Is recruiting & hiring similar to selling (or buying) a house?

Leora Baumgarten —  March 15, 2017 — Leave a comment

I recently sold my home of almost 25 years. It was a heart wrenching, game changing, long time coming event. It also gave me a new perspective on recruiting.  I know that sounds nerdy, but it’s true (it’s also probably why my house has an eclectic, even eccentric, look. Maybe I should be thinking about decorating instead?). Recruiting & hiring a new employee and selling a home have so many similarities – and some HUGE differences.

Recruiting & hiring and selling house

Image credit: Mark Moz

Both recruiting and selling a home are lengthy, multi-step processes that have an uncertain outcome. The impact of this uncertainty should not be underestimated. The uncertain outcome can cause surprising and sometimes disruptive emotions at various stages of the process – from elation and excitement to disappointment and despair – the emotional journey can be a bit of a roller coaster. We might even delay project launch or needlessly draw out some aspects of the project as a result of that roller coaster ride. Additionally, the need for high cost outside expertise can seem like a roadblock. But where there is great risk there is often opportunity for great return. I invite you to come with me on this journey.

How much help do I really need to do this?

Getting the help of a real estate agent is very expensive. Typically about 6% of the sale price is paid to the agent at closing.  As a homeowner I realize that if I sold the house myself I could keep that 6% as profit!

Similarly, getting the help of a recruiting professional is very expensive, typically about 15 – 20% of the first year salary. This fee is customarily paid in one or two payments at the outset and at the end of the recruiting.  As a business owner I’d really like to keep that money as profit or use it to fund another project. I’d also prefer not to get a huge invoice just when my payroll costs are rising.

When it was time for me to make this decision, I spoke to a few real estate agents and did some internet research. (I’ve linked a few of the how-to articles at the end of the blog.) I came to the conclusion that I didn’t have the subject matter expertise (or experience) AND I didn’t have the time to learn or the desire to be my own guinea pig. When I met someone I liked, trusted and had a solid track record, we agreed on the terms of her contract and launched into high gear…

Wait wait – this isn’t high gear – the house isn’t even listed yet.

It turned out that before the listing (the advertisement) could go out into the world the real estate agent wanted me to do a bunch more work. She had some work to do too. I felt like I had been told to hurry up and wait. This prep work included:

  • Understanding our goals and timing
  • More decluttering, and cleaning and more paint.
  • Deciding on an asking price based on comparable home sales in my area
  • Creating the marketing material, including taking pictures, creating the brochure, and writing the text of the ad listing. And I had to review it all.

Similarly, when a company engages with NewHire for all inclusive recruiting, the first thing we do is prepare. Whether or not the company feels prepared to recruit we always have some work to do together with the company, before we launch into high gear. This prep work includes:

  • Understanding the key duties, responsibilities, and work behaviors for success in the position
  • Understanding the company culture and articulating the Employee Value Proposition
  • Deciding on a salary range based on the market
  • Creating the marketing material, including writing an engaging  job ad (including images in some cases) and setting up the right candidate screening questions.

NOW it’s time to advertise – right?

There are lots of small players and a few major ones, when it comes to advertising. This is true both for real estate and for recruiting. I was extremely glad that my agent had a plan and a system for advertising my property. I didn’t have to figure it out or post to each site individually. Most importantly, she had a way of managing inbound inquiries, once the advertising was live. I didn’t have to field ANY phone calls or emails.

This is the same philosophy we live by at NewHire. We manage the recruiting advertising for our customers and we have a software tool for managing the candidate application and initial screening. We understand that your time is valuable. We understand that you’ve chosen to spend money on a recruiting system that includes professional assistance – so you can pay attention to other important matters of running your company.

The Open House

Talk about nerve wracking. Thinking about the open house still gives me the sweats as I relive that feeling of being judged. I had to leave the house for several  hours while my real estate agent let total strangers look all around and open every closet door. Potential buyers are looking at the house to see if it meets their criteria.

When it comes to recruiting the employer is reviewing the qualifications of total strangers, to see if they meet the hiring criteria. Utilizing powerful talent identification tools and the expert help of a NewHire recruiter is part of the benefit that comes with the package.

My experience with recruiting is that this screening step in the recruiting process can cause a strong emotional response for the employer. I guess it’s pretty similar to how I felt during the open house – there is a mixture of anxiety and excitement and a rolling of emotions between highs and lows. In short it’s nerve wracking.

As a homeowner I wondered if is the right buyer was visiting this time.  I worried that the open house didn’t get enough traffic. Sometimes I worried that the right buyer would never appear. So too the employer is wondering if the right candidate is hiding in plain sight among all the applications or maybe the employer is fretting that so few people have applied.

I’m exhausted & frustrated – what do I have to do next?

In both the cases we are just past the halfway mark in the process and we might feel that no progress has been made in achieving the end goal (selling the house or hiring the right person). This is when the experience of an expert is helpful in pushing forward, calming nerves and staying the course. Schedule another open house or continue screening candidates who express interest. The right one is just around the corner – be patient.

An interested buyer who has come to an open house will probably want to see the place again. If you think about it – a job interview fills the same need when hiring. When we have identified a few people who look promising, it’s time to have a more focused opportunity for the employer to learn about the candidate. A scheduled second open house and a candidate interview (or two) achieve this goal.

Did I say it would be easy? NO. Interviewing is a pressure cooker for the candidate and the employer alike. And the homeowner – some people might not be stressing – but I sure was.

The Offer.

I negotiated the details of the offer to sell my home during the rain delay of the 7th game of the 2016 World Series. I live in Chicago and it looked like the Cubs were – well – I didn’t want to add any curses, so I held my breath along with many many other people. Was it emotional and stressful – you bet!

No one is surprised to hear that I had to negotiate with the buyer to get a final contract to sell my house. Don’t be surprised when a candidate negotiates with you regarding the job offer. Be prepared.

The deal can still fall through.

It’s inspection time. For the home sale – the inspector came and made a report that listed every single flaw in my house. You might feel, as I did, that the report was too tough. I found myself saying “hey I fixed that and it’s a lot better than when I bought the house.”

And for the candidate it’s time for assessments and background checks. This is a different type of inspection, but inspection nonetheless. Everyone is holding their breath. What are we going to find out? Will it be so bad that we have to walk away?

For the employer and the candidate the stakes are high. When a background check reveals unexpected results, the employer may have some tough choices to make. The employer just like the home buyer, might be asking themselves a few questions in order to decide what to do:

  • Is the issue  serious enough to walk away?
  • Can we live this issue?
  • Were we aware of it before hand?
  • Did the candidate (seller) act with integrity and honesty that demonstrates a special commitment?

At this late stage, you can feel pretty impatient and angry when you consider going back to square one. But…sometimes walking away is the best option. And sometimes the best option is to move forward with the candidate (or the house) blemishes and all. In either case this can be a tough decision that can have many months of impact going forward. The advice of a professional can be extremely helpful in making the final determination. Solicit advice and make the decision for yourself.


Closing is the final step in the real estate transaction. All the money exchanges hands and all the necessary documents are put in order and signed. The seller sees the return on their investment in the form of large cash deposit. The real estate agent gets her commission too. The buyer and seller might feel a sense of relief, happiness and even excitement. I know I felt all those things and then some.

When it comes to recruiting – if you have engaged a traditional retained search – you are looking at a big bill, just at the time you are also incurring an increase in your payroll costs. For small and mid-sized companies this can be tough. You might say OUCH. And you might also breathe a sigh of relief.

For real estate sales it makes good sense to pay the real estate broker at closing.  It is the only single financial transaction during the entire process. But for recruiting, does it really make sense to pay the recruiter at the end of the process? Maybe and maybe not.

If you are interested in learning about NewHire’s simple, innovative, monthly all-inclusive recruiting subscription – visit us at or give us a call. Not only will we help you find the right person for the right job, we’ll also take away some of the OUCH.


Leora Baumgarten


Leora is Vice President of NewHire and a pro when it comes to hiring & recruiting for SMBs. When not at the office, you can find her swimming in Lake Michigan or spending time with her family in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Connect with her on Google+.

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