Maybe you are an agent who has sold 30 to 50 homes per year for the past five years. You are eager to get to another level — the next level. And refining your skills, increasing your prospecting, or acquiring the hottest new lead-generating tool or system may not be the best way to get there. It may be a matter of hiring the best people.

Most agents find that hiring real estate assistants and buyer specialists to be challenging, but there are specific skills and processes that have proven to be effective.

Skills and style

You are destined to hire badly unless you are clear on the skills and best personal style that will be required for the job.

Will the job require organizational skills, computer skills (what programs or applications?), graphic design skills, communication skills, and/or selling ability?

Do you need someone who is great with people, well-organized, results-oriented, a team player or a team leader? This is personal style.

You clarify the skills and style required by writing down what you want that person to do. Then review it yourself and with your spouse, broker or coach. Discuss the appropriate skills and style for the specific tasks and responsibilities of the position.

Get oriented

To understand and determine personal style, you can use a personality test. There are four basic personal styles: results orientation, people orientation, team and trust orientation, and process orientation. Each of these has advantages and disadvantages for specific job responsibilities, and you may desire all four orientations.

Unfortunately, human beings are not made that way. A wrench may be used as a hammer. But using the wrench as a hammer does the job poorly and ruins the wrench. Mismatching the style and the job gets the job done poorly and could ruin the person’s relationship with you.

List the roles, jobs, tasks and responsibilities you want the person to accomplish. Then deduce the skills needed and the style best suited for those jobs.

Locating the best people

There is always a temptation to hire people who are recommended to you. More often than not it doesn’t work out.

In addition to telling everyone you know that you are looking, I strongly suggest that you advertise for the position.

Once you have the job profile described earlier, it becomes very easy to write an effective ad for the position.

Here is an example: "Administrative Assistant: 15-20 hrs/wk $10-$15 hr + bonus, high-level computer skills & highly organized with ability to multitask, coordinate projects and work independently. E-mail resume to …"

Or a simpler version: "Administrative Assistant: 10-15 hrs/wk $10-$15 hr + bonus, very computer literate, highly organized, excellent people skills and able to work independently. E-mail resume to …"

The simpler the ad the more responses you will get. There are a lot of people looking for this type of position so spend a little more on the ad and let it prequalify the candidates. Notice that there is no phone number. If the candidate for an admin position can’t e-mail a resume, you don’t want them.

Resume and phone interview

What do you look for in a resume? You want to see the level of neatness and language that you would be pleased to represent you, the work experience that indicates the skills that you desire, plus consistency of employment and longevity on the job that shows reliability.

Many people ignore the phone interview or simply haven’t considered it. It is a huge timesaver in addition to providing information you might not otherwise obtain. I suggest a brief phone conversation to determine whether you have a candidate you wish to take the time to interview in person.

Prepare two starter questions. One question is a litmus test question that gives you a clear indication of their suitability for the position. For example, if working independently is necessary you might say, "Tell me about the job that required you to work most independently."

The second one is specific to the resume: "There is a six-month gap between jobs. Please tell me why."

These two questions open a conversation in which you listen for two things. Obviously, you are listening to the answers. As importantly, you are determining if this is the voice and if this is the demeanor that you want representing you on the phone in your business.

You can leave the conversation with the comment that you will be in touch if you are interested in a personal interview. Or you can schedule an interview.

As you schedule the personal interview explain that a personality test, such as a DISC (dominance, influence, steadiness, conscientiousness) assessment, will be sent to them and it must be completed before the interview. Also notify them that it will take about 10 minutes to 15 minutes to complete. You can send the test to them by e-mail and you can have the results within minutes. I do not use this test as a strict determinant of qualifications for the job. I do use it as a guide to give me insight into the personal style and potential tendencies of the candidate.

The personal interview

After the phone interviews you will probably reduce the resumes and candidates to less than five and often just two or three. Schedule an hour for each interview. That may seem like a long time. It is wise and necessary. Consider that you are going to work with this person for thousands of hours. In a very real way you are placing the pace and extent of your success in their hands. Consider this and you will choose to take the time to ensure you choose the best candidate.

Have a complete list of interview questions prepared. Our list has 24 basic questions, and we add real-life situational questions that pose actual situations of what to do when faced with a difficult client or making a difficult choice.

One corporate executive told me that he interviews for at least 30 minutes if he is interested in hiring the person. He said, "They may be able to fool you for a while, but after a half-hour of answering your questions they wear down and you start to see what the person is really going to be like to work with day after day. I don’t use a time measure. I do know that my list of questions takes over a half-hour to ask. It is built to ask the same thing a couple different ways."

By the way, please be sure most of the time is spent with the candidate answering your questions — not your answering theirs or your elaborating on the position.

Preparing the best candidate

This first personal interview is the best time to prepare them for any parts of the job that you feel may be particularly challenging for them. This is the time when you can tell them the "bad parts" and get their agreement that they can and will handle them.

When an agent is looking for an administrative assistant I suggest that during this first interview you prepare the candidate for the job to change as the candidate grows and as the market or the myriad of other things — from forms to laws — changes. Explain that it will be an exciting and dynamic position, seldom boring and often challenging. As above, check for agreement and that the candidate embraces these challenges.

Some of you may be thinking, "Who would ever want to work with a boss like that?" The person who would work with you is one who makes it through your rigorous interview process. Both you and the candidate will be more positive and comfortable with the working environment because of your attention to this aspect of your business.

The final steps

Other important elements to hiring the best people include structuring compensation at the outset with the job profile, and then negotiating the compensation during the second interview. Training, supervision and motivation are obviously very important, and those last steps are subjects on their own.

Rich Levin is a real estate coach and speaker. He is president of Rich Levin’s Success Corps Inc.

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