Lee Kiser is a multifamily expert, active broker and Principal of Kiser Group, Chicagoland’s leading multifamily brokerage firm.
When it comes to commercial real estate brokerage, people are attracted to the career for many different reasons. How do you know if someone will make a good addition to your team? Whether the candidate is a diamond in the rough seeking a career change or a seasoned broker making a lateral move, I’ve outlined six key questions to keep in mind before making an offer.
1. Does the candidate have an entrepreneurial spirit?
You’re looking for someone who isn’t motivated by the corner office and a prestigious position. The best brokers aren’t looking for security. They bring a strong desire to the role — a desire to earn their potential. If you’re considering making an offer to a potential broker, consider how they approach difficult situations. Are they aggressive in pursuing a course of action? Successful brokers look to earn the kind of money they know they are worth. They won’t get deterred by a challenge.
2. Is the prospect someone who blames others?
A good broker takes responsibility for their actions and decisions, a critical skill for building a strong foundation in the real estate industry. Ask a potential broker about something that went wrong in their life and why it went wrong. Do they talk about things outside their control (external excuses) that caused the problem? If so, they may not be a good fit for brokerage. But if a potential broker answers instead with what they learned, how they could’ve done things differently (internal influences) and gives an honest and accurate account of their own role in the matter, they may be a good addition to your team.
3. Can you see the person as a successful broker?
When you’re ready to make an offer to a potential new broker, imagine the person in five years. Are they talking about a successful career trajectory or are they talking about goals that were set and not reached? In my experience, you might not always know who will be a rockstar, but you definitely know who will not be one.
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4. What do you think the person’s true disposition will be when something goes wrong?
Staying calm in the face of adversity is key to building a successful career as a broker. Ask anyone in the industry — there is a myriad of things that can go wrong between calls, meetings, difficult clients, proposals, listings, going under contract and closing (or not). When you’re working on multiple properties or portfolios, the stress amplifies. Is the potential broker a reasonable person? Do they seem like someone who will guide clients through challenging circumstances or someone who will add fuel to the fire by becoming emotional? Ask questions to understand how the person handles pressure and conflict. You want someone who is a good fit at both the best and worst times.
5. Does the candidate have the work ethic to be successful?
Getting started in brokerage is hard work — really hard work. The trajectory of my entire career was set during my first few years in the business. There simply weren’t enough hours in the day for me to do everything I knew needed to be done. I worked six and a half days per week and averaged 12-hour workdays for the first 18 months. Broker candidates should not kid themselves, and you should not downplay the effort needed to be successful. If you think the person does not have a fire within, then pass.
6. Does the prospect match your company’s core values?
No matter how impressive the candidate might be, if they do not line up with your company’s core values you simply have to pass. Hiring people who exhibit behavior counter to your company’s core values will erode the trust others have in what you are creating. No matter how much business this person might generate, they will become a cancer within your organization.
Over the last 16 years, I’ve hired, then parted ways with too many brokers who never should have been hired in the first place. This was because many times my hires were based on a “feeling” I had. Many of those hires simply did not work out or become successful, mainly because I was not following a set criteria for hiring. When considering our retention rates, the age-old mantra that “salespeople are the most easily sold” started ringing in my head.
Since establishing a standardized hiring system two years ago, part of which includes asking ourselves the questions above, our retention is significantly higher and our new broker income averages are way up. The hard lesson was learning not to “go with my gut” when interviewing but instead to focus on the questions above for each and every candidate.