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How will Brexit affect graduates' 2017–2018 property job hunt?

Brexit and your 2017–2018 property job hunt

Our property sector expert, Ashley Johnson, has been looking into what recruiters think about Brexit. Find out his view on whether you should bring up Brexit with employers during the recruitment process.
Before you bring up Brexit in conversation, you will have to weigh the pros and cons of doing so and make a judgement based on each different employer and situation you are in.

‘Both the residential and commercial property markets could be affected by the UK leaving the EU,’ states Clare Breeze, a partner in the commercial real estate group at law firm Macfarlanes LLP. ‘If any EU business cannot trade in the UK, it may want to vacate its UK business premises; this may cause a fall in that property’s value because it will cease to generate rental income for its owner. Likewise if EU nationals cannot remain in the UK, they may want to sell their homes which will increase market supply and potentially reduce house prices.’

You only have to look at the front pages of the newspapers to see other predictions like this of how Brexit could affect the UK economy and property market. However, despite this (or, potentially, because of this) Brexit can still be a thorny and divisive issue, and the exact details of how it will affect the property industry are still uncertain. You can certainly be excused for wanting to avoid it entirely with recruiters and interviewers; a strategy that I’m personally planning to adopt for upcoming family gatherings. On the other hand, depending on the situation, bringing it up could provide opportunities to show off your commercial awareness and knowledge of the employers’ situation.

Every employer and every individual recruiter will react to, and be affected by, Brexit in different ways, so there are no hard and fast rules or advice I can give that will apply to every situation. Instead, before you bring up Brexit in conversation, you will have to weigh the pros and cons of doing so and make a judgement based on each different employer and situation you are in.

Read on to find out more about the different considerations you may have to keep in mind when making a decision.

Will Brexit affect graduate property recruitment in 2017–2018?

The recruiters that I, and my colleagues at TARGETjobs, have spoken to me were keen to stress that Brexit has not affected the number of graduates they plan to hire this year.

Out of the employers that disclosed to TARGETjobs how may vacancies they had this year, only two said they were planning to hire fewer people than last year. Berkeley Group has 25 vacancies this year, compared to 40 in 2016; BNP Paribas Real Estate is hiring 10–12 graduates, down by two from 2016. It is worth noting that there are a number of reasons for these decreases, and Brexit may not be a factor at all.

I would advise that, if you have concerns about how Brexit may affect recruitment or internship opportunities at a specific employer in the future, an appropriate opportunity to discuss this with recruiters would be in a more informal setting. This could be a job fair or during an employer visit to your university, where recruiters are open to your questions. Serena Tulloch, graduate programme adviser at GVA, told us: ‘We try to reassure candidates and answer any questions they have about how Brexit may affect them or the property market.’

What are the pros and cons of talking about Brexit when networking?

Property employers are looking for candidates that are commercially aware – that have an understanding of how political, economic and news events can affect individual property firms and the wider property industry. Sally Chacatte, group head of HR at Knight Frank, says: ‘An impressive candidate can put what is happening now into historical context and uses their research to make predictions for the future.’

Networking with property professionals is a great chance to develop this commercial awareness by asking questions and discussing topics. On the face of it, Brexit seems like an ideal topic to bring up and discuss, as there are so many potential permutations to the eventual outcome that you could discuss. However, it’s important to remember that you cannot make any assumptions about other people’s views on the subject. The last thing you want when networking is to get into a personal disagreement.

So, should you talk about Brexit when networking with property professionals? My instinct is to say don’t bring it up yourself – if others do, it might be safer to ask their opinion on it before proffering your own. Alternative conversation starters include:

  • working life at property firms
  • how the professional chose their specialism and their route to chartership
  • a particular project that interests you

During an assessment centre there will likely be networking opportunities. In these cases, employers will probably be keeping an eye out to see how you interact with others in a professional situation – something surveyors need to be able to do. You want to make the best possible impression and show that you can get on well with others, so it may be worth sticking to non-contentious topics, such as career progression with the employer. It might be worth thinking up some ‘safe’ topics you could take about beforehand.

Can I talk about Brexit in property graduate interviews?

It is extremely likely that, during an interview, recruiters will ask you a question designed to assess your commercial awareness (such as: ‘Name a recent business story that interests you. How would that story affect the property owner?’ – previously asked by Cushman & Wakefield among others employers).

Is it worth bringing up Brexit in your answers? Again, you need to be sure that Brexit is a relevant topic to the employer in question. Don’t feel that you need to talk about Brexit to sound well informed, as there’s a risk that this could backfire if Brexit is not a major concern for the employer. For instance, an international property firm with offices in continental Europe, such as BNP Paribas Real Estate (to select just as an example), will likely be more directly affected than a smaller, domestic property management firm. As well as using your own judgement, research what property firms have said in statements about Brexit and the conclusions they may have reached in research they have published to get a better sense of this.

If you decide that Brexit is a valid answer to an interview question, I would advise that you discuss the pros and cons neutrally and without bringing in your personal political opinions. Again, you cannot know or assume how your interviewer voted or how they feel about Brexit now, so base your answer around available data as much as possible. Again, conducting research beforehand into how the employer responded to Brexit-related events would be useful.

Final thoughts…

As you can probably see from the above, Brexit is a tricky topic to navigate, but rest assured that recruiters won’t force you to talk about it. If you are uncomfortable about the topic or unsure how to proceed, know that there is always something else to talk about. Keep in mind that all of the above advice is just my opinion and circumstances are highly (highly) like to change. Approach each interaction ready to use your own judgements and I’m sure you’ll make the right decision for the situation.

Written December 2017