10 Questions You Should Ask Before Hiring an Assistant

September 14, 2021
8:00 am

Everyone needs a little help from time to time, and that’s especially true of small business owners and self-starters like real estate agents. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with work, it may be time to consider hiring an assistant to help with your real estate business. Here are some questions you should ask and answer, both before you decide to hire an assistant and when you’re interviewing potential candidates.

Before You Decide, Ask: 

1. Do I need an assistant?

If you typically close 20-25 transactions each year, it’s probably a good idea to hire a part-time assistant. Reaching this marker is indicative that you have enough overhead to cover the cost of paying an assistant a fair hourly wage with a recommended bonus when a home sells. In addition, hiring an assistant to help with mundane tasks like scheduling or posting on social media will free up more time for you to spend on marketing and cultivating new clients.

Another good indicator that you may need an assistant is if you find yourself becoming so busy that you start forgetting or neglecting essential tasks or details for your clients. Your clients should always have 100% of your action and attention for your business to maintain success. An assistant can help you make more time to focus on meeting your clients’ needs.

2. What type of assistant do I need?

Once you’ve decided that hiring an assistant is the right thing to do for you and your business, start by making a list of the tasks and duties you’ll want your assistant to perform. This will help you determine what kind of assistant will best suit your needs. For example, will a typical administrative assistant be able to handle the tasks you’ll assign them, or will they need a real estate license to perform their work? Can the tasks be performed on a part-time schedule, or will you need a full-time employee? Do you need someone on hand to help with open houses and meet with clients, or can you outsource all your needs to a remote virtual assistant?

3. What tasks and initiatives have I been procrastinating?

In addition to listing the everyday tasks you find tedious and time-consuming, consider adding things you’ve been planning but putting off. This could be anything from finding a graphic designer to help you with your branding to starting and maintaining a blog for your website. Look for an assistant with the skills necessary to handle these procrastinated projects. Whether you’re aware of it or not, you’ve been putting these tasks off for a reason, and handing them off to an appropriately talented assistant will take a load off your mind and also help boost your brand.

4. What kind of communication style do I have, and what kind do I expect my assistant to have?

If you’re the type of person who likes to give detailed instructions, don’t hire an assistant who doesn’t want to be told what to do. Likewise, if you’re expecting to have a primarily hands-off relationship with your assistant, look for a candidate who is good at taking the initiative rather than one who prefers to be guided.

5. How can I set aside time to train a new assistant properly?

You may have to temporarily turn down work or cancel some of your obligations to free up enough time to teach your assistant the ins and outs of your real estate business. You must provide them with adequate training so that they know exactly what to do and how to do it, ensuring that you get your money’s worth and they stay sane enough to stick with it. Plan ahead so you can make yourself available. 

When Interviewing Candidates, Ask:

6. What is your preferred method of communication?

You will want to make sure that the person you hire is available, reliable, and prompt to reply when you need them and that your communication methods and preferences align.

7. What type of work are you best at, and what type do you prefer not to do?

Asking this will help you weed out candidates who won’t be a good fit to handle the assignments you’ve planned out for them. It may also help you revise your list of intended tasks to include a preferred candidate’s strengths (or exclude their weaknesses) as necessary.

8. Are you comfortable admitting when you don’t understand something or can’t get something done on schedule?

Nobody likes telling their boss, “I thought I got it, but I don’t” or “So, about that deadline….” But for your business to operate smoothly once you hand over specific tasks to your new assistant, they will have to be able to come clean if something goes wrong on their end. You can expect there to be a few bumps in the road when you two first start working together, so you’ll need to be able to trust them to be honest with you about their progress—and it will help a lot if you’re understanding instead of unsympathetic.

9. What are your preferred work hours, and what restrictions do you have on your availability?

Keep in mind that your assistant is a fellow human being, not a servant. They likely have a personal life that may include caring for children or elderly relatives, managing chronic health conditions, running a side business, or other situations that may understandably affect their availability. It’s essential to be considerate of your new assistant’s personal life, but it’s also important to choose a candidate whose availability and productive hours work best for you, too.

10. Who were your last three employers? What tasks did you regularly perform for them, and how do you think they will rate your work when I ask them about it?

That’s right; you need to actually contact the references your preferred candidates provide you with. That’s the very best way to be sure the candidates are as skilled and reliable as they claim to be. That being said, don’t immediately disqualify candidates who don’t have three references or who last worked several years ago. Instead, understanding that everyone has their circumstances, ask the candidates about their work history. Then, if they’re candid and have a solid explanation, and if they feel trustworthy to you, they’re probably worth taking a chance on.