Candidate Focus: How do property management interviews differ from interviews in other sectors?
The headache of job hunting
Applying for jobs is a brutal process. The internet is filled with horror stories of how cutthroat the market is; saturated with well-qualified applicants and indifferent employers. Candidates sat at home, sending out hundreds of hopeful applications, with not a word back. An endless storm of CVs, Cover Letters, and then repeatedly entering the same tedious information into online forms, again and again and again. It isn’t just disheartening, it’s soul destroying.
But with hundreds, even thousands of applications, one can somewhat understand why companies have sought to come up with all sorts of systems to make the hiring process more efficient – including the frustrating automation systems that require so much endless form-filling. However, whilst these approaches may seem efficient from a simple numbers perspective, their impersonal nature means that all too often the intangible qualities that define the difference between the ‘right’ candidate and the ‘perfect’ candidate go overlooked.
Of course, Jackson Sims exists to eliminate precisely these inefficiency headaches; both for employers and potential employees. By being able to devote greater time and resources to the issue of recruitment, and by leveraging our expertise in the field, we are able to gain a more comprehensive understanding of both the needs of a given job role, and the strengths of a given applicant.
This allows for meaningful matches to be made; matches which take account of some many more variables than mere qualifications and quantitative accounts of experience. Matches which take account of the intangible; temperament, personality, congruence with the company culture, shared values… the elements which are key to securing a long-lasting, mutually beneficial working relationship.
The rest is on you
But whilst we take pride and satisfaction in doing much of the heavy lifting at the initial stages of the recruitment process, success ultimately stands with the talent of the candidates we work with, and how well they can demonstrate this talent. This inevitably means that at some point, candidates will need to face much dreaded final hurdle; the interview.
Property management interviews are just that… interviews.
The truth is, regardless of industry, job interviews are broadly similar. They’re not MI5 interrogations and the panel is not out to trip you up or make you feel stupid. The ‘trick’ questions that Google supposedly ask to identify ‘lateral thinking’ are the exception, not the norm (if indeed, they’re true at all).
This means that first and foremost, the biggest change you can make is a mindset adjustment. All too often, even without meaning to, interviewees go into an interview with a combative stance; either on the defensive or seeking to outsmart the interviewer in some way. But the reality is that interviews are a collaborative fact-finding mission – and keeping this perspective in mind will help you to display an attitude that not only shows an agreeable, accommodating nature, but allows you to view everything about the process as an opportunity to shine, rather than a series of pitfalls to avoid.
As with any interview, there are general aspects that interviewers are seeking to establish; your motivation, attitude, ability to work within a team (or lead, as required), your ability to take initiative, problem solve, think critically, maintain calm, think strategically, prioritise … These are pretty much universal characteristics that are called for in most workplaces.
Since there’s endless guidance online relating to how you should prepare yourself to display these characteristics, we won’t waste too much time on them here. Except to say that you should really sit down with a friend and get them to ask you the ‘standard’ interview questions (‘Tell me about a time when you had to prioritise different tasks. What did you do and what was the outcome… etc’). This gives you time to think about your response – which means you’ll be less uncertain or contradictory in the interview, and come across as more confident, quick thinking and decisive. Make sure you can back up all of your responses with a real-life example from your previous employment.
And of course the standard advice applies: make sure you know what you wrote on your CV (and that you didn’t tell any fibs), and if possible, bring your portfolio and performance statistics to link your answers to.
The Particulars of Property Management
Whilst it is true that property management systems will resemble interviews from other sectors, when it comes to property management there are some additional areas that you want to be prepared for which are very much specific to the industry. It’s important to think through these elements beforehand, so that you’re prepared; knowing what you think about the subject, and having examples to hand where necessary.
Management and communication systems
The property management world has become increasingly formalized, regimented and structured in its approach; there are a number of systems developed specifically to automate and aid property management functions (indeed, we wrote about them in last month’s blog). It’s important to be aware of some of the main property management software and apps, even if you haven’t been using them in a previous role (though as we also said in last month’s blog, you really should be moving beyond Excel sheets to track PM tasks in this day and age).
Make sure you’re grounded in the basics and theory of property management software – what functions they typically have, what they do, what their limits are; that way if they tell you about a system they already use, you can show familiarity with the fundamentals and make it clear that you’ll be able to pick up any new technology quickly.
Property management interviews will also commonly focus on your ability as a communicator; both because of the contact you have with clients, but also because as the ‘hub’ of coordination between lots of moving parts, clarity of communication (and organization) is key.
Many people will focus on the ‘soft’ aspects of communication without being able to say more specifically why they are a ‘good’ communicator. But a focus on the systems that support communication are also important. Make sure you’re well versed on the distinction between informal versus formal communication strategies and the different potential methods that can be used – both upstream and downstream with management and clients. Remember, it’s not always necessary to say that everything is wonderful; you can be honest about your past efforts – things that that you found challenging or which didn’t work, and then talk about what changes you implemented. Demonstrate an ability to weigh pros and cons – it shows critical thinking.
In addition, if the interviewing company doesn’t yet have standardized systems for management or communication, this potential presents an opportunity to talk about how you would instigate improvements.
This is a biggie. Obviously, dealing with disgruntled clients is a part of most jobs (and trying to avoid them becoming disgruntled in the first place is a big part of that too). But the stakes are particularly high in the field of property management; these clients have possession of your asset – an extremely valuable asset – and could cause significant trouble if they become vindictive (every Property Manager must have heard at least one horror story of ‘cement down the drains’ tenants, even if only apocryphal).
Think about how you deal with issues such as late payment. When is compassion appropriate? Is it better to have a fixed policy, or use judgement? How do you avoid the escalation of situations? Again, bring specific examples to the table when you can.
You also can use discussion in this area (including concepts of eviction) to demonstrate your grasp of the legal elements of the process, as well as the ethical and reputational consequences that stem from how you handle conflict.
Market awareness and appeal
What makes properties desirable these days? How is the market segmented, and what are the different needs of these segments? What evidence do you have for this? What efforts have you made in previous positions to increase marketability and value?
This is the area where you make sure you’ve undertaken really in-depth research about the company you’re applying to; what is their market segment, what are the rental rates in the sector and area, who are the main competitors, what is the strategy the company is pursuing?
It’s also an area to demonstrate creativity and insight. What non-conventional methods have you used (or would you use) to increase the rental appeal of a property without unnecessary additional expense? Research the properties and plan your response so that you’re not left floundering. Also draw from your own performance figures to show how you have either minimized vacancy lengths/rates, or driven up profit in your previous positions.
Here to help
Of course, whilst we say it’s ‘all up to you’ when it comes to the interview process, that’s not strictly true. Our role doesn’t end with matching clients and candidates; we support both sides throughout the entire process – guiding and advising them as needed. So if you feel uncertain about any part of the interview process – about what you should expect or how you can make yourself shine – we’ll be there to provide you with impartial, informed advice, every step of the way.
Jackson Sims Recruitment is a property recruitment company operating in the UK and APAC region. Should you be a candidate or client working in property management we have a multitude of recruitment services that can be tailored to you. Please visit www.JacksonSimsRecruitment.com for more information.
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