My co-op board interview took place in one of the larger, more intimidating apartments in the Upper West Side building where I was in contract to buy a one-bedroom.
There were two couches opposite each other. I was seated on one, and the four board members sat across from me.
They asked what I did for a living, how long I’d been working, where I was from, what schools I went to, do I like to have parties at home, do I have pets.
All fine. Then this little nebishy man with a Napoleon complex said, “Can you explain to me why you filed jointly two years ago and single last year?”
Now, in a general sense, I had been coached going in.
Wear a suit, my agent said, and if they ask what you think of the building, never say when is the lobby going to be redone, when is the roof being redone, why is there an assessment or only $25,000 in reserve.
Also, if anyone says something trying to make you react, kill them with kindness.
To the guy waving around my tax returns who obviously knew I had gotten divorced, I wanted to say, "The reason I filed single last year is that you’re a fucking idiot."
But of course he was just trying to push my buttons to see how I reacted—did I have a temper, was I going to be an angry neighbor.
I more or less controlled myself: “Obviously, I was married,” I said, which was a little bit of a wiseass answer but better than what I wanted to say.
The president of board walked me out at the end, and I said, “How are things looking?” and he said “We’ll let you know.”
I thought, “Oh, shit.”
It turned what really mattered to them was the thing I had gone in worrying about the most: That I didn’t earn enough to afford the apartment. But that didn’t come up in the interview.
Instead, when they called 2 or 3 days later to congratulate me, they told me I needed to put two years worth of maintenance in escrow.
I wasn’t happy about it--I was like, Okay, fine--but I did it.
Nowadays, I'm on the board. I don't try to push peoples' buttons - I just sit and observe and make them do most of the talking. I want people to be treated the way I want to be treated--which means not being asked uncomfortable questions during the interview.
'My Big Fat Board Interview' is a newish, first-person series of co-op board interview experiences dedicated to bringing transparency to the interview process. Drop us a note if you'd like to tell us your story.