Exclusive Interview With Nearon’s Tony Perino

NEWPORT BEACH, CA—When recruiting executive management in real estate, the process can take months if not handled properly. These types of delays can cost companies time and productivity as well as the best candidates, who over quickly in an expansive economy. But, there are steps that hiring managers can take to accelerate the search and hiring of top talent. spoke exclusively with Kent Elliott, principal at RETS Associates, a search and staffing firm that focuses specifically on the real estate industry, and Tony Perino, president at Nearon Enterprises, a privately held real estate investment company that owns and manages 3 million square feet of commercial real estate assets, to discuss their insights and observations on how to fast-track the recruiting process and help ensure that companies hire the right candidate. Tony, you recently hired a CFO, making the hire in approximately three weeks from your first meetings with candidates. How did the hiring process go so fast for such a senior-level position?

Perino: There were a variety of factors that helped the process go so quickly and smoothly. First, we engaged a partner to help with recruiting (RETS), which is something we haven’t always done. Finding the right person for this position was critical. We spent the time in upfront preparation, talking about the ideal candidate profile, our corporate culture, what it has to offer and why someone would work in our environment vs. others. For example, we believe strongly in having work-life balance for our team members. That’s a big selling point for many candidates, but not to some.

Elliott: Understanding what Nearon has to offer was key to quickly matching the ideal candidates to the position. What criteria did you prioritize for the ideal candidate? How did those criteria fit with your corporate culture?

Perino: Again, this is where the preparation before the recruiting process was so important. There were certain criteria for the CFO position: an ideal candidate needed very strong technical skills, especially in the areas of tax preparation and tax law. Beyond that, though, there were other “intangibles” that we identified. They may seem like common sense, but so often they go overlooked. Because we’re a very flat organization, there is no corporate ladder to climb. We are very collaborative and team oriented. Even as a CFO, the person filling the role needed to get work done with minimal staff and forego any need to feel “prominent” in the office.

Elliott: These criterial all make up what defines and identifies that select group of candidates that you end up interviewing. During the recruiting process, how did you ensure that each candidate was a good fit for senior leadership?

Perino: There were three final candidates that were presented to us. I spent a lot of time with them to understand their style of work and how they problem-solved at their prior companies. With our recruiting partner, we identified and presented position-specific challenges that the new hire would experience, such as how to handle a software conversion for our accounting application. We narrowed down the search to two top candidates, who then met with two internal SVPs with whom they would work, as well as our outsourced accounting firm.

Elliott: Getting that outside perspective was very helpful in evaluating each candidate’s qualifications. It was also important to see how each candidate connected with these people. What was the single greatest key to making your search process flow so smoothly?

Perino: We took the extra time to prepare at the beginning. The entire team involved in the search clearly understood the job description as well as the profile for each candidate. This prep significantly reduced the time to assess each candidate during and after the interviews because we all knew what we wanted. Did anything occur during the search process that either surprised you or that you definitely will carry over for future recruiting efforts?

Perino: The level of detail that was provided for each candidate and how it was related to our corporate culture really helped me save time during the interview process by honing in on specific topics of discussion. The other primary benefit came during the endgame of the hiring process, with our partner taking the lead on creating offer sheets and employment agreements and negotiating items that can sometimes be unpleasant, such as termination clauses. All of it was handled well without anyone coming away with a sour experience. Being able to turn over that back-end work was a godsend in helping me remain focused on my day-to-day business. What pearls of wisdom about the way you handled your search process would you impart to your peers?

Perino: Hiring managers need help. It’s so competitive in the market now that relying on job boards and personal networking isn’t going to get it done. Companies need a partner and advocate who can champion them and persuade sometimes-reluctant candidates to consider working there. In our case, it made all the difference in the world. All three of our final candidates said that, without that champion evangelizing for us, there was no way that they would look at the job posting from us. That champion must have a deep understanding of the corporate culture, too, and position it positively to prospects. In short, they have to be an extension of your own company.

Elliott: Investing upfront time in the preparation stage to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the position, the corporate culture and how an ideal candidate would fit into it is also vital.