Estate agency is used to incentivising estate agent recruitment on potential – big salaries made possible by enticing commission structures and performance-related bonuses. Applicants, however, are increasingly motivated by different aspects that don’t always focus on financial gains, such as wellbeing and company culture.
Like tectonic plates, recruitment ideals held by the employer and the candidate seem to be drifting apart but there’s good news. With some subtle realignment, agents can attract the right calibre of applicant to fill vacant roles – future proofing their business in the process.
If you speak with Robin Tossell at the Ambitious Group, he’ll say that money still talks when it comes to attracting the best talent and with commission directly rewarding success, accomplished agents with a proven track record will expect a good package.
Catching the eye of applicants should start with the job advert, Robin says a salary should always be included on an ad, “If you ran the same advertisement on various job boards; one with a salary stated in figures and one with ‘salary negotiable’, you would receive far more applications for the advert showing the salary.”
Agents should also bear in mind that if the vacancy is a niche role, or there aren’t many credible people available, they’ll need to pay extra to secure the best person.
While remuneration reigns supreme for many, there is a softening of attitudes. “Although I think it will be a while before the salary isn’t the main driving factor, mindsets are certainly changing” adds Robin. He is one of many recruitment professionals dealing with an increased number of candidates who are interested in an agent’s company culture and its benefits packages, such as gym membership and private healthcare.
Making the week work
For Lynn Cannell at LCA Jobs, the shift away from a top salary is more marked. “Today’s recruitment proposition has moved on from what it was 10 years ago, when it was more about money,” says Lynn.
People – especially Millennials – want a combination of money and leisure time, and Lynn has noticed this attitude among property candidates especially in the last year. “They want financial security, a commission structure that allows them to fund a certain lifestyle and weekends off so they can enjoy experiences.”
ynn taps into a work culture issue that some feel is beginning to blight estate agency – unsocial hours. Although the ‘old guard’ is accustomed to working weekends and even enjoys the opportunities it brings – days off in the week, perhaps – younger agents are prepared to disregard a job if they have to give up weekends. “After spending 12 years as an agent myself and now running a specialist property recruitment agency, I can say a well-planned rota so staff get some Saturdays and Sundays off is a great way of attracting keen applicants,” says Lynn.
As well as generating immediate interest, Lynn also highlights that a palatable working pattern will help agents retain staff in the long run, not just generate a stack of CVs. “It’s good to see some agents becoming more accommodating in terms of flexible working hours so they don’t miss out on talent. I’d go as far as saying people would accept less money if they could have Saturdays off, and often the structure of the working week is more important than other extras, such as giving staff extra holiday allowance. When it comes to creating job ads, mentioning a flexible approach and perks in line with performance should be up there with the salary and commission structure.”
The appeal of ‘work less, live more’
The notion that money isn’t the fastest route to the best candidate is such a hot topic over at GCB Recruitment that it has written a whole blog on the subject, addressing the ‘work-life’ balance in the process. It’s a real buzz phrase and readers of The Guardian may have chuckled at a recent article, written by workplace wellness advocate Bruce Daisley, which suggested stressed workers needed four-day weeks rather than ‘gong baths’ or ‘mindfulness minutes’.
Gareth Broom at the recruitment agency says while estate agency can’t realistically deliver three days off a week, candidates are increasingly looking for a better equilibrium, “Agents are promoting longer hours as a marketing USP, so it forces all the other agents to do the same. Saturday opening is crucial, as is a late night, so there can be friction when it comes to business needs and recruitment,” adds Gareth.
Agents promote longer hours as a marketing USP, forcing other agents to do the same. Saturday opening is crucial, as is a late night, so there can be friction around business needs and recruitment. Gareth Broom, GCB.
“When recruiting for a property role, however, we find out what hours and days are expected of the candidate as it can make or break whether people are interested in the job – or not. In many cases, the best applicants are pressing for fewer hours for the same money, so the proposition has to be eye-catching.”
Although Gareth acknowledges that unsociable hours can be a barrier to people coming into the industry, as well as moving between agencies, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to those applying for a property job. GCB Recruitment’s hiring advice is to address well-being and the work-life balance through perks, rewards, training and development. Strategies that won’t break the bank – ‘duvet days’, unlimited fresh fruit and free breakfasts, for instance – can help compensate for weekend work, and can hit the spot just as much as cash bonuses.
Candidates looking for a culture club
Lynn, Gareth and Anthony Hesse at Property Personnel all allude to a deeper level of company research now undertaken by today’s applicants, with many looking to buy into an office culture and ethos as much as progressing their own career.
“Candidates are likely to research an estate agency that they’re applying to or interviewing with, so it is a good idea to have staff success stories on your website,” says Anthony. “For example, if a candidate could see where some of the existing employees started in the company – and where they are now – they are more likely to feel that progression for themselves is actually achievable.”
Lynn agrees, “While you might not be able to cram in all your workplace positives into a small job ad, you should include a company culture and careers section online. Employee testimonials, stories about promotions, details of charity work and even photos of staff parties will satisfy applicants looking for a rounded company.”
Recruiting outside the agency box
Even with the best salary, work-life balance and set of perks, estate agency sometimes struggles to recruit, especially from outside of the industry. As Anthony says, it is absolutely crucial for the industry to attract new joiners, otherwise there will ultimately be no one left working in estate agency.
For many, the barrier is the image – of shiny, slim-fitting suits and slightly unethical practices, not helped by the recent Channel 4 comedy, Stath Lets Flats. Anthony has already been outspoken in his thinking that a mandatory estate agency qualification will help recruit better people, and it’s a point he’s keen to expand on.
“If compulsory property qualifications are to be introduced, we think it is essential that companies fund employees through the process, in the way most already do with their staff gaining ARLA qualifications, and advertise this fact in job ads. When recruiting, this is very attractive to potential candidates, particularly as they know this can help further their career.”
Property is competing against other sectors in the recruitment race and Anthony also thinks a compulsory qualification would attract quality out-of-industry staff, “If employees can see the opportunity to apply themselves to gain a recognised qualification and further develop their skill sets, surely a recognised qualification will help to attract talent to our industry?”
Anthony’s suggestions come with a note of caution, “If a company offers to pay for a qualification at the recruitment stage but then doesn’t follow through on the promise, this will often lead to disgruntled employees wanting to leave as they feel they’ve been overpromised, whilst their employer hasn’t delivered.”
Estate agent recruitment
If you’ve tweaked your company culture, worked out a friendly rota and maxed out the budget to offer the best wage, your inbox should be alive with applications. So how does an agent CV sift and interview to hire the best of the bunch?
Agents will feel in their comfort zone faced with CVs where applicants have prior estate agency experience. Where it’s hard to distinguish between candidates who already work in property, it could be extracurricular activity, specific qualifications and involvement in charity work that mark a candidate out, not forgetting the most invaluable aspect – the reference.
As specialists in our verticals, we’re attuned to understanding the best talent and how this can be transplanted into a career that benefits both the candidate and the client. Lucas Grant, Deverell Smith.
When faced with applications from people outside the industry, evaluating CVs can present more of a challenge. Lucas Grant at Deverell Smith says, however, assessing CVs shouldn’t be a daunting process, as long as you know what to look out for and understand what skills are transferable. If agents feel nervous about hiring, recruitment agencies can help identify the people who would thrive in a branch and sales environment, “As specialists in our verticals, we’re attuned to understanding the best talent and how this can be transplanted into a career that benefits both the candidate and the client,” adds Lucas.
Whether the recruitment process is internally managed or outsourced to a recruitment agency, Lucas recommends always conducting interviews to find the best fit, “It’s much easier to ascertain genuine passion or desire to learn over the telephone and in person; if someone truly demonstrates a researched argument into how they can transition into the property industry, I’m confident they stand a fighting chance.”
Lucas adds that where first interviews primarily engage applicants in discussion about their work history and career aspirations, the second interview usual presents the chance for both parties to see if they would fit well together working forward.