Playing the Detective

by Andrea West


Posted on 2016-05-31 08:57:29


A bad tenant just moved out and you want to make sure you don’t get another one like them ever again. This time you’ve decided to go all out and interview applicants along with ordering a background check on them. These interviews will be your chance to play the detective. It’s your one chance to be Sherlock Holmes!


Problem is, you’ve never been Sherlock Holmes before. How in the world do you interview prospective tenants?


First, you’ve got to do your prep work. Plan what tenant screening questions you want to ask and prepare any answers to questions you think they might have. If you have a plan before you start to interview, you won’t need to worry about what to ask next or feel caught off guard when you need to come up with an answer for them on the spot. Also look over their application beforehand to help you know what questions would be best to ask.


Here are some tips for the actual interview-

  • Start slow and ask about them in general, like where they’re from. This will help the interview feel more relaxed.

  • Ask open-ended questions. Avoid yes/no answers. The reason for this is yes/no questions guide the person you’re interviewing too much in saying what you want them to say. Open-ended questions will give you more truthful answers and may reveal information you might not have thought to ask about.

  • Ask follow-up questions. Not only does this prove to them and yourself that you are listening to what they are saying, it also helps to validate the story they are giving you. Follow-up questions are great for finding holes in a fib.

  • Ask behavior-based questions that will help you to know what type of person they are. These might include, ‘Give me an example when you…’ or ‘Tell me about the last time you broke the rules.’ Make these questions pertinent to how they will be as a resident.

  • Really listen. You’re playing the detective, remember? This means you need to listen to what they say, understand, and make sure their story is cohesive. This will also help you avoid asking a question the applicant already answered somewhere else in the interview.

  • Keep the interview short. Try to stick with five questions that you feel are most important.


Remember that all detectives have to work within the bounds of the law. Make sure the questions you ask comply with equal housing standards. And as you try out different questions, remember which ones have helped you to get to know the applicants the best and write them down. The more interviews you do the more natural playing the detective will become. Practice makes perfect. If you need to look at a picture of Benedict Cumberbatch before an interview to help you get in detective mode, go for it, as he’s the most perfect of them all.