Latest from our Blog


Streamlining The Hiring Process With Oliver Graf

Would you like to know about a fool proof hiring system for getting great talent into your organization? In this video from the Broker-Owner Challenge, we’ll hear from Oliver Graf, Co-founder of Big Block Realty and expert on the recruiting process. He’ll explain a purposeful, strategic hiring and recruiting process that starts from the very first impression and follows all the way through.

Meet Oliver Graf

Sam Khorramian, Co-founder of Big Block Realty, describes Oliver Graf as a brother from a different mother. The business partners have known each other since college, meeting in a fraternity. They’ve pretty much shared every dollar they’ve earned since.

Since Sam and Oliver have been business partners in so many different ways, they’ve also grown and learned together, all while having a lot of fun. The pair co-founded Big block Realty about 8 years ago. Today, they have over 1,000 agents in the state of California and sell over $1 billion in real estate every 90 days. They’ve also been on the Inc 500 top 50 three times.

As an expert in setting up systems that can be used within the business, Oliver has gained a wealth of knowledge about recruiting in the business—and he’s going to tell us all about it.

Growing Your Company The Right Way

Any company or executive in that company that has really good growth and success is often asked how they did it. Oftentimes, it includes the fact that you can’t build something great without a great team. With all of the noise and competing offers out there, though, getting good talents becomes challenging.

If you want to recruit in high volume, you need to recruit high volume recruiters. If you want to keep agents, you need to hire people that love to take care of people. If you want to have a good experience, all of these things matter.

If you have five agents, you’re able to control most things. As the team starts to grow, however, there will be different people in place that are the representation of you, your promise, and your company. And that’s why hiring right is important. Every bad hire costs your company upwards of $60,000. It’s not worth rushing the process; it needs to be done right.

To understand how to find the right people, we’ll need to peel back the layers of the onion on a foolproof hiring system for getting really great talent into your organization. The right team members are the building blocks of growing and scaling a great organization. It’s also going to help you make money in lots of different ways.

How A Strong Hiring Process Makes Profit

A strong hiring process will make your brokerage much more profitable. Focusing on building an organization that people want to be a part of, pour into, grow with, and see a future with is key.

In addition to the price of a bad hire, according to the Department of Labor, the onboarding costs 30% of their first-year salary. Even if you’re just hiring like a customer service person or someone at $50,000 a year, that’s a $15,000 loss if the person doesn’t end up working out. A few bad hires a year makes a big difference in the bottom line.

Sam and Oliver’s system allows for a silky smooth process of hiring great people and avoiding excessive turnover. A strong hiring process will help you make more money in a few key ways.

  1. Better employees make for increased service for your agents and clients. The bottom line is the better you take care of your people, the better your people are. In turn, the better the value is going to be for the people that you serve, which are your agents and ultimately, the clients that are buying and selling real estate.
  2. Increases your recruiting. As brokers and owners, we’re all in the business of recruiting and holding on to great people. Oliver will show us how to write really great ads, which will help make recruiting a lot easier.
  3. Increases word-of-mouth referrals. The better your reputation starts to become over time, the easier it’s going to be to recruit and the more word of mouth referrals you’re going to get. Implementing cool contests—like car giveaways—gets people talking. At the end of the day, the better your service, the more people will talk about it; the more people that will talk about it, the more referrals you’ll get and the better name you’re building in the community.
  4. Increases retention, both on the employee side and agent side. The key to growth is not only recruiting great people and top talent but being able to retain them. You want to hold on to them for long periods of time.
  5. Waste less time and money on training. You’re going to save money on costs because as we all know, hiring is expensive. In most cases, you have to do a lot of interviews—all things that take up time.

Streamlining The Process

This system is going to break down how to maximize your productivity as a broker-owner. The way the system is designed is to funnel everyone so that you only need to meet with two or three candidates. At the very end of the process, it will be easier to make the final decision on who gets hired.

The way most companies hire is that they’ll post a job and a bunch of applications will come in. They’ll start trying to weed through them, setting up all sorts of interviews, making phone calls, and more. It’s just a lot of wasted time. By designing the system the way Sam and Oliver did, it streamlines the whole process.

This streamlining means that broker-owners only have to worry about the last piece of the process: making the final decision. When you hire the right people, it creates a better team dynamic, happier employees, less turnover, and more. Building a great system and following it is critical to growing a big organization.

A Complete Hiring System

The complete hiring system that Sam and Oliver use in all of their businesses creates magnetic job ads that really attract top talent and filter out unqualified people and time wasters right away. This means the broker-owner only meets with two to three people at the very end: the best possible candidates.

This system also helps quickly uncover people’s motivation, personality, commitment to your organization, and long-term goals to choose the right candidate. Hiring great people for your organization starts with having a really great system that works for any type of hiring—from virtual employees and independent contractors to full-time staff and agents.

When working with the system, you can mold the process to fit the particulars of the position.

The Keys To Successful Hiring

The first key to successful hiring is being very clear on exactly what you’re looking for. The more clear you can be on things like culture, fit, personality, style for different roles, the easier it will be to choose. For example, the personality styles of a customer service person versus a bookkeeper are going to be totally different.

For each specific hire you make, you want to be clear on what that personality style is, what their skills are, and the attitude they bring to the organization and to work every day. You also want to target the experience and longevity they have; are these people looking for just a quick job or a career?

The system also has a test to filter out the Debbie Downers. You don’t want negative, toxic people in your business that can bring down company culture fast. The system is composed of 5 separate parts:  writing a killer job ad, screening the initial flood of people, the questionnaire, the pre-interview, and the in-person interview. Let’s break each step down to see how Sam and Oliver’s hiring system streamlines the process.

A Killer Job Ad

Writing a killer job ad separates the winners from the losers. Have you ever gone on a job board and read paragraphs text that drags on and on? Oliver designed their job ads like a sales landing page. It’s in bullet point format, making it easy to read and digest.

The ad outlines everything in great detail to flush out most of the people that aren’t a good fit.  This includes who your company is, exactly what you’re looking for, day-to-day responsibilities, who’s a good fit, what skills are needed, where the office is located, what the compensation is, and a picture to humanize the listing. The ad also includes exact instructions on how to apply, which has the first filter built into it.

The tone of the ad should reflect your ideal candidate. For example, a customer services person is going to want more talking to people, way more interaction, and way more fun. A bookkeeper, on the other hand, is going to want to know about the structure and support. You want to tailor the message depending on who you’re hiring.

This is your chance to sell them on why you’re a great company, why this is a great opportunity, why someone would want to jump all over the job, and what you bring to the table as an organization to help your employees grow and win over the long term. At the end of the day, that’s what people want. They want a job where they can grow, feel safe, and feel like a good fit.

Who We Are

The first section is the ad is “Who We Are.” Big Block Realty sells it like this: “we’re the biggest and fastest independently growing real estate brokerage in San Diego, which we’ve won awards for.” This is information that’s easily backed up, as they were voted the best real estate brokerage for the last three out of five years in local newspapers. They do over a billion dollars in sales and, most importantly, have an amazing fun and dynamic company culture.

For someone looking at this job ad, those are the first four bullet points they see. It’s designed to get them to say, “Wow, this looks like a great company. Wow, this looks like a place that’s growing. Wow, this looks like somewhere that I could see myself fitting in.”

What We’re Looking For

The next section is “What We’re Looking For.” For example, Big Block Realty’s ad for a bookkeeper said they were looking for a “QuickBooks ninja. It continued with, “If you’re an expert at QuickBooks, we want to talk to you, we’re looking for a full-time All-Star bookkeeper for our growing team.” After that, they included a little bit about what the primary responsibilities are.

Next, you can go straight into painting a picture of what their day-to-day work would include. That way, they can start seeing themselves in the position, imagining what they’d be doing every day. They can also self-assess to see whether they’re good at those things or if it’s not right for them.

For example, the bookkeeper ad included managing QuickBooks, two to four hours a day handling payroll, bank accounts, processing checks, deposits, and accounts receivable, balancing account records, 1099, and more. This is all designed to attract the people that would be a good fit and push away the people that are not.

When talking to your ideal avatar in the ad, remember to describe a person that’s a good fit. For Big Block’s ad, they included verbiage that said, “if you’re a self-described numbers person, this is the perfect job for you. If you love QuickBooks and bookkeeping, enjoy working in a fun, fast-paced environment, and have great attention to detail, then we want to work with you.” You’re selling and reinforcing what you do, what you’re looking for, and what you need for someone to be successful at this position.

The Skills Needed

The next part of the ad outlines the skills needed. In addition to the day-to-day tasks, this is a second filter that’s built right into the job ad. For example, if you don’t have a strong understanding of QuickBooks, don’t apply to a bookkeeper position.

If you don’t have the ability to manage and reconcile multiple bank accounts, don’t apply. If you’re not very good with accounting and numbers, don’t apply. If you don’t have experience running payroll…and so on. This hammers home exactly what you need, what you want, and who’s going to be great in the position.

Location and Compensation

Lastly, the ad is rounded out with location. In bigger markets, like we’re in here in San Diego, whether you’re on one side of San Diego or the other side makes quite a big difference in terms of commute time. Give the job app applicants full clarity, especially if you’re hiring for a specific office. If a candidate is going to an office every single day, commute should be taken into consideration.

Big Block Realty is also very clear on compensation. Many job ads say “TBD” or just don’t give a number. Oliver believes that’s a big mistake. For example, if someone’s looking for a $50 an hour job, they know not to waste their time. Or if they don’t have enough experience, they know not to waste their time with that job.

If you’re not 100% sure about a wage or experience plays a big factor, then at the very least put a range. You could say “$25 to $50 an hour depending on experience,” for example. You just want to give candidates an idea of how they’re going to benefit from the job financially.

How To Apply

The last and most critical part of the job ad is also the first filter for kicking people out of the running: how to apply. For Big Block Realty’s steps, a candidate first needs to email their application to the company. Next—and this is a big filter—they need to include a resume, a list of references, and five reasons they should get hired.

The reason Big Block added the “five reasons we should hire you” is so people take the time to read the job. When people are looking for jobs, they often shotgun their resumes out to a million different people and hope they get a call back. However, this wastes time for both parties. Adding this step ensures that applicants are taking time to read the job. It also shows they can follow directions.

In addition, you want applicants to actually think about whether they’re a good fit for your organization and if they can add value to it. It’s a chance for them to sell you on selling them the job.

Including A Picture

Lastly, you always want to include a picture on a job ad. There are hundreds and hundreds of job postings on job boards, and they tend to blend together. By adding a photo—which less than 3% of the job postings include—you’re really humanizing your brand.

When applicants see all the people on your team smiling and looking happy, it’s a subconscious way to let them know that you have a nice, happy organization that they can see themselves being a part of. It also helps your job ad stand out from the hundreds of job ads that don’t have a picture.

Screening Resumes

The second part of the hiring system is screening resumes. The main thing you want to look for is if they followed all the directions in the job ad, submitted a clear formatted resume, included three to five references, and most importantly, five reasons why you should hire them. If they didn’t include all three of those, it’s an immediate disqualifier.

Let’s say that you get 100 job applicants when you post the ad. On average, less than 25% will actually complete all three steps. That means you’re immediately able to eliminate 75% of the people that apply, saving a ton of time, money, and effort.

It also makes it very easy to find people that can follow directions and simple instructions. It’s an easy way to set up a barrier immediately to filter people out.

Initial Follow Up

Step three is to follow up with all the people that completed step one successfully. The system includes following up with five questions via email and a survey. The goal is to weed out the people that actually want to work for you versus the people that are just out looking for a job and a paycheck.

By making people work harder upfront, you’re able to filter out the tire kickers and let the cream rise to the top in terms of talent. You want people that are passionate about what you do and inspired by your job ad. Making them work a little harder makes them want it a little bit more as well. It’s a double-edged psychology maneuver that helps filter more people out.

The second after they’ve successfully submitted their resume, you’ll follow up with an email to them that has another five questions. It also has a survey attached to it. The next step for them in the job process is to answer the five questions. The survey has nothing to do with the job; it’s intended to be a kind of fun, light-hearted show of your company culture. It also gives you a chance to see what their personality is outside of the rigid job hiring process.

The 5 Questions

The follow-up email basically says, “Thank you for applying for the job. We would like to consider you for the position. We like to have a lot of fun and want to make sure we find a good fit, so before we set up an interview with you, please answer the following questions and fill out the attached questionnaire.” This, again, reinforces exactly what you’re looking for and gives candidates a chance to sell themselves versus the competition.

The questions asked are:

  1. Why do you want this job?
  2. What are you looking for in a new position?
  3. What do you like to do outside of work?
  4. Where do you see yourself in five years?
  5. Do you have any questions for us, and when are you available to start?

These are pretty straightforward, simple, and easy to answer questions. You don’t want to get too elaborate on those because the idea isn’t to turn people off and make them do a ton of work. Rather, it’s to throw an additional hurdle and filter out the people that are just looking for a job versus people that specifically want to work for you and your company.

The Survey

The first question on the survey is “describe yourself in three hashtags.” This, while not pertaining to the actual job, lets you see behind the curtain to who they are as a person. Are they funny? Are they serious? What do they like to do? Depending on your company culture and what you’re looking for, this gives you a little bit more insight that’s normally outside of the realm of a general job interview situation.

Other survey questions include, “Where are you from? What’s your favorite sports team? Do you have pets? If yes, what’s your level of obsession? What inspires you?” The last question is probably the one that actually does relate to the job. At Big Block Realty, customer service is a passion. That means that everyone they hire needs to be very passionate about customer service.

The questions go on to ask, “What is customer service? What are your favorite colors? Why do you want the job? What’s your favorite candy? What’s your favorite board game? What movie title best describes you? If you had to choose one drink, what would it be? Beer, wine, champagne, or cocktail shot? If you had to choose one concert, what would it be? Guns and Roses, Luke Bryan, Escape the Fate, or Iration?”

The survey lets you have fun with people, and it’s great conversation when they come in for the in-person interview. This makes the interview process a lot less dry. And if you end up hiring the person, you know more about them and what they like—such as their favorite candy. You can use them to give them a reward, bonus, or thank you gift later on.

The Phone Interview

Out of the initial 100 people that you started with, only 25 will get through to the first stage. Out of that, maybe 30% will make it through the second set of more questions and fill out the survey. You’ll then be left with about 5 to 10 people that really want the job, are really a good fit, are excited about it, can follow directions, and are competent.

The final set of 5 to 10 people make it to the next round: the phone interview. Before Big Block Realty even brings someone in for an in-person (or Zoom) interview, a phone interview is conducted first. It’s designed to be really short, a quick script that’s a chance to feel out the candidates and decide who you want to bring in for the final interview.

At Big Block, they have someone on their staff do this phone interview—though a smaller brokerage might see the broker-owner handling it themselves. The things to look for on the phone call is:

  1. Are they on time, and did they show up when they said they were going to show up?
  2. Are they ready—quiet, prepared, professional—or are they driving in the car with the windows down and the music bumping? Those are all things that you can assess over the phone.
  3. Do they speak professionally, and how do they carry themselves?

The Script

The phone interview script reviews the position and allows you to ask a few more questions. This includes:

  • Why are you leaving your current job?
  • What interests you about this position?
  • Do you have a clear understanding of the job based on the ad and everything you’ve gone through already? This gives you the chance to reinforce the company culture, explain exactly what you’re looking for, and remind them of what they’ll be doing every day.
  • Do you have any questions for me? This gives them a chance to ask any questions so that you can prepare for the in-person interview. For example, if the person was asking about benefits you offer, the in-person interview with them should include an outline of the entire benefits package.

The call is designed to be real short, from 5 to 10 minutes. Out of the 5 to 10 people that get a phone interview, you can narrow it down to just a few. These are the ones that will come in for the in-person interview.

The In-Person Interview

Depending on the size of your organization, the in-person interview can be structured as just one interview or a two-step interview process. Big Block Realty prefers a two-step interview process. Depending on who they’re hiring for, it generally goes to the department manager first. For example, if Big Block Realty is hiring a bookkeeper, the first interview will be with the accounting manager. The second interview would be with Oliver or Sam, and they would make the final hiring decision.

These last few people that you’re meeting with are the All-Stars, the people that have done everything right, and those who are passionate about what you’re company is doing. They’re very interested in the job and they’ve put out a lot of effort to get to this point. Now it’s just a matter of who you really feel is the best fit—and that’s the person who you can end up hiring.

The Questions

As you start the interview, you should outline everything again. Talk about the day-to-day workload, review the skills needed, review the compensation package, and mention any other benefits. Then, it’s time to go into the actual interview questions.

  1. Where are you working and why are you leaving? You want them to tell you a little bit about their work history.
  2. What are you looking for in your next job? For Oliver, this is one of the most important questions you can ask in the interview process. No matter what they say, it’s a chance to design your pitch on why they should work for you based on exactly what they’re looking for.

For example, if someone says, “I’m looking for a job with lots of growth opportunities,” you would sell to them how your company is growing and expanding. If someone is looking for security and job flexibility, you could pitch flexible hours. Regardless, you want to find out what’s most important to them to tailor your pitch. This will help you get better results and land the people that you’re most trying to go after.

  1. What are your greatest professional strengths? What frustrates you professionally? What do you not like to do? These are important because everyone’s really good at talking about what they’re good at, but most people are not good at talking about what they’re not good at and what they don’t like to do. If you’re hiring someone to do accounting, for example, and they say that they don’t like Excel or Quickbooks, that might be an issue.
  2. What motivates you? Again, that helps you tailor your pitch.
  3. How do you feel about working with a small business, where things change all the time?
  4. What do you know about the company? Many people haven’t taken the time to do any homework on your company, and this should be a big red flag. The best people that Big Block Realty has hired knew a lot of facts about the company in the interview and were excited about the business.
  5. Why do you want this position?
  6. If you could rewind the last 10 years, what would you do differently professionally?

Closing Questions

Lastly, the closing questions are ones Oliver loves asking because it puts them on the spot. It lets you see how they operate under pressure and lets you see if they have articulated thoughts around the position and the job.

  1. From everything you’ve learned about this role, myself, and our company, tell me how you feel like you’d make a contribution. This makes them really think about how they can add value and how they will be a good member of your team. Oliver’s found that the best people they’ve hired always have the best answers to this question.
  2. Why do you think we should hire you? If they don’t have a good answer to why they think you should hire them, they’re probably not going to be a good fit. A good hire will be very fast with their answer, and they don’t need to think about it. They’re able to communicate that clearly and effectively.

Hiring System Pro Tips

If you follow the whole hiring system, you’ll find as the broker-owner that you’re only going to end up meeting with about two or three people for every position. This will save you a ton of time, a ton of hassle, and make you more productive. And also going to help you find great people and top talent for any kind of position that you’re looking for.

The Second Interview

The first pro tip, which is part of the hiring process, is to bring candidates back for a second interview. The reason that Big Block Realty likes to do this is that it gives people an out if they’re not really sure it’s a good fit for them. They have the option not to come back for the second interview, which is a great way to add another filter.

Oliver’s found that sometimes when you interview people twice, the two interviews are totally different. He’s had people come in for a first interview that the team thought was great. But when they came in for a second interview, it felt like a totally different person than they met with the first time.

Having two interviews shows whether the candidate is consistent. Are they answering questions the same way? Do they have the same demeanor? Do they have the same energy? Are they equally as excited?

A “We Believe” Video

Another pro tip is creating a “We Believe” video. Big Block Realty’s video is on the front page of their website, highlighting company culture. It lists about 50 different things that they believe in, such as customer service, going above and beyond, and outworking the competition.

By having that video and including it in the interview process, it anchors what your company is all about. The most commented-on thing that Big Block Realty experiences in their in-person interviews is that the job ad pictures and company video make them look like such a fun company with great energy. You want to give a real representation of what potential hires can expect when they come on board with your organization.

Physical Mail Follow Up

Another pro tip is following up with a physical mail piece for strong candidates. Sometimes after the first interview, the applicant will be honest about interviewing at other places. This means you’ll have competition hiring that person. So if it’s someone you really want, send a piece of physical mail.

At Big Block Realty, they send a gift using a company called Mailbox Power. It includes a card and a box of brownies with their name on them. The turnkey system means all they have to do is enter in their name and address, and the card will be filled out for them. It’s a great way to make a nice first impression with the people that you’re really excited about hiring.

Background Checks

The fourth pro tip is to always, always, always run a background check. You never know what you’ll find. Oliver learned this the hard way; they hired someone in the accounting department that ended up stealing over $30,000 from the company, causing a lot of headaches.

If they would have simply run a background check upfront, they would have found that this person had multiple aliases, a pretty hefty arrest record, and more. They then would probably have never hired that person, saving a lot of money in the long run and a lot of grief from dealing with the whole situation.

A background check is really cheap, only about $20. There are plenty of websites that will do them for you.

The Personality Test

Another pro tip is to have applicants take a personality test. There are a lot of different ones, like the Myers-Briggs test. The basic goal is to give you an idea of how they fit on the personality style spectrum in terms of the four personality styles: analytical, amiable, expressive, and driver.

If you’re hiring a salesperson, it requires a different personality style than hiring a bookkeeper. Knowing that up front makes it a lot easier to hire the right person for the right seat on the bus.

Questions For Oliver

Q: What coaching or training do you use for yourselves as broker-owners on day to day basis to get better at your job?

A: This is a key part of the growth of any business. Tiger Woods has a coach, and Tom Brady has a coach. All of the best of the best have coaches. Sam and Oliver coach with Mike ferry and have been doing so for several years. They’re also a part of several different masterminds, including the War Room Mastermind that focuses on marketing.

They’re also part of Closing Table, a real estate mastermind for broker-owners that Oliver high recommends. It’s an awesome organization for sharing information with other professionals. Overall, coaching is definitely a critical piece of growing, getting better, and improving.

Q: Do you employ/provide transaction coordinators, or leave that up to your agents?

A: Oliver and Sam are big believers in letting agents choose their own services. That differs greatly between brokerages. Some brokerages mandate that you have to work with specific service providers on specific things. For Big Block Realty, they simply turned it into a profit center.

They started their own transaction management company called Transaction Monster, hiring a few transaction coordinators that are kept on staff. They then just promote it like crazy, but they don’t make their agents use it. They also offer a few benefits that outside transaction coordinators don’t offer.

This includes Sweet Assist, which Oliver and Sam’s transaction coordinators know inside and out.  This makes everything easy and seamless, rather than having to train an outside TC on using their system. They also guarantee that agents get paid through escrow as opposed to having the check cut to the brokerage, which means they then have to wait for the company to cut them a check. It’s a way for them to get paid faster.

By offering those two benefits, Big Block Realty found has been able to capture about 30-40% on any given month of the transaction coordinator business that’s available inside the brokerage.

Q: What is your cost or budget per agent acquisition?

A: Big Block Realty goes as high as about $500 for an acquisition, though their average is closer to the $300s. If they have a really good recruiter that is going to be an independent contractor, they’ll sometimes bump them up to $500.

For video marketing, funnel creation, or search engine tasks, their cost per acquisition is closer to the $300 mark.

Read More ➔

Unpack the Tools for Success that Sweet Assist Offers

Schedule a Demo