On Hiring

I just got off a Training Magazine webinar on ‘Engagement.’  That’s the mysterious factor that comes into play in almost every human interaction from Facebook to the Church Social.  In this case the experts were talking specifically about Employee Engagement:  keeping the members of your team energized and  involved in the success of your business.

Much of the discussion centered on hiring, and I think that was appropriate.  Your best bet at building a good team is to hire the right people.  But who are they?

If you are an ordinary real estate broker (wink, wink, nudge, nudge), you probably have lots of scripts memorized about the kind of person who can be successful in the business.  In reality, though, you long ago gave up the notion that you could tell who would make it and who wouldn’t.  You hired too many hot shots who failed miserably and probably a few plodders who plodded on to do big business.  The ordinary broker would never say it out loud, but the philosophy of hiring is basically this:

Hire anyone who can fog a mirror.  Give them a little training – hopefully the kind that requires little investment of time or energy on the broker’s part – and give them six months.

On paper, the ordinary broker would compare the new person’s performance against a standard at six months and decide then whether they could stay or go.  In practice however, the ordinary broker is too busy hiring more and more agents to have time for this weeding out process . . . and that’s why the average real estate agent in the US does what?  about 7 deals a year.

At Help-U-Sell we have a different problem.   We have difficulty attracting agents who are used to being paid 75% commission splits on the 7 deals they do a year to our program where they’ll probably do 15 or 20 deals and be paid 50 or 55%! Somehow that ordinary agent believes that the size of the commission split establishes his or her value as an agent – NOT the number of buyers and sellers he or she helps.  What can I say?  It’s a crazy universe!

One of the revelations I had in today’s meeting is that, in hiring, skill sets are important . . . but if they are present, the MORE important thing is Cultural Fit:  Will this person be able to embrace our culture, our mission, and get onboard with enthusiasm and passion?

Here’s where we (Help-U-Sell) have an edge.  The skill set for Real Estate Sales is pretty fluffy.  You have to be able to talk to people and to present yourself as a professional.  You have to be able to learn and remember lots of semi-technical, semi-legal information.  You have to be organized and able to manage a lot of detail – or be willing and able to hire someone to do this for you.  It helps to not be afraid of computers or technology in general.  You have to be able to persevere in the face of setbacks and defeats.  I could go on but you get this picture:  this is all pretty soft stuff.  I mean: it’s not like ‘you must be able to program in C+.’  

So, with this soft skill set, LOTs of people might be successful in Real Estate.  What becomes more important is their ability to fit within the company culture . . . which assumes your company has one (a culture).  But most real estate companies don’t.  Really:  What’s the culture of most real estate companies?  They all do the same thing in the same way with the same tools . . . . what’s the difference?  There is none.

But there is a difference at Help-U-Sell.  Our people – and by that I mean everyone:  brokers, agents, admins, processors, corporate employees, everyone – is on fire for the mission.  We’re not just selling real estate, we’re changing the way real estate is sold.  We’re changing the world for the better, not just perpetuating a bad idea that’s been around for decades.  This passion for the Crusade is one of the many things that differentiate us from every other real estate organization.  And THAT’s what we should be looking for when we hire:  people who have the ability to get excited and passionate about doing real estate in a better way.  If we can find them, the rest is easy.  After all, most of those soft skills can be developed.

Picture this:  a help wanted ad for a Help-U-Sell office:

Needed:  2 agents who want to change the world.

We are overrun with buyer leads and seek dedicated

individuals to take extraordinary care of them.  If you

want to be busier than you have ever been in your

career, if you want to delight consumers by giving them

outstanding service AND a better deal, call today:


Engagement, the ability to become involved and passionate about the company mission, is essential to today’s best companies.  Near the end of today’s meeting, one of the presenters shared Zappos policy on new hires.  They do the standard interviewing/screening process, looking for skill sets and cultural fit.  Candidates who make it through are put into a three week training program about the company, the work, the culture and the mission.  At the end of the three weeks, each one of them is offered $3,000 to quit.

Stop.  Let that sink in a minute.

What Zappos is saying is they acknowledge they can’t always tell who will fit with the company and who won’t.  But they’d rather pay their bad hiring decisions to go away rather than invest time, money, effort and productivity in trying to rehabilitate them after the fact.  Clearly:  anyone who would take the money and run . . . is no one they need on the team anyway!

So, Help-U-Sell brokers:  I know you are overwhelmed.  You need help, and you need it now.  But don’t let your need turn desperate to the point that you make bad hiring decisions.  You may have to talk to ten people to find one who can burn for you.  Don’t give up after 3 or 4 and start modifying your program so that a marginal agent, already disgruntled with their current broker, will come to work for you.

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