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You just took a new position in Tuscon, Arizona and you’re looking to find a home as soon as possible. Not knowing anyone in the area yet, you Google real estate agents in town. Two candidates catch your eye: Helen and Maria. They both have high-quality photos and sleek websites. You decide to go with Helen based on her photos.

What you didn’t know: Helen is a sales representative for a large company and two months ago, during a slow day at work, she Googled “Best Side Hustles To Earn Money” and “real estate agent” popped up. It sparked her interest and she decided to take a weeklong online certification and boom: She was licensed and ready to sell homes. Knowing how to market herself, she didn’t waste any time. She recycled some old photos and used her SEO skills from college to promote herself online. It was that easy.

And now you’re in a pickle. You hired her and weeks later she has sent few worthy listings with the aspects you’ve mentioned to her. You wonder if this is just the process of buying a house, or if it should be faster and more efficient.

Unfortunately, this is a common situation for homebuyers. Because the real estate industry has a low barrier to entry, it’s often hit or miss when it comes to finding a good agent. Many agents, like Helen, have intentions of doing it on the side to earn extra income. Maria, on the other hand, is a veteran in the industry. She’s been selling houses for over 20 years and has dedicated her time to working around the clock to please her clients.

The issue: Both Helen and Maria appeared the same at a glance. It’s not until you look further that the differences surface. And this issue isn’t just in real estate— it exists in coaching, recruiting, and various teaching jobs, just to name a few low-barrier-to-entry positions.


Positions that require little experience and training to meet minimum requirements attract people who want to invest a small amount of time to gain what they think will be easy money. These people get the title of “coach” or “real estate agent” and clients in a few different ways.

For one, the person may only need a certification, a certification that’s completed quickly and allows someone to have a textbook on hand. In other cases, no certification is needed, just a convincing presentation of knowledge, a nice photo, and a client who claims they’re the best.

It seems easy to spot, right? Wrong. In reality, a lot of clients are hiring someone in a field for the first time and therefore, don’t realize the difference between the equipped and not-equipped. Many think they have a really good one until they have a really good one. That’s how recommendations lead to work for those who may not be qualified for your needs.

Those with a two-minute certification can also get work through people they know and through mass LinkedIn messaging. I can’t tell you how many direct messages I’ve received from “coaches” with similar copy-and-pasted messages.


Rest assured, there are ways to differentiate between the best and the worst.

Ask for a free session and if they don’t give you one, run. Depending on the industry, a free session may mean five minutes, one hour, or a week. But most of the time, if the person is qualified, they won’t mind offering a bit of their time to further display their value to you. Think of it as an interview. If they say no, unless there’s a good reason, it’s often because they know they aren’t experienced enough to be hired for the task. It’s as simple as that. And it’s in your best interest to get a free session from at least a few options so you can then compare and contrast. 

Three-quarters of home buyers choose the first agent they interview, according to the National Association of Realtors. This is a great way to pick the wrong person. Instead, shop around and be patient. As if you are hiring an employee, take your time interviewing at least a few candidates.

And when you interview them, ask questions. For example, ask them to take you through their process. It’s a great way to get a sneak peek. Ask them how and where they got their training. And also pay attention to what they’re asking you. Reflect: Did they ask you about your goals or were they just selling themselves to you? And did they seem to understand your vision? It’s ok to hang up and think about it before being pressured to make a decision over the phone.

Lastly, look them up on LinkedIn. Scroll down to their experience tab and read through it. How many years do they have in this field? What companies have they worked for? What training do they have? This can save you a lot of wasted time with the wrong person.


With the internet now making certifications and courses more accessible, there are plusses and minuses that come from it. The positive is an expanded pool of talent. The negative is, well, the fact that some of those in the talent pool got bored one day and pay as little as $54 to get certified and now claim the same title as others. It’s on you to figure out which ones those are, so use the tools above to find your Maria.

Creator and Host,

Carol Schultz

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