The heart of a great real estate business isn’t your brand, your office building, or your billboards. It’s your team, the agents who connect with your prospects and community day in and day out.
And the right roster of real estate agents starts with the right recruiting process.
If you’re actively growing, you’re probably already focused on finding ways to bring the best possible agents onboard. But even teams who want to stay at their current size need to have a recruitment plan on hand. After all, team transitions are inevitable in this business.
So how can you recruit real estate agents strategically, with an eye toward both retaining your existing rockstars and finding new team members who are the best possible fit?
We asked five top-performing team leaders for their proven approaches to recruiting real estate agents. Here are their 10 best tips and tactics.
Why you should treat agent recruitment as strategic
The National Association of Realtors® reports a member turnover rate of 15%. And while there’s no single authoritative source on industry-wide turnover, some estimates put the agent turnover rate as high as 88%.
This means that, rather than keeping recruitment on the backburner, team leaders should have a strategy for recruiting around 15% of their total number of agents each year.
But hiring just to hire (a.k.a. the “butts-in-seats” approach) won’t serve your business. In fact, bringing on agents too quickly — without ensuring they’re the right fit — will worsen any existing turnover issues as poor-fit agents head right back out the door, dragging down morale on their way out.
Instead of a hiring-from-the-hip recruitment process, team leaders need to recruit real estate agents strategically and holistically. Planning recruitment as a long-term, always-on strategy accounts for the fact that recruiting real estate agents is never one-and-done — it’s an ongoing team-building and brand-building effort.
Taking your time to hire thoughtfully not only increases your chances of finding agents who will stay with you longer, it also helps boost agent performance and retention — two things that are crucial for the health of your sales and business.
#1 Know exactly who you’re looking for
Just as the buyers you serve typically have a checklist of must-haves for their future homes, you need a list detailing what you’re looking for in a new agent. Donna Stott of Your Coaching Matters calls this her “minimum standard.”
- Are you looking for brand new agents you can train up? Or experienced agents? (If so, how experienced?)
- How close should agents live to your office?
- Do you expect a certain threshold of sales in your target market?
Zeroing in on the factors you won’t compromise on will help narrow the pool of potential agents to work with. More importantly, it also ensures the agents within that pool are the best fit for your growing team. With a pool of high-quality agents to recruit from, you limit time wasted on fruitless conversations and put an end to the days of hiring agents who leave shortly after they join.
I look for grit and integration to our team culture. If someone has the grit to dig in, and they are open to being swept into the momentum of their peers here it’s a really good sign.
Taylor Hack, HACK&Co
Once you’ve determined your list of must-have qualities in an agent, create a list of prospects that meet your qualifications. You can even customize your scripts to align your conversations with each agent’s unique interests and experiences.
#2 Start recruiting conversations proactively
Recruiting new agents is one part of your business you can’t afford to ‘set-and-forget’. Rather than just publishing a team page on your website and waiting for agents to find you, take the time to reach out to potential candidates proactively.
For Eric Bramlett, Broker at Bramlett Residential, recruiting is always on the radar. He constantly asks himself and his team:
“What are we doing to attract the right kinds of agents? How are we reaching out to start conversations?”
Use your existing networks and the strength of your brand to connect with agents who might be looking for new opportunities. Cultivate relationships over time to show you’re serious about giving them a better working experience.
#3 Document your systems
Chances are you’ve already got a slew of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for your team to follow, but have you ever considered making your systems public?
Being crystal clear about how you operate is a great way to attract high-performing agents. As a bonus, it also lets interested agents easily assess for themselves whether they’re a good fit for your team.
“The great news is that our agent services and systems typically work very well to attract the right kind of agents,” says Eric of Bramlett Residential. “We document things really heavily, and everything is open for anyone inside or outside the brokerage to see it.”
The brokerage’s publicly available company guide gives an overview of their services, opportunities, and policies. Eric has found that more often than not, this level of heightened transparency resonates with the kind of agents they’re looking to partner with.
#4 Lead with your values
In addition to making your services and systems clear, it’s important to demonstrate your values front and center to potential team members.
Whether digitally or face-to-face, be clear about what matters. By openly communicating your unique team values, you can attract agents that align with your brand, while weeding out those that don’t.
For Eric and the team at Bramlett Residential, a video on their dedicated recruiting webpage introduces potential new team members both to Eric himself and the values of the team. The video describes Eric’s journey from focusing primarily on commission (which he found to be a waste of time) to focusing on providing the best possible service to clients.
As he tells his story, agents can see that on Eric’s team, premium service and higher commissions go hand-in-hand. By sharing his priorities and ethics, he quickly builds trust with growth-minded agents who want to know more.
#5 Kick off your recruitment with a short screening call
To make the best use of your recruiting time, you don’t need to dive in with a 30-60 minute interview right away. You can maximize your and the prospect’s time by starting out with a shorter call, like Barry Jenkins of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate does.
One of the most successful techniques I’ve had is having a 15-minute call with an agent before I invest my time meeting them.
Barry tells the agent he wants 15 minutes to review what makes his office unique and see if there’s any interest.
At the end of that short call, Barry puts the ball in the agent’s court and invites them to take the next steps to circle back and follow up. He’s found that this demonstrates a level of respect and empowerment that helps prospective team members make the right decisions for themselves.
“When you compare the typical recruiting pitch to what I’ve shared you can see the difference and the increased respect and authenticity I give,” he says.
#6 Start with the problems you’re trying to solve
We’ve all heard of the classic “sell me this pen” interview question example. As played out as it is, the illustration forces potential team members to show they have the skills to pay the bills by responding to an imaginary situation.
When talking to potential agents, how much more helpful is it to ask them how they would respond to actual issues your team has? Describe some of the problems you face as a brokerage, and ask them how they would respond.
This is a favorite interview tactic used by Taylor Hack of HACK&Co. “Once I have someone that is really excited about joining our team I tell them about the problems we’re working on,” he says. “I show them that our business is a work in progress and we will need their help to make the changes we need to achieve our goals.”
This is a great strategy to connect with agents and learn more about their unique approach to problem-solving.
#7 Learn about prospects first, then share what you have to offer
When talking to prospective agents, experts like Donna Stott advise that you do one thing above all else: “Get to know them.”
Expressing an active interest in potential team members demonstrates caring and supportive leadership. More than that, it also helps you understand the unique value you can bring to the table.
In particular, be sure to ask about their current working environment. Understand what they enjoy about their office. Learn about the aspects that they don’t enjoy. Then assess where you could make improvements to give them a better experience.
Helping potential agents understand specific ways you’ll make their working lives better will position you ahead of the competition and give them even more of an incentive to make the switch.
#8 Craft an intentional onboarding experience
Believe it or not, the recruiting process isn’t over once an agent has accepted your offer. At least, not if you’re focused on actually keeping your team members around.
Onboarding is a critical factor in welcoming new agents into the team and training them in your unique systems and processes. When paired with a trial period, it can also be a continuation of your assessment of mutual fit.
On top of the minimum standard requirements for recruiting, establish the key traits your team members should have. Then, Taylor Hack advises, look for those qualities during onboarding.
Isolate the indicators of success and design an onboarding experience that will reveal whether or not that agent can achieve success with this team.
#9 Start with a trial period
Even the most thorough recruiting processes won’t give you a complete picture of what a candidate will be like to work with long-term. Sometimes it’s best to treat a candidate’s early days on your team as a trial period.
Taylor Hack makes it clear to both his existing team and newly recruited candidates that they’re looking for the right fit. Candidates aren’t considered fully initiated until they start producing.
“The big thing is that the people that aren’t going to fit here need to leave quickly,” he says. “It needs to be clear to the team that [the leader is] investigating — the candidate is not on the team until they meet their marks.”
For a new hire that won’t be right for your team long-term, it’s better to step away sooner rather than later. This takes less of a toll on the rest of your team and lets you refocus your efforts on finding a candidate who will be a fit.
Another unique tactic Taylor has found success with is inviting potential team members to join HACK&Co in an unpaid internship capacity. This formalized trial period gives candidates and teams the chance to test out the mutual fit and allows for a smooth transition into hiring.
#10 Focus on your existing agents
Each of these tactics is a great way to attract and connect with outstanding new agents. But Ryan O’Neill of the Minnesota Real Estate Team advises leaders to water the grass at home first.
Make sure your agents have what they need to succeed, and show them you genuinely care about them — professionally and personally. “This isn’t just the right thing to do,” Ryan says. “It will lead to referrals over time.”
Supported and satisfied agents won’t just perform well and stay longer. Happy agents will also sing the praises of their team to those they encounter who are looking for a new opportunity in real estate.
Even as you further your recruiting efforts, don’t neglect the retention and recruiting success that comes from caring for your own first and foremost.
Once you’ve set your agent recruiting strategy, what’s next?
As you build your team, your roster of real estate agents isn’t the only thing that’s sure to grow. Your list of leads — from referrals and repeat business to brand new leads and prospects — is going to increase too.
The right real estate CRM is key to staying organized as your team grows. With customizable lead management workflows, you can make sure each lead gets the follow-up they need and the attention they deserve.
Follow Up Boss helps you keep your team on track with next steps for every prospect, agent activity tracking to guide team coaching, and a visual leaderboard to inspire healthy competition.
See for yourself how the right lead management system isn’t just a tool — it’s an extension of your team. Try it today, totally free for 14 days.