Questions agents and brokers should ask prospective employers

"What's the split?" isn't one of them

Questions agents and brokers should ask prospective employers

When preparing for an interview with a new brokerage, mortgage professionals put a lot of thought into the answers they’ll be asked to provide, but far less imagination typically goes into the questions they ask their prospective employers. For many, “What’s the split?” is about as far as it goes.

Ensuring a good fit, particularly for young agents, requires aligning oneself with a company that has their long-term growth and security in mind. Most brokerages will say they offer such things, but to really understand what kind of situation an agent will be walking into on Day One, she must be prepared to do a little digging during the interview process.

“Agents are kind of struggling with ‘How do I know that I’m picking the right brokerage to go hang my hat with?’” says The Mortgage Group’s Veronica Love. “Usually, agents just look at the office that’s geographically close to them and they end up there. But they don’t really know what questions to ask as far as the agent agreement and what’s fair to them.”

Love says agents should start by asking what services a brokerage provides, something along the lines of “What’s the strategy behind your network that will get me to the ultimate growth?” It’s a question she feels a lot of agents, feeling the pressure to seem independent and competent, avoid asking.

iSask Mortgage Brokers’ Chris Kolinski echoes Love’s opinion, encouraging agents to ask, “What kind of support am I going to get?” Kolinski says interviewees should establish who they can turn to when they have questions or potential work-related emergencies. He says he constantly fields calls from other agents and brokers in Saskatoon who don’t have mentors in place at their brokerages, a situation they could have avoided with a few more questions during their interviews.

Vittorio Oliverio of Centum Professional Mortgage Group says new agents and brokers should focus on the training they’ll be provided by their new employers.

“All brokerages say they have great training programs, but when you ask specific questions – ‘What exactly is your training program and how does it work?’ – you’d be surprised how many don’t know the answer,” Oliverio says, adding that any broker who hesitates or provides generic information when asked these kinds of questions may not be a fit for industry newbies.

“The person who’s going to train you the most is your broker,” he says. “If that person’s not available to answer your questions, not available to show you things, what is he good for? Collecting your fee?”

Kolinski says job applicants would do well to ask specific questions around a brokerage’s tech, particularly the components of its CRM system. Does it have an internal to-do list? A scheduler? A deal flow manager that keeps tabs on what stage each deal is in?

“Every super brokerage or national chain seems to have their own proprietary CRM,” Kolinski says. “I think you should be given a demo on it and see how it works.”

Let’s talk money
When the time comes to talk compensation, all of the experts Mortgage Broker News spoke to said the same thing: save your questions about the split until the end of the interview. It’s should not be a priority.

“In my opinion, that question should be so far down the list that it takes you a long time to even ask it,” Kolinski says.

Other factors play into a broker’s overall compensation, like fees and penalties. Naomi Hamm of Centum Mortgage Choice says interviewees should be asking about marketing costs and who pays them.

“That’s something that people really need to ask about,” she says. “I know a lot of the brands will charge you so much per month for a marketing fee, even if you never use anything that they provide.”

Hamm says determining the full cost of employment is critical for agents primarily motivated by finances.

“Those are important things to understand because you could think, ‘I’ve got a 90/10 split over here,’ but you’re paying for everything on your own. Whereas someone else on a 70/30 might be covering all of your expenses, so you might be ahead of the game there,” she says.

Love says agents need to read the fine print on any contract they sign as a way of identifying clauses that may penalize them for leaving an employer before their contract expires. She recalls the example of an agent who had an automatically renewing contract with a former employer. When he decided to change brokerages, he had just passed the auto-renew date. The company, which required a monthly fee to be a part of the brokerage, charged him a year’s worth of fees – about $1,300 – as a penalty.

Love believes there’s a fit out there for every agent. The problem, as she sees it, is that too few agents do the due diligence required for them to find the brokerage that can unlock their full potential.

“What I see is agents struggling with finding that good fit,” she says, “or I see agents in the wrong organization. And sometimes they find that out way too late.”

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