How to Ace Your Co-Op Board Interview
Your offer was accepted, the mortgage approved, and the contract signed. Congratulations! The board thinks you are a great candidate for tenancy on paper. Now all you have to do is prove you’d be a great neighbor by acing your co-op interview. It’s the last hurdle you have to overcome in the hunt for your dream home and we want you to succeed.
This guide has everything you need to know about acing your co-op interview.
Preparing for the interview
A co-op interview can be intimidating, with style ranging from an informal gathering in the apartment you’re eyeing to an interview with board members lined up on a table. Whatever the style, preparation is key to increasing your chances of approval.
Below are some recommendations you can consider when preparing:
Manage your online reputation
Like many businesses, the co-op board will probably go through all your social media pages. Go through the pages yourself to delete and clean up what might hurting your online presence. You control what you put online, so be mindful of your persona and privacy. Delete any unseemly photos, posts that touch on passionate feelings about hot button issues, and anything that fuels controversial conversations online. You don’t want your views to ruffle feathers with the co-op board before or during the interview.
Review your application
Answering questions about previous employers isn’t always easy. Nevertheless, you must familiarize yourself with the application. Don’t forget to bring it to your interview, along with other necessary documentation – contract of sale, personal reference letters, income tax returns for the last two years, recent bank statements, etc. You should be able to answer any questions regarding information on the application or other documents, preferably without looking at them.
Brace for uncomfortable questions
Prepare to answer some uncomfortable questions about your employment history, financial stability, and frequent moves. Any questionable or vague areas in your application, such as stints of unemployment, are fair game so be prepared to be asked about them.
Remember that co-op boards aren’t allowed to ask questions that might be construed as discrimination under human rights laws. For instance, a single buyer shouldn’t be asked questions about sleepovers. Questions about the country of origin and religion can be construed as discrimination, while questions about how many kids you have or plan to have are verboten.
Ask your real estate agent for insight
Discuss things with your real estate agent before going in for the interview. They may be able to provide valuable insight into the apartment, building, or neighborhood before your interview with the co-op board. The realtor will likely have a sense of the co-op’s rules and regulations and be familiar with some of the tenants or board members. The inside scoop they provide will be invaluable during the interview.
During the interview
After preparation, now it’s time to face the board for your interview. Here’s how to ace the interview:
Dress to impress
Even if the co-op board is interviewing you via Zoom, you should treat it like a job interview and dress well. Be sure to arrive on time, know your audience, and make eye contact. Men should wear a suit with an optional tie, while women should opt for a suit or dress with minimalist jewelry and makeup. If the interview is in person, don’t wear any cologne or perfume. Keep the dressing simple and conservative, like you’re going for a tech or banking interview.
Avoid hot topics
You should avoid hot topics like politics that may spark controversial discussions. And while the board may be allowed to ask about your political views, don’t be the one who brings up politics during the interview. If asked, provide an honest and respectful response that’s mindful of opposing views.
It’s easy to start oversharing and giving your life story when you get nervous during a co-op interview. Doing so can give the board members a reason to take an issue with something you say. It’s best to keep things simple and cordial. Only answer the questions asked and avoid volunteering too much information. Remember that co-ops won’t reject your application because you’re too quiet.
Don’t talk about renovations
It’s best to leave any discussions about renovations out of your co-op interview. Outlining an elaborate plan for the lobby renovation might make you seem high-maintenance or needy, which is the last thing you need. The main objective of the interview is for the board members to get to know you, not for you to point out their shortcomings and discuss your plans for the building. You can glaze over long-term renovation plans, but going into detail is overdoing things. You can save that for the alteration agreement.
Don’t ask too many questions
While the co-op may ask if you have any questions, keep in mind that this isn’t the time to pepper the board with questions. The interview is just an opportunity for the board members to get to know you and confirm that you are a great addition to the building. It’s best to compliment the board members and note how wonderful and thorough they were. You can take up any pressing questions you have with your realtor.
How to answer common co-op board interview questions
The co-op board will ask you various questions, many of which will be personal. They want insight into the kind of neighbor you’ll be, and your answers are the best way for them to get what they want. The key to acing these questions is presenting yourself in the best possible light and keeping the answers concise.
Below are some questions and the best way to address them:
Why are you interested in this building or neighborhood?
his is your first chance to flatter the co-op board. Rather than mention money or affordability, focus on how you’re looking to downsize and your favorite qualities about the building. Don’t forget to commend the board for keeping the building in good condition. You can also emphasize your interest in the location and neighborhood.
Do you plan on serving the board?
Neutrality is your best friend here. After all, no one on the co-op board wants to lose their job to the new guy. Give a simple response by saying that you haven’t given much thought to it, but you’d be happy to help the board in any way you can.
Do you like what you do for work?
This is another question the co-op board will ask to gauge how secure your job is, so don’t complain about how stressful it is. Complaining about your poor relationship with your boss is a huge red flag for the board members. Be discreet but confident and show them that you plan to stay for a long time. If you’re self-employed, elaborate on your income streams to prove financial stability.
Do you plan to do any renovations?
This question is the co-op board’s way of determining if you know their policies. Review any maintenance and renovation rules. Say you have no plans to renovate and that you know how to seek help from maintenance if you need it.
Do you have parties or entertain often?
The co-op board may ask you this question to determine if your socializing habits will be disruptive to other tenants. After all, nobody enjoys living next to someone who’s always having loud parties. Your best answer is that you enjoy the occasional get-together with friends.
Do you have pets?
Co-op boards usually have very strict pet guidelines regarding aggressive breeds, weight, vet records, and the number of pets. The board members will want to ensure that your pet (if you have one) is obedient, within the building’s weight limit, and not aggressive. You can minimize the number of questions you get about your pet by bringing all relevant documentation with you. This includes vet records, vaccination cards, height and weight records, photos, obedience school certificates, and vet and pet sitter references.
Do you plan to sublet?
Many co-ops have strict regulations regarding residency and subletting. Boards prefer long-term residents rather than short-term tenants and sub-letters. Your best answer is that you plan to live in the apartment permanently. If you have another residence, be sure to explain your plans for it.
Do you have any questions?
This is a tough one because you’re the one being interviewed, not the other way around. That said, this isn’t the time to pester the board about approving your renovation plans or asking difficult questions. You can say that you can’t think of anything and thank them for their transparency. This is also an excellent time to ask innocuous questions that show that you were paying attention. You can ask small follow-up questions about personal tidbits the board members shared during the interview.
Getting co-op approval
If the interview goes smoothly, the board may give you an informal approval. You’ll still need official written confirmation, but knowing you aced the interview feels great. However, most co-op boards communicate your approval or rejection several days to one week after the interview. Some boards may request a second interview, especially if some members weren’t present or they want to ask additional questions.