I saw a Harcourts ad on a bus this morning saying that “Nurses Make Great Estate Agents” in an effort to attract more agents to their books. Interestingly, on the day following an unexpected jump in jobless figures to 6.7%, the same bus also proclaimed from its electronic screen above the windscreen that they, too, were hiring, with an 0800 number for aspiring bus drivers to call. Recruiters I talk to are busy, so there’s something not adding up with those unemployment figures as clearly jobs are out there.
Anyway, the nurse-to-estate-agent ad got me thinking as we’re currently selling our house through Harcourts at the moment and probably like many recruiters I find myself closely watching the behaviour of my listing agent and thinking “I could probably do this myself”. I think my agent probably realises I think this (maybe it’s the fact I insisted on rewriting the wording of his ad for him, or baffling him by suggesting he put a QR code onto the sign outside our house!)
The remarkable similarities between our two professions have drawn many a blogger’s comparison before but as I’m right in the thick of it at the moment I can’t resist drawing the analogy myself. So would recruiters also make good estate agents? Should Harcourts be considering altering their bus adverts to capture another potential source of sharp suited raconteurs looking for a more buoyant sector to ply their trade?
There’s no doubt that the basics sound familiar. Phoning homeowners in a certain area to try and get listings is like cold-calling clients with a yellow pages in front of you. Going to potential vendor’s houses to sell your service is like a recruiter’s client visit and pitching for business. Listing and marketing a property is no different to writing up a job ad, canvassing your database of candidates, and making some targeted approaches to people with the right experience for the role. When an agent has found an interested buyer they must then negotiate the offer and acceptance with the vendor, just like a recruiter selling in a candidate, steering through interviews and eventually negotiating the terms of the employment agreement.
Now our estate agent is a great guy. Gregarious, personable, knowledgeable, good track record and tells you like it is. We bought our new house from him and liked him, so gave him our own listing. But if he were a recruiter, he’d be what we would call very “old school”. Sure, he’s aware of technology and likes his Apple gadgets, but his strength lies squarely in the face-to-face contact with people he can engage with at open homes. He’s good at listening, he gets underneath what people really want, and he is convincing and passionate about the product he is selling. I’m confident he will sell our house, but I’m pretty sure that the buyer will be someone he encounters face to face at an open home. Not for him the “passive candidate” equivalent of a casually-browsing homeowner. Not for him the searching of databases for interested buyers seeking a house like ours.
The recruiter in me really came out last weekend when I read this article about Aucklanders struggling to get onto the property ladder. I alerted my agent to the following excerpt:
“Catherine Sutton and husband Brent have been looking for a three-bedroom home in Auckland up to $650,000 for a month. High priorities are a good primary school zone, public transport and a backyard for future children. But they’re more flexible after realising they won’t get all of that.
“We’re beginning to consider suburbs like the Sunnynook edge of Forrest Hill and parts of Glenfield [on the North Shore].”
Now one thing’s for sure: If all estate agents were just like recruiters, Catherine and Brent would have been inundated with “headhunting” calls by now. But my agent seemed confused at this suggestion, wondering how you could go about contacting them (he has just joined LinkedIn and has one connection), and stating that if they are looking to buy then they’re bound to come across the listing in Property Press or online anyway.
So it’s clear to me that there are many similarities between our professions and I’m sure recruiters could make good estate agents, and vice versa, but we should also feel good about how far we have moved in the world of recruitment. If you were a recruiter adopting the attitude of an estate agent then your response to taking in a job brief from a client would be to purely bung an ad on SEEK, send an e-mail around the database, and wait for candidates to apply. Many of us in recruitment have moved on significantly from this low-value behaviour and have harnessed technology, social media, direct marketing and headhunting to get the desired outcome for our clients – and if you’re doing all of this you should feel satisfied that many other professions are now trailing in your wake in terms of proactivity, value-add to clients, and innovation.
And as for doing it myself? Well it would be the height or hypocrisy really wouldn’t it? As an agency side recruiter I am constantly having to talk up the value agency recruiters can bring to a business rather than HR “doing it themselves”. And the same argument applies here. Sure, I could have a go at it, maybe do it better than many others out there, but I’d rather leave it to the expert Mark. I’m busy doing what I do best, and that’s recruiting and running a business, and don’t want to take time away from that to do what Mark is already doing for me.
So I’m feeling pretty good about the lessons learned in this exercise so far: The argument of outsourcing professional services rather than “doing it yourself” holds as true as ever. And secondly, we in recruitment that have embraced technology, social media, innovation and sophisticated search methodology can hold our heads high amongst our peers in the other professional services.
Tell that to your clients who want to do their own recruiting.