Are You Sure Your Agents Have the Right Personality for the Job?



It’s a good thing I love writing and I’m not quitting my day job — because I’d never make it in real estate.

Maybe it’s because I’m way too direct? Not friendly enough? (OMG, am I a mean person?) This is all according to the DISC test, of course. If you haven’t heard of it, DISC is a personality test that can help brokers judge who will make for a good agent based on four character traits: dominance (D), influence (I), steadiness (S), and conscientiousness (C). Test subjects answer sets of questions to determine which traits are their strongest and weakest.

I took the test, and it turns out I’m uber-dominant (scoring 86% on that measure), which means I’m very demanding, take lots of risks, and am a little bit of an egomaniac; pretty influential (60%), meaning I’m sociable but sort of unorganized; kinda unstable (37%), so I can be a bit unpredictable over the long haul; and totally not conscientious (21%), meaning I do things the way I want to do them and tend not to follow the rules.

(Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate myself as a human being.)

So what would my DISC profile tell a broker? That I’d be the crappiest buyer’s agent ever. Well, maybe not the crappiest, but Mark Spain, SRES, associate broker at Keller Williams Realty North Atlanta, sure as hell wouldn’t hire me as a buyer’s agent. To be fair, he didn’t exactly say that, but that’s the gist.

We at REALTOR® Magazine were lucky enough to have Spain join us recently in our Chicago office as our guest editor for the upcoming May/June issue, and he swears by the DISC test. He says he uses it in his own recruiting, and it can be an indispensable tool for brokers when deciding who to hire.

So here’s the thing about buyer’s agents: “Ideally, we look for someone who leads with a high ‘I,’” Spain says. “This person is very friendly and easy to talk with, never meets a stranger, and is not fearful of the phone. So an ‘IS’ [someone who leads with a high ‘I’ followed most closely by ‘S’] is probably ideal, but we have had success with ‘ID’s and ‘SC’s.”

An ‘SC,’ Spain explains, may be great for e-leads because they are very organized and great at managing systems and staying persistent with follow-ups. “But we really want some ‘I’ in there, even with an ‘SC.’ We want them to have a trailing ‘I’ that’s at or close to the 50 percent line if we make this hire.”

Well, that ain’t me.

While ‘SC’s and ‘CS’s tend to be the least successful as buyer’s agents, Spain says, they are perfect for support staff. “They typically soar in support roles and are the most loyal people in the world. All my admin are ‘SC’ or ‘CS,’” he says. “It doesn’t mean they can’t make it as agents, but it does mean they will have to adapt their personality more than the other personalities — and when you adapt a lot, you tend to be more stressed because it’s not natural.”

Well, hell, that’s not me either.

Now, for a listing agent: “High ‘D’ or we won’t make the hire,” Spain says.

Wait! There’s hope for me yet!

“Sellers can be tougher to deal with, and we have to have someone who is not afraid of conflict, who will be willing to tell the seller the truth,” Spain continues. “For example, ‘you need to change out this pink carpet,’ or ‘your home is way overpriced.’”

Oh yeah, I can do that.

“High ‘D’ followed by a high ‘I’ or high ‘C’ is ideal for a listing agent,” Spain says. “We would not waiver on this for a listing agent. We have done it in the past, and we won’t do it today. You can teach people skills, but people are like rubber bands — they always revert back to their natural state, especially in times of stress.”

So is there any type of personality configuration that is just a hands-down wrong fit as an agent?

“Someone who leads with a high ‘C’ is usually not the right fit,” Spain says. “This personality is super analytical and usually ends up wanting everything to be so perfect that it paralyzes them. They tend to have ‘paralysis by analysis’ syndrome.”

Well, if writing ends up not working out for me, I guess there’s always being a listing agent. (But I sorta think I’m too much of an unwieldy person for that.)

You can take a free DISC test here.

Graham Wood

Graham Wood is a senior editor for REALTOR® Magazine. He can be reached at

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  1. I think there are aspects of your personality that change (become more dominant or less prominent) as you mature and type of career/job experiences one has had. I think I would have fallen into a different category based on Tim Robbins personality assessment when I was much younger and just entering the workforce.

  2. This is an interesting article. I am representing a seller and we were backed into a corner this week by what I call a “bully agent” with a personal agenda. It made me think about the impact of personality types on the reputation of our industry. I find this is an emotional business and the way Agents handle themselves has an extremely long lasting impression on the public. You are right to place more importance on personality styles and we must encourage behavior that promotes our industry in a positive manner. In the end both buyer and seller were ashamed and offended and left with a bad memory. There is a line between helpfulness and destructiveness. When crossed, our industry is the loser.

  3. Great Article! I found it very helpful and took the personality test. I’m a broker of a young company and found in a high D of 83 and high I of 81. I’m going to test my agents now!

  4. JohnnyBoy

    I probably would not be a great agent, but I make a great broker, and I can work with engineer-types all day long. I might not be all that cuddly with mentally challenged, needy people with decision issues, but my wife (top agent) can handle it.

  5. The structure of these particular questions lead to a false assessments. For example, the questions regarding volunteering and charitable donations are too general. There are volunteer causes that I whole hardly participate in and there are causes to which I make significant donations. But because the questions presented the volunteering and charitable activities in a general and non-specific manner, I rated them at the bottom each time. I spend my time and money promoting a specific purpose, a calling, if you will, and not just to prove to myself or to someone else that I am a “good” or “caring” person.

  6. R. L. Simmons

    I so enjoyed the test and was delighted that Tony Robbins is involved in it. At first I was not sure how the questions would distill a personality profile from the unusual approach. At age 75 I wear several hats, Realtor, rancher, town councilor, water issues activist and have no identity crisis when pulling weeds. I like people and have some fun every day. I like who I have become and that there is room for improvement. I think I would hire me. I am still trainable and willing to train a fence post if it will just stand still.

  7. great article his may come as a surprise to some but real estate agents are not paid by the hour but by the sale. This means no weekly paycheck! Helping someone buy or sell a home allows an agent to receive a commission based on the sale price of the home. Typical commissions range anywhere from 3-6% or more, with the buying and selling agent splitting the commission. Obviously, budgeting your income is very important as sales of homes may not be regular throughout the year.article is good

  8. Seems like ANY personality type works per this article, really – they just may need the propert coaching and training. Actually – anyone can be taught and learn how to write a note, make a call and pop by and see someone: no one ever has a problem taking the lead. In my hiring I don’t like to put people in a box. They have obviously responded to my ad, enrolled in school and now want to join my office because there’s an internal drive to change their life by launching their own business.

    I once managed a high-producing team (hired by the top agent) who used personality profiling for everyone – but forgot to test me before I came in. While I didn’t fit the mold – her team increased performance each year I was there (outperforming the market) and the agents felt better about themselves, took more time off, had more sales — managed by a guy that according to the charts, shouldn’t be in that position.

    I actually call these tests – misprofile tests.

  9. Great Article!! I am a Real Estate Realtor. I found this article very interesting.

  10. I’ve actually studied a lot about metric-based hiring practices. A lot of companies are using personality testing — like the DISC model — as well as other values and culture based tests to make sure organizations are structured accordingly and values are aligned. These studies find that when potential employees have dissimilar values they tend not to be a good fit! Thanks for the informative article.

  11. Joshua

    I think looking for personality traits of hiring may be effective but also extremely limiting. Yes, you avoid a lot of unsuitable prospects based on their personality; at first.

    Above anything, employers should seek people are passionate about what their goals. If I had an option between someone who fits the status quo and had positive cash flow potential versus someone who doesn’t but reflects clear goals and passion….. I’m picking passion. With passion you’re hungry for success… Failure’s and weak points are learning tools not career enders. The sky is the limit when your burning fuel that contains Passion.

  12. How? people understand about personality development style.

    Is there any chances to change personality?

  13. douglasmartin

    That was a fab article Graham Wood. I really appreciate the efforts you’ve made. I really wish to build my career as a realtor so I was thinking to pursue the real estate training program from Mississauga-based institute Royalle Page. But the sad part iqs that, my parents ain’t that happy with the decision I have made in my life. Stll I wanna make my dream come true.

  14. Elizabeth

    There’s just one problem with these tests, for me. I am a chameleon. My personality depends on what I think is being looked for in the questions as related to my desired position. I’m sure, I’m not alone. I scored a high D and a High I primarily. And, in fairness, I can call that out of my personality when working. While at home I am not particularly either high D or high I. If you tested me again, not relating to work you’d get an entirely different result. I know because I did it before without work pressures. These tests, in my opinion, only define whether or not I’m personable or not so much. Just my humble thoughts! And yes, charitable and volunteer would depend on the program. However, I only related it to my desired programs in answering. 🙂