During the coronavirus pandemic, businesses across every sector have adapted to maintain business operations remotely. A survey conducted by Qualia indicates that remote work may be a long term solution for many real estate businesses. In light of these new routines, businesses must consider adjusting their hiring and onboarding strategies. 

During a recent ALTA webinar hosted by Qualia, hiring and onboarding specialists from North American Title Insurance Company (NATIC) and Town n’ Country Title discussed practical tips for hiring new employees when in-person interviews are not possible. Plus, how to engage new remote employees so they feel inspired and motivated on day one.

ALTA Webinar Recording

Sourcing new real estate talent

Jennifer Luedtke, HR Manager at Town n’ Country Title offered some tips for a remote hiring process. Critical to the success of any hiring program are:

  1. A clear job description with the specific skill sets and years of experience required for the job.
  2. A detailed candidate profile (used internally) that details the characteristics of the ideal candidate (e.g. “problem solver”) instead of any specific technical skill sets. “You can teach someone how to do a job, but it’s important that they fit within your company culture,” Luedtke said. 

For title & escrow businesses and among mortgage lenders, discovering talent that matches a particular set of technical skills can be especially challenging. There are not many formal degrees that provide a direct path into real estate closing services. A clear candidate profile can help hiring managers define the characteristics that make for a successful employee. For example, a candidate profile for a closing agent may focus on problem solving, relationship building, and attention to detail. 

Thoughtful job descriptions and candidate profiles create clear guardrails for applicants and simple yes/no criteria for those reviewing resumes and applications. These steps help deter unqualified candidates from applying and reduce overwhelm for those sorting applications. 

Luedtke recommended posting job descriptions across a variety of online domains including Monster, ZipRecruiter and Indeed as well as social media channels and the company website. Existing employees can also help source talent through incentive-based referral programs.

How to remotely interview a candidate 

In-person interviews are an excellent way to get a sense of whether an individual fits your company culture and values. Now, in-person meetings have been replaced with video conferencing, phone calls, and emails. Luedtke offered a few simple steps to effectively screen applicants over video, phone, and text communications.

  • Step 1: request a phone screening call with the applicant over email. These initial emails are not only valuable for scheduling, they also provide clues about the applicant’s professionalism and promptness. 
  • Step 2: conduct a 20 to 30 minute phone interview. The phone screen won’t give you all the answers; however, Luedtke noted that this initial conversation can help the hiring manager gauge for enthusiasm and professionalism. 
  • Step 3: set up video calls with an interview team. The interview team is typically the hiring manager, a peer, and another individual or two who may work closely with the new hire. When conducting the video interviews, Luedtke noted that it’s important to make the candidate feel relaxed and to have a clear agenda with specific interview questions that the hiring team should focus on. (For tips on setting up a successful video meeting, click here.) 

Tips for onboarding a remote employee 

“If your new employee does not develop relationships within the first 6 months of joining the company, they are likely to leave,” said Donna Anderson, AVP, Agency Development Manager at NATIC. She provided a few actionable steps for ensuring new employees feel engaged and welcomed in their first few months on the job.

  1. Assemble an onboarding team. This team may comprise of software trainers, marketing team members, managers, peers, and HR. It’s important to equip the onboarding team with clear responsibilities and an agenda for their role in the onboarding process. Anderson and her team use an excel document with color-coded cells to designate each onboarding member. The excel sheet outlines a 21-day onboarding schedule with objectives for each day.
  2. Create a “day one experience.” On the first day of a new job, employees usually receive in-person greetings and welcomes. Businesses can replicate this first-day feeling virtually with welcome emails and company-wide announcements introducing the new team member. “On day one, they should feel overwhelmed but in a good way… they should feel welcomed and already like they are a part of the team,” Anderson said.
  3. Build community. Anderson said her team takes relationship building seriously. She uses weekly video meetings and frequent instant messaging to maintain personal relationships and check-ins with new employees. She also ensures that every employee feels supported and empowered instead of micromanaged. “If employees are engaged and develop relationships and there is a good team atmosphere, they are going to want to do the best work they can,” Anderson said. 

The lasting impacts of the coronavirus are yet to be determined; however, it’s increasingly clear that remote work will continue to an extent for some time. Businesses that embrace remote talent and effectively train their employees will invariably come out ahead in the years to come. 

To learn more about how to create an effective training program, click below to download our guide “Leading Teams Through Change: How to Create an Effective Training Program.” 

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