Thought Leadership

Best Hiring Practices: Finding a Flawless Fit for the Organization

by Sergio Chidichimo

The ability to attract and retain high-level associates has become a primary focus in multifamily, where a competitive employment environment continues to persist. Organizations can best position themselves for success by getting it right from the start—in the hiring process. 

That concept might sound simple enough, but the industry often experiences a significant disconnect regarding associates hired by organizations compared to what the companies genuinely need. Incorrect hires force a company either to move forward with an obtuse fit for the position or begin the hiring process again at square one.  

Fortunately, several tools are available to help minimize mistakes in the hiring process. Here is a look at some of them, with the idea that they can be most effective when used in conjunction with one another:


Behavioral assessment tools take much of the guesswork out of determining personality traits from an application and brief interview. CliftonStrengths, developed by Gallup, assesses 34 “strength themes” that everyone possesses to one degree or another, and pinpoints an individual’s top 10 themes. 

This helps predict potential work behaviors and can more accurately identify those who are execution-driven, strategy-minded, exert influence or possess a range of other professional skill sets. Companies can use CliftonStrengths as the first filter to make certain that a potential hire’s skills align with the role the company is seeking. Naturally, an accurate job description on the front end helps make this process of finding viable candidates more efficient. 

As an industry veteran who has observed a handful of hiring missteps over the years, I was eager to shape the most robust hiring process possible upon joining Birchstone Residential. The company previously deployed a screening process by the talent acquisition team followed by a two-interview process. I craved an even more refined process, noting that while CliftonStrengths is a strong assessment tool, it often proved best for executive-level hires. At times, it evaluated on too wide of a scale to effectively narrow the candidate pool for onsite positions. So, I collaborated with our People Support team, led by Nicole Zdeb, to add two additional layers to the mix in an effort to further fine-tune the process.

The Predictive Index 

The Predictive Index (PI) is a behavioral assessment tool that features several additional layers. It catalogs 17 different personality types and determines how prone an individual is to micromanagement, assesses their attention to detail, determines how proactive they’ll be in a work setting and analyzes strength of communication, leadership qualities and several other facets. On a personal basis, I found PI to be more applicable to the operations environment. 

The tool also has a cognitive side, which helps for certain roles where cognitive attributes are exceedingly crucial (such as accounting). 

While PI is more in-depth, it can be used in conjunction with CliftonStrengths. For organizations determined to use only one, I’d recommend CliftonStrengths for corporate-level positions and PI for onsite roles. For those worried about the time component with these tools, don’t be. It takes the applicant only about 20 minutes to complete both assessments. 


Topgrading is a process to help narrow down candidate attributes even further. The process, based upon the book Who by Geoff Smart and Randy Street, analyzes not only the individual but also the core competencies desired in each role. Topgrading features a scorecard, and organizations typically seek three or four preferred competencies within the scorecard for each given role. 

For example, competency No. 1 for a regional manager might be strong leadership abilities. Then organizations can drill down further by outlining several bullet points of what they’re looking for within each competency. 

This has modified our interview approach from the traditional method, in which the mindset of the interviewer can skew the results. For instance, an analytical interviewer might gravitate to one candidate while an emotional-driven interviewer might favor another. Topgrading eliminates that potential hazard, because it’s more focused on matching the core competencies. As part of the process, each of our two interviewers will use the Topgrading system to grade the candidate on a scale of A+ to C based upon the candidate’s ability to execute the key competencies identified within the scorecard. 

Our team then determines an average grade based upon the two interviews. If a candidate scores A-minus or better, it’s a straight hire. If it’s a B+, we still move forward with the hire, but with a caveat—the leader must commit to working with that associate for six months to elevate them to an A status. This accomplishes two things—it narrows down the associates we’re looking for based on competencies, and subsequently creates accountability for the leader who graded that person. Additionally, the scorecard becomes the platform for employee development because all their strengths and weaknesses have been identified. 

To further refine the process, I personally analyze the Topgrading scorecard whenever an associate is terminated. It helps our team understand where we failed initially, and how we would score them again if we had the opportunity today. 

While behavioral assessment tools certainly can assist in procuring the right associate, organizations can aid in the pursuit by making their companies appealing in the competitive multifamily market. A robust benefits package helps (insurance incentives, prime vacation packages, 401K, etc.) along with a competitive salary. You can do all things well, but if you don’t pay well, it won’t matter. 

It’s our goal to hire people who will enjoy our culture and be ambassadors of it. When they always have the business top of mind, it helps with recruiting. As a result, more than 30% of our new hires are referrals from current associates. The talent acquisition process can be further aided by advertising in Spanish and English and staging recruiting events. 

Behavioral assessments tools serve as the additional layer to firmly ensure you’re making the right hire. 

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