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Interview with a Hiring Authority: Answers from an Operations Director

Posted: May 7, 2014 | Categories: Interviewing Tips | Customer Service

As part of our goal to help our employees get into the job and career they have been planning for and to assist our clients in sharpening their own interviewing skills, we sat down with Southern California Portfolio Operations Director for AvalonBay Communities, Michelle Arch. We asked Michelle a few of the questions regarding characteristics of an outstanding candidate, work ethic, assessment tests and other tips for giving or conducting the best interview. Here are the questions we asked Michelle:

Q1. In your opinion, what are the top characteristics that make a candidate outstanding?

Commitment to integrity, spirit of caring, and focus on continuous improvement are AvalonBay's core values, so we look for evidence of these qualities in our candidates' background and interview presentation. Many applicants come to the interview with relevant experience and education; however, ensuring we are attracting and acquiring talent that is aligned with our foundational principles is more important.

Q2. If one top candidate has better skills sets and the other is a better cultural fit, which way do you tend to lean in hiring?

We believe that most of the skills required to be successful in our industry can be learned and therefore trained. We definitely would be more apt to hire the lesser skilled candidate if he or she is a better cultural fit for our organization.

Q3. How have your standards of 'corporate dress'? changed, if at all?

AvalonBay offers three distinct brands of apartment communities and residential experiences, and our career apparel reflects the unique essence of each brand. Career attire at our eaves communities is fresh and approachable, while the attire at our Avalon communities is a bit more polished and professional. Associates working at our AVA communities love expressing their personal style with jeans and urban-inspired pieces.

Q4. What question(s) do you ask to determine the 'work ethic'? of the candidate?

We ask for specific examples of situations in which a candidate's dedication, drive for results, or time management skills were called upon to meet expectations or achieve desired outcomes. In an interview, I will also typically present a scenario in which a customer, a supervisor, and an associate all have an immediate need and ask the candidate how he or she would prioritize the competing demands.

Q5. Does your company conduct assessment tests and does the consideration for hire weigh heavily on the results?

We have partnered with a third party assessment company to test each candidate's fit for each position and company culture. We've established a threshold of suitability and have determined that associates who did not meet that threshold during the screening process tend to be less successful than candidates who meet or exceed the qualifying threshold. The threshold was identified by establishing position benchmarks based on associates who are most successful in the respective roles.

Q6. What is something an interviewee might bring with him/her that would impress you?

Candidates who have researched the organization and have some knowledge about our existing asset portfolio, development pipeline, and corporate initiatives definitely impress me. Additionally, applicants should have some information about the hiring manager with whom they are interviewing. A flawless resume is a must, as the recruiting team and most hiring managers are looking for attention to detail in each candidate. After the interview(s), a handwritten thank-you note to each interviewer indicates how a candidate will treat our customers. I know many managers wait for a formal thank-you before extending an offer.

Q7. How much consideration is given to the resume presentation (formatting, grammar, etc.)?

Our jobs require a high level of attention to detail, so we feel that resumes should have received an enormous level of scrutiny by a candidate seeking a position within our organization. We receive a lot of resumes, so typographical and grammatical errors and an apparent lack of attention to detail may disqualify an applicant who has terrific skills and experience. Taking the time to ensure the resume is flawless also reflects a sincere interest in working for our company.

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