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As in so many facets of life, word of mouth matters when it comes to recruiting team members in the multifamily sector. Relationships matter. I do my due diligence every time we have to make a hire, as does the rest of our management team. We post on the usual job boards, review resumes and so on.
But it really comes down to this: What kind of feel do you have for the person seated across the desk from you during the interview process? Do you feel like that person will put the time into the job?
Do you feel that person has the requisite interpersonal skills to perform as part of a team? Because that all matters. It matters more than industry knowledge or technological skill or anything else.
How we hire
Understand that the hires we tend to make are not for our eight-person Illinois-based corporate team, which has been in place for a while now. Rather, the hires we find ourselves making are for managers of our properties here in Illinois, as well as in Tennessee and Texas.
In fact, we will soon be immersing ourselves in that process for properties we will be opening in the Chicago suburbs of Naperville and Mundelein, likely in the spring of 2023.
We will post these openings on Indeed.com and other industry-related job boards and, if the past is any guide, come away with at least 30 applicants — many of whom will clearly be unqualified. Our best leads tend to come from contacts within the multifamily sector.
When all is said and done, it’s a small industry, and some of our existing managers have friends at other companies who might want a change of scenery. We also put the word out and work through some of the vendors we use that are common in the industry.
We live by a saying when it comes to personnel matters: “Be slow to hire and quick to fire.” We’re very methodical about our recruitment and will not conduct a face-to-face interview with someone — either after flying them to Illinois or after flying to meet them on-site ourselves — until we have gone through the preliminary steps.
In my mind, recruiting the right property manager is almost like finding the right business manager, considering they’re on-site and running the equivalent of a small- to medium-sized business.
Hire for the property
If you have an apartment building that’s 100 or 200 or 300 units, it’s a pretty big operation. It is vital, as a result, to recruit the right person, and our philosophy once we find that person is to pay over-market and over-competing salary prices.
That gets us the best look, both initially and in terms of retention. I never like to use the word “overpay” because I think we pay people what they deserve. We don’t overpay, but we pay higher than others in the industry.
So before we make that type of financial commitment, we’re going to put candidates through their paces. We are going to bring them to Illinois and get to know them. I believe that after I talk to someone for a half-hour, I will know if they’re going to be a fit and be successful.
To reiterate, we’re looking for someone with interpersonal skills — not just with the team but with prospects. And they too, must be comfortable making hires, as we entrust them with the responsibility to bring in the right assistant manager and service personnel. (In the case of one of our new properties, the staff will consist of five people. In the case of the other, it will consist of four.)
Hire for work ethic
We’re also looking for a manager with an appetite for hard work. It’s literally a 24-7 business that involves connecting with prospects, looking at leases and coordinating activities — making sure, for example, that the maintenance department is doing its thing and responding to service requests.
So we’re not looking for someone who wants a 9-to-5. We’re looking for someone who is willing to work hard and aside from the work ethic, possesses an overall excellent personality. Likeability is very, very important.
There are those websites that believe recruiting is a never-ending process, and in large part, that is true. You are always networking and always interacting with others throughout the business. You develop a sense of who measures up and who does not. You understand who you can work with and who you cannot.
The bottom line is that retention is important; it goes without saying that if you reward productive people, there will be less of a need to go out and unearth new candidates. Along with that, you need to empower existing staff to be recruiters themselves when necessary.
You need to listen to their recommendations and trust their instincts. Again, it’s all a matter of relationships — the ones you have and the ones you are looking to develop.
Michael H. Zaransky is the founder and managing principal of MZ Capital Partners in Northbrook, Illinois. Founded in 2005, the company deals in multifamily properties.