Everyone has had the experience of interviewing or being interviewed for a position, and the process is no different for associations and managers. Whether the manager is being hired to work directly for a board or being proposed by a management company, a good interview will avoid issues down the road. Changes in management are costly and disruptive.
Interviewing can be done by a board or by a committee. No matter how it is done, the interview basically comes down to three phases: preparation, the interview itself, and finally, post interview action.
Smart candidates research the association, know the answers to basic questions, and ask good questions. So, it is incumbent on the interviewers to be equally prepared. Basic steps are:
- Have an outline of the process that is going to be followed in the interview. If one individual is going to ask financial questions, then another one can ask maintenance, or governance and so on. Overlapping on one topic will take up time and not allow for information from the candidate in areas that might be important.
- Prepare a list of questions ahead of time. Make sure the area of interest is covered in detail – project management, staff leadership, etc.
- Research the candidate ahead of time. Look at LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media sites. If a board member is active in the industry and networking, there will be individuals with which to verify information. Another good source is the association attorney.
- A note on first impressions. While it is human nature to undertake bias, this can be detrimental not only to the candidate but to the association. First impressions may prejudice interviewers to good candidates for unquantifiable reasons.
The core of choosing a manager is the interview itself. The most successful ones are friendly but businesslike and professional. Be mindful about asking questions of a personal nature. The interview should be:
- A strong listening session. The best interviewers ask questions but do not talk a lot. You want the candidate to do the talking; listen carefully to the answers. Great candidates will answer directly, not meander or jump to other topics.
- Have open-ended but related questions to what is germane for the association. Ask amplifying questions but put the onus on the candidate to answer, “don’t lead the witness”.
- Ask for personal involvement. If they were in charge of a $1.5 million lobby renovation project, you want to find out if they were a project manager or just attended meetings as an observer. If asking about request for proposals, ask if they wrote the RFP, did they find the bidders, how about a bid tab and how was the project sold to the board.
- Silence is an effective interview technique, use it. When the candidate gives a brief answer, wait for more. It is very difficult not say anything and silence is the antithesis of talking, but it elicits responses.
- Take notes. It is easy to get involved in the conversation and important facts may be forgotten. Jotting down key points will highlight each candidate.
The final step in a successful interview is the closing and post interview process. Know how much time you have for the interview and keep at least a quarter of the time reserved for candidates’ questions:
- Ask the candidate if they have any questions about the association. Good candidates will not just ask about benefits but more importantly about the priorities the board is setting. They will ask about the staff and why the previous manager left.
- Sell the candidate on the association. What are the good aspects of working for the board and the community? Let the candidate know the amount of flexibility they will have.
- Request writing samples. Respecting confidentiality ask for a sample weekly report, RFP, financial analysis or any other report the board deems valuable. Writing skills are key for a good manager.
- Let the candidate know the next steps and when a decision is expected to be made. And by all means, notify the interviewed candidates when the decision is made.
- Finally, compare opinions among the interviewers. The crucial factor is whether they would do a good job for the association and would they fit into the association’s culture. You are hiring a manager not a friend.
If necessary, bring the top candidate or two in for a second meeting. It is far better to be sure than make an ill-conceived decision. Following the principles of planning, good interviewing and post interview evaluation increases the chances of success.
By Richard Kuziomko, MBA, CMCA, AMS, PCAM
Richard is the General Manager of The Kenwood Condominium in Bethesda, Maryland and the President of the River Creek Owners Association in Loudoun County, Virginia. He has been an active writer, speaker and lecturer at various WMCCAI forums and member of both the Education and Quorum Committees.