First of all, you should know that simply being invited to the board interview is a good sign. Attorneys typically advise co-op board directors not to conduct interviews if they are uncomfortable with the information provided in the board package. This is to lower the risk of an applicant claiming that a denial occurred because he/she is in a class protected by federal, state or city housing laws. So an appointment with the board usually means that your paperwork has already checked out. The meeting is an opportunity for the board members to ask you specific questions about your application. The style of the meeting depends entirely on the building and the current board members. It can range from a casual gathering in an apartment to a more formal interview with the entire board sitting across from you at a table. No matter what form the meeting takes, the following ten tips will help you be prepared when you arrive and present yourself in the best possible light.
- Dress to impress and arrive promptly
In this respect, you should treat the meeting as if it is a formal job interview.
- Be prepared for a lack of privacy
The board has great latitude in the kinds of questions it can ask, so be prepared. Don’t avoid answering personal questions and don’t let yourself be rattled or annoyed by them.
- Familiarize yourself with the details of your own application
You should be able to quickly and concisely answer any questions asked about your application, preferably without having to refer to it regularly. Thirty seconds of paper shuffling in response to a question about your financial standing or employment history will not inspire confidence. That said, bring a copy of the application with you just in case.
- Couples should decide who will answer certain types of questions in advance
For example, one of you may agree to answer all financial questions while the other will address all other questions. Try to avoid discussing answers with your spouse in front of the board.
- Don’t try to sell yourself
Don’t treat the meeting as an opportunity to express what an amazing neighbor you are. Just answer the questions you are asked, as simply as possible, and let the board direct the conversation. Applicants are rarely turned down for being boring.
- Never volunteer any information you are not asked for
Don’t engage in any unsolicited conversations except for pleasantries at the beginning and end of the meeting. Avoid revealing any more information than what is specifically asked for. This rule alone will go a long way toward keeping you out of trouble.
- Do not ask questions of the board
Questions can unintentionally give negative impressions to the board. For example: “Do you have any plans to renovate the lobby?” is the kind of seemingly innocent question that may offend a board member who was in charge of the lobby renovation or suggest that you intend to campaign for large capital expenditures for the building. If you have any additional questions, direct them to your real estate agent or your attorney. Remember, you have already agreed to purchase the apartment. There is nothing else you should need to know at this point, and if there is, save it for after your approval.
- A short interview is better than a long one
While there are no hard and fast rules, a short, cordial interview with just a few questions and remarks from the board is often indicative of an easy approval.
- Do not expect an answer at the end of the meeting
Most boards do not give their decision until a day or two after the meeting. Your real estate agent and attorney will take the necessary steps to determine if you have been approved.
- Relax, and remember that you wouldn’t be here if you did not satisfy their basic qualifications
In most cases, once you have secured the interview an approval is yours to lose. Just relax and follow the other nine rules for a successful interview.