Update: While many interviews take place online, others have resumed in person interviews should the tenant prefer now that COVID restrictions have mostly been lifted.
Buying a new apartment in New York City is always an exciting experience. Maybe you’ve found the perfect spot, in the right neighborhood, but there’s one final hurdle you need to clear before closing the deal. That’s passing the co-op board interview.
With 75 percent of Manhattan real estate inventory found in co-ops, the dreaded co-op board interview has become a right of passage for apartment seekers in New York City. The interview is the board’s first chance to meet you and see for themselves if you are a fit for their apartment. It is also, one of the most stressful parts of closing that perfect apartment you’ve been dreaming of.
When it comes to board interviews, there’s no standard procedure or set list of questions. They’re often a free-for-all, covering everything from your finances, hobbies, political beliefs, and past history with the law. Some interviews are amicable, others are curt and direct, all are tense and life-changing.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, what used to be a face-to-face interview process, has largely shifted online. This makes scheduling meetings more convenient for both you and the board but comes with its own set of unique challenges.
Before you can pick up those keys and call the apartment home, you have to pass this interview. While no guide can prepare you for the range of questions and dreadful experience of a board interview, here are several ways that you can prepare.
7 Essential Tips To Pass Your Board Interview
The co-op interview’s purpose and scope vary widely depending on which board you come up against, but there are general rules that hold true no matter what situation you find yourself in.
1. Dress Appropriately
You should dress appropriately for your board interview. You should wear business casual that is tidy, respectable, but not too formal. The board interview is a chance for your future neighbors to get to know you and if you overdress it may appear tacky and have the opposite effect than what you imagined.
2. Clean up your online profile
This one hardly needs saying these days, but it’s always worth a reminder. If your social media is filled with pictures of wild parties and celebrations, consider archiving those posts to appeal to your future neighbors. Also, do your best to remove politically charged statements that might rub the board the wrong way. No one wants a staunch radical in their building evangelizing their political beliefs on everyone else.
3. Prepare For Personal Questions
Board interviews are notorious for their personal interrogations of applicants so get ready to be grilled about the details of your life. The board is trying to determine if you will be a good neighbor or not, so do your best to portray the best side of yourself. But remember, be truthful. If the board thinks you are lying to them, then your application is as good as gone. Some examples of personal questions may include questions about your hobbies, your social life, whether or not you work from home, etc.
4. Do NOT Over-Share
Answer the questions directly and accurately but don’t provide additional information unless called upon. Everyone there probably wants to get the interview done with and the last thing they want to hear is a tangential story about something that happened years ago. We recommend keeping your answers brief and to the point but cordial and friendly.
5. Refrain From Asking Irrelevant Questions
This is mostly the co-op board’s chance to ask questions, not yours. Some board members will find your questions disrespectful and a waste of time. However, it is always good to come with a few questions prepared just in case you are asked. Make sure that the questions are relevant and show your desire to fit into the community and be a good neighbor. Don’t take this time, however, to ask irrelevant questions or make negative comments about the building. The last thing you want is for the board members interviewing you to feel insulted.
6. Familiarize Yourself With Online Meetings
With the majority of board meetings now taking place online, you should troubleshoot your system to make sure that you are fully prepared for the interview. Make sure you know how to use the platform (mute/unmute), have a suitable background (don’t show off your dirty laundry pile behind you), implement desirable lighting, pick out a flattering camera angle, and make sure the kids aren’t making too much noise in the background. Yes, all of this might seem like a lot to figure out ahead of time, but believe me, it’s worth it!
7. Prepare For The Interview Questions
As with any interview, preparation goes a long way. In a board interview, pretty much everything is fair game. You will likely be asked about your finances, how hard you like to party, and in some extreme cases whether or not you plan on having another child! Though most boards these days will refrain from doing so as it could be labeled as housing discrimination.
Similarly, there are softball questions that you should be able to hit out of the park. These include “What made you choose this co-op building?” and “Why do you want to live in this neighborhood?”. Make sure you have a compelling answer that shows your interest in the co-op and the area that it is situated in. The board members will more than likely want to opt for someone who shows interest in their building and community.
If anything catches you off guard and you have not prepared, just be honest with the board. Being honest and direct will serve you well as all the board is trying to do is figure out whether or not you will be a good tenant in the future. Besides, if you do pass the interview, this will ensure that your neighbors trust and like you.
Luke Button is a writer, marketer, and content creator. He is passionate about tech, brand building, self-improvement, and the future of work. Luke’s work has reached #1 on Hacker News multiple times, been read aloud in the House of Commons, and is featured in Business Insider and Entrepreneur.