Apartment Careers Blog

3 Questions to ALWAYS ask on a Job Interview

Posted on Thu, Jan 20, 2011 @ 02:14 PM

Preparing for the Job InterviewInterviewing is a two way street - the employer is interviewing you to see if your character and skills match their needs, and you are interviewing the company to determine if you think they are a good match for your skills, career goals, and values.  The three questions I have outlined below should be asked in some variation in your interview. Not only will they help you determine if the job you are interviewing for looks like your perfect job, but the answers, when put together with the rest of the interview and your research, will give you a fairly accurate picture of what's really going on behind the interview. These are not the obvious questions, such as the title of the job, the job description, to whom will you be reporting, and other such basic job questions. In most cases, you should have those answers completed through your pre-interview research before you ever walk through the door for an interview. 
  1. HOW LONG WAS THE PREVIOUS PERSON HERE? WHY DID THEY LEAVE?  Usually the interviewer will answer the second part with the first, but if they don’t, make sure you ask why the last employee left.  You are looking for signs their performance expectations are not unrealistic and beyond your control.  If the apartment community or portfolio is in disarray, and the last two people were there for a short period of time, fired, or “voluntarily quit” in less than a year, you don't need to ask any more questions.  Use the next pause in the interview to exit gracefully, and then don’t let the door hit you on the way out!  My bet is you will be the next person terminated (or forced out) for not achieving whatever it is they want accomplished - regardless of whether or not the expectations are realistic given the time frame, support and/or budget.  Don’t take a job that is set up for failure!  The damage to your career could take years to overcome.

  2. WHAT PRIORITIES NEED TO BE ADDRESSED IMMEDIATELY IN THIS POSITION?  The job description/title is not going to tell you much about the individual aspects of this position.  You need to get a good grasp of the characteristics and skills required for this job in this company.  Is this apartment community, portfolio, or company running smoothly? Are you going to be expected to come in and  maintain the status quo? If there is a crisis requiring damage control and a quick fix, then what is the time line for the fix or repair? Is it an achievable goal considering your capabilities? Are the goals realistic regardless of who holds the position?

    If you don't have any property, department or company information already, this will begin to clue you in about both the supervisor and the previous employee. If you have been provided with some detail already, then the answers should track with what you've already learned.

  3. WHAT TYPE OF PEOPLE TEND TO EXCEL HERE? Is everybody a workaholic?  Do you need to be a self-starter and capable of managing your workday and projects independently? Do the best employees work well in teams or committees? Do the best employees keep their supervisor informed on a daily basis of "where they are with things"?  Ask the supervisor to describe the ideal employee. 

    The answer to this question is going to tell you a lot about the pervasive culture in the company and the supervisor’s management style.  In general, most supervisors tend to hire similar types of people whose values are in harmony with the existing team and company culture.

    An entrepreneurial person will typically not function well in a committee/team decision making environment. While sales personalities can and do vary greatly, the top achievers place goal achievement high in their core values and they are usually highly motivated to influence other people.  Some people need rules and regulations to define the boundaries in the workplace, and others think policies and procedures are suggestions, and they see no black and white in the work environment - everything is just a shade of grey.  If you are going to be successful you need to understand the values of the supervisor, the co-workers and the company, then you can determine if your values are a match.
All of these questions are meant to help you obtain information; they are not meant to challenge the authority or the position of the hiring manager. You are gaining valuable information to help you make a decision that will have a long-term effect on your career.  Pay attention to the interviewer's body language and facial expressions. Is he or she relaxed, and do they talk to you or at you? These are all very valuable cues, and after the interview, you'll need to piece them together with the verbal information you received.  In some cases, inexperienced hiring managers will spend most of the time talking, and they will walk out of the interview with a very favorable impression of you since they monopolized the interview with their interests and opinions.  Always Remember: The interview is a two way street – the employer wants to learn information about you, and you need to learn information about the employer, co-workers, and the company.
One last tip:  I have learned to get my clients to agree on what success looks like before we start a project, that way we all know what it looks like when we achieve it.  This axiom holds true in your job search. It is very important for you to define what your perfect job looks like, and sometimes it is just as important, to know what it doesn’t look like before you start looking for the next job.     

Tags: job seeker tips, apartment job seekers, apartment leasing jobs, apartment manager jobs, apartment maintenance jobs, how to tips, college grads

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