Coronavirus

My co-op board interview: I had a virtual interview with very little small talk

Given the state of the world, Jennifer Taus expected a grilling over her financials. 

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2020
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A co-op board interview is the final step to approval when buying a co-op unit in New York City. In this series, New Yorkers tell Brick Underground about their experience with the interview process, what worked and what didn’t—and what you can learn. Have a story to share? Drop us an email. We respect all requests for anonymity. This week, Jennifer Taus (a pseudonym), describes how she had everything in place to buy a co-op on the Upper West Side when New York was put on "pause" to halt the spread of the coronavirus. Her board interview took place remotely via FaceTime and although she was approved the next morning, she doesn't know when she will be able to close and move in. 

Was this interview different from what you expected? 

Essentially it was four board members online asking me a whole series of questions. I was anticipating the worst but they were very nice. I didn't feel interrogated apart from the financials, which I was anticipating. They asked what my financial future looks like given the state of the world right now, with increasing lay-offs happening in every industry. I happen to be in the life sciences industry so we are busier than ever. I don't have a crystal ball and the first biotech company laid off 55 percent of their staff last week in Boston so no industry is safe from layoffs—but I do have some stability during this time. 

What did you think of the online format? 

I do WebEx meetings with teams based all over the world for my job and it is mandatory that we have our webcams on during our meetings, which we have done forever, so I'm pretty used to it. I've also had the opportunity to interview physicians via GoToMeeting in the past, but it was a little intimidating or nerve-wracking because it was my first co-op board interview. Having not met these people in person, it is hard to say what their personalities are like when everyone is on their phone and it is four faces looking at you. They were very straightforward and I would have loved to meet them in person, of course, to get a better sense of people in the building. 


Editor's note: Click here for more of Brick Underground's coronavirus coverage.


How did they structure the meeting? 

They had one leader and each of the members asked individual questions. There wasn't really any small-talk except when asking what hobbies I did and whether I had pets. They asked me if I traveled a lot for work and whether I had been out of the country in the past several months and I think that was probably related to the Covid-19. I used to travel for work quite a bit, but who knows what that will look like when we come out the other side of this.  

They also asked me to tell them about myself and I walked them through the history of my adult life and career. I happened to have had several moves over the past couple of years due to circumstances beyond my control so that was a big question. They wanted to understand why I had had several jobs in a very short period of time. As I explained to them, I went to a startup in Boston and after 18 months there was no more money so that ended that. Prior to that, I had been at another organization that was purchased and they got rid of all the executive leadership team.

You were approved. What happens next?

I was approved the next morning and they were very open about saying, 'because of the ban we don't know about when we can agree to a closing date.' Hopefully, we will close sometime soon because my mortgage expires in the middle of May. 

I was coached by my brokers not to get into the details of move-in dates and closing dates because that would be handled by the attorneys. The board members were very forthcoming that they had banned any moving in or out. I don't have a home because I still haven't closed. I’m stuck in Delaware at my mom’s house. 

It's fine because I’m working to full capacity, but if the woman who currently owns the apartment can't move out we can't do a final inspection and closing. The seller has actually offered me to have me stay at the apartment ahead of the closing. She now lives in Boston, it's just her belongings that are still in the apartment.

Do you have advice for others doing virtual interviews?

FaceTime works fine but it's much easier, I find, if you are using your webcam on a laptop versus holding your mobile phone up. We've always done our meetings via laptop webcams because to hold up your phone for 45 minutes is quite tiring.