The Self-Storage Hiring Process From Start to Finish: A Guide for Facility Owners

For a self-storage owner, hiring facility staff is a critical decision and task. You must make the right choices, or it could cost you in lost business and revenue. Here’s insight to help you manage the process, from the initial search to the employment offer.

Pamela Alton, Owner

December 19, 2020

9 Min Read

From an employer’s perspective, hiring can be stressful and overwhelming. After all, it’s a critically important task to find managers to run your self-storage facility. Your choices can determine the success or failure of the business. (No pressure.)

Luckily, there’s lots of information available to help you make smart decisions. Understanding the hiring process is a good start, and it helps to know exactly the kind of person you want to hire. In this article, you’ll learn how to find quality candidates, narrow your choices, properly conduct an interview, check references and backgrounds, make an offer, and more. Once you’ve mastered these essentials, you’ll be able to make the right selections for your operation.

Know What You Want

The first step is to determine if you’re looking for an experienced self-storage manager or have the staff and ability to train someone from outside our industry. There are benefits to both options.

Managers must possess numerous skills such as sales, customers service, marketing and even maintenance. Many are jacks of all trades, so to speak. Hiring an experienced manager means you’ll spend less time preparing this person to oversee day-to-day operations; though you might need to train him on your facility’s management software or state’s lien laws if he isn’t familiar with those already, plus your company’s specific policies and procedures.

If you hire someone with no industry experience, be prepared to spend more time on training. He might have great office or sales skills but never managed collections or a marketing campaign. So, expect to devote extra time getting him up to speed on how a self-storage facility functions. Teaching an inexperienced person can work well if you have the time to invest. Sometimes it’s best to hire someone with the raw talents you need, even if they aren’t industry-specific, and mold him into the manager you and your tenants deserve.

Find Potential Candidates

So, where do you find good self-storage managers? Start by asking your current staff if they know of anyone who’s looking for a job, or ask other local operators. You can also get the word out via recruiting websites like Glassdoor, Indeed, Monster and ZipRecruiter.

Depending on where you look, be prepared to weed through résumés from people with little or no self-storage experience. You might see applications from all kinds of backgrounds, from truck drivers to restaurant servers to administrative assistants to who knows where. Many other professions use skills that can translate nicely to self-storage.

There are companies that specialize in office-staff or even self-storage manager placement. Using one might produce quicker results and more qualified candidates. There’s typically a fee involved, but they can save time and money in the long run, and you’ll get candidates who might fill your needs sooner. Often, these applicants have been interviewed, pre-screened, and have references and completed background checks.

Narrow the Field

With luck and some good strategy, you’ll receive applications from a lot of candidates. Now, you need to narrow the search to just a handful of strong options. Off the top, you’ll disqualify any applicants who don’t meet your initial criteria in terms of work experience and various traits and skills.

First, I look for a good, solid work history. It used to be fairly common to see people at the same company for 10 years or longer, but that isn’t the case today. More and more people are changing employers, sometimes even every couple of years. Ideally, you want employees who’ve been with the same company for at least three to five years. Avoid the “job skippers,” who tend to make a move every 18 months to two years.

Conduct Interviews

Now that you have a few possible candidates, it's time interview them. First, you’ll do a phone interview to determine if you want to meet them in person. If you aren’t impressed with them over the phone, there’s no need to take the process any further. Try using a guide sheet when talk on the phone so you stay on track and get the most from the conversation. Keep notes about your discussion, particularly notable qualities of each candidate and any red flags.

If they pass the initial meeting by phone, set up a time for the in-person interview. If you can't meet with a candidate in person, a teleconference platform will suffice.

Why multiple meetings? Anyone can be on his best behavior for an hour, which is why it’s important to talk to preferred candidates more than once. You also want to get a look at them and make sure they meet your standards of professionalism. Will they fit the “mold” of what you seek in a self-storage manager? Remember, this person will be the face of your company. He must be outgoing, personable, intelligent and well put together.

If an applicant is employed at a storage facility nearby, consider visiting or doing a phone shop to evaluate his customer-service skills. You want to ensure the person you hire answers the phone in a timely, professional manner and sets an appointment to visit the facility. In short, he should try to close the sale. Just keep in mind that most managers seek new employment confidentially. You don’t want to jeopardize someone’s current position by showing up unannounced and revealing who you are.

Be prepared for each interview. Give the candidates an application and essay questionnaire at the beginning of the process. These will give you a chance to see their handwriting, spelling, punctuation and common sense. It’s important that these all be strong in a new hire.

During your interviews, ask each candidate the same questions to uncover their talents and match their traits to the position. Learn about their job history, why they’re looking for another position, and their current compensation, including wages, salaries, bonuses, etc. Next, ask more pointed questions. Dig into their driving record, what their last employer would say about their strengths and weaknesses, and what they like to do in their spare time. Here are some questions you can use:

  • Why are you looking for a new job, or why did you leave your last one?

  • What would your last employer say about you as an employee?

  • If we conducted a background check, credit report and drug testing, what would we find?

  • Why should we hire you?

If the candidate has experience in self-storage, you can also ask:

  • How do you feel about first-of-the-month vs. anniversary due dates?

  • How do you feel about rate increases, and how often do you do them?

  • How do you feel about making collections calls, and how often do you make them?

  • How do you feel about mystery shops?

  • Have you done any offsite marketing? If so, what kind?

  • How would you handle a facility break-in?

These questions are designed to dig a little deeper into each candidate’s personality and mindset to see if they’d be a good match for your organization. Does the person have the skills to do the job? Also, figure out if your personalities mesh. Can you work with this person on a daily basis? You can’t put a square peg into a round hole! Consider each person’s talents and match them to the job duty. Those who don’t make the grade should be eliminated. The rest will move on to the next phase.

A word of caution: Don’t make assumptions about a person’s skills based on his gender, age, etc. For example, you can’t presume women are better on the phone or men are better at maintenance tasks. Everyone has unique strengths and interests. Some candidates will be more outgoing than others; some will be natural marketers or salespeople. Look at the gifts of the individual and consider assigning job responsibilities that best suit each person.

Check References and Backgrounds

Once you’ve completed the interview process, check any references provided and conduct a background and drug test, if applicable. Don't waste your time doing this on all possible candidates, just the few about whom you’re really serious. There are numerous companies that specialize in background checks, personality testing, drug testing and credit reports. You can find them online or ask other owners for a recommendation.

Keep in mind that references are harder to get today than in the past. Don’t be surprised if a lot of companies you call won’t give you anything more than the candidate’s employment dates and position. If you can, get answers to the following questions. If the employer answers negatively to any of these, move on to the next applicant:

  • Is the employee reliable?

  • Did he give proper notice prior to leaving?

  • Is he eligible for rehire?

Don’t limit references to former bosses or human-resources departments, either. Consider current or past co-workers, personal or business references, and even a manager’s tenants. Don’t put too much stock in employer references; it’s just a small part of the hiring process.

Make the Offer

The last step in the hiring process is to make an offer to your chosen candidate. If it’s accepted, you’ll determine a start date and offer a letter of employment that spells out his compensation package, including benefits and any bonus programs. Also, list out all of his job duties, using the phrase “including, but not limited to the following.” End the letter with a statement that there’ll be a review at the end of 90 days of employment. All parties should sign and agree to these terms.

If you provide a manager’s residence on the property, include an apartment lease that spells out terms. For example, you’ll want to prohibit subletting and stipulate that the employee will be responsible for any damage to the residence or extraordinary abuse of the utilities. It should also state how long the manager will have to vacate the home upon the end of his employment.

Be Prepared

Have everything ready for your new hire’s first day. Get him the proper uniform, a name tag and business cards, and make sure he signs for these things. If your new hire is replacing another manager, you’ll want to use a manager-changeover form. With this, your new employee accepts responsibility for things like the retail inventory, office equipment, drawer money, petty cash, maintenance tools, golf cart and, of course, facility keys. Put all signed forms into the person’s file.

Now that you’ve found your great new manager, you’ll want to ensure he gets all the training and tools he needs to be successful. As your new employee thrives, so will your self-storage business. It’s a win-win situation for you as well as your staff and customers. Good luck!

Pamela Alton is owner of Mini-Management Services, which 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

About the Author(s)

Pamela Alton

Owner, Mini-Management Services

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

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