Interviewing housing companions

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Materials

After creating your post or applying to existing homes, you will start to receive some messages. Next, we will review how you should learn more about them, meet them, and perform a background check.

The interview process – for hosts & co-living

Condensed version: for short-medium term 

  1. Review applications and choose who to interview, respond to all applicants with a yes or no.
  2. Schedule the first interview and provide a tour of the home – virtually or in-person.
  3. Respond with helpful feedback and conduct a background check (if not already done), check references and reviews.
  4. Finalize details and final questions, sign living arrangement agreement (more in module 5).

Full version: for long-term and co-living

  1. Review applications and choose who to interview, respond to all applicants with a yes or no.
  2. Schedule the first interview – virtually or in-person
  3. Take some time to reflect, respond with feedback within 48 hours
  4. Schedule secondary meeting (social event)
  5. Meet at each other’s home environment (final meeting)
  6. Conduct background checks (if not already completed)
  7. Make a final decision as a group

Who should I interview?

The interview process is essential for everyone, regardless if you are a host, guest, or in a co-living arrangement. Before you get to the interviews, you need to determine who you want to interview. It is good to keep an open mind at this stage as some people may be much nicer in person than they appear to be on paper or computer screens.

A first interview is often done by video or phone call but can be done in-person if suitable. Additional interviews, if required, should be done in person. Remember, keep an open mind, and go into the interview with a plan to avoid forgetting important questions that may determine if they are a good fit.

In many instances, one interview will be enough to get a feel of who a person is. However, suppose you are planning to have a long-term companion housing arrangement. In that case, you will want to have multiple meetings to get to know the person better. These additional meetings can be informal activities where you do an activity together (see examples below).

Note: You should respond to every person who sends you a message. If you think they could be a good fit, but their timing or other circumstances don’t work, let them know. They may be interested in sharing a home with you sometime in the future if circumstances don’t allow it at present. Many people also have a hard time declining applications. You do not need to feel bad about this. Responding to their request with honest feedback is the kindest response you can give.

Schedule The Interview

Looking for a companion

Once you have reviewed your applications, you should reach out to arrange a date and time to meet at your earliest convenience. Avoid delay in responding to inquiries you receive. If you wait too long, they may have already moved on to a different opportunity. You should budget at least 30 minutes for a first meeting; often, they can increase to 60 or 90 minutes.

If you are a guest who has applied to a host and have not heard back after a few days, send them another message to ask if they had a chance to review your application.

If you plan to interview a few different people, try to group the interviews on the same day or within 1-2 days intervals. This way, your thoughts will be fresher in your mind, and it will be easier to determine who may be a better fit. Remember to also take notes!

Suppose your prospective housing companions are relocating from other cities or countries. In that case, you will need to consider the differences in time zones. Fortunately, it is easy to make a free video or phone call, even outside Canada.

Helpful tip: Use World Time Buddy will help you compare time zones

Recommended video/phone calling apps:

Video chats are recommended for a first interview for safety and convenience. There are many apps and websites that can help you connect with people all over the world. Here are some examples:

  • WhatsApp – Available for smartphones, tablets, or computers. Uses your existing cell phone number to make free internet calls.

  • Zoom – Available for smartphones, tablets, or computers. No phone number needed to use.

  • Skype – Available for smartphones, tablets, or computers. Free calls to other Skype users, inexpensive calls to landlines.

  • Facetime – Available on Apple iOS devices to make free calls to other Facetimes users

  • Google Meet – Make free calls from smartphones, tablets, or computers.

housing companions sitting at table having a discussion

During the Interview

Interviewing a potential housing companion is more than just asking some standard questions. You want to use all of your senses to get a true feeling of whether you will enjoy spending time with this person. Here are some points you should focus on when interviewing a potential housing companion:

Where to do the interview?

For a first interview, it is recommended to do a video call with each other from your homes. Optionally, you can meet in person if circumstances allow. This can be done at your home or a central location, such as a quiet coffee shop.

Note: Do not invite anyone to your home unless you have first reviewed their profile and background screening report. If you feel pressured by anyone, consider this a red flag and say NO.

Starting the interview

Before you dive into the interview questions, you should create a comfortable environment. A great way of doing this is starting with a tour of your home to show how you like to live. This will quickly let a guest know if the home will work for them. This also creates an excellent opportunity to start the ‘small talk.’ If not meeting at home, start the conversation naturally while trying to keep the conversation on the subject of housing and their lifestyle.

Questions and topics to review

You can use the Happipad interview guide to help with this process. This guide is a good starting point. Feel free to ask additional questions that are important to you.

You can find the guide at www.happipad.com/support

Background:

This is an opportunity to learn about the person’s lifestyle, habits, and interests. Ask if they have any experience living with other people and what they’ve learned from that experience. Do you feel your lifestyles will be compatible to share your home?

Daily activities: What is each person’s typical daily routine? Will your schedules clash in the morning or evening? Having different schedules can make it easier to share common spaces. If your schedules are similar, how will you come up with a plan to share space?

Use of home: Review each area of the home and how you intend to use and share it. This is a great opportunity for the Guest to understand how busy the home is what they can expect while sharing your home.

Amenities: What is provided in the home, and what will each person need to provide? Does the home have parking, storage for bicycles, or other things that might be important? What amenities are close to the home? Where is the nearest bus stop, grocery store, and gym?

Cleaning and organization: Each person typically has their definition of what clean and tidy means. Discuss what your expectations are for cleaning the home, give specific examples. For instance, how do you feel about having dirty dishes in the sink?

Conflicts: Disagreements may arise at some point during your living arrangement, this is completely normal. Discussing how you will communicate and resolve these differences ahead of time will make it much easier to reach a solution. Hosts who have discussed this in advance tend to have much higher satisfaction with their shared living arrangements. It’s best to get this out of the way while both parties are calm and happy.

See Chapter 7 for more on handling conflict.

Special Considerations: Are there any special considerations either person should be aware of? Are there any special exceptions you are willing to make, such as if the Guest has a family member who wants to visit?

Extra help around the house:  Some home providers will offer reduced rent or other compensations in exchange for help with pet sitting, driving, yard work, or other tasks around the house. Discuss any requests with the home seeker to see if they are interested and come to an agreement.

Deal-breakers

What are the deal-breakers you need to be happy in your home, or things you are not willing to put up with? Compare these with your prospective housing companion to see if they align or differ. If you share the same deal-breakers, this can help strengthen your connection. However, differences here are signs that you may not be compatible.

Reflect upon all of your previous living arrangements with friends or family. What activities or behaviours would drive you crazy? With companion housing, you can pick and choose people with the habits and behaviours that you want to be around.

Examples of deal breakers:

  • The smell of cigarette smoke
  • Playing a television show or news while socializing
  • Regularly talking loud on the phone
  • Alcohol in the home or drug use

Your wish-list

Contrary to your deal-breakers. What is your wish-list for behaviours or etiquette within the home? These are the qualities and actions you would like to see in your housing companions. These can be related to how people clean and maintain their space or how you interact with each other and do activities.

What things from your previous living arrangements with friends or family make you happiest? Was this when someone cleaned the kitchen for you or cooked and shared a meal? Was this when you dog-sat for your best friend? Talk about all the positive things you would like in your home.

Comparing your values

How someone appears on paper is likely very different from how they are in person. Understanding a person’s values will allow you to understand better who they are and how they think. This may help you notice any ‘red flags’ which are deal-breakers for you.

Ask yourself, do I enjoy talking to this person? Would I want to learn more about this person and share many dinners with them? How do their responses to questions make me feel?

Many of these values cannot be understood with words but will be expressed through their actions. Pay attention to nonverbal cues and your ‘gut’ feeling when you meet them.

Examples of values you may want to compare:

Integrity – Knowing and doing what is right.

Respect – Treating others the way you want to be treated.

Responsibility – Being accountable for your actions and making fair contribution

Dependability – Being trustworthy and reliable, staying true to their word.

Fitness – Putting a high value on being fit and healthy, both mentally and physically.

Loyalty – Having their best interests at heart, being faithful.

Honesty – Being truthful with yourself and others.

Compassion – Sympathy and concern for the suffering or misfortune of others

Optimism – Being hopeful that the best outcome will happen, even if it’s not likely.

After the Interview

After interviewing a prospective housing companion, take some time to reflect on what you have discussed with this person. Make sure you feel entirely comfortable with the idea of living with this person and that you have an overall good impression.

Each of you will need time to think after having met for the first time. It is suggested that no decisions be made, nor asked for, at the first meeting.  If you decide the other person is not for you after your meeting, you can simply cancel the second meeting. You do not need to disclose your reasons, but honest feedback should be provided. It is okay to decline someone’s application; the fact that they have received a response (positive or negative) is better than receiving no response at all.

handshake

Suppose you have concerns or more questions after the interview. In that case, it is best to ask them about it right away instead of waiting and worrying. There is a good chance that issues bothering you can be worked through, or you can agree upon some different terms by ‘meeting in the middle.’ There is always some room to negotiate terms.

Second meeting

Before committing to a longer-term companion housing arrangement, you will want to have at least a second interview. Choose a different setting or activity than your first interview so you can see a different perspective of the person. Some examples of activities you can do are listed below.

During this time together, you can talk deeper about any concerns or questions you may have. This is an opportunity to talk about difficult subjects which could be potential deal-breakers for you. Examples include beliefs on abortions, same-sex marriages, and religious views.

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Meeting at home

For long-term companion housing arrangements, you want to meet in each other’s homes before committing to live together.  You can learn a great deal about each other when they are in their environment where they are most comfortable. Take turns with each person you are considering to “host” you and your potential group.  Maybe do a pot-luck together, have a games night or watch a movie. It is important to have some interaction and conversation that is fun.  Eating together is often the easiest to spark conversation and observe people’s habits. It gives you something to do other than sitting around awkwardly.

For short-medium term arrangements, you will want to give your prospective housing companion a tour of your home. This can be easily done by walking through your home with your smartphone or tablet while doing a video call. This is an important step as it will help your prospective guest qualify themselves. If they suddenly realize your home does not work for them, it is better to figure that out now instead of move-in day.

What if you cannot meet in person?

You can meet virtually with a video call using a smartphone or webcam on your computer. If you are the host, you will want to give a tour of your home, so they know what to expect when they arrive. There are many software applications you can use for video calls. The most common are listed in the scheduling an interview section of this chapter.

Background screening

Background screening should never be overlooked, even if someone says they are a good person. This involves a search of public records to look for any red flags and a check of their references to ensure they are who they say they are.

Background checks – This should include a search of databases including court records, sex-offender lists, fraud-watch lists, eviction records, news reports, and more. This is best done through a credible background screening service provider. Many of these providers will check thousands of databases for records above and beyond the police criminal record database.

Note: If you are using the Happipad Portal, you can easily request and see background screening reports from within your account. Most community companion housing programs will also be able to run these reports for you.

Identity verification – Are they are who they say they are? A background check is worthless unless you know their true identity. This ensures you are pulling the correct records. A credible background screening provider should include this in their background screening process.

Note: The Happipad Portal includes an industry-leading identity verification tool that checks government ID records against a live picture of the individual’s face. This is done automatically with all background checks through Happipad. If you are doing the screening yourself, you should physically witness the person’s identity to ensure you are running a screening report with the proper name and credentials.

Internet search – Doing a Google search of someone’s name can produce a lot of information. Try it out to see what shows up. Add extra identifying words to help refine your search, such as location. For example, “John Smith Vancouver BC.” If this shows any articles or stories of concern, ask them about it.

Credit check – If you plan to rent or buy a home with others for the long-term, you will want some assurance of their financial situation. This may also be a requirement by some landlords or property managers. You can use a free service such as Borrowell to check your credit score and print a copy.

Reference checks – Ask your prospective housing companion for at least two references. These should ideally be from people who have lived with them or a professional who has witnessed their behaviour. Keep in mind that references could be false positives. This comes from the fact that people will only give references that they know will be positive, such as friends.

Reviews – If you are using a companion housing service, there may be a record of feedback and reviews of other people’s living experiences with the person and their home. In Happipad’s programs, this information is available on each person’s account. You can also contact your program manager or facilitator for assistance.

Advice: Ask the reference-specific questions about the person to check for consistency in their stories. If the reference provides details or stories that don’t align with what the individual has told you, consider this a red flag. Avoid asking generic questions such as “Are they a nice person?”, instead ask, “Can you tell me a time when they got angry and how they handled the situation?”

Want some help? If you live in a community with a companion housing program, staff will be available to assist you with this process. Alternatively, you can use the Happipad Portal to request and see background screening reports from prospective housing companions.

Ready to finalize your decision?

Now you are ready to move on to the next module, preparing to share your home.