Bringing on the wrong agent is not only dangerous from a broker liability standpoint, but it could also poison the office culture and alienate your current agents. Here’s a list of red flags to look for in interviewing, so hopefully, you can avoid making a bad hiring decision.

Recruiting is the lifeblood of most real estate brokerages. When I opened my office in 2007, I was originally surprised that the bulk of the training at broker meetings concentrated on recruiting.

Twelve years later, the fight for top talent is even more cut-throat than then. Large brokers need a constant inflow of new blood to make up for the outflow of agents who leave for greener pastures (many times this means chasing a higher split) and for those who quit and leave the business permanently.

Small and medium sized brokerages may not require the same volume of hires, but they also need to bring in more hands as their businesses grow and to protect them from the industry’s high turnover rates.

With the kind of attrition real estate sees, it’s no wonder recruiting is so important to brokers.

With the push to recruit also comes the risk that we will bring on agents who don’t fit our office culture or our values. There are brokers who seem to have low or no standards except the “fog the mirror” test in an attempt to build their head count.

Signing on anyone with a real estate license is not only dangerous from a broker liability standpoint, but it could also poison the office culture and alienate your current agents.

Here’s a list of red flags to look for in interviewing so hopefully you can avoid making a bad hiring decision.

1. Tardiness 

This should be obvious, and not just for agents but for any hiring in your company, including staff. I think it shows respect when an interviewee arrives five to 10 minutes early.

While anyone can run late once in a while, being late for an important event (such as a job interview) signals time management issues. I don’t believe in “Realtor time” where it’s OK to be constantly running behind.

An agent who spends most of her day running frazzled between appointments, getting more and more off schedule as the day goes on only creates more stress. It turns into an agent who cannot be counted on.

Agents with good time management skills know how to factor in buffers in their calendar, so a 20-minute delay on the freeway doesn’t end up putting their entire day off schedule.

If a prospective agent arrives late for the interview, I’ll probe to try to figure out if this is a one-off or if it’s a chronic problem. Time management skills can be taught, but only if the agent is open to coaching.

2. Sloppy appearance

In my part of rural Pennsylvania, men don’t have to wear suits, and women don’t need to be dressed to the nines on appointments. But showing up to a job interview looking like you just rolled out of bed should be a warning sign.

If this person didn’t bother to comb their hair or dress up for the interview, what will they be wearing at closing or with clients?

I ascribe to the philosophy that agents should dress for their climate, client and location. Beach towns may be chill with an agent in flip-flops and a sun dress, but you still should attempt to match the client’s level of dress or even dress one level up from them.

I like to be able to tell who the agent is and who the client is, when I come across another agent showing property. We rant on Facebook that we are professionals, that we want people to treat us as such. We need to act like professionals then, and dress like it.

3. Broker hopping

How many brokers has the agent been with previously, and for how long each time? Our licenses are portable, and someone who is unhappy with their current broker is certainly free to pick up and move their license at any time.

But someone who has been with multiple brokers in a short time frame should set off your radar.

Why were they unhappy with their prior brokers? What led them to choose those firms and then leave quickly? What are they looking for that was missing at the other offices?

Importantly, if they were not satisfied with any of their prior brokers, what makes you think you’ll magically be the right broker for them?

I’ve fallen for the “but I can fix that” fallacy: You see an agent, see potential and think you can help fix their issues. Sometimes you can. But more often than not, you’ll just find yourself trying to fix someone who doesn’t truly want the help.

4. Playing the blame game

Broker hopping and the blame game seem to go hand in hand. I interviewed an agent who had been with four brokers in less than two years. She blamed her prior brokers for her lack of success. Staff at the other offices were of no help. The other agents sabotaged her.

Blaming others and making excuses are classic signs of not taking ownership. This type of person will never be happy at their current office.

Let them move on to their next ex-broker.

I am looking for agents who believe in their own sense of agency. As their broker, I empower my agents to take charge of their business and of their lives. “It’s not my fault” doesn’t work for me.

5. Poor listening skills

During the interview, ask open ended questions, and probe them about their goals and dreams. I ask, “Why real estate?” then sit back and listen to their response.

I ask about their hobbies and what they like to do on the weekend. I want to know the agent in front of me as a person because I’m trying to figure out if they will fit in with our office culture and vision or if they rub the others the wrong way and gum up the works.

I also expect them to ask questions about me and the company. When I’m speaking, are they listening, or are they planning out the next question? Or worse, do they interrupt me mid-sentence?

Great agents are excellent listeners. They ask probing questions then really listen to the answers. The best agents can read between the lines and ferret out the buyer’s true pain points, what they really are looking for at heart, not just “four beds and two full baths in town.”

If an agent doesn’t listen to me when I’m explaining our company vision and mission, will he listen to the client any better? The old adage “You have two ears and one mouth for a reason” holds true for a reason.

6. Not researching us first

Before the interview, I’ve already googled the person in front of me. I’ve looked for their LinkedIn profile, searched them on Facebook and read their resume several times.

If they’re already licensed, I searched the license at the state level for their history and looked for disciplinary actions. I’ve done my homework, and I hope the agent has done theirs as well.

I hope they’ve looked up my social media profiles and at least poked around on our website. If they have not, why are they sitting here? If they’re randomly interviewing at every office in town, what does that say about their attention to detail?

I want agents who have sought me out because they read my blog or an Inman article. I want agents who have already read our customer service policy and who also ascribe to the same philosophy.

Walking into the door of any or every real estate office in town and asking for an interview is akin to the broker who will sign on anybody with a pulse.

Be picky about who you bring into your office, and your agents will appreciate your discretion and selection process. It’ll be an honor to work at your office, knowing you are not hiring everyone who walks through the door.

7. Upfront demands

I’ve found experienced agents who are looking to switch companies sometimes walk into another broker’s office with a list of must-haves. Top producers know what they don’t like about their current office and may want a higher split, office paid assistants or other perks that your current agents don’t have.

If this is the case on day 1, imagine how draining this person will be in the future. Someone who always seems to be threatening to leave if their demands are not met may not be someone you want in the office at all.

Once you start bending the compensation plan for one or two people, you’re going down a slippery slope. Where will you hold the line?

I show recruits our compensation structure once I feel an agent may be a good fit with us. If they balk and start asking to off the plan or to be given extras, I may backpedal and let them know this might not be the place for them.

One demanding diva can upset an entire office once the others discover your side deals. I prefer to avoid that situation.

8. Obsessing about compensation

Along with upfront demands, I find agents who concentrate too much on the split or fee structure will be quick to leave when another broker dangles a higher percentage in front of them.

Agents talk amongst themselves and compare splits and fees. These are important, but brokers know there is more than just the split. It’s about the culture we provide in the office and the brand. We provide administrative support and guidance.

What marketing and lead generation tools do you provide for the agents? Do you hand them leads on a silver platter? We coach them to success.

Not all agents do the math. Not all agents understand that a higher split may lead to less money in your pocket due to the broker’s fee model. What do you pay for at your new brokerage? What does the broker cover?

If you don’t do the math to compare, you may be unpleasantly surprised at the end of the year when you do your taxes. When an agent walks in and is solely focused on the split — seemingly with blinders on — and doesn’t see the other benefits I offer as a broker, that is not a good fit for me.

9. Bad attitude

This should be a no-brainer, but I’ve seen agents with bad attitudes ping pong among brokers, and it seems that no matter how pronounced the attitude is up front, there always is another broker willing to take the chance on them.

Negativity, bad mouthing other professionals, unethical behavior — we all see agents like this from time to time. I interviewed someone years ago who came into the office with a chip on her shoulder.

She told me how great she was in the last market she worked in and that she was going to “blow our local agents out of the water.” She then told me how, at her last brokerage, she walked in and stole clients from her officemates because she was so much better than them.

That interview lasted less than 15 minutes. No matter what their production level or how much business they do, it is not worth the risk for me to have someone like this in the office.

Finally, after they leave the interview, I ask my front desk staff what they thought of the person from their first impression. You’d be surprised how many people are rude to a secretary and then turn the charm on when the boss walks in.

If I am interviewing at a restaurant, I pay attention to how the person interacts with the wait staff. If an error happens in their food order, how do they react? If a person treats the wait staff as equals and with kindness, rather than as “the help,” I believe that person is a team player.

If they are condescending and rude in any way, that’s someone whose ego is more important to them, and they may not play nice with others.

How a person treats others who they might perceive to be beneath them is a fantastic test of their values.

Interviews can be nerve-wracking, no matter how many times you go through the process. Remember that recruiting is a two-way street. As you are interviewing the agent, so they should also be interviewing you.

The agent must fit the office and culture, or this won’t work. Pay attention to your gut instinct. Someone who arrives a few minutes late, apologizes and then you have a fantastic session interviewing might turn out to be a great addition to your team.

Trust your instinct, and if it screams “run away,” then just end the interview gracefully. Hiring is not a science — it’s more of an art. Hopefully, this list will help you avoid a future bad hire.

Did we miss any recruiting red flags? Please share yours in the comments section below.

Erica Ramus, MRE, is the broker/owner of RAMUS Real Estate. You can follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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