Property internships: when and how to apply
Property work experience can include placement years, insight days and informal opportunities. How have their availability been affected by Covid-19?
Employers are interested in seeing your enthusiasm and your potential for the internship in question
It is much easier to get a graduate job in property if you have managed to get work experience within the industry. It proves that you know what surveying involves and are seriously interested in it as a career. Luckily, there are many formal channels through which you can gain experience – and a few informal ones too.
- No property internship? If you’ve been unable to find an internship or work experience, read this advice for other practical ways you can build your employability.
What work experience is available during the pandemic?
The coronavirus pandemic, and the resulting lockdowns, have affected what work experience opportunities property firms and estate agents can offer. In some cases, employers were unable to offer their usual work experience schemes in 2020. In 2021, however, many employers have been able to adapt and are currently planning to run formal summer internships this year.
For example, at the time of writing (July 2021) summer internships appear to be going ahead at JLL, Carter Jonas, CBRE, Knight Frank and Savills. However, BNP Paribas Real Estate says it is unable to run its summer internship programme in 2021 due to the pandemic, while Cushman & Wakefield is not recruiting for 2021 but is accepting registrations of interest for its 2022 internships. Remember that this information may change, so check the websites of the firms that you are interested in regularly.
Will property work experience be different in 2021?
The selling and buying of property is classified as essential, so estate agents and property firms are able to remain open during Covid restrictions. However, this doesn’t mean that an internship will be exactly the same as it would be in any other year; it’s highly likely that a portion of your time will be spent working remotely.
Employers are clear that their 2021 internships will still include ‘real work’, networking opportunities, presentations, and the opportunity to be fast-tracked through their graduate scheme application process. While the format of internships may be different, their structure and content will likely be as similar as possible to a fully in-person internship.
However, the application process for work experience and internships may include altered or additional stages. It’s likely that a ‘virtual assessment day’ will replace in-person assessment centres, and that you can expect multiple stages of phone or video interviews rather than a face-to-face interview. Savills, for example, have stated that for its internship scheme, ‘all pathways and locations will have telephone interviews and there will no longer be assessment centres.’ Check our advice below and the employer’s websites for more information.
- What to expect from a property video interview.
- Find out more about how internships are changing during the pandemic.
When: at any point, from school or college onwards
How: contact employers that do not advertise work experience schemes to ask about any opportunities
Who can apply: students and graduates from any degree discipline
Employers that do not advertise formal work experience opportunities, such as smaller property firms, local estate agencies, local planning departments and some larger chartered surveying firms, may welcome enquiries from students about the possibility of informal work experience. This is called applying speculatively. The details of the informal work experience will depend on when you are available and what the employer is able to offer, but informal work experience can involve observing how the employer works (work-shadowing), meeting with an employer to discuss their work or helping out around the office. As these are informal and voluntary work experience opportunities, they are usually unpaid.
- If you’re struggling with answering the question of whether an unpaid internship is worth it or not, this article is for you
The majority of internships at larger firms won’t be open to first-year students yet, so applying speculatively could give you a head start as it will look good on formal applications. Informal work experience is also suitable for people who are about to start studying a property-related postgraduate conversion course.
Informal work experience takes time for the employer to arrange, so start requesting it at least several weeks in advance and specify in your application when you would be hoping to carry out the experience. If employers don’t reply to your initial email, give them a call to ask if they’ve received it and had time to review it.
Also known as: experience days, open days
When: during the first year of a degree, usually in the spring
How: apply to advertised vacancies, typically by submitting a CV and covering letter. Search for opportunities on TARGETjobs.co.uk
Who can apply: first-year students (you may need to be on an RICS-accredited degree)
Some larger employers run insight programmes for first-year students to gain work experience, and to introduce the firm and what it does. These insight days typically include a mixture of case studies, workshops, work-shadowing and networking opportunities.
Firms that have run insight programmes in the past have included Savills and JLL. Applications are usually open between January and March.
When: during the summer after the second year of university and before a postgraduate conversion course
How: apply to advertised vacancies, typically by submitting a CV and covering letter or completing an application form. Search for opportunities on TARGETjobs.co.uk
Who can apply: students in their second year of a degree or graduates who are about to begin a postgraduate conversion course
Larger employers often run summer internships that last between two and ten weeks. Impressing employers during an internship can lead to being fast-tracked through aspects of the graduate job application process. Caroline Dyson, futures community manager at Cushman & Wakefield, says, ‘We make early graduate offers to interns who have performed exceptionally well.’ In the past, some firms have required candidates for graduate programmes to have completed an internship.
Applications tend to be accepted in January and February each year, although recently there has been a move towards setting deadlines at the end of December.
Also known as: year in industry, year internship
When: between the second and final years of an RICS-accredited degree
How: your course can include a sandwich placement or you can arrange to postpone your third year of a university course. Search for opportunities on TARGETjobs
Who can apply: students in their second year of a property-related degree
Many RICS-accredited degrees will include a sandwich placement. Your university’s careers advice service and work placement tutors will advertise vacancies – along with TARGETjobs – and offer you help with your applications and interviews. Applications are accepted around December or January.
Internship applications usually follow a similar process to graduate scheme applications, albeit slightly condensed. The first stage of an application will usually be filling out an online application form or submitting a CV and covering letter. CBRE requires prospective interns to submit a three-to-five-minute video alongside their CV to express their personality and motivation for applying.
Whatever form of work experience you are applying for, it is important to highlight specific skills that would be of use as a property surveyor. A former graduate manager at Knight Frank told TARGETjobs, ‘What counts is that you make the most of the experience you have. Working in your student union bar, for example, can help you to develop good customer service (or client management) skills and the ability to work in a busy environment.’
Just as with a graduate job it is likely that you will have to take a number of verbal and numerical reasoning tests after, or as part of, the initial application.
It is highly likely that internship applicants will have at least one interview. At some firms, this has previously taken the form of a 30-minute interview over the telephone or Skype, while some have also included an additional face-to-face interview at an assessment centre.
Examples of previous internship questions include:
- Describe a time when you had to work for a client.
- What would an internship at [employer] teach you?
- How has your previous experience affected your interest in property and your choice of market?
Employers are interested in seeing your enthusiasm and your potential for the internship in question. The Knight Frank recruiter we spoke to said: ‘Applicants for internships should research the companies they are applying to thoroughly. It impresses if you can consider how events in the wider world could affect a client’s property portfolio and the advice we would give clients.’ Current students won’t be expected to have the same knowledge of property as a graduate, but will need to show they are actively exploring property as a career option.
Last updated: July 2021.