Brokerage

Stupid job application questions that maybe ain’t so dumb

Hiring tip: Spot go-getter sales folks by putting extra hoops in your application process

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The proliferation of recruiting technology today can be both a blessing and a curse. While it’s great to be able to post your open job to hundreds of boards in minutes, that same technology means the job seeker can apply to hundreds of jobs — in minutes. In other words, someone looking for a job online today doesn’t have to work very hard to apply. They click a single button and their resume uploads automatically. The downside to this is that you can quickly get overwhelmed interviewing lazy applicants.

So what to do? Those who are finding successful agents are using some unconventional tactics to make it not so easy (i.e., too easy) to apply. They’re separating the wheat from the chaff by employing what — at first blush — seem like some stupid questions in their application process. These quirky extra steps, though, aren’t stupid after all. They’re quite the contrary. By using them, you too can find more motivated, productive agents who are willing to go the extra mile to get results.

Try these on for size the next time you need to post a job:

“Please FAX your resume to …”

I know. You’re thinking, “Man, which ancient rock did this guy just crawl out from under?” I thought the same thing the first time one of my customers told me he had every candidate fax their resume to him.

But, just as I was about to pass judgment on his antiquated ways, he stopped me, I guess he saw the pity on my face. “I’m perfectly capable of accepting electronically submitted resumes. The question is, are my applicants willing to invest the time and effort it takes to figure out how to send a fax nowadays?” my client said.

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You have to admit, there’s a certain beauty to the approach. The truly unworthy candidates won’t even bother. The somewhat better ones will invest the effort to travel to their local Kinko’s to scan and fax their resume. The great candidates, though, work smart. They quickly figure out they can send a fax straight from their computer using Hellofax.com, Pamfax.com or Faxzero.com.

“If you had 2,000 unread emails to read today, but could answer only 300, how would you decide which ones to read?”

This question is both about peeking into the candidate’s personality and also seeing how they approach solving problems.

Are they innovative or traditional (e.g., “I’d hire someone on Fiver.com to prioritize only those from sales prospects,” versus “I’d go chronologically.”)? Are they obstinate competitors (“I can read 2,000 emails in three hours!”), or super analytical (“By creating filters in my mailbox I could reduce the junk mail, prioritize by client algorithms and distill the list to the top 200 most salient ones.”). The answers to a question like this can tell you a whole lot about how someone solves problems.

“Which of our team members are you most like?”

The only way for a candidate to answer this question is to spend the time and investigate your website, hunt around and do some due diligence — the same kind of due diligence an excellent salesperson does when hunting for new leads or qualifying existing ones. It means not only that they were hungry enough to do the work, but that they have the same level of what I call, “Human intelligence.” Empathy is one thing, but it can get in the way of the best salespeople if it’s too high.

Being able to get remotely a sense of who someone is through his or her online presence, on the other hand, is a whole different thing. The best sales agents in real estate put effort into establishing and nurturing a stable online presence and are equally as good at getting a sense of a prospect’s personality, likes, dislikes, etc.

“How many people flew out of Atlanta last year?”

This one is all about how quickly someone can find a simple answer they likely don’t have already. You’d be surprised how many people will answer, “Hell if I know,” or “I live in California, so I’m not sure.” Again, it’s all about the effort, people. If spending less than two minutes to Google this question is more than you’re willing to do — thanks for not applying.

“If you had a machine that produced $100 for life, what would you be willing to pay for it?”

My guess is that 80 percent of you, upon first reading this interpreted it to mean “$100 a day for life.” This one is all about the attention to detail. The better answers will be something along the lines of, “$100 because in its lifetime, that’s all it would produce” or they will point out the grammatical inaccuracy of the sentence itself. Those with less attention to detail will begin to wax poetic about the financial schema they would develop to calculate the lifetime value — incorrectly.

“What would you do if you were the only survivor of a plane crash?” 

This one is all about the personality. No tricks, no detail catches, just plain old free range to be as creative as the applicant wants. It never hurts to see just how inventive someone can be. The best salespeople solve problems on their feet. They improvise, adapt and overcome (Oorah). Of course, for me, if I’m looking for a top-performing sales hunter, the best answer would be, “I dust myself off and go finish my sales call!”

There’s an old saying that reads, “Facta non verba,” which means “Deeds not words.” The key to the items above doesn’t lie in what a candidate answers as much as it does in the fact that they answered. These aren’t questions you’re asking a candidate in a live interview. These questions or tasks take place as a part of the application process itself — before you interview them. In fact, the candidate’s answers, or lack thereof, will determine if you invest your time to interview them in the first place.

Extra steps such as these can help filter out those who lack initiative and drive, and leave you knowing you’re talking with someone who will put the effort forward to get your job — and then get their job done.

Jay Niblick is the co-founder and president of Wizehire.com and Innermetrix Incorporated.

Email Jay Niblick.