December 1, 2003

8 Min Read
The Interview Process

Most self-storage owners and operators have had to hire for a position at one time or another. We all know the drill. You effectively get the word out that your organization is hiring, and you end up with a stack of résumés and applications to pour through. But this is where the fun starts and the interview process begins.

Most people interview too many candidates. More time spent up front deciding who should be interviewed allows for more time to prepare for your candidates who are scheduled for interviews. Try starting with your top five choices. Unless you are scheduling a day or two before the interview, ask the candidates to call you in advance to reconfirm the appointment with you. This serves three purposes:

  • It serves as a reminder to you of the appointment.

  • It will decrease your chances of a candidate becoming a no-show.

  • It will give you a good idea of how well this candidate can follow instructions.

Now that your top choices are scheduled, it is important to prepare. Schedule some time out of your busy day where you can sit down and go through your candidates résumés and applications without interruptions. Make notes to yourself based on the information the candidates provided, especially if something stood out about them that you would like to know more about.

The important thing to remember about interviewing is your primary goal is to secure information to aid you in determining if the candidate is qualified to perform the job. To glean that information, you will have to be disciplined in following a well-thought-out interview process. Structure and objectivity are key components in developing your process. Interviewing is not fun, but time spent preparing for it increases your chances of making the right hiring decision. Lets face ita bad hiring decision will cost you time and money!

Once you have prepared an agenda for your interviews, review it to make certain it keeps a coherent format without jumping around. You have already made notes about the candidates. Now make sure your line of questioning is consistent with the additional information you want to know about them.

Try to keep things in logical sequence. For example, you will want to know about job related experience, the candidates most recent or current job, his capabilities for this job and what his long-term goals are. You should ask a mix of open- and close-ended questions.

Decide who in your organization should be a part of the interview process. While there are some advantages to having a panel interview session with your candidate, you should be warned this is the most difficult interview process to structure and control. No matter what method you decide to implement during interviews, the important thing to ensure is everyone who participates is prepared by being familiar with the candidates background and knowing how your interview process is structured.

On the day of the interview, you will want to make sure you have arranged a meeting place, i.e., a conference room, office, break room, etc. You will want to ensure wherever the interviews take place is free of distractions and interruptions.

When the candidate arrives, thank him for coming. Introduce yourself and what you do for your company. Do this even if you have done so on the phone. Let the candidate know you will be the one making the hiring decision. Tell him you like to take notes during interviews so you may be writing quite a bit and he should not let that distract him. After explaining approximately how much time the interview will take (you should not go longer than 90 minutes), briefly outline the topics you will cover.

To maximize the benefits of conducting an interview, be sure to limit your participation in the process. Keep in mind the 80/20 rule. This means the candidate should be talking 80 percent of the time and you 20 percent of the time. Tell the candidate at the start of this process you will be happy to answer any questions he has at the end of the interview. Too often, interviews go off track when a candidate jumps in with questions. If this does happen, kindly remind him questions will be answered at the end of the meeting.

Do not ask your big questions up front, as you will want to establish a comfort level with the candidate first. Ask simple questions that will ease the interview in the direction you would like it to go. If your candidate has a problem answering a question, and there is a moment of awkward silence, let him think. If you feel you have to say something, just encourage him to take his time. You may have to develop techniques of your own to keep quiet.

You may think of new questions to ask as your candidate talks. This is good, because you may want to drill deeper into the topic you are discussing until you are satisfied with the answers. If you find a line of questioning is important and want to probe further, go ahead; but make sure you get back to your agenda and follow it.

What to Ask

Here are some great topics to cover so you can get a better idea of who the candidate is and if he will fit into your organization:

Moment-of-truth scenarios. These revolve around what the candidate may have done on a typical day in a former (or current) job. Ask a question like Can you please describe to me in some detail what a typical work day was like for you? What did you do from the time you started in the morning and left in the afternoon? Then listen as the story unfolds. These types of scenarios will open up opportunities to probe deeper, i.e., what kept his interest? What lost his interest? Was he bored? Why? What frustrated him?

Customer-service situations. These are moment-of-truth situations with a customer service twist. Ask your candidate, Can you relate to me an instance, in your previous or present job, when you were faced with a disagreeable situation involving a customer? Please tell me what his objection was and what you did to resolve it. This is a great way to find out what your candidate thinks is good service.

Communication and management. Ask the candidate how he feels about written vs. oral communication. Have him explain the pros and cons of each. You may find out how well he can take direction in written form and implement it. Ask the candidate what he liked most about his current or former employer (boss, coworkers, etc.) and what he liked least. Ask him to describe to you his ideal of a perfect boss. This line of questioning may help you determine if this person can work with you and your management style.

Hypothetical situations. Give the candidate a hypothetical situation and ask him how he would handle it. Better yet, give him a hypothetical situation and how it was handled. Then ask him how he could do a better job handling the same situation.

Some questions should never be asked. As a rule of thumb, never ask direct questions about a candidates age, sex, religion, nationality, health or family status. If you are not sure, it is better to err on the side of caution and not ask the question.

After Questioning

After you have asked all your questions, be sure you have left time for the candidate to ask his. Tell him how much time you have left and sit back quietly. Answer any questions honestly. If you do not know an answer, offer to get one from someone else, but do not make something up. Give the candidate enough information for him to determine if he would like to pursue the position further.

Be sure to cover the major items:

  • Salary and benefits. Give a salary range, not a specific figure at this stage.

  • Work hours and scheduling issues. This is very important if the candidate is expected to work nonstandard hours, weekends or holidays.

  • Appearance standards. If you have a uniform policy, explain it.

  • Additional interviews. Explain the steps in your hiring process, i.e., if there will be a second interview.

  • Time frame. Give the candidate a timeline when you will make a decision.

When the interview is over, give the candidate your business card and let him know you are available for future questions should he have any. Thank the candidate for coming and show him the way out. Once he is gone, take a few moments to review your notes. Write down any items you left out while they are still fresh in your mind. Give yourself enough time between interviews so you can prepare for your next candidate.

A solid interview process helps you make better hiring decisions. The hiring decisions you make today will be the strength of your company tomorrow.

Raymond E. McRae is the vice president/director of operations for Mesa, Ariz.-based Storage Solutions, which conducts feasibility studies, third party management, market surveys, consulting, auditing, acquisitions and development for the self-storage industry. For more information, call 480.844.3900 or visit

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