Hiring Employees

Hiring employees is the most important task a manager performs. Hiring successfully requires an ability to judge character, a skill that has been in short supply in recent decades because of a loss of middle management--where people skills were both learned and taught--and because of centralization of decisions, a capability made possible by computerization.

You won't find the perfect employee; that person already holds a better job. We look for acceptable imperfection. One personal characteristic that is essential in apartment operations is integrity. The duties of apartment complex employees require them to be in other people's homes and require handling of funds belonging to others. Another essential characteristic is good judgment. Technical skills may be essential, but if you sacrifice integrity and good judgment to get technical skills, you will eventually have a serious problem. Testing is currently being used as a substitute for the missing ability to judge character. Whatever the practice within your company, you will need to do as much background checking of applicants as may be legally and reasonably feasible. A criminal records search should be mandatory. An apartment management company cannot risk hiring an employee who has been convicted of rape, pedophilia, other violent crime, burglary, theft, embezzlement, or a drug violation. Do a background investigation.

We tend to hire people "just like us." That's not always a good idea. Sometimes an ability to view events from a different perspective is a valuable asset in an organization. Testing can produce the same type of narrowness. The perfect type of employee today may be the wrong type tomorrow when the operational environment changes.

There are various ways to find job applicants. Advertising is one means. If a job advertisement were perfectly written, only one applicant would apply and that applicant would be the ideal person for the job. Most job advertisements are carelessly written. Carelessly written job advertisements produce too few or too many applications including applications from people who are not well qualified for the advertised job. Carefully define the ideal set of credentials and reflect the desirable education and job skills in the advertisement.

Your goal, when screening applications and interviewing applicants, should be to avoid "mind set," i.e. preconceived ideas. "Mind set" is a hazard for researchers and for managers. Interviewing presents some opportunity to evaluate the character of the applicant. Character incorporates integrity, judgment, responsibility, and courage. Personality is important, but it is an entirely different matter. Job interviewing is a regulated process in America. The question, "Who will take care of the children while you are at work?" is, from the standpoint of the well being of society, perhaps the most important question anyone could ask. It is unlawful to ask that question. It is also unlawful or inappropriate to ask any question regarding race, religion, age, martial status, pregnancy, or health. You may ask about education, previous work experience, and skills pertinent to the job under consideration. A job interview, properly administered, may reveal something about the applicant's job skills but usually reveals less than we would like to know about the applicant's character. When you check references (previous employers), you may discover that many companies will only confirm dates of employment. Competent hiring is a challenge.

Unless the applicant is desperate you can be certain that the applicant is also evaluating you, the surroundings, and the company. The author once observed an apartment management company executive interviewing a job applicant in a noisy hotel lobby. The executive was an hour and a half late for the interview. Would you work for that company?

Some occupations require the job holder to be licensed. There are three basic license categories. One type of license protects the public. A license to practice medicine or law is in that category. A second category assures that a job holder possesses an acceptable level of technical skill. Aircraft mechanic and nuclear power plant operator are in that category. The third type of license primarily limits entry into the field of employment. If you, your company, or your jurisdiction, require applicants to hold an apartment management license as a condition of employment, you are unable to consider most of America's most talented people. Only a minuscule percentage of Americans hold or will ever hold an apartment management license.

Hiring maintenance employees is a challenge because we tend to expect maintenance employees to be able to maintain air conditioning systems, heating systems, appliances, plumbing, electrical systems, be carpenters and painters, and be available 24/7-all for relatively low wages. Maintenance is an extremely important factor in the overall performance of an apartment complex and becomes more critical as the building ages or when competition intensifies.

You should make no promises to applicants regarding advancement or job security or retirement benefits because you cannot guarantee such promises.

You should attempt to hire so well that you never have to fire anyone. Job loss can be devastating, worse when the job loser has been fired. It is generally conceded that management bears some fault when it becomes necessary to fire employees, i.e. poor hiring practices, poor training, or ineffective leadership.