Skills and competencies

The skills that property recruiters want from graduates

25 Jan 2023, 13:38

We asked leading property recruiters for the top skills they would be looking for in graduates’ applications and how they assess them. Here are their answers.


Property recruiters assess would-be graduate surveyors by testing the ‘soft skills’ that are required for the job. That is, skills that are not specific to any particular job sector but that are highly valued by employers. (They will also examine your motivations for applying for the job and to them.) Competency-based interviews are common, so it’s essential that you have good examples of when you used skills.

How to show your entrepreneurial skills, by Goldcrest Land Plc

Property professionals need to think entrepreneurially in order to meet clients’ needs and increase revenue. ‘We’re looking for real entrepreneurial flair in our graduates,’ says Carolyn Malet de Carteret, HR development director at Goldcrest Land Plc. One way Goldcrest Land Plc assesses entrepreneurial skills is the individual presentations on the assessment day following a site visit. ‘This gives us the opportunity to see precisely what each candidate has identified during the visit and to hear their own ideas,’ says Carolyn.

targetjobs’ tip: Property recruiters want to see that you have a good understanding of its markets. You need to show you are forward thinking and can use your initiative to spot potential opportunities. Joining an entrepreneurial society at university is a good place to start – you could even set one up if it doesn’t exist. Some students set up their own business at university, while others think about ways the student societies they are involved in could operate more efficiently.

How your communication skills are assessed, by Capita Property & Infrastructure

‘You’ll encounter people from different backgrounds and need to communicate your opinions and the views of the company you work for coherently,’ said a graduate recruiter at Capita Property & Infrastructure. ‘In the application process, we look for candidates who successfully answer the questions asked rather than what they think is being asked. We also look at how candidates interact with other applicants and employees at interview.’

targetjobs’ tip: Don’t copy and paste answers to questions from one application form to another, even if the questions appear similar on the surface. This is a guaranteed way not to answer the question. You can use the same example, but write your answer from scratch.

How to show off your attention to detail, by BNP Paribas Real Estate

Accuracy and attention to detail are important attributes for a career in property: submitting an inaccurate business report to a client would be a huge mistake. Kim Charles, head of recruitment at BNP Paribas Real Estate, points out: ‘A job application requires the same level of accuracy as a business report, as this is one of the ways we assess your attention to detail.’

BNP Paribas Real Estate’s tip: ‘Ask a friend or family member to check your application; those with errors or omissions will slow down the recruitment process, as we will have to contact you to clarify information.’

How recruiters gauge your drive, by Knight Frank

‘Being driven is one of the essential competences we seek, as this ensures that individuals go the extra mile, challenge the status quo and have a healthy competitive nature,’ said a graduate recruiter at Knight Frank. ‘We look for evidence of this via interviews that assess behavioural competences, and we also require examples of candidates being driven in their personal and work lives.’

targetjobs’ tip: Being driven is about having the ability, focus and stamina to work towards a goal over a period of time. Examples can come from any area of your life, not just your course – anything you achieved, which required you to maintain motivation. Taking part in a sponsored charity activity could be a good example to use.

Why relationship-building is essential in a property career, by CBRE and BNP Paribas Real Estate

‘The property business is about building and maintaining relationships with clients,’ said a graduate recruiter at CBRE. ‘We’re looking for people we can put in front of clients.’ Forging good relationships with colleagues, clients and other professionals is essential in the property industry to keep existing contacts and acquire new business.

‘You might have a phone call from a new client's agent who is frustrated that a transaction has slowed because it's been passed from one company to another – managing that relationship is key,’ said a commercial surveyor at BNP Paribas Real Estate. An associate director also at BNP Paribas Real Estate elaborated that maintaining relationships is especially important for residential property, as transactions are often on a one-off basis: 'The key for us is building a relationship with the client that leads to repeat business.'

targetjobs’ tip: Give examples of when you have got involved with group activities on your CV and be sociable at the assessment centre, but don’t shout over anyone. Build up a rapport with the interviewer to demonstrate your interpersonal and communication skills. To do this try not to think of the interview as a grilling, but as a conversation – try to chat naturally, ask your interviewer questions and make small talk, but make sure it’s appropriate (don’t mention your nights out, for example).

TIME-SAVING TIP: create a database of transferable skills

It might seem boring, but it will save you a lot of time later. Sit down with a large sheet of paper and decide on some major headings, such as ‘academic life’, ‘work experience’, ‘travel’, ‘leisure’, ‘voluntary work’ and ‘extracurricular activities’. Write down your experiences and achievements under each category. Then next to each experience and achievement write down what you contributed and learned, and the skills you developed.

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