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Freddie Hill, a graduate at Berkeley Homes, reflects on his graduate job hunt and applications.

Eight top tips to help you choose your property graduate scheme

We spoke to Freddie Hill, a graduate at Berkeley Group, to find out his advice for choosing a property employer and making sure your application will get you noticed.
Focus your search on the elements of the property industry that interest you. I began my search by looking at projects that excited me.

Freddie Hill applied for 14 different property graduate schemes while studying a real estate graduate course at Reading University. These applications led to interviews with five employers and, after graduating, Freddie joined Berkeley Group as a design and development graduate. We asked Freddie to look back at his graduate job hunt and share his advice for choosing an employer and standing out with your application.

TOP TIP #1: You don’t need a 2.1 to get a property graduate job

Even if you’ve had a setback, you shouldn’t be discouraged from working in property. I know from personal experience that a 2.2 in no way means that you didn’t work hard. My masters course asked for a 2.1, so in postgraduate applications, rather than focusing on my overall grade, I highlighted specific modules and assessments in which I did well. Focus on what you are best at and show how it would suit property.

TOP TIP #2: Start your graduate job hunt early

Start your job hunt early. I didn’t start searching for jobs until I started my postgraduate course, but I knew that if I could succeed in my job hunt early on in the academic year I would be able to concentrate on getting the best results in my studies later. Most graduate schemes I looked at were open to applications during the first semester and with those I found there was less emphasis on technical knowledge and more on your personality and your responses to competency questions.

TOP TIP #3: Don’t just apply to the bigger property firms

As my university had a lot of contact with larger firms, it was easy to feel that they were the only options available. However, I made sure to look at other companies and didn’t just focus on a firm’s size as a reason to apply. A deciding factor for me was culture. Even from the relatively short contact I had with my current managers at interviews, I was struck by how clearly I could see myself working as part of their team.

TOP TIP #4: Keep your job search specific on the area of property you’re interested in

Focus your search on the elements of property that interest you. Knowing that property development suited me, I began my job search by specifically looking at the projects that excited me and then looking into the companies that had worked on it.

I did look for jobs in specialisms other than property development. However, in interviews for these positions I didn’t show the same passion as I did in property development interviews and this was probably the reason that I did not progress further with these applications.

How I chose property development

Initially I decided to study architecture because I was interested in the built environment. However, I realised that, rather than focusing on the design phase of development, I wanted to be involved earlier on in the process. I wanted to carry out land viability studies and have an influence on what gets built. I decided I wanted to work in property development.

TOP TIP #5: Build and use your network

Networking provided me with contacts whom I could telephone or email if I needed advice about an application or my course, even if they didn’t work for a company I was applying to. Events were organised by my university or RICS and all I had to do was turn up, meet people and get to know the industry.

TOP TIP #6: Keep your graduate CV clear and easy to understand

I’ve learned that recruiters appreciate being able to pick up the most important pieces of information as quickly as possible. Employers receive a lot of CVs and may not have the time to study each in as much detail as they’d like. Treat your CV like a fact sheet about yourself and make it clear that you match the qualities asked for in the job description.

TOP TIP #7: Use your property covering letter to expand on your CV

A covering letter is an opportunity to express your interests, technical knowledge and work experience in more detail. Use it to expand on points you’ve mentioned in your CV and to show off your research. However, don’t just copy and paste facts from an employer’s website. Make certain that you relate your research to reasons why you want this role.

TOP TIP #8: Stand out in interviews with strong and distinctive examples

Answer competency-based questions with good examples from extracurricular activities, part-time jobs or hobbies, as well as from your course. Think about how your experience is applicable to the graduate scheme and to property. Working part time as a bartender gave me experience of communicating with clients in a pressured environment, which I use in my job today when dealing with consultants. I could answer a question about working under pressure by using my experience a as a yacht skipper in Croatia, which I’m sure made me stand out from other candidates. My experience in architecture gave me a technical understanding of the considerations needed when designing a building.

My property development graduate scheme

Through my rotational graduate scheme at Berkeley I’ve been able to experience every stage involved in building and selling a house, from assessing the viability of land, through working on-site and understanding what it takes to sell a home. Each department at Berkeley specialises in a different stage of this process; understanding what these departments do has continued to inform my work today and has only increased my appreciation for property development.

Career timeline

  • 2009 and 2010: Carried out two weeks of work experience at CareyJones Architects, SDA Architects and Nieman Architects
  • September 2011 – July 2014: Studied a BA in architecture at Newcastle University
  • 2013 – 2016: Worked part time as a bartender and waiter
  • June 2013: Two weeks of work experience in Gentoo Homes’ design and property management departments
  • June 2014: Two weeks of work experience in commercial property investments at BNP Paribas Real Estate
  • May 2015 – August 2015: Worked as a yacht skipper for Summer Sail Week in Croatia
  • September 2015 – July 2016: Completed a masters degree in real estate at Reading University
  • August 2016: Joined Berkeley Group as a design and development graduate