The Real.Est List
My Big Fat Board Interview: Reference check!
I wasn’t really nervous about my recent board interview. Coming from a small, self-managed co-op in Manhattan, I felt coolly confident applying to a similar one in Brooklyn. After all, I not only had experience being in the hot seat, I’d also been part of the judging panel multiple times before and had a pretty good idea for what they were looking for: A quiet, respectful, and (no pun intended) low-maintenance person who'd pull their weight when it came to coop responsibilities.
What’s more, the seller’s broker assured me that the board was very relaxed and that the interview most likely would include a bottle of wine.
Perfect! I thought. Just like home!
When I arrived at the designated board member’s apartment, she was the only one there; the others, I was told, were en route. Nonetheless, she was very gracious and apologized, mentioning that their tardiness was merely a reflection of their laid-back attitude. (Yes!)
We chatted briefly about the sellers and I sincerely complimented her on her awesome apartment, while secreting fantasizing scenarios that would result in me moving into it next. Soon the others trickled in and introductions were repeated. With the polite conversational segues, it felt almost like being the new friend at a cocktail party--despite the fact that wine was never offered-only water. They asked what exactly I did for a living and why I wanted to live in the neighborhood.
It became apparent that they hadn’t yet examined my board package. They flipped through the papers while we spoke, but it was clear this was the first time they had bothered to actually read any of it, and I called them out on it. (Not a recommended move by the way--but by this point we all seemed comfortable with one each other.)
I also asked them questions: if they knew the people who lived in the buildings next door and (my favorite, non-aggressive, but engaging board interview question) what each did for a living and how long they’d lived there. We talked about trash duties, clean-up policies, and direct deposit--we even discussed possibilities on streamlining the management.
It was an inherently "cooperative" and mostly conversational forty-five-minutes. By the end, it seemed like a sure thing. So, imagine my surprise when, after hands were shaken and business cards were exchanged, they asked to give them a week to think about it.
No matter. I vowed to be as cool and laid-back as the interview itself and maintain confidence that they would eventually say yes. A week passed; no answer. Soon my nonchalant Brooklyn attitude faded and my Manhattan neurosis set in. What’s going on? Are they trying to delay? I knew that it was important not to push them for an answer, but my Manhattanness soon came out and I nudged my broker for an update.
Not to worry, he said. He was confident everything was fine and postulated the delay was due to their lackadaisical attitude.
Then, the next morning one of my personal references emailed to let me know that someone from the board had called to follow-up. They wanted to know how long this reference had known me, what I was like, if I was active in my current building and if I smoked. With mild paranoia now settling in, I texted my other references to give them a heads-up.
I was thrown by a reference-check that occurred after what I thought was a shoo-in board interview on top of a stellar application package. My anxiety-addled brain soon flooded with misread social cues and potential stalemates. Had something come to light that had given them pause? Or was their fealty to the sellers (who had yet to find a new place) so strong that they were considering delaying approval until 30 days after the scheduled closing date?
Then, shortly before midnight, my broker emailed me with the good news: I was approved. And just like that, I became as cool and laid back as the borough I’d soon call home.