When you go to meet a roommate candidate, you should be focused on making sure the meeting is effective. After all, you want to leave with a good sense of whether you would consider living in an apartment with that candidate.
Even more important, however, is your personal safety during a meeting. You want to avoid any difficult or threatening situations that can arise especially if you don't know a candidate very well before your first meeting.
- Arrange to meet at a mutually convenient, public location. Don't meet candidates in their home or yours. Meet at a coffee shop, bookstore, mall, or other public place.
- Schedule the meeting for a closed period of time. Don't just say, let's meet at 3 p.m. Say that you have a meeting, date, etc. and must be at 3:30 p.m. This way, the other person will know that whether it goes well or not, you'll need to leave.
- Consider asking for ID. If you are dealing with a stranger or near-stranger, have the candidate show you her driver's license, work or school ID, or some other photo ID so you know this person is who she says she is. If you feel awkward about asking for this, start by showing the candidate your ID. If the candidate doesn't follow your lead, consider it a red flag.
- Be yourself. Don't act like the roommate that you think another person might want to have. Be polite and upbeat, but most of all, be yourself -- because that's who the candidate would be getting. Don't appear super-eager out of awkwardness, especially if you think a particular candidate isn't for you.
- Have a friend or relative check in. Consider asking someone you can trust to call you on your cell phone soon after your meeting begins to confirm that everything is okay.
- Leave things open-ended. Even if the meeting appears to go well, it's important to reflect on your experience with the candidate after it's over and you're alone. So, don't make any firm commitments when you say goodbye, but leave with each of you knowing how to contact the other to pursue the possible roommate relationship further, if that's what you both want.
- Take notes. You may not need to jot down anything while you're actually meeting with a roommate candidate, but after you leave, you should write down your impressions and other notable points about the meeting. If the person is clearly someone you won't room with, then simply indicate this in your notes, along with your reasons. Once you start meeting a few candidates, it can get tricky to remember all the pros and cons of each candidate if you don't write it down.
- Before you agree to meet a candidate, first be sure to e-mail and talk to the candidate on the phone to get a feel for whether the candidate might work out. Otherwise, you risk wasting a lot of the candidate's and your time.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions. Remember, you need to ask questions to help ensure that you'll end up rooming with someone with whom you're compatible. If you're afraid to ask questions because the roommate candidate intimidates you, that should be a red flag.
- Never give money to a candidate at a meeting. The purpose of your meeting is to check for compatibility -- not to make financial decisions under pressure.
- Don't give a candidate your Social Security number or any other personal or sensitive information. There is no valid reason why a roommate candidate would need this information. If, later, you're at a point where you need to provide your Social Security number to a broker or landlord for a background check, you should give such sensitive information directly to the person requesting it.