With the growing shortage of property in large cities such as London or Berlin, the interview process to find a flatmate has, in some cases, turned into an X-Factor style audition. While it is, most of the time, still likely to be a rather informal chat over a cup of coffee or a beer, you should, in some cases, be prepared for a real job interview style meeting.
A spare room to rent in a decent location will rapidly attract a lot of interest. There is a strong chance that you have been invited to a group viewing, where you will only have limited one-on-one time with the flat sharer(s); if you are lucky though, it will be a private viewing, with the flatmates making sure every candidate gets a personal viewing slot. This may already speak in their favour and mean that the flatshare you are considering places importance on getting on with each other, and on finding the right flatmate match.
But rather than just focusing on making a good impression when you view the room and meet the other flatmates, make sure you show your best side already from the beginning of the search process.
1. The first contact
If you have just seen a great ad for a room in a flatshare, don’t hesitate, and get in touch with the advertiser. The golden rule – don’t just fill in a contact form with your name and email address – make sure you write a good, and if possible, memorable introduction message. And if you really pay attention to the “flatmate wanted” ad and read through it thoroughly, you may even find out you have something in common with one of the flatmates. This could turn out to be a real plus, and a reason to engage in a deeper conversation than just small talk when the time comes to meet them.
2. The first impression
The fact that you have been invited to a viewing is already good news, and is, nowadays, almost as flattering as having made it to a first interview round for a job vacancy. Now, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and the first few seconds are what counts most. But at the same time, make sure you don’t get into a full job interview mode – this is about meeting people you will live – and not work with. Above all, be yourself.
And if you do want to make a lasting impression, why not bring along a few cans of beer or a bottle of wine, which could relax the atmosphere and encourage the flatmates to sit down with you and have a drink.
3. The first conversation
Needless to say, the first questions will be about yourself, your origin, your name, your hobbies, your habits and maybe your favourite colours. If you want to avoid awkward questions, such as, for instance “which corner of the room suits you best?”, you should make sure that you take control of the conversation and keep it relaxed and fun.
Most importantly, take your time, don’t rush things, and ask questions. Do not, under any circumstance, show that you are desperate, and that you have already been rejected by five other flatshares (if that’s the case!).
4. The first test
Some flatshares will prepare specific, sometimes embarrassing tests for which you need to be ready. The favourite ones are the following:
- The questionnaire: it might include all kinds of questions – your life goals, your heroes, etc – whatever they ask, don’t take the questions too seriously. This is mostly about testing your sense of humour. If the questions are, on the other hand, too serious or genuinely humiliating, this is probably not going to be the right flatshare for you. Remember: this is not a job interview and the interview won’t be a standard process. If your interviewers like you, they won’t force you to take an embarrassing test.
- Your perception of cleanliness: your potential new flatmates may want to find out how tidy and clean you will be as a flatmate. Instead of asking you the question directly – which is difficult to answer and makes it almost impossible to gauge how you will really be to live with – they may show you photos of the kitchen in various states and ask you when the kitchen would, in your view, be overdue for some cleaning. There is no right answer – just say what you think is right and best reflect your approach to cleanliness. Avoid extremes (too clean or too dirty) and you will likely fit in.
- In some flatshares, tests have gone as far as asking the candidate to draw themselves. In the unlikely situation that such a test comes up, and that you willing to do it, take it with a pinch of salt. For instance, think of peculiarities and accessories which are important to you – your nose, your ears, your hair, and highlight them, make them look grotesque. Or you may be asked to draw yourself 20 years older, or as an animal. In a sense, you can draw whatever you want – it is, again, mostly about testing your sense of humour and your ability to make fun or yourself.
Again, don’t panic, don’t get angry and keep smiling. If questions seem over the top, say it politely. Make sure you keep control of the situation and of the conversation, whatever happens. Do your best to always answer to humour with humour.
5. The first farewell
Stay enough time for the flatmates to get to know you and vice versa, but do make sure you don’t overstay your welcome. Maybe they will invite you to stay for another drink (a very good sign), or it will become clear that they have more candidates to interview. Before leaving, say one more time how much you like the room and the flatshare’s atmosphere (provided that really was your impression). Feel free to follow up the next day with an email or a text message to say that you are really keen to move in with them.
Typical flatshare interview questions
- What do you do for a living?
- Do you work regular hours (9 to 5) or not? Do you sometimes work from home?
- Will you be paying your rent yourself?
- Why are you moving?
- Could you provide references from your previous landlord or flatmates?
- At what time do you normally wake up?
- Do you watch TV? If yes, what do you like to watch?
- How much time do you spend in the bathroom every day?
- Do you like to cook, or do you rather have a takeaway or eat out?
- Do you smoke?
- Do you do any sport?
- How do you plan to travel to work?
- What kind of music do you like listening to?
- Do you like to go out? If yes where?
- What do you expect from your flatmates and from a flatshare?
- Do you have any special requirements?