employer, do so! Bear in mind, some companies might be hesitant to provide one. Certain larger companies won’t verify anything more than dates of employment and position.
Always give an employer proper notice before leaving, as this is one of the questions most companies are going to ask when they call your references. They’ll also ask if you’re eligible for re-hire, so make sure you leave on good terms. Never burn any bridges on your way out the door!
Once you’ve submitted your résumé, be prepared for a phone interview. This is probably the most import part of the process. It can often be even more important than a face-to-face interview. Just as with the résumé, you never get a second chance to make that first impression. If you come off as disinterested, distracted or unprofessional over the phone, you’ll never get to the next step.
On the phone, be ready, focused and professional at all times. If you’re at home, limit distractions. Go to a quiet room, and take a notepad with you. If you like what you’re hearing about the job or company, tell the interviewer you’re interested in taking the next step.
Once you’ve secured a personal interview, dress professionally and show up early. Bring a copy of your résumé, cover letter, letters of reference, certificates, etc. Leave the tank tops, shorts and flip flops at home! Men, you don't have to show up in a three-piece suit, but a new polo shirt or button-down dress shirt and dress pants is a must. Ladies, a nice dress, skirt, or blouse and slacks is the way to go. Be freshly showered and groomed. Go easy on the perfume or aftershave.
Before the interview, turn off your cell phone. This shows you’re ready to focus on this meeting. Nothing else matters at that moment and the interviewer deserves your full attention.
During the interview, explain your achievements and objective in seeking a change of employment. This is the time to go into detail. Express what a great manager you are and what a super asset you would be to the organization. If it’s a position you’re interested in, say so.
Also, be prepared to explain why you left your most recent job. Don’t dwell on a negative reason or badmouth your last employer. Instead, be positive. If you resigned due to a personality conflict, just say it was better that you left and found a position more suited to you.
Keep in mind that an interview is a two-way street. Be prepared to ask questions. Here are some to consider:
- Why are you seeking a new manager?
- What are the facility’s hours of operation?
- What are site’s occupancy and delinquency levels?
- What software program do you use?
- What security measures are in place?
- What’s the housing arrangement, if any?
- What are the base wages?
- Is there a bonus program, or holiday and vacation pay?
- Does the company provide any medical benefits?
Remember to put your best foot forward. Be positive and courteous. Understand you might not always get the position, even if you thought the interview process went well. Don’t get discouraged. Keep trying, and when the job that’s right for you comes along, you’ll get hired!
Pamela Alton is the owner of Mini-Management Services, a company that has been placing self-storage managers in positions all over the United States since 1991. She also offers staff training, operational consulting, and facility audits and inspections. For more information, call 321.890.2245; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.mini-management.com.