When you interview candidates, you have three main objectives that you need to accomplish during your process. First, of course, you need to verify that the candidate has the skills, experience, and culture fit for your office, but you need to do that while also getting their buy-in. They need to like you as much as you like them. And then, of course, you have to do all of this as quickly as possible because both you and your candidate are busy, and if you put too many steps into your process, you risk losing great candidates along the way because another employer swoops them up.
How do you get all of the information that you need to make an informed decision about a candidate and how do you do that as quickly as possible?
I don’t have a magic bullet or a magic solution for you. However, I do have some well-researched suggestions to help you navigate the interview process and screen your candidates as effectively and efficiently as possible. In this article, I’m going to take you through a three-part interview framework because you need to meet with a candidate at least three times before you make hiring decision, but you might need an additional step in your process.
Download the Real Estate Assistant Interview Guide
We place real estate assistants with real estate teams. No matter the specifics of the job description are there are five key qualities or traits that every person we place must demonstrate. These are universal for real estate assistant type roles. As you interview candidates think about whether or not they possess these traits.
1. First is, a demonstrated ability to organize themselves and others to create systems and consistently manage processes.
2. They need to pay close attention to detail while working in a fast-paced and rapidly changing environment.
3. They need to be a leader in their role. They need to need minimal supervision or direction, and in fact, they need to naturally manage up.
4. They need to develop solid strategies for solving problems.
5. A natural caretaker.
This last point is just essential. Every leader of a company and every top salesperson needs a caretaker in their corner. This is the person who looks at your schedule and realizes that you’re not going to have time for lunch so they have a sandwich delivered to you so that you can eat it in your car on your way to your next meeting, and they remember that you don’t like goat cheese.
The first step in every interview process should be a phone interview. This is a really quick and efficient way to screen out the people who have low energy, who lack the level of professionalism that you require, and who just don’t meet the basic requirements of your job. Make it simple and use an online scheduling system like https://www.youcanbook.me or https://www.simplybook.me. These are easy to use online schedulers that will link to your calendar, and you can just email the link to candidates and they can book themselves on your calendar. Schedule these interviews no more than 20 minutes apart.
In my Interview Guide I have a template for a real estate assistant phone interview and in the email that you receive with the interview guide, I have an editable version so you can create your own template around these questions. I put the things that are disqualifiers at the top and then we dig more into who the candidate is and we get some additional information about what they’re looking or and why they’re looking as we move along in the interview.
Remember to take notes. Trust me, after you’ve interviewed 20 candidates, you will not remember why you liked candidate number four. And make sure to include notes about things you wanted to follow up on or dive deeper on in your in-person interview.
Once you’ve completed this you’re ready to move candidates forward to your in-person interview.
These are some of the mistakes that I see new hiring managers make.
1. Stop Talking. Listen more than you talk and stay in the question. This is hard for a lot of people. But just ask your question and stop talking. Silence is okay.
2. Stay in Conversation Mode. Have an outline of questions that you want to ask, but don’t stick to a script. In the Interview Guide, you’ll see that I have a lot of questions in there. Don’t ask all of those questions! Pick and choose the ones that are the most relevant for you and have a list of maybe 15 or 20 questions that you hope to cover in your interview. Have a conversation with your candidate and remember, you also need to build a relationship with this person as you move through this process. And really, there’s nothing more off-putting than sitting across the table from someone who is reading questions off a list and just checking off every question they’re supposed to ask you.
3. Ask Follow-up Questions. This is important no matter what, but this is a lifesaver when you’ve asked a question, and maybe your mind has wandered, or you’re not quite sure what to ask next. A followup question gives you a second to compose yourself and plan your next step.
For example, let’s say you asked a candidate to tell you about a project that they completed in their last job that they were really proud of. Your follow-up questions might be as simple as,
– Tell me more about that.
– What did you learn?
– What problem or what challenges did you face as you completed that project?
– What did you enjoy most about that project?
– How did you balance working on that with everything else that you had to do?
– And looking back what would you do differently now that you have hindsight?
Think about how much more information and how much deeper you can go with a candidate by asking follow-up questions to a critical question. And, most of the time the more interesting information, the stuff that you really need to get to, isn’t answered on the topical question; it’s responded to in those followup questions.
4. Dig for Details. A lot of candidates stay on the surface, and they won’t get into the specifics, and you need to get them down into the details so that you can verify that they do know what they think they know or what you think they know.
For example, let’s say a candidate told you that they were used to managing ten transactions at a time in their last real estate office, ten transactions a month. And so your followup questions might be, walk me through a typical deal and tell me about your specific responsibilities at every stage of the process. Slow them down if they start to get too topical with you. You want every single step.
Doing this will clue you into how much they were involved in those transactions. Other questions might be:
– How did you organize your files and how often did you communicate with the other parties in the sale?
– If something was going off the rails in a transaction, at what point did you bring your agent back into the deal?
– What types of problems were you able to handle on your own.
These questions clue you into whether or not this person was only collecting signatures or if they were actually managing the transaction.
Interviews are more than just about gathering information. They are also about building a relationship. Therefore, you need to make sure that you take the time in this first face-to-face interview to share a little bit about the company and yourself.
If you are interested in a candidate, there are three essential questions that they must be able to answer before they walk out of their first in-person interview. This is to secure their buy-in so that they’ll stick with you through the rest of your interview process because we’re not done yet.
1. The first thing that candidates need to know and want to know is, why you are passionate about what you do? Why are you on this mission and why should they join you on this mission? That’s key.
2. They want to know why you’re interested in them. What is it about them that has you excited? They want to know why they’re valued.
3. Finally, they want to know how they can win with you. Think about this. If they are currently employed, and they are considering changing jobs, they want to believe that they are going to be successful in their new position. So, if they are not clear about this, or if they have concerns about whether or not they can meet their expectations, they are probably not changing jobs.
At this point, you should have narrowed down your field to two, maybe at the most three, of your top candidates. And now it’s time to go deep. This is a long interview. This is your skill assessment and goal alignment interview. You should plan for it to last three to four hours.
During this interview, you need to accomplish three important things.
1. Validate skills. Now we’ve tried every skill assessment under the sun, and there’s just nothing that compares to putting a candidate at their future desk and asking them to complete a real-world project to validate that they do know how to do the things that they say they know how to do.
2. Assess the culture fit. If your office is wild and crazy, people are running around, and it’s stressful, and papers are flying, that’s going to be great for some people and a total nightmare for others. Wouldn’t you prefer they figure out that your office isn’t right for them NOW rather than two weeks into the job?
3. Talk about standards, expectations, vision, admission, and goals. This is the deep stuff. This is when you ask questions like:
– How should I manage you?
– How honest can I be with you?
– What is it about our mission that you connect with?
– This is where you share, these are my standards, this is what I expect from the people around me. Can you live up to that? And vice versa.
– What do you expect from me as your boss? Candidates might say things like I expect you to be perfectly honest with me. If I’m bothering you, tell me. Or if you set a meeting with me, honor it.
This final interview is your chance to come into alignment so that you and your future hire can move forward together with a strong foundation of trust and respect and communication. This is essential.
We’ve finally gotten to the end of this process. By the time you finish your two or three deep-dive interviews with your top candidates, you should be clear about who you’re excited to hire, and they should be equally enthusiastic about you and the opportunity.
This is the time for you to wrap up your references if you still haven’t spoken to at least three, but hopefully five or six professional references. And now you are ready to write an offer and go off into the sunset with your ideal candidate.
Congratulations!! You made it all the way through the process. Now I know it can be a lot, but it’s essential that you follow a framework and you work a process in order to make a hire and that you don’t skip any of these crucial steps, especially the in-depth second in-person interview. Even if you think someone is absolutely perfect and they check every box, you still need to validate their skills. You still need to make sure that your standards and expectations are aligned, and you still need to make sure that they’re a good culture fit for your office. Do not skip this step.
If I can help you with this process, schedule a free 30-minute consultation.