RISMEDIA, October 13, 2009—As the real estate market continues to shift, recruiting strategies must be constantly evolving so that real estate professionals are always bringing agents who will produce into their office. While some markets that have remained strong throughout the past few years have found recruiting success by sticking to the basics, others have had to fine-tune the way they recruit in order to attract agents who will produce. In this month’s NAR Power Broker Roundtable, industry veterans share their secrets to creating a successful recruiting strategy.
Virginia Cook, Special Liaison for Large Firm Relations, NAR
Bruce Mulhearn, President, Mulhearn Group, Prudential California Realty, Cerritos, California
Kris Sheridan, President, Park Company Realtors, Fargo, North Dakota
Diane Nordhougen, Sales Manager, Park Company Realtors, Fargo, North Dakota
Virginia Cook: As home sales flourished and phones rang off the hook during the first years of the decade, recruiting seemed the least of our problems. New agents were drawn to the industry like bees to the proverbial hive, and many brokers were simply too busy to be very concerned about recruiting strategies. But as the market slowed and the phones quieted, a number of agents – especially newer and less experienced agents – began to opt out. As the market shifts again, it seems like now is a good time to talk about recruiting. We’ve asked three industry veterans from very different markets to share their secrets about recruiting strategies that work. Bruce, how can we fine-tune the way we recruit to hire agents who will produce?
Bruce Mulhearn: I think fine-tuning is the key, Virginia – having the foresight and the flexibility to adapt to market changes. We’ve hired 320 agents this year to date, all experienced agents – and it’s because we offer what we think is an irresistible package of sales strategies to help increase their success. Of course, we always provide a full array of training and marketing programs. But in today’s market we’ve developed some pretty innovative ways to help our agents win the day – a very attractive bridge loan program, for example, and home staging/cosmetic repair programs funded by the company that are unbeatable listing tools.
Kris Sheridan: I can see how enticements like that would make powerful recruiting aids. But I have to say, with the strong market we’ve had in Fargo, we haven’t had to alter our recruiting strategies. We stick to the basics – especially with new agents – like full time training, and mentoring and shadowing programs to help them hit the ground running. Diane manages our recruiting program. Would you agree, Diane?
Diane Nordhougen: Yes. We have the largest market share in our area, so experienced agents often come to us. And in the two years since I came in as manager, we’ve largely stuck with the program Kris had in place: print ads and websites to attract inquiries, and reaching out to past clients who seem to have enjoyed the buying and selling process enough to think about taking it to the next level.
VC: So, you hire past clients?
DN: Yes. In the last two years, 46% of our new hires have been happy past clients. That’s as opposed to 21% from agents transferring in, and 36% recruited through the company sphere, such as print and website advertising. And the past clients who have come in have really been very successful.
VC: What about interviewing skills? Is the process different with experienced agents than it is for new agents?
BM: I would say absolutely. We’re a big company, more than 800 full-time agents. We have four telemarketers calling experienced agents all the time, inviting them to meet with me personally. We interview 20 candidates every week – perhaps a 20-minute first interview. We send each one home with four CDs and DVDs that explain the special programs I mentioned earlier as well as the specialized training we provide – say in managing short sales, or how to close transactions, or making the leap into commercial real estate. And then we do follow-up – a lot of follow-up. That’s key to matching their experience and professionalism with commitment and enthusiasm for what we have to offer.
KS: It’s very different, of course, when you are interviewing inexperienced candidates. They come in with a lot of interest, and so the things we look for are time management skills, a passion for ethics and hard work, and a real drive to succeed.
DN: Some of our best new people have been teachers or nurses – caregivers of one kind or another who are detail oriented and nurturing by nature. And of course they have a presence – a sort of body and mind attitude that you pick up on intuitively.
VC: How important is their sphere of influence coming in?
DN: Nice, of course, but not critical in our market. We have a shortage of homes, and kiosks at the malls, and an average selling price of about $165,000. There is no shortage of buyers or sellers where we are. People skills, purpose, a willingness to team and take direction – that’s what makes our people successful.
BM: There is no question that a drive to succeed is imperative, regardless of whether your focus is on experienced agents or not. We offer a crash course for newbies and intuition will always play a part in selecting the best people. And selection is absolutely critical. My feeling is that good recruiting solves all problems in this business. Our position is, ‘We are opening the door. You have to want to walk through it.’
The Power Broker Roundtable is brought to you by the National Association of REALTORS® and Virginia Cook, NAR’s Special Liaison for Large Firm Relations. Watch for this column each month, where we address broker issues, concerns and milestones.