One way to find candidates to interview is to talk to professionals from real estate related professions and ask their opinion. If you know someone who is employed as an escrow officer, title representative, homeowners insurance salesman, or loan officer, they will be able to recommend Realtors from the area they work in.
If you talk to a loan officer, be sure it is someone who deals primarily with purchase money first trust deeds and mortgages instead of refinances, second trust deeds, or finance companies. Since the latter do not deal with Realtors on a regular basis, they will not know who to recommend.
You could just make phone calls to real estate offices and ask questions. Ask the manager to recommend someone or ask a Realtor who he/she would recommend from another office. This will be a little tricky because the Realtor you ask will be "giving away" a commission, but you will find out who they respect as a competitor.
A new alternative to finding a Realtor is the internet. Look for Realtors who advertise themselves, not property. That way you have a pretty good idea you are getting a "buyer's" agent instead of a listing agent. Look to see if their web page offers something to you in the way of information or other services instead of just telling you they are "number one." You want someone of value to represent you, not someone who is full of "puff."
When you interview Realtors for the job, you want someone who will be concerned about you and will take care of your interests. You want someone who demonstrates ready knowledge of homes available for sale and does not have to call you back after they "check on the computer." This ready knowledge demonstrates they have actually been out previewing homes and don�t just sit around waiting for the phone to ring.
You also want someone sharp enough to ask you questions as well, including your financial and debt information. By asking these questions, a good Realtor will be able to determine the proper price range you should be looking in. By asking about your family, an agent will be able to tell if what you need in a home is something available in your price range. You want a Realtor who is bold enough to talk straight with you instead of always telling you what you want to hear.
Finally, any decent agent will always ask for an appointment to meet with you, too. It is only natural, since they earn their living by commissions. However, Realtors are also supposed to act as your agent, looking out for your interests before their own. You want a Realtor who takes that responsibility very seriously. If someone seems too much like simply a salesman, then maybe you should look a little further.