Effective Interview Strategies for Employing New Salespeople in Commercial Real Estate

In commercial real estate brokerage, the turnover of staff within an average office can be reasonably high.  That is due to a number of things unique to the industry such as property knowledge, personal skill, sales commitment, and motivation.

If you are a team leader, you will require a staff retention, replacement and training plan to keep the skill levels high in all of the job roles; take steps to help everyone work through the challenges of the marketplace, hence allowing the brokerage remain competitive.

When it comes to replacing staff, the costs are typically quite high and can be a drain on both resources and management.  If you are finding it hard to retain sales staff then be very careful as the income loss every time you change a salesperson can be debilitating to the business.  In commercial real estate it takes at least 6 months for an agent or broker to establish themselves in a new area; if they lack the required property knowledge and professional skill then that integration time can be over 12 months.

Here are some of the most frustrating and challenging issues that I have experienced in replacing staff over the years.  Perhaps you can add to the list based on your real estate location and property speciality:

  1. Most new salespeople will tell you in any job interview that they are highly motivated and focused; that they want to ‘achieve’.  In most cases that will not be the case; a job interview the discussions can be very misleading so you will need to question the candidate comprehensively.
  2. Property knowledge should be questioned.  If the person is to fill a role in the market place and particularly within your office, question their knowledge.  Exactly how much do they know about the local area and the property type?  How would they handle particular situations and clients?  Ask the right questions to help them open up on these facts.
  3. You should judge the candidate based on proven property knowledge, career achievements, and results to date.  Get them to show you the results of recent personal activity in the marketplace, business protocols, workplace style, character, and commitment.
  4. The referee’s provided in any job interview are normally those that have been selected by the candidate.  It is unlikely that you will get a realistic assessment of the person’s performance from the referee without specific questioning and delving.  Call all referees and have a list of questions and comments to work through.  A conversation with a referee should be comprehensive and notes should be taken in each case.
  5. It is not unusual for a person changing jobs in real estate to have some involvement in a matter of dispute or controversy from or in their previous place of employment.  Look for these ‘difficult situations’ as they will usually reflect on the ability of the person to do their job for you to a high standard.
  6. Don’t make hasty decisions from the first interview.  It is best to have a second or third interview over the period of a week to really get to the bottom of a person’s motivation and character.  When possible have 2 or 3 people on your interview short list.  You can then compare interviewed people and available skills in each case.
  7. The professional drive of a salesperson can be assessed through psychological testing.  Whilst this is an added expense to the employment process, it will give you an insight into the character and work methods for the candidate.  It is very difficult for a new candidate to manipulate the results of a psychological test.
  8. Work ethic and personal motivation to should be questioned to identify how successful they have been elsewhere and on what basis those results were achieved.  If you are looking for a high quality person for a role, then allow them to prove that they really are the right candidate.
  9. If the role intended for the person is highly skills based, ask the candidate to show you how they would handle a particular but common situation with a key client, property, or prospect.  Role plays are a good way to understand the real skills that a person will bring to your business.
  10. A probation period is a good thing when it comes to employment.  If the person doesn’t work out or perform to the required standards, then you have a termination date that will allow you to end the relationship.
  11. Training should be provided in any high quality agency or brokerage.  Every person should be required to attend training no matter how long they have been in the industry.  Skills can always be improved, and new things can always be learned. Ensure that the person you are interviewing is prepared to attend and commit to a learning and training program.
  12. Computer skills are part of any real estate job specification.  Have the new person prove to you that they really do know how to handle the important computer processes that are part of the intended role.  If they cannot bring to you all of the required skills then the gap will need to be filled by others within the office and the team may already be quite busy.
  13. It is useful to have a comprehensive job specification on hand to talk through as part of interviewing a person for a particular role.  Add to the specification the skills and knowledge that you would expect a person to have.
  14. Bring a third person from your existing team into the interview as an extra ‘set of eyes and ears’ in the meeting.  Sometimes that extra person can bring valuable interpretations to the meeting.  They can also raise questions that you have overlooked or not explored fully.

The success of a commercial real estate brokerage is usually based around its people, their skills and their knowledge.  Select your people with care and diligence.

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