My college roommate used to end every midnight conversation with me — we were inseparable friends and still all we talked about with one another is why we were so alone — by saying that his standards were just too high. He was single for 38 years until just last month, when he married someone totally out of his league.
Redfin is the same way. If our projections are right, we could hire twice the number of agents we now have and still have enough business for everybody. So we know we need to hire like mad. But we’re still turning away almost every agent we meet.
Why? Because everywhere we’ve ever worked sooner or later goes through a bozo explosion. And the moment that happens is always indisputable. One second you’re horsing around in your office, and the next a bozo is standing in your doorway. The hiring manager beside him is already staring at her shoes.
Now we could keep a bazooka by the desk for cases like these. But it’s a thousand times better to hire the right person in the first place. The challenge with Redfin is to be big and good, to deliver a consistently amazing customer experience from state to state, year to year. Not many real estate brokers manage that.
So we need to maintain those high standards without taking 38 years to hire each person. Some online businesses subject candidates to an intelligence test. We liked that idea. Intelligence is very important to us. But what’s even more important to us is values, not smarts.
So a bunch of us worked together on a values test, which we’ll post online for every applicant to take. Before we finalize the test, we wanted to get our customers’ and partners’ take on it. Have a look and let us know which questions you would add, edit or delete.
1. It’s the end of the quarter and a home-buying client is about to close on a $3 million property that Redfin needs to make its revenue target. The client calls to say he isn’t sure whether the property is right for him, and wonders if it is still possible to rescind the deal. What do you do?
- Ignore the call and proceed with the sale.
- Explain that everyone has these anxieties and persuade him to complete the sale.
- Lay out each of his options, explaining the costs and benefits of each.
- Call the listing agent to discuss how best to keep the deal together.
- This is a tough one. Talk to your manager to come up with a solution that balances Redfin’s need for revenue with the client’s best interests.
2. A colleague comes to you to complain that her manager occasionally seems sexist in his dealings with her. What do you do?
- Tell her this information cannot be kept in confidence but entails an obligation to act. Advise her to contact the HR department; if she doesn’t, contact HR yourself.
- Advise her to contact the HR department; if she chooses not to, keep her confidence.
- Wait to see if the sexist behavior recurs and then escalate to HR as appropriate.
- Tell her to approach her manager to discuss the problem directly.
3. A listing client mentions to you that she lied in her disclosure packet. What do you do?
- Nothing. Your first responsibility is to the client; it is the buyer’s responsibility to discover any problems himself.
- Ask the client to correct the disclosure packet. If she is unwilling to do so, inform the client that you can’t represent her knowing what you do, and help her find another listing broker.
- Refer the client to another Redfin agent, so that Redfin retains the revenue opportunity without placing you in an awkward situation.
4. A field agent on your team reports that a touring client was unpleasant toward him. What do you do?
- Tell the field agent to suck it up. The customer is always right.
- Fire the client straight away. Everyone is always respected.
- Assign the client to a different field agent, avoiding conflict.
- Call the client to get each side of the story. Explain that a respectful relationship is a requirement for a successful outcome. If the client is disrespectful again, direct the client to work with a different broker.
5. A home-buying client under contract gets an inspection report that finds only minor problems with the property, but the client still wants major concessions from the seller. These concessions seem unreasonable to you. What do you do?
- Explain that seeking these concessions may scotch an otherwise good deal for the client; if the client wants to proceed, negotiate to get the concessions to the best of your ability.
- Explain that these concessions are unreasonable and help the client find another agent. Never attempt to influence the client’s judgments; just help him do what he wants to do.
- Prepare the paperwork requesting these concessions, but inform the listing agent that you know the request is unreasonable, working together to keep the deal on track.
6. A Redfin home-buyer meets a listing agent who disparages Redfin, implying that any Redfin offer will not be taken seriously. What do you do?
- Prepare the offer, and attempt to win over the listing agent with your professionalism.
- Explain to the client that some listing agents are unethical, and focus on another property.
- Ask your Redfin broker to resolve the issue diplomatically with the listing agent’s broker, presenting the offer to that broker, and explaining why you were concerned that the listing agent himself would not treat it fairly.
- Confront the listing agent and explain that his behavior is unethical.
7. A Redfin user contacts us with an offer on a $2.5M property that he had seen with an agent from another broker. The user explain s that he worked with that agent for nearly a year, but wants to use Redfin for the commission refund. What do you do?
- Show the property to establish Redfin as the procuring cause of the sale, ask the client to sign a buyer’s agency agreement, then write and submit the offer.
- Ask the user to sign a buyer’s agency agreement and write the offer; showing the property is an unnecessary step.
- Call the user’s current agent and offer her a referral fee to compensate her for the loss of the commission.
- Explain to the client that you can represent him on future properties, but that he should probably talk to his current agent first about his decision to switch to Redfin; suggest that the client work with his current agent on the $2.5M property since that agent had done the work to show the user the house.
8. The client confronts you about a mistake you may have made on a contract. What do you do?
- Put off the client until you can talk to your manager and our attorney about our legal liability
- Immediately acknowledge the mistake if you made one and start working on fixing the mistake; worry about the legal consequences later (in any lawsuit, the company not you would be sued anyway).
- Explain that a transaction this complicated involves many parties, and it’s hard to say who’s at fault.
- Your job is to help the client do what he wants to do. Write the offer.
- Give the client your perspective on the property; if he understand the problems and still wants to proceed, write the offer.
- You can’t represent a client in the purchase of a home that it is not in his interests to buy; show the client other properties and if he still wants to buy the flawed property, help him find another agent.
- Organize a dinner with other Redfin colleagues to cheer her up.
- Recommend counseling to the friend; sometimes it’s better to respect personal and professional boundaries.
- Get the digits of the person who left her; that guy was cute!
- Go get your baby. He’s more important than your job. You can call the client later and explain the situation.
- Anticipate the situation. On days you have child-care duty, tell clients when you won’t be available, and arrange for a colleague to help you out.
- Write the offer as quickly as you can, even if it makes you a few minutes late to get your child.
- If the problem is outside your department, keep it to yourself. We need to trust one another, not try to drive from the backseat.
- Contact your manager to identify the problems.
- Suck it up and don’t complain. Redfin has a no-whining policy.
- If you know the person working on our listing service, pitch him yourself on an idea for making our listing service better. If you don’t know anyone, ask your manager who to contact about it, or just email an exec.
- Respect the chain of command. Tell your manager about it and ask him to pitch to the executives.
- Ask if he needs help. If he says yes, help out.
- Unless you are absolutely and totally slammed, grab a sponge and pitch in.
- Get back to your clients; the client always comes first.
- “Thanks for all your help with the deal I just closed.” Short and sweet, and full of grace.
- “Congratulations everyone! We just closed that big deal! It would have never happened if Jim hadn’t run through the rain to host a tour on short notice and if Nancy hadn’t gotten the lender to look at the appraisal again late on Friday night.” Specific praise, and we never say “I.”
- “Thanks for the support. The deal I closed with this client will help the company achieve its customer-satisfaction and profitability goals.” Connect what happened to Redfin strategy and to the client’s happiness.
- Immediately tell HR, so the manager can get the appropriate feedback without jeopardizing the working relationship you two have.
- Approach your manager’s manager, as that person is responsible for your manager’s conduct.
- Try giving the manager constructive feedback, citing as needed specific examples of what concerned you rather than making general statements about the manager’s personality or conduct, then making constructive suggestions about what you would have liked her to do; if that doesn’t work, talk to your manager’s manager.
- Contact the customer and apologize profusely, offering to host a tour of the remaining homes on his list.
- Offer to host a tour of the remaining listings but also talk to the coordinator about being more diligent. Close the loop with the client, letting her know you talked to the coordinator.
- Offer to host a tour of the remaining listings, but also propose a way we could improve our processes and systems to escalate overlooked tour requests.
- #3 above, but also close the loop with the customer to explain what we’re doing to ensure the problem never happens again to her or others.
- Take care of your own clients and team first; if you have time, offer your colleague a few tips.
- Sit down with your colleague and explain how REOs work.
- Explain how REOs work to your colleague; to help others in the same boat, invite one of your friends who works as an asset manager at a bank to host a brown-bag lunch on REOs.
- Yes, please explain __________________________
- Yes, please explain __________________________
So that’s it! What questions would you add, change or delete? How would the Redfin employees you’ve met fare on a test like this?
(Photo credit: Jack Hynes on Flickr And no one is really out of anyone’s league)