Hiring and Retaining: Will Your Recruits Fit in?

June 1, 2003

For many companies, affiliating associates is a stab in the dark. Brokers often rely on their instincts about whether an applicant possesses the traits to hit the ground running and effectively mesh with the rest of the sales force. That’s not to disparage gut feelings. Instincts serve hiring managers well.

But today, given escalating broker costs in training and putting out fires set by inexperienced associates, relying on chance isn’t good enough anymore. What’s more, a new recruit who’s good at selling may operate in a style that rubs others in the office the wrong way. That could harm office camaraderie and impact others’ productivity.

For these reasons, an increasing number of real estate office managers and brokers are adding analytical behavioral assessments to their hiring processes—not just for sales associates but for office support staff as well. They’re also using testing to help associates improve their performance, address potential behavioral conflicts in the office, and identify existing salespeople’s traits to match recruits to the office.

“It helps you get a good heads up on people’s personality—whether they’re expressive or analytical or amiable—and I really like having that upfront information,” says Beckie Hanley, senior vice president at William Raveis International in Greenwich, Conn. “If I’m looking for an administrative person, sales manager, or assistant, I want the person to be more analytical or amiable than emotional in order to bring strengths that top salespeople might lack.”

Judy LeDeur, president of Forum Recruiting and Management Solutions in Chicago, works with several large regional brokerage clients and tests hundreds of sales professionals a year. LeDeur says she’s seeing more real estate offices using some form of behavioral profiling to identify recruits’ behavioral traits.

To be sure, behavioral testing in recruiting remains the exception rather than the rule. But it’s gaining ground, recruiters say.

Several years ago, few of the country’s large independent residential real estate companies had even heard of testing; now many are exploring it, recruiters say. Some national franchise companies, too, including Keller Williams and the California and Hawaii regions of RE/MAX International, are starting to use it.

Given its increasing presence in real estate offices, is there a downside to testing? There could be if brokers and managers think assessing someone’s behavioral traits will give them all the answers about someone that they need. It won’t. “It would be a mistake to assume you can determine whether to affiliate someone just on the strength of an assessment,” says LeDeur. “It’s just one tool for you to use.”

Different traits mean different paths to success

There are a handful of major analytical tests, including Myers-Briggs, which analyzes people’s thought processes, and DISC (dominance, influencing, steadiness, and compliance), which focuses on behavioral traits. The DISC test identifies eight behavioral styles:

  • Analyzers: Quality performers who can have a hard time closing projects; they’re cerebral detail people.
  • Conductors: Driven, competitive, focused, sometimes explosive performers. They’re weak on detail work.
  • Coordinators: Quality performers who have a calming, relationship-oriented touch.
  • Implementers: Detail people with a sense of urgency for getting things done. But they’re weak on persuading.
  • Persuaders: Influential performers who are good at getting people to see things their way.
  • Promoters: Enthusiastic performers who are good at getting others excited about a project.
  • Relaters: Relationship-focused performers; sociable.
  • Supporters: Family-oriented, calming performers.

Each trait in its own way can lead to real estate success. But different traits work better in different environments, depending on the broader characteristics of the office. For example, an implementer could complement an office with a lot of persuaders or conductors.

Find out what style of team you have by testing a sample of people and using the scores to develop a profile. Once you’ve identified that profile, you can look for recruits who complement the mix.

Finding the right tool

Not all behavioral tests will be right for your recruiting efforts. Look for these features in the system you adopt:

  • Ease of use. In general, testing systems use a series of questions to assess applicants. But the questions must be easy to understand and shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to answer. Any more than that and people will answer hastily just to complete the questionnaire.
  • Technologically advanced. Many systems are Internet based—a big plus, especially if the testing company can e-mail a report to your office immediately after the candidate completes the test. The online tests should be intuitive and user friendly since you, not a technology person, will administer, interpret, and use them. Keep a paper-and-pencil version on hand in case the technology doesn’t cooperate at test time.
  • Accurate. Make sure the report you get is face valid, which means the people answering the questions agree with the picture the report paints of them. Also make sure that the tool is designed to spot “cheating” on the test takers’ part. Test takers are said to cheat if they answer certain combinations of questions inconsistently, which is seen as indicating that they’re trying to answer questions in a way they believe the broker wants.
  • Performance based. The testing company should help you develop a profile of who would succeed in your company and analyze test results in a way that meets your needs. For instance, if you’re looking for support staff to work with conductors, you can use the reports to identify the best people for that.
  • Multiple uses. These systems cost you money. It’s better to get one that is flexible and can be used for various purposes, rather than a system that works just for recruiting new associates. For instance, a system that also helps you communicate more effectively with existing salespeople and staff by helping you identify people’s learning styles and preferred methods of communicating is a valuable tool.

Time for testing

Tests are available for well under $100 per person tested, although total costs would be more if you add consulting services to analyze the results.

But to the extent testing can help you identify the right support staff and salespeople who have the traits to sell well and who’ll stick around after you’ve invested time and money to recruit and train them, the investment may well be worth it. The alternative could be too much reliance on one’s instincts.

Matchmaker, matchmaker

In every office you’ll find rainmaker types—people who generate the big ideas and pull in the clients—and indispensable detail people who turn rainmaker leadership into results. Who works well with whom, and at what jobs? Here are a few ideas based on the DISC behavioral styles.

The rainmakers Look for conductors, promoters, persuaders, and relaters to be your office rainmakers. Generally, they’re sociable, enthusiastic, and visionary. Conductors tend to be competitive and not as sociable as the other rainmakers, preferring to get right to the point. Relaters may be the most sociable of all, and sometimes may need help to stay on task. Persuaders and promoters can be thought of as fitting somewhere between the other two. No one type of rainmaker is superior to the others, and any office would likely do well to have a mix of different types.

Since rainmakers often neglect the details, look for support staff who can fill in where these top salespeople are weak. Similarly, if a top performer is looking to hire team members, that person can look for people whose behavioral styles would be complementary. “I use the DISC to identify the skills missing in my team and then use the report to make sure the person I’m hiring has those skills,” says Dianna Kokoszka, an associate with RE/MAX Affiliates in Golden, Colo., who has a team of six administrative staff and buyer’s agents. Kokoszka sells more than 250 properties a year.

The detail people Implementers, supporters, analyzers, and coordinators are typically detail oriented and focus on objectives. Analyzers are cerebral and do well at structured tasks, making them good choices for back-office functions such as accounting and technology support. They may not make the strongest salespeople, but they could be outstanding in roles demanding strong attention to detail, including personal assistant and office executive. They may not always mix well with conductors.

Supporters are calming and helpful, and can keep sociable people on task without ruffling feathers. Strong supporter types often fill personal assistant positions. Implementers can be thought of as easier-going versions of analyzers, and coordinators as more task-oriented versions of supporters.

More Online

Jung Typology test (based on Myers-Briggs)

Michael Abelson is associate professor of management at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, and a real estate management consultant. You can reach him at 888/223-5766.

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