The high stakes of hiring the right local Realtor association executive

Shared: October 18, 2021

By: Clint Skutchan, Kelly White

Realtor association executives play a critical role in administering the important services local Realtor associations missions, from serving members with training and education to advocacy and administering a multiple listing service. This article outlines the best practices Realtor associations should employ to hire successful executives.

Hiring the right Realtor association and MLS executive is critical, and also complex. These roles, as they have become more important with developments in technology and consolidation, have experienced remarkably high turnover in the last several years.

Of the nation’s almost 1,000 association executives, the turnover rate over the last two years has measured approximately 30 percent, according to data T3 Sixty gathered in conjunction with the Real Estate Almanac. Turnover has peaked in recent years as established leaders hit retirement, as forewarned in the 2017 Swanepoel Trends Report (Chapter 6: The Retiring Leadership Wave), and the intensity of change the industry picks up, and the sustained impact from Covid.

Based on T3 Sixty’s deep experience with hiring and the world of organized real estate, this article provides an overview of some of the challenges in hiring a good Realtor association or MLS executive and how to design a better process.

Challenges to Realtor association and MLS exec hiring

The Realtor association’s board of directors, which is comprised of volunteer leaders, usually manages the hiring of their CEOs. Volunteers typically serve as the president or chair for a one-year term, which means the CEO gets a new boss every year. The president or board chair essentially functions as the executive’s direct report. With each change in volunteer leadership, there is often a lack of consistency in strategy, vision resulting in a focus change for the day-to-day executive.

What makes it more difficult is that the current Realtor association and MLS executive hiring process is cumbersome and often ineffective. Many associations and MLSs use their board in conjunction with a task group to interview and hire an executive using a process determined internally. While this is not inherently wrong, the expertise to hire the right executive is a skill that most volunteer leaders have little or no direct experience with. In the absence of an experienced professional leading the hiring effort, the process is usually flawed and delivers subpar results.

Subjectivity clouds the ability to identify the best skillsets and cultural fit for the organization. Without a process or an independent resource to lead the process, hiring tends to be done via committee. Decisions by committee often lead to short-term thinking versus considering what might impact the organization in the long run.

Another factor that contributes to the risk involved is volunteer leaders on the board at times decide they want to fulfill the role themselves. For example, in a recent hiring process, T3 Sixty discovered a Realtor association that started the hiring process for an executive, reached three finalists, before the sitting president decided to put her name in the ring at the last minute. Everyone already knew and liked this person, which complicated the process and, suddenly, fiduciary responsibilities are questioned and unsuitable decisions may be made.

How to improve the hiring process

The best practice for an association to increase the likelihood of making the best possible hire is to use an independent, third-party to conduct the hiring process and using a systematized hiring system with a select group of decision-makers who leverages committee input versus hiring by the committee at large.

Using an independent, third-party to advise or conduct the hiring practice mitigates the cognitive bias that can arise with multiple people involved in the process. The professional knows the process and how to execute it well. This provides the optimal opportunity to find the right hire.

But as some organizations may not have the budget to hire a third-party, independent service, they should at the very least implement a systematic hiring process that will help reduce cognitive bias.

Here are some best practices to use in a systematic hiring process:

  • Write a clear job description. Highlight the key tasks, functions, roles, responsibilities and outcomes required for the position.
  • Create a talent profile. Identify the characteristics of the person who would best perform the activities of the job description.
  • Conduct a pre-qualification phone screening. Use a specific set of questions to narrow down the candidates to meet in person.
  • Conduct an in-person interview. Gather more information and look for red flags.
  • Give an experiential assignment. Ask the candidate to do an assignment in order to ascertain whether or not they could really do the job.
  • Conduct due diligence. Thoroughly assess the candidate by talking to sources not given by the candidate, as well as conducting a criminal background and credit check.
  • Have a mutual expectations conversation. Establish expectations prior to hire.

Upon hire, the best practices are:

  1. Onboard. Use an onboarding process to help understand the organization structure, decision making process, human resources information such as benefits and provide access to tools and systems.
  2. Train. Train to the outcomes established in the job description.
  3. Hold accountable. Coach to the outcomes based on their job description. Meet weekly and monthly basis to assess results.


The hiring of your Association of MLS executive is too important to not follow best practices or use the best professional available in the hiring process. For questions about specific hiring practices or how to implement one that will lead to finding a great executive, reach out to Kelly White, head of T3 Talent, at