How to Spot Your Next Superstar Agent

Learn to identify personality traits and life experiences that signal a great recruit.

May 27, 2016

As principal brokers and owners of real estate companies, we’re often overjoyed about the prospect of hiring new agents. After all, we’re tasked not only with growing our companies but also with helping as many agents as possible build rewarding careers in our industry. But the unfortunate truth is that sometimes this excitement falls flat when we realize our peach of a new agent has turned into a lemon.

Hiring mistakes can cause unneeded stress, foster office negativity, and result in heartbreak. In an attempt to sidestep this sort of upheaval, I’ve interviewed some key Windermere owners throughout Oregon. If your prospect exhibits most of the traits below, then pick up the phone and sign your new agent.  

An Entrepreneur, Not a Job Seeker
Given the self-motivating aspects of real estate, if the person you’re interviewing isn’t aching to be an entrepreneur, it’s probably not a good fit. How can you tell? Ask them what their first job was and how old they were. People who had a paper route, babysat, or cut the grass at a young age seem to be more ambitious by nature, says Matt Powell, owner of Windermere offices in Eugene, Ore. People who want to blaze their own trail are natural-born real estate agents.

Eager to Learn
Industry changes hit us fast and furious, with real estate being anything but stagnant. That’s why Powell also values agents with the mindset to keep learning, and he considers their excitement for training and education vitally important. This can also serve as a marker of someone with a good work ethic. Agents who consistently show up for training tend to be the ones you want on your team.

Family Support
Another broker takes a unique approach to determining if the prospect’s life partner is on board with their career choice, believing that an agent’s success is related to how much family support they have. Lawnae Hunter, owner of Windermere offices in central Oregon, asks potential agents to bring their life partners to the final interview. Not only does this uncover the partner’s thoughts on the career move, it also helps get the partner on board. “When someone goes into real estate without their partner behind them, they’re quickly gone,” Hunter says.

Ambitious and Driven
Being your own boss requires a naturally ambitious personality powered by a strong internal focus on control and drive. How do you know whether someone would get too distracted by tasks at home or water cooler chatter in the office? “I always ask if they’ve had experience with competitive athletics because that will tell you a lot about someone's drive,” says Steve Redman, owner of Windermere offices in Corvallis and Albany, Ore. “Also, veterans are disciplined and accustomed to paying attention to details, so real estate would be a natural second career choice for them.”

Financial Wherewithal
In the beginning, we want an agent who can put a lot of effort into getting their careers off the ground. He or she should be able to fully participate in activities that won’t instantly make money, such as training and marketing strategy, without worrying too much about the income they aren’t generating yet. “A sound financial awareness makes up most of what I’m looking for in a new agent, with my five criteria being life experience, educational background, past career, home ownership, and financial wherewithal,” says Kim Salvesen-Pauly, owner of Windermere offices in the Columbia River Gorge area. Redman also points out that retired military veterans are generating recurring income that can see them through this rough patch.

Compelling Past Experience
Great agents come from surprising career paths. Aside from former business owners and entrepreneurs, successful hires have also had hospitality, education, and nursing experience. Beyond examining past careers, those going through certain life changes may be ripe for a career in real estate, such as stay-at-home moms who are revitalizing their careers or empty-nesters itching to re-enter the workforce.

Overall, you probably have a gut instinct about whether someone you’ve met would make a superstar agent. But appearances can sometimes be deceiving. They may look and act the part, but at the end of the day, it’s more about what’s inside — including their entrepreneurial drive, eagerness to learn, overall ambition, financial savvy, and past experience — that counts. It was quite shocking how phrases like “people person” or “outgoing personality” rarely came up when I was interviewing the Windermere owners. Do not overlook someone who doesn’t appear to a social butterfly; they may just have the focus needed to propel them to the top.


 

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Joan Allen is a co-owner of Windermere Stellar and cochair of the Windermere Foundation. As co-owner of Windermere Stellar, Joan provides overall strategies for management, marketing, and company direction. Joan works with multiple nonprofits in the region as cochair of the local Windermere Foundation, which supports charitable organizations that assist low-income children and families. She also serves on the board of directors for New Avenues for Youth, Bridge Meadows, and Providence Portland Medical Center, and is an advisory board member for Girls Inc.

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