Identifying & Attracting the Right Employee

To entice highly qualified job applicants, mass advertising the position is not enough.

For human resource representatives and apartment community owners, identifying the right job candidate and convincing that candidate to work for their company often is a challenging and time-consuming task. The usual tactic of placing ads in print media and on online search sites can result in hundreds of applicants pouring their resumes into the manager’s e-mail account, a discouraging number of which are unqualified for the job.

The few promising resumes that managers receive present a new challenge. When is the best time to reach those prospects so that they can openly discuss the possibility of changing jobs? Is the manager prepared to spend the next few weeks working evenings? If not, the right person for the job is going to slip right through his or her fingers. The good ones go quickly.

Chuck Friedman, Regional Vice President, Metropolitan Properties of America, Philadelphia, said he has had limited success when using online job search boards to recruit community managers, service technicians and leasing agents, as many individuals respond with resumes that do not reflect the skills necessary for the job posted.

Despite all that effort spent looking for job candidates employed elsewhere, a manager often will find that the best candidate has been right under his or her nose all along. The best way to find qualified applicants is to recruit and train from within by having an internal program that grooms and develops employees for advancement.

AMLI’s Search Within
Take a good long look at the current employees who understand the company methodology and philosophy to see who may be worth developing. If the business is doing well, consider incorporating a tiered education career track program into company policy.

Provide ongoing training of those smart, highly qualified candidates who are already employed with the company. The key is to begin training for promotion before the promotion. Create a career track that outlines the exact steps an employee must take to be designated as “promotable.”

A tiered training program creates a pool of highly trained candidates from which managers can draw as the need arises. For example, AMLI Residential’s AMLI Continuing Education (ACE) program develops and trains newly hired employees and prepares current employees for future positions that require greater levels of expertise. The ACE program offers structured classroom training, online education and an organized mentor program.

Carol Gardner, AMLI’s Vice President of Education, said that the mentor program encourages employees to share their on-the-job knowledge with others in the organization. Every new employee and every newly promoted employee is assigned a company mentor who ensures that the employee has the fundamentals needed for a successful career with the company.

“Our in-house training program has been beneficial because it allows us to tailor a program to employees so that they are successful within our system and our culture,” Gardner said. “Whether a person is on our service team or our management team, people learn skills that will help them move to higher levels within the organization, therefore building our ‘bench strength.'”

Gardner said the 360 Evaluation Program helps AMLI’s management team understand how others perceive their staff members’ behavior and performance.

“It shows them opportunities to change their business approaches to be more successful in leading their teams and managing their businesses,” Gardner said. “It has helped our managers to become more effective and more well-rounded.”

AMLI considers itself to be a learning organization in which employees take personal responsibility for their futures through education. Every person helps others learn, and all employees are considered to be educational resources.

AMLI’s Service Technician Tier Program is a program that assesses current skill levels of maintenance employees and then slots individuals into classes that will give them the necessary skills for upward mobility within the organization. It also has a Management Training Program, called AMLI Certified Manager Program, for site-level managers who have an interest in personal or career development, which is an intensive three-month program that includes classroom training, group projects and a 360-degree evaluation. The program helps to prepare community managers for positions at larger assets or as regional managers.

The Search Outside
Although the best way to find highly qualified employees is to recruit from within, if that option doesn’t exist, or when there aren’t employees who are able to be promoted, consider some other options before advertising the position to the masses.

Networking: Networking is another way to reach out for qualified candidates. There are many industry organizations in which managers can network with other industry professionals. Although managers can learn of qualified job seekers during their networking, the timing may not always be right. People who are hiring and people seeking a change in employment can meet and make inquiries while networking at industry specific events, such as local apartment association meetings and trade shows.

Hiring a Search Firm: Although the property management industry is expansive, some candidates fear breaches in confidentiality when they respond to company ads. Candidates often will hesitate before sending their resumes because they never know if the person to whom they are responding will know someone in their company and if that connection will jeopardize their current employment. The average employee believes that all property management owners golf together anyway.

An outside search firm has discretion on its side. Highly qualified candidates who might be disinclined to send their resumes in response to a company ad might feel more comfortable speaking with a third party who requires the utmost discretion on the part of employers and prospective employees alike.

Mary Pacini, President, Chancellor Properties, Philadelphia, and NAA Region 2 Vice President, said a search firm helped her fill four key positions. “Using a search firm can eliminate time and stress of the hiring process,” Pacini said. “I know the candidate has already passed certain criteria before they walk in my door, which allows me to concentrate on more important aspects of interviewing.”

Friedman said many apartment management executives are concerned about the cost and fees associated with a search firm. “The cost effectiveness of a search firm needs to be weighed against the lost time, wasted time and down time a company spends placing ads, searching through resumes—many of which are from individuals who are clearly not qualified candidates—and scheduling interviews that are often skipped,” Friedman said.

Friedman said a search firm that specializes in the property management field offers a distinct advantage “because it has a clear knowledge of the property management industry. As a result, they are familiar with the specific job requirements we have established, and they easily can eliminate candidates who don’t meet our criteria.”

Valerie Glassford worked 14 years in apartment management. She is Vice President of Recruitment for The EMLIN GROUP, a national property management recruitment group based in Fort Washington, PA.

Published in NAAHQ, May 2007 issue