We’ve heard it all our lives, “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” but is that really true? While there are certainly applications that are fitting for this cliche, I am going to challenge conventional wisdom and suggest that when it comes to hiring a professional (doctor, lawyer, priest, dentist, insurance agent, or a real estate agent), it is actually false. You can judge a book by its cover when you meet a professional you are thinking about hiring.

Judge a Book by Its Cover

Judge a Book By Its Cover?

In 37 years as a professional, I have seen one disturbing pattern repeat itself over and over again: people who hired a professional who later admitted they made a mistake, although their first clue was a bad first impression. Had they stopped to think that maybe they can judge a book by its cover, they might have avoided hiring the wrong person. For most of these folks, it wasn’t just a matter of hiring the wrong person, it meant hiring someone who was either incompetent or dishonest or unethical. In so many cases that clients have shared with me in almost four decades, had they paid attention to their discernment, had they realized they could judge a book by its cover, they would not have made the mistake of hiring the wrong person.

The Rule is Judge a Book by Its Cover

Here’s a rule you can live by. When you talk to a professional the first time, including real estate agents, listen to your first impression. In this narrow context, your first impression is usually dead on. Listen to it. In this case, you can judge a book by its cover.

Having said all of that, the next obvious lesson from life is that just because a person looks good, smells good, and has a sweet voice and smile, and says all the right things does not mean you shouldn’t do some due diligence. Check everyone out. You have to. You’re about to entrust someone (a Realtor) with a lot of your money. But don’t disregard your first impression, because maybe you can judge a book by its cover.

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