If you lead a culture-forward team that derives its strength from team-building, it isn’t enough to recruit new agents based solely on their sales numbers.
Enlisting the wrong recruit — maybe someone who is aggressively obnoxious or irritatingly clueless — could drag down team morale, damage your brand and even cost you money. Meanwhile, the perfect recruit embraces and enhances your company culture, inspires other agents, and stays for the long haul.
So, how do you find your match made in heaven?
Hone your interview tactics, and ask creative questions that tease out a candidate’s brilliance and core values (as well as red flags), all while charmingly selling your brand and company culture.
Quality over quantity
Let’s face it. When you’re trying to recruit top talent, conducting interviews can be the most time-consuming and exhausting part of the process. So, don’t waste energy on questions that elicit rehearsed answers.
Smart questions will weed out bad matches and potentially stem those high attrition rates that challenge our industry.
According to the National Association of Realtors 2021 Member Profile, the median tenure for Realtors with their current company is five years, up from four years in 2019 and 2020.
To drill down to the 10 most effective interview questions, we referred to our own recruitment process at Abio Properties and also reached out to other broker-owners and team leaders.
The takeaway? Quality questions (over quantity) win every time.
Tricks and tips to start
- Broadcast your brokerage’s brand and mission through your questions and tone.
- Keep in mind your brokerage’s core values, and listen for answers that match your team’s culture. Before marketing a home, you identify your target demographic, right? It’s the same with recruiting agents.
- Remember you’re being interviewed, too. Check yourself: Are your questions curious and conversational, or combative and tricky? Are you listening to the answers or only thinking about your next question?
- The best questions disarm candidates. Don’t try to shock or trip them up.
- Do your homework before the meeting to learn as much as you can about the recruit’s productivity, lead generation, marketing style and tech skills so you can ask informed questions without wasting precious time.
- Follow up with lots of “why(s).”
10 Questions that reveal exactly what you want to know
1. Tell me about yourself.
Although you shouldn’t rely on too many non-specific questions, there is value in starting with an open-ended one to see where your candidate takes it.
“I let them choose what they think is important to tell me,” said Gil Ramos, a Florida-based speaker, coach and broker with eXp Realty. Ramos said prospective agents sometimes ask him to narrow down his question, but he rarely does.
“Then I find out how they think. Do they ramble? Do they value their family? Are they just going to tell me their resume? Do they know anything about me? Are they purpose-driven? A lot can be learned by letting them run with that question,” he said.
2. What are the top three things you need and want from your brokerage/team?
Asking this question right out of the gate leads to immediate insight into your recruit’s agency-shopping mindset.
As Doug Leugers, co-founder of Leugers Group in Southwest Florida, pointed out, “This question makes the presentation and sale to prospective agents so much easier by focusing on those items [they want] instead of stuff that doesn’t matter to them.”
Follow-up question: What do you love at your current brokerage and don’t want to give up? Why?
3. What are your core values?
“There’s nothing more frustrating than a team member who does not share the same values,” said Samuel Brooks Trisler, owner and team leader at i-Lead Realty Group, which serves the Dallas and Fort Worth areas.
Listen for introspective answers with key words and phrases like: respect, compassion, hard work, healthy work-life balance and team building.
4. On a scale of 1-10, how lucky have you been in life?
Here’s a great opportunity to assess whether recruits have an optimistic or pessimistic view of the world and their lot in life.
If you’re cultivating a positive company culture (and who isn’t?) you obviously don’t want a Debbie or Daniel Downer who wallows in difficult circumstances rather than facing them head on.
Follow-up question: When confronted with a difficult situation, how did you cope and rebound?
5. If you were to provide 3 real estate agents as references, who would they be? What would each say about you?
“I want a glimpse inside who they are like,” said Eric Lowry, CEO and team leader at The Lowry Team in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Sometimes the best references aren’t past clients or bosses, but are real estate professionals who worked on transactions with your recruit.
At Abio, even before we schedule an in-person interview, we ask prospective agents if they’ve previously worked with one of our agents or preferred lenders. If their references give us anything less than a five-star review, we don’t interview.
Follow-up question: Who would you not want me to ask about you? Why?
6. What 3 skills would you bring to the team?
We use this question as a surprisingly effective tool to separate the givers from the takers, which is paramount when building a culture-centric brand.
Another way to ask: What’s your superpower, and how will you use it for good if you join our team?
7. What is something that was difficult in your childhood, and how did it impact who you are today?
Ask your recruit to take a deep dive into their psyche and demonstrate their willingness to be vulnerable. At our brokerage, if a candidate isn’t willing to show weakness, he or she probably isn’t a good fit for us.
8. Describe a time you had to deal with a difficult client or agent.
In a business where agents face all kinds of personalities, you need to know how a recruit handles conflict, confrontation and problem-solving. Maybe they tell a story about an overwhelmed and unorganized first-time homebuyer or about an unrealistic seller.
Listen for answers that demonstrate patience, tact, creativity, bridge-building and an ability to set boundaries.
Follow-up question: Did you ever decline to work with a buyer, seller or another agent? Did you ever fire a client?
9. What is the No. 1 thing you want to accomplish in your career? Why?
This question is another way of asking: Why do you want this job? But it digs deeper.
“Their ‘why’ should make them cry,” said Steve Murnin, who has 40 years of real estate experience and is senior VP of the community team at CINC, a lead-generation platform.
Follow-up question: How will you achieve your goal?
10. What’s your favorite cuss word? Use it in a sentence.
We love this suggestion from Gantry Wilson, a Keller Williams broker and team leader based in Huntington Beach, California. Toss it into your interview if it matches your personality and company vibe (playful).
“It really shows their more raw personality,” Wilson said.
The bottom line: When you are growing your team of talent, you will spend precious hours searching, attracting and interviewing (and interviewing and interviewing).
Get it right the first time. Land that perfect candidate who stays and grows with your agency. Oh, and produces, too.
Do you have successful interview tactics of your own? Share your story in the comments below.
Linnette Edwards and Cameron Platt are co-founders of Abio Properties, a boutique real estate brokerage in the San Francisco Bay Area. Linnette is a producer and broker associate with nearly 20 years in the industry. Cameron is an attorney and broker with more than 17 years of experience managing agents and running teams. Connect with them on Facebook or Instagram.