Interviewing for a Position at a Real Estate Firm

Female estate agent showing mid adult woman around property
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Real estate brokers-in-charge are nearly always in the recruiting mode. If they have desk space available, many will take on almost anyone with a valid license and a desire to work. Don't wait for the broker to advertise for salespeople. You can just call the broker yourself.

Some firms may require that you commit to a full-time job in real estate, and not hold a second job. Others will hire agents who work part-time. A few allow agents to be associated with the firm, even if they don't work on a regular basis. This allows someone with a salesperson's license to remain on active status, rather than go inactive since they are technically under the supervision of a broker.

How to Select a Real Estate Firm

Even if you think you know which real estate firm you wish to work for, it's recommended you interview with several before you make the final decision. If you're not sure where to start, try these tips.

  1. Which For Sale signs are most common in the area you wish to work in? The firm with the most listings isn't necessarily the 'best' place for a new agent, but since they have a good presence in the local market, it's certainly an agency you should talk with.
  2. Pick up local real estate publications like the free magazines you see at supermarkets and other businesses. Which ads seem to pop out at you?
  3. Check out your local Chamber of Commerce or a city visitor's center if you have one. Which firms provide handouts for potential residents? Are they promotions for individual agents (most likely at their expense) or for the agency in general (which benefit all agents)?
  1. What about television, radio, and other advertising? Do any agencies dominate those areas?
  2. Do you know any local agents? Ask them which agencies they recommend (keeping in mind that real estate agents tend to be somewhat biased).
  3. Check the internet by entering into a search engine: your name of city real estate.
  4. If you're in a small market, talk to them all.

Maintain Control of the Interview

During most job interviews, you are in the position of convincing the interviewer you are the best person for the job. In real estate, the agent will also interview the broker. You want to know if the brokerage is suitable for you.

The majority of real estate agents are independent contractors, not employees. That status gives us a fair amount of freedom, but it also means we are responsible for most of the expenses of doing business. You should know exactly what kinds of training and other benefits a firm offers before you accept a position.

How to Interview the Broker-In-Charge

successful real estate career is dependent on your desire to succeed, and your willingness to hang in there until things start to take off. Just how fast things start moving depends a lot on your work habits, but choosing the right agency can help jump-start the process.

There are many things you should know before deciding which firm to work associate yourself with.


  • What type of training is offered for new agents? If a broker's answer is 'none,' that agency is probably not the best place to begin a real estate career.
  • Does the firm have a designated trainer, perhaps the broker or another experienced agent who acts as a mentor for new agents?
  • Will you attend classes?
  • If part of a franchise, are there local or regional training sessions for new agents? If so, who pays for the training?
  • How many new agents has the firm hired during the past year? How many of those agents are still with the firm? A revolving door of agents alerts you that something isn't quite right.

    Floor Duty
    Sometimes creatively called 'Opportunity Duty,' it refers to times you are scheduled to work at the real estate office.

    • Are all agents scheduled for floor duty, and if so, how often?
    • Are phone leads, walk-in customers, and referrals given to the agents on duty when those leads come in? If not, how are they distributed?
    • Will the brokerage train you to do Floor?

    Advertising is a major expense for real estate agents, so anything the agency pays for is a plus.

    • Does the firm pay for the typical agency ad where listings are showcased or are you required to pay for the space occupied by your listings?
    • Does the firm pay for any portion of property ads? 
    • What types of advertising does the firm do? For instance, newspaper, radio, television, Internet, for-sale publications, bulk mailings, Chamber of Commerce and other local promotions.
    • Does the firm have a bulk mail permit? The expense of a bulk mailing is typically yours, but many firms pay the yearly permit feet.

      Computer Equipment, Digital Cameras, and Other Gear

      • Does the firm have computer equipment for all agents to use, or are you expected to bring your own to the office?
      • What types of software are loaded on office computers? Are all agents allowed to use the existing software?

      How to Evaluate Real Estate Firms

      Consider your potential earnings and expenses.

      • What commission rate do they offer? Are commissions paid on a sliding scale, with the percentage you earn increasing as you bring more income to the firm?
      • Are commissions paid immediately upon closing?
      • Does the firm pay a higher percentage for 'in-house' transactions? 
      • If the firm is part of a franchise, what percentage of each commission earned is retained as a franchise fee?
      • Are you required to pay monthly fees, often called tech fees or advertising fees?
      • Ask to review a sample commission settlement statement, so that you can see exactly how commissions are recorded and distributed.

        When you ask the broker to give you an idea about an average first-year income, keep in mind that it is truly just an average. Some agents come to the office every day, even if they aren't on duty for Floor. You'd be surprised how many leads they receive on those days, sometimes because the duty agents are on the telephone, or have left to show a property to walk-in clients. Other new agents only show up when they are scheduled for duty. Your earnings are dependent on the kind of agent you are.

        Office Expenses

        • Who pays for long distance telephone calls made from the office?
        • How about postage, photocopies, and basic office supplies?
        • Does the firm charge agents a flat monthly fee, or a percentage of certain expenses?
        • Do you get a break on promotional fliers?
        • Will the company help pay for your business cards?

        Errors and Omissions Insurance

        Does the firm carry E&O Insurance for its agents, or are you expected to purchase this liability insurance yourself? Are you covered under worker's compensation?

        Multiple Listing Service Fees

        You may be required to join the local Multiple Listing Service to work for the firm. In some cases, you may need to join a second, or even third MLS office to work effectively in the community. Ask about the expenses associated with each membership.

        Make a list of the questions above before your interview, and add any others you feel are important. Sure, you can change agencies if the first one doesn't work out, but that's a waste of time and money. Getting the answers to your questions before you start working helps you make the best choice the first time around

        Edited by Elizabeth Weintraub. At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, CalBRE #00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.