There is only so much work that one appraiser can do in one day. If you’re ready to take your business to the next level, hiring an appraisal assistant can save time and enable you to complete more reports every month. An assistant or appraisal trainee can take many things off your plate—including clerical work, pulling comps, and even performing inspections (if clients and state regulations allow). Follow these four steps to find and hire your new appraisal assistant.
Step 1: Get over your fear of hiring
Many appraisers are reluctant to hire a staff. However, the benefits of hiring a staff vastly outweigh the extra work of managing one—especially if you invest time and money into developing three tenets of your business: technology, human resources, and the systems and procedures that allow them to work together. To do that, you need to find the right person, place them in the right area, and train them effectively.
Step 2: Search for eligible candidates
Post your listing
It is essential to consider the strengths you are looking for in an individual. Whether you are looking for someone with strong organizational skills to be your receptionist or a keen eye for detail to do data entry, you will want someone who is technologically savvy. Skip the print journalism and post your listing online. Avoid publications that require a fee and use a free publication such as Craigslist or your local Labor Department website. Because the appraisal world is becoming increasingly reliant on technology, you want to find candidates who are already at ease using it.
Filter through applications
A job listing posted online will likely solicit far more applications than you have space for. In your job posting, include some “hoops” for your applicant to jump through. Any applicant who does not follow your specific directions can be quickly eliminated from consideration based on the fact that they were not able to follow instructions. This will help you avoid reading through each application.
For example, request that interested individuals submit a cover letter and a resume to a specific email address. Then, delete any emails that don’t contain two attachments. This will likely eliminate 50% of your applicants. Once you have filtered your applications down to six or seven, you are ready for the next step.
Step 3: Assess your top candidates
Conducting an hour-long interview for six or seven applicants is time-consuming and ultimately unnecessary. Instead, schedule “mini-interviews.” Invite each candidate in for a short interview and a simple computer test, clearly communicating that the interview will last for only around five minutes. You can ascertain enough about a person’s communication skills, promptness, and professionalism within the first few minutes of meeting them to know if you’d like to move forward. Scheduling a short interview ensures you won’t feel obligated to sit through a long interview with someone you immediately recognize you don’t want to hire. Ask a few simple questions such as, “Why are you interested in this opportunity?” or “Describe your previous work experience.”
If a candidate seems like a great fit personality-wise, requiring a simple computer test can ensure that they have some of the basic skills needed to work for you. Watch and observe as they do simple tasks, such as opening an attachment and saving a file.
Consider using a personality profile test, such as the ones offered by OmniaGroup. A personality test will often reveal what many candidates can hide during an interview. While this type of testing is rather expensive, it can be considered an investment because Omnia also offers advice on how to manage this person effectively, should you hire them.
Once you’ve eliminated your list down to two or three candidates, you are ready to conduct a full interview. Often, a candidate will be happy to sit down for a longer talk after the mini-interview, if you request. For insightful tips on how to conduct a good interview, check out this New York Times hiring guide.
Step 4: Hire your new appraisal assistant
When you find a candidate you are enthusiastic about, hire them on a trial 90-day basis. This creates a clear understanding between you and your appraisal assistant that continued employment is not guaranteed. During this trial period, conduct frequent employee reviews. Ask questions and offer feedback on your assistant’s performance. Keep a written record of these reviews to improve your hiring process in the future.
Employee vs. contract laborer
Figure out whether you need an employee or a contract laborer. An employee fills out a W4 tax form, while a contract laborer fills out a W9. The main benefit of hiring a contract laborer over an employee is that you won’t need to pay their employee taxes. However, it is important to understand the distinctions between the two. For example, an independent contractor:
- Sets his or her own hours
- Provides his or her own equipment and workspace
- Operates under an independent business name
- Advertises his or her own business services
- Has more than one client
According to the U.S. Small Business Association, understanding these distinctions will dictate how taxes are withheld and protect you from having to pay back taxes and penalties in the case of an audit.
Hiring from your home office
Many appraisers work from a home office and don’t feel comfortable inviting employees into their home to work. In this case, a virtual office may be the best option. If your employee is outfitted with the correct technology, they can work from anywhere.
Paying your appraisal assistant
If you can, pay a contractor on commission. Offering a percentage is fairer than a flat fee, as some properties are more complicated and require more time. Pay them for the work completed rather than the time spent. If you’re offering split fees for appraisal trainees, the highest percentage you should pay is 40%, and this should only be in the case of a licensed appraiser who is assuming full liability for the report. In the special case that the appraiser has brought in the business on their own, paying 50% may be reasonable.
Overseeing a task and checking for accuracy often takes only a tenth of the time it would take to complete if you did it yourself. Take some time to consider which tasks are necessary for you to complete, and which you could delegate to a well-trained and trusted appraisal assistant. It is important that you continue to monitor the work of your employees for quality, but, ultimately, having a support staff will free you up to complete more reports and earn more income each year.
Want more info on this topic? Check out our round-up of the best hiring tips: Hiring Guide, The Tiered Appraisal Office, and More Resources for Appraisers.