FM Frequency: Real People, Real Stories

By Jeff Crane, P.E., LEED® AP

Published in the October 2006 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

You’ve probably seen articles or gotten e-mails written by human resource (HR) professionals sharing amusing interview anecdotes. As a hiring manager in the facilities industry, I’ve acquired my own share of memorable interview experiences and thought it might be fun to disclose a few of them in this month’s column.

The Lightning Round. I’ll never forget what might have been the shortest interview in history. It was for a “facilities coordinator” position—basically a front line contact for over 750 demanding employees in uncomfortably overcrowded facilities. After introducing myself to a well dressed, 20-something candidate with an impressive resume, I asked why she was considering leaving her current employer. She shook her head and said, “I’m tired of being the complaint department. People are never satisfied, and I’m sick of it. I want a job where I’m not the complaint department!” I nodded empathetically with a smile and said, “I understand how you feel, but unfortunately, this position IS the complaint department. I think we can both save about 30 minutes this afternoon, because this is clearly not the right opportunity for you.” I’m not sure how the HR screeners let her slip through their net, but the entire interview lasted less than five minutes.

Mr. Good Judgment. Then there was the infamous interview with a very sharp maintenance technician. I accepted resumes for a couple of weeks before selecting the top few possibilities for further consideration.

After talking to each candidate by phone, I was particularly impressed with one gentleman. He had relevant experience and a remarkable amount of technical training. He was also well spoken, and it was obvious he would be a good ambassador for a fledgling facilities team.

But on a day that might yet appear in an episode of “Candid Camera,” my star candidate brought his girlfriend to the interview. When he didn’t ask her to wait outside, I decided to proceed with the interview. After a few questions, the girlfriend was losing patience and abruptly asked, “So, what’s the pay?” I looked toward the candidate in disbelief, then back at her and replied, “We discussed the salary range over the phone.” Not accepting my answer, she looked toward him and asked again, “Why didn’t you tell me the pay? What’s the pay range?” When my stellar maintenance candidate told her, she looked back at me and angrily said, “That’s not enough money! Are you kidding? He’s worth more than that!” Needless to say, I quickly decided he would not be a good fit for the team.

Party Girl. Once I interviewed a candidate for an administrative position on the facilities team. She looked like a supermodel with heavy makeup and long, flowing hair that she tossed over her shoulder every two minutes. She also had a habit of avoiding eye contact while we talked, alternating between looking two feet to the right or left of me.

We discussed her work experience (which was less impressive than it appeared on paper), and I asked her to tell me about a project she had completed for which she was particularly proud. She told me about a group of businessmen visiting her former employer’s office for a major negotiation with her boss. She was asked to take the visitors out to dinner the night before the big meeting with the goal of getting them so drunk that her boss would have an advantage at the negotiating table early the next morning. She was particularly proud because, of the seven men visiting from the other company, only two attended the negotiation the next morning. Before she could offer any details from this successful “project,” I looked at my watch and said, “Well what do you know, that’s all the time I have. It was a pleasure meeting you…I’ll be in touch…”

The Loose Cannon. Sometimes I like to ask candidates the open ended question, “So tell me about your worst nightmare customer service story.” My favorite response came from the former manager of a multi-tenant commercial office building. She told me about a security services tenant who occasionally conducted officer training in his suite. One day, the instructor was apparently discussing firearm safety, and his pistol fired as he explained the “safe” way to load the weapon. The bullet went right through the wall into an adjacent suite. Fortunately nobody was injured, but she had to write up an incident report and pay a visit to the security service’s neighbor! I should have asked what sort of gift would be appropriate when apologizing for a neighbor who almost shot the copy machine.

Obviously, interviewing potential team members is a critical part of any manager’s responsibilities. But when meeting candidates for facility management positions, you never know what you might learn!

Crane is a mechanical engineer and regional property manager with Childress Klein Properties, a leading real estate developer and property management services provider in the Southeast