Interviewing a property manager

Most condos think that once they hire a management company, the job is done. Not so. Especially in smaller buildings, some companies tend to assign managers that:
• are new to the job & inexperienced.
• kicked out of other buildings.
• less capable.
• got behaviour problems.
• burnt out.

In screening out managers that would not be a good fit, I would use the same techniques that are used in industry or what would be used to hire managers for purpose-built rental buildings.

Use the Japanese system of asking open-ended questions:

Tell me about a time that you had a confrontation with an obnoxious resident.

What would you do if you got a phone call that someone on 7th floor has just called for an ambulance.

Tell me about a time when both elevators went out of service. What did you do?

Tell us about a time when you had to give the board bad news.

Tell us about a time when a board ordered you to do something that you felt very uncomfortable about.

What issues do you think a board should concentrate on?

Tell us about a time when a super or cleaner did poor quality work. What did you do?

Tell us about a time when you had difficulties with a director.

Tell us about a time when a director came up with a dumb or illegal proposal at a board meeting.

Tell us about a board you enjoyed working with.

Tell us about a time when a tenant was breaking a by-law or rule. (Not an owner. There is a big difference between the two on what the manager should do.)

Tell us about a time you didn't complete a task that the board gave you by the required deadline.

Tell us about a time you were unhappy with the work done by a contractor.

How you prepare for board meetings.

Did you work for any other management companies? Which ones? (A few companies teach managers bad habits.)

Hopefully many or all of these questions should hit the candidate by surprise. You are looking at what they did, what did they learn from this and what their attitudes are.

Think about issues you had with your past managers and form similar questions from those issues. You are also looking to see if the manager expects the board to be active or to stay in the background and let him/her run the building.

Don't tell the manager what you are looking for or the candidates will tell you what you want to hear.

Watch for
• Did they ask you good questions?
• Did they ask for a tour of the building?
• Do they seem sincere, open.
• Do they seem to learn from their mistakes.

A new property manager
I received this letter from a condo director about a manager that they just interviewed.

"The previous on-site administrator and our property manager both left their employer, on their own, last month. The administrator caused a $7,000 blunder that the property management company had to repay our corporation. Besides that, we were beginning to wonder of her relationship with two contractors who were being awarded lots of small jobs without prior Board knowledge.

The management company wants to bring us a property manager who worked at a condo in Scarborough. That condo has decided to go self-managed. This manager has been managing this condo for the last five years. He has his RCM since March 2012.  He claims that he has a B.Eng of Mechanical (school not stated) and a MSc. from  an American university.

However, he was unable to correctly calculate the secured arrears and fill in the Form 14 instructions that we gave him as part of a test.

Therefore we have some reservations about him."

It is obvious that the interviewers should request a copy of the two university degrees and his RCM. A director would then get in contact with both schools and ACMO to verify that the manager did indeed graduate from their institutions.

A couple of fairly standard tests should be designed by the board that all candidates would need to take. Then there would be the standard questions that are part of all professional job interviews.

Should you rely on the property management company's word that all of this is completely unnecessary and accept their claims that the manager has a solid track record at other condo corporations? I don't think so.

I checked up on that Scarborough condo. They didn't go self-managed; they changed property management companies.

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