The job of a leasing associate is quite unique. Their primary responsibility is to sell successfully, yet they must be able to do so in an environment where they also maintain a service-oriented mindset. On a day-to-day basis, they’ve got a very predictable routine, yet they must be able to quickly adjust, as every interaction with a potential prospect or resident is, by definition, unique. 

Leasing agents must be easy to get along with, have attention to detail, efficiently do administrative work and always be ready for a prospect to walk through the door or phone in. Oh yeah, did we mention that for most leasing associates, the income opportunity is often comparative to working in a retail store or restaurant.

As with any sales position, the people you hire are a crucial linchpin in the effectiveness of your efforts and the satisfaction of your residents. Given the inherent turnover associated with leasing positions, the ability to predictably hire the right people is a tremendous advantage.

I’ve written before about the dangers of trying to hire to build a sales culture in multifamily operations; today I’d like to share the key attributes you should be looking for when hiring. You’ll notice that none of these attributes relate explicitly to skills or experience. Time and again we see very successful leasing associates who come from a variety of backgrounds, experiences and skillsets. An effective sales process will enable all of these different individuals to be successful. 

1. Enjoys People

While this one may seem obvious (after all it’s a sales position and all salespeople enjoy people), the reality is that it is not. It is not at all unusual for successful salespeople to not be all that people oriented. It’s important that the environment a leasing associate works in naturally motivates them.

Deciding on a new home is one of the most stressful moments in life. Leasing associates must genuinely enjoy spending time with and helping others. In stressful moments like this, prospects will know if someone is faking it. This does not mean that associates must be bubbly extroverts, simply pleasurable to be with. Associates must enjoy being with people, because they’re going to spend a lot of time with them. 

2. Demonstrated Success in Their Past

The greatest indicator of future behavior (and performance) is to look at how people behaved (and performed) in the past. If you want to increase the odds of hiring a winner, look for someone who has won in the past.

Use a broad definition of success. Maybe you’re interviewing a 25-year-old looking for the first real job. Take a look at what they did in college (or even high school). Were they an officer in their clubs or sororities? Were they leaders in student government? Did they organize the best parties?

Bottom line is that someone who succeeded in the past is much more likely to succeed in the future. 

3. Curious

There is probably no attribute more powerful than genuine curiosity. When you think about it, great selling is all about the ability to ask great questions. Someone who is naturally curious can’t help but ask questions and dig deeper – it’s in their DNA. You know when you’re talking to, or interviewing, someone who is curious because they’ll be asking you questions. 

4. Competitive

This is a complementary attribute to past success. Hire people who like to win. Find associates who want to win the contests, get a shout out at staff meetings and who are driven to improve. Competitiveness doesn’t show itself only in obviously competitive pursuits like athletics; it can manifest itself anywhere.

Maybe the person you’re talking to loves to play dungeons and dragons. That’s great – I want to know if they won. I know a young person who’s doing great in sales. He was a horrible athlete, but he loved to play Yu-Gi-Oh (a fantasy card game). He loved to compete, entering tournaments all the time. He won several regional tournaments. Today he uses that competitiveness in sales. 

5. Coach-ability

Last, and certainly not least, I want a leasing associate who enjoys learning, wants to get better, is willing to listen and try new things. Give us someone coachable and we can overcome any number of skills-associated weaknesses.

Next time you’re evaluating your leasing team or in the process of hiring a new associate, use these attributes to guide your decisions; then sit back and enjoy the results. 

Donald Davidoff is President of D2 Demand Solutions (http://www.d2demand.com) and blogger on Multifamily Insiders (http://www.MultifamilyInsiders.com).