A graduate surveyor's guide: job-hunting, applications and CVs
Daniel Dixon spoke to us about how he went from real estate student at the University of Westminster to a graduate surveyor at Knight Frank. Even with a number of property internships under his belt, job-hunting was not always the easiest experience for Daniel. He shares his thoughts on what he learned throughout his job-search and some top tips for managing applications and interviews.
How many jobs did you apply for before you got a job offer?
The key to applications is quality over quantity; there is no prize for getting the most job offers and it is most important to get the job you want! Speaking to fellow graduates, I realise I didn’t apply to many firms by comparison. I attended three final assessments or interviews and fortunately received three job offers.
How did you juggle job-hunting with your real estate degree?
Juggling university and job applications is difficult – there is no getting away from that. The climax is around November in the final year, with dissertations and applications all due imminently.
Top job-hunting tip: Create a spreadsheet with due dates for both university work and applications. Track the time you spend on each task to ensure you split your time efficiently. Surveyors manage tasks of varying importance daily, so think of applications as training for the rest of your career.
How do you choose which property firms to apply to?
I remained in touch with the property sector by signing up to industry newsletters and keeping in touch with a couple of contacts I made during work experience – I was able to talk to them about their latest projects and the wider property market.
I formed an opinion on which firms would be the best to work for based on their flagship schemes and mission statements, and agents’ league tables published in the property press.
How do you submit a stand-out property graduate scheme application?
Firstly, refer to your research on the firm you’re applying to, work out what they really want to know and answer as concisely as possible with the most relevant example. I found that, while all applications appeared very different, in reality they were mostly assessing the same things.
Top job-hunting tip:
- Before drafting your first CV and covering letter sit down and write a CV with everything on it – every job and piece of work experience, with one sentence explaining what each thing demonstrated.
- My master copy was five pages long and I then picked which elements were most applicable to the employer and the role I was applying for.
- I also flipped the order of my CV to tick their boxes as quickly and easily as possible. I spent as much time rearranging my CV and covering letter as I spent decoding and answering detailed competency questions for other applications.
- Learn more about how to write a CV for a property graduate job”
How do you gain skills and experience that property employers are looking for?
By the sounds of things I gave up all of my spare time every summer for the last three years! Though I can assure you it didn’t feel this way – students have lots of holiday and are invariably short of money, so paid internships and work experience are ideal.
I also ensured I took on roles of responsibility as a student, such as co-founding a property society and representing the university on open days. The society allowed me to meet recruiters earlier than most graduates and I’m sure they remembered me when I applied to their schemes. These experiences also improved my public speaking skills.
How do you impress at a property graduate job interview?
At the interview stage I received quite an intense questioning from directors and partners but I felt like they were getting me to develop my answers in detail rather than setting me up to fail.
All firms will ask:
- ‘Why us over our competitors?’: This is every graduate’s opportunity to create a compelling case for how they would complement the company, and it’s a chance to show you have researched the firm – its structure, recent deals and differentiating factors – in depth.
- ‘Can you tell us a time when you under-achieved?’: Don’t fall for it! This is not the time to bring up your biggest failure, but an opportunity to highlight a time when you have not reached your high standards and subsequently improved… how convenient.
- Read more likely interview questions and how you can prepare
How do you handle job offers from property firms?
If you are offered a job, remember, you are not expected to accept offers on the spot. I know the feeling of being anxious to accept the first job offered to you, but take the time to think about it and read through the terms. It is not unusual for applicants to be offered a number of jobs.
When comparing offers, think about:
- whether the firm complements you as a person
- whether you agree with their philosophy
- whether you believe you will succeed there in the future
I was offered jobs at very contrasting companies and I made my decision based on those three points.
Daniel’s career timeline
Jul 2010 – Jun 2015: Customer service assistant at John Lewis
Aug 2013: Real estate intern at EE (two weeks)
Aug 2013: Property interns at Ashtons Estate Agents (two weeks)
May – Sept 2013: Summer residential co-ordinator at University of Westminster
May 2014: Work experience at Land Securities (two weeks)
Jun – Jul 2014: Commercial real estate intern at Knight Frank
Jul – Sept 2014: Co-founder of University of Westminster Property Society
Jun 2015: Joined Knight Frank
With thanks to Daniel for the interview and to Knight Frank for the photograph.