Property interview advice: likely questions and how to prepare
Whether it’s over the phone or at an assessment centre, an interview is an opportunity to show off your passion for property and find out what employers can offer you. Go beyond the basics by arranging transport in advance, bringing a charged phone, your CV and any supporting material, and reading these tips on how you can prepare for your property graduate interview.
What you should research before your graduate property interview
- Typical career progression in the industry and with the employer
- How the firm supports graduates through the APC
- The employer’s values
- The employer’s recent or major projects and clients
- Recent news stories from industry publications and elsewhere, and how it may affect the employer.
Before your interview you should know your CV and application back to front and be prepared to expand on them.
There are a number of different types of question that are likely to be asked at a graduate property interview. These can loosely be grouped into the following categories. When preparing for interviews, do not focus too much on the type of question, as it is highly likely that any interview will include a selection of questions from all of the following categories:
Property graduate interview: motivation questions
Examples of motivation questions:
- Why would you like to work for [this employer]? (previously asked by Cushman & Wakefield among others)
- Where does your interest in property stem from? (previously asked by GVA and others)
- Why us over our competitors? (asked by GVA and others)
- Can you tell me your core values and demonstrate how they reflect those of our business? (previously asked by NPS Group and others)
- Where do you see yourself in five years’ time? (said to be asked by employers including JLL)
- Why have you chosen [your specialism]? (previously asked by Countryside among others)
Motivation questions are asked to find out your reasons for applying and to assess how you would fit in with the employer. Employers want to hire someone who will be enthusiastic and happy in the role, rather than someone who may leave for another firm after a few months.
What appeals to you about the employer compared to its competitors? Are there any recent projects that have particularly interested you? Be genuine and relate your answers to what the employer is offering. For example, you may wish to discuss how the firm’s APC training programme suits how you study.
Your answers need to be supported by evidence. Relate an employer’s corporate values to your own. A graduate at JLL advises that they are ‘big on things like sustainability’. To stand out from the crowd your answer in this situation could cite a specific action or statistic from JLL’s most recent global sustainability report.
Questions about career progression at the firm are asked to assess your knowledge of the industry, as well as how seriously you are considering the position. Find out how to answer ‘where do you see yourself in five years' time?' Keep in mind that property degree graduates will likely have completed the APC and become chartered within five years.
You should also be prepared to speak about your why you want to work in a certain market. Find out more about choosing between the residential, commercial and rural property markets.
Property graduate interview: commercial awareness questions
Examples of commercial awareness questions include:
- Name a recent business story that interests you. How would that story affect the property owner? (said to be asked by Cushman & Wakefield among others)
- How do you keep up to date with current affairs? (previously asked by Cushman & Wakefield and others)
- What is today’s share price? (said to be asked by JLL among others)
- What is community infrastructure levy? (previously asked by Montagu Evans)
- Who is the senior partner of the company? (previously asked by Knight Frank
- What does a partnership offer over a public company? (previously asked by Gerald Eve)
- If we were meeting with a client tomorrow, would you know what was going on in their industry? (said to be asked by CBRE and others)
Interviewers are interested to see whether you can identify how current events affect the property market. To use an example from January 2017, UK car manufacturers could face significant tariffs when exporting cars to be sold on the European mainland after exiting the EU. Currently 57% of UK car exports are to the EU, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Trading. How will this affect what property car manufacturers are looking to buy? Would they need fewer manufacturing plants? How will this affect the advice that firms give to car manufacturers?
Interviewers want to see that you are up to date with news in the property industry. Charlotte di Talamo of Cushman & Wakefield recommends Property Week, Estates Gazette or The Times as news sources. Make sure you can expand on what you have read in the news. Other ways of demonstrating an interest in property include keeping a relevant blog and becoming a member of a local RICS Matrics group.
Property graduate interview: competency questions
Some examples of competency questions are:
- Describe a time when you demonstrated [a skill].
- What do you believe are the most important behaviours or attributes for a graduate to have? (previously asked by GVA among others)
- What three skills would you bring to [this employer]? (said to be asked Montagu Evans LLP and others)
- How would you value the Pret on the corner as you approached the office? (previously asked by Montagu Evans)
Interviewers ask these questions to see whether you have the competencies, skills and technical knowledge needed to carry out the job. Use the job description as a starting point to see what skills are needed for the job in question.
The best way of ensuring there is evidence to support your skills is by having your answers follow the STAR model. Explaining clearly the Situation, Task, your Actions and the Result will help ensure your experiences are communicated clearly to an interviewer.
If you have completed an RICS-accredited undergraduate degree you could be asked about specific technical knowledge. These may take the form of hypothetical situations designed to assess your specific ability to carry out the work of a property surveyor. Use this opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of how the property industry works, drawing on and using evidence from previous work experience or internships will be extremely useful in this. If you need to, you could say you would ask a colleague or refer to an RICS code if you are unsure of the answer.
Property graduate interview: strengths-based questions
Example strengths-based questions include:
- How would you deal with a client that is unhappy with your advice?
- How would you respond if work deadlines coincided with your APC interview?
- Do you find deadlines motivating or intimidating?
- Describe yourself in three words. (previously asked by Knight Frank)
- How would you handle a situation when two managers have asked you to complete two different pieces of work at the same time? (said to be asked by JLL)
- Describe a time when you were faced with an unethical challenge. How did you address the situation? (previously asked by JLL among others)
These questions are used to assess your behaviours, qualities and innate strengths. Recruiters may ask them to see 'what you would do' in a typical workplace scenario, rather than focusing on 'what you have previously done' in work experience or extracurricular activities. As such, they often take the form of hypothetical scenarios. In these cases: do not be afraid to ask questions to clarify aspects of the scenario before answering.
These questions will also assess whether you will be motivated by the work you will be doing and whether your values align with that of the employer. Consider the employer’s values and try and think about the practicalities of a business. For instance, if JLL ask about an unethical situation, your response can emphasise how you would focus on getting the best result for clients while upholding ethical standards. Ethical behaviour is assessed on the APC and showing an awareness of this can be to your benefit.
Property graduate interview: asking questions
Asking questions of your own is the perfect opportunity to find out anything you want to know and to show interviewers you are seriously considering the position. Saying ‘you’ve answered all my questions’ would be a serious missed opportunity. Make sure you avoid any questions that have already been answered elsewhere in the interview or on the company website. If you're asking for the interviewers to expand on a subject, be prepared to talk about these topics briefly.
Questions you could ask:
- How have previous graduates found combining studying for the APC with day-to-day work?
- I read on your website/in the news that [a topic] – could you expand on this?
- What’s the best thing about working here?
- What have you found to be the biggest challenge when working here?
Don’t panic at your property graduate interview
If you can’t immediately answer a question, take a sip of water or simply ask for some time to think. No question will be impossible to answer. Interviewers will want to see whether you would be a good addition to the firm and whether you would fit in. Find out how you can leave a good impression by building a rapport with your interviewer.