Apartment Staffing 101: Don’t Hire Nice People

Apartment consulting and staffing can be tricky business. Over the years, I have managed and hired hundreds of Leasing Agents. It can be tough trying to find the right candidate. Early in my career, I made many mistakes when it came to hiring.  Some candidates I thought would be great turned out to be all talk and no action, while others who I thought would be just “ok,” turned out to be excellent employees.

But one of the biggest mistakes I made was presuming that because a candidate was “nice,” that they would be a great Leasing Agent.  However, what I found is that while “nice” individuals are perfectly acceptable, all of the “great” leasing agents I ever hired were very “kind” people.

What’s The Difference Between “Kind” and Being “Nice”?

It’s a common misconception that being “nice” and being “kind” are the same thing. People tend to confuse the two. They are in fact two separate traits that can make a big difference in an employee’s performance.

Individuals that are “nice,” tend to be very polite, are well-liked, show common courtesy and are very personable. Most of the agents I come across fall into this category.

On the other hand, “kind” individuals are the ones that always show empathy for others, try to help wherever they can and always seem to put other people’s interest above their well being. This shows in their sales techniques (i.e., connecting with renters), their role within the organization, their willingness to help fellow employees and most importantly, their closing ratios.

3 Interview Questions for Hiring “Kind Individuals

A lot of clients ask me “how do I tell if someone is “kind” and not just being “nice.”? Well, there are a couple of specific questions I always ask that seem to do the trick:

1. Tell me about the last time you helped someone? 

This is somewhat of a trick question. A lot of candidates will quickly answer with something about helping a family member or a friend. But the ones that respond by saying they helped someone they didn’t know, tend to be very “kind” individuals.

2. Who is your role model (besides a family member), and why?

This tends to be a fun question to ask. However, the answer can sometimes be very telling. Most of the answers tend to be famous figures (Abe Lincoln, Washington, Beyonce), but with kind people, you will get great responses like Mother Theresa, Dali Lama, etc. But the best answer I ever got was Bill Gates. Not because of the money he made but because he is giving it all away to charity.

3. What does “empathy” mean to you?

This is a very open-ended question that you will get a variety of responses. Some individuals many not know the meaning of the word at all, which in itself will tell you something. But this question can tell you a lot about the candidate and how they will treat your potential renters and current tenants.

I see many people in this industry who are trained to be nice but fail to act kindly.  You can’t train kindness. However, you can hire it.  Hiring a “kind” candidate will help your bottom line as well as your organization’s overall success.

Author: Justin Cleary is an almost 20 year veteran of the Multifamily marketing Industry. He has owned and operated several multifamily focused businesses and startups including The Philly Apartment Company, The DC Apartment Company,  BlueSquare Real Estate & Property Management, LeaseUp and his latest venture, BreadBox (http://breadbox.consulting)