THE HIRING SQUAD: Why We Chose to Enlist a Recruiting Partner Following Years of Our Own Hiring Initiatives

In this executive Q&A, Kent Elliott, principal at RETS Associates, a leading national real estate recruiting firm, and Jerry Yahr, managing principal at The Koll Company, an industry-leading real estate development and operating company, discuss why The Koll Company enlisted the expertise of a recruiting firm for the first time following years of proprietary hiring initiatives. Yahr details the company’s most recent hire, the search process, and his perspective on California’s hiring market.

Kent Elliott (KE): What inspired you to leverage the expertise of a recruiter for your recent search?

Jerry Yahr (JY): We sought a recruiting partner because the hiring environment in the Bay Area is very competitive. Overall, commercial real estate is very strong and exhibits a low unemployment rate – about half that of California’s overall unemployment rate. Our strongest relationships are based in Southern California and therefore we recognized the need to leverage a recruiting partner that could broadly cover the surrounding market to find our ideal candidate. We selected RETS Associates because the principals have deep, first-hand commercial real estate experience and really know the ins and outs of the industry. In fact, I have known the principals for more than 20 years and knew that we could benefit from leveraging their real estate services backgrounds. The knowledge of real estate operations and other extensive industry relationships presented an opportunity that was sure to deliver top talent.

Kent Elliott (KE): Please describe The Koll Company’s recent activity on the West Coast and your role at the company.

Jerry Yahr (JY): I’ve been with The Koll Company for approximately 30 years and oversee all day-to-day operations. Koll was founded in Orange County in 1962 and has grown into a full-service real estate operating company. We are currently focused on multi-tenant industrial and suburban office. From an expansion standpoint, we are targeting value-add opportunities in California, Arizona and Nevada.

KE: Please describe the top 3-5 things that you seek in a candidate, aside from skill set.

JY: We are very team-oriented, and therefore want to hire candidates who are team builders and collaborators, rather than isolated workers. We have a culture of proactive self-starters and build our team with like-minded people who share our vision and values. Many people have key, necessary skill sets displayed on a resume; however we like to find candidates with the character and work ethic to match.

Our most recent search was to fill a property management position in a satellite office in the Bay Area. We needed someone that had an innate drive to be self-sufficient, lead a team and grow the business. Our ideal candidate was someone that could mentor the existing assistant property manager and take a proactive approach to leading. This was a very specific position to fill in the sense that the position also required construction management expertise to support the capital improvements underway at Walnut Creek Executive Park, a 12-building, 425,000‑square-foot office complex.

KE: What inspired you to leverage the expertise of a recruiter for your recent search?

JY: We sought a recruiting partner because the hiring environment in the Bay Area is very competitive. Overall, commercial real estate is very strong and exhibits a low unemployment rate – about half that of California’s overall unemployment rate. Our strongest relationships are based in Southern California and therefore we recognized the need to leverage a recruiting partner that could broadly cover the surrounding market to find our ideal candidate. We selected RETS Associates because the principals have deep, first-hand commercial real estate experience and really know the ins and outs of the industry. In fact, I have known the principals for more than 20 years and knew that we could benefit from leveraging their real estate services backgrounds. The knowledge of real estate operations and extensive industry relationships presented an opportunity that was sure to deliver top talent.

KE: The search was closed within 30 days. In your opinion, please describe what made this search a fluid process.

JY: There are a few factors that enabled us to swiftly search for and hire a new property manager. First, our recruiting partner dove deep to understand our needs and unique requirements for the position. Prior to reaching out to the market, the recruiting team provided us with a comprehensive view of current market-rate compensation packages given the position, state of the industry and necessary qualifications. Laying this foundation is what I believe was crucial to the success of the placement.

Additionally, I trusted the advice and process that we were beginning because of the involvement of RETS’ principals. Within 12 days, the firm presented us with six excellent candidates. From there, we followed their lead to maintain regular communication with all candidates throughout the hiring process. We learned it was important to be timely in our response to the candidate about next steps.

We were also able to move smoothly through this process because we don’t have multiple layers of approvals that we have to navigate. As a principal, I was able to jump in to stay involved throughout the interview process to make decisions with the team as needed. By cutting out the so-called red tape, we were able to move swiftly to secure our ideal candidate.

KE: What is your perspective of the current CRE hiring market in California?

JY: We have hired several people over the last four months in a variety of different markets, and overall I would say that California is one of the most competitive. There are good candidates out there, but I believe it requires extensive reach and knowledge of available talent to find the greatest ones.

It’s hard to maintain our business endeavors while searching for top talent, which is why we ultimately leveraged this partnership. We needed a partner that has a pulse on the market, knows the people and could guide us through these times of competitive hiring.

KE: Do you have any additional statements you’d like to share as it relates to the growth of your team?

JY: We’re still very active and looking toward future expansion. Like most companies, our personnel growth is linked to our property growth. However, we are watchful of the current economic and political environment so we can leverage new opportunities that arise. Much of the growth potential we see is in the western part of the country and this is where we will continue to focus.