Property interview advice: likely questions and how to prepare

We look at the questions you’re likely to be asked at a property surveyor interview, how you can prepare and suggestions of what questions to ask when it’s your turn.

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No interview question will be impossible to answer.

Property graduate interview questions: researching | motivation questions | commercial awareness questions | competency questions | strengths-based questions | hypothetical situations | asking questions | don't panic

An interview is an opportunity to show off your passion for property and find out what employers can offer you. Whether it’s an interview for an internship or graduate scheme, and whether the interview is happening face-to-face, over the phone or on video, the preparation you need to do and the type of questions you’re asked will be largely the same. Find out how you can go beyond the basics by reading these tips for how you can prepare for your upcoming 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.

If you are going to a face-to-face interview, make sure you know how you will get to and from the employer’s office in advance of the interview date, and bring a notepad and pens a physical copy of your CV and covering letter/application.

There are a number of different types of questions that are likely to be asked at a graduate property interview. 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 Avison Young and others)
  • Why us over our competitors? (asked by Avison Young and others)
  • Who are [employer] and what do they do?/ What is the ‘vision’ of [employer]? (said to be asked by JLL)
  • 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? Your answers need to be supported by evidence. For example, you may wish to discuss how the firm’s APC training programme suits how you study. Pay attention to the employer’s corporate values and priorities and relate them to your own. According to one online forum, you could even be asked directly about the employer’s values, objectives and ‘vision’, so be sure to have done your research.

For example, 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 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 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 are up to date with news in the property industry and can identify how current events affect the property market. 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, being active with online networking and becoming a member of a local RICS Matrics group.

You may not be asked directly about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit on the property industry in your interview, but you will be expected to have kept up with the most recent developments and, especially, how the employer you are applying to has been impacted.

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 Avison Young among others)
  • What three skills would you bring to [this employer]? (said to be asked Montagu Evans 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 are unsure of the answer, you could say you would ask a colleague or refer to an RICS code.

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 – such as how you like to work and what you are motivated by. 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. These tend to be quick-fire questions.

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 asks 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: hypothetical situation questions

Interviewers will present you with a scenario and you will be tasked to explain how you behave or how you would resolve it.

When answering hypothetical situations do not be afraid to ask questions to clarify aspects of the scenario before answering. Avoid giving short answers – recruiters want to get to know you, so explain your thinking and your reasoning. This can also show that you are engaged and enthusiastic.

Consider how your answer shows that you have the skills and knowledge that property surveyors need. Don't be afraid to bring in examples of previous experiences where you faced a similar situation to develop your answers and explain your reasoning.

Property graduate interview: asking your own 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 about [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?
  • How did you get started in the property profession?

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. Rest assured, too, that interviewers will help you out if you get stuck; often they are more interested in your thinking (how you reached an answer) than in whether the answer is right or wrong.

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