How to get a job in property
Property can be a competitive sector, but there is a well-defined route for graduates to follow to become a property surveyor or planner. To become a property surveyor or planner graduates can join a graduate scheme with an employer. Employers can include property firms, firms that specialise in a single function of property, such as development, and organisations with large property portfolios.
Larger property firms run formal internship schemes – applications are open now! Deadlines tend to be in March or April. Many large property firms' graduate schemes have now closed to applications and will be holding interviews and assessment centres throughout January and February.
When and how you should be applying for property internships
There are many different types of work experience available in the property profession; no matter what your level of experience is or whether you studied a property-related subject or not, there are opportunities open to you. Work experience will prove to recruiters that you are seriously interested in a career in property and know what this will involve.
Internships are an important step in your route to becoming a graduate property surveyor. Larger property firms typically open applications for their formal internship programmes from February through to March and April. These internships are open to second-year, final-year or postgraduate students, and non-cognates may also be able to apply.
As well as being a way to gain valuable first-hand experience, internships are also your opportunity to impress employers, which could even lead to being fast-tracked through the graduate property surveyor application process. Some employers (such as Grosvenor only recruit graduates who have previously completed their internship).
Don’t panic if you’ve not been able to find a property internship. You can still make an application to property firms’ graduate schemes which will compete with the rest. Look out for informal work experience opportunities and other ways to build your skills. Find out more here.
What questions will be asked at a graduate property interview?
Interviews can be conducted face-to-face, over the phone or through an online video interview system. Larger property firms tend to use a mixture of these interview types; for instance an initial interview may be conducted over the phone or online and those successful in this may be invited to a face-to-face interview with partners and recruiters (likely as part of an assessment centre).
Recruiters will ask questions to assess a number of qualities. For example, recruiters will be looking to assess:
- your motivation for working in property and for applying to the employer
- your commercial awareness
- your competencies and skills, as well as times when you have demonstrated them
- your strengths and behaviours – how you would approach a typical work-based scenario
- your values, and how they match up to the employers' values
- what questions you choose to ask at the end of the interview
Interviews are your opportunity to show off your passion for property and prove that you are the best choice for the job. However, don't forget the basics: know how you're getting to and from the location (if it's a face-to-face interview), make sure your phone is charged (but turn it off or put it on 'do not disturb' for the interview), and make sure you bring a copy of your CV, application and any supporting material with you.
What does a graduate property assessment centre involve?
Assessment centres are used by recruiters to see whether candidates are right for the job. They're also your opportunity to find out more about the employer and talk to property recruiters. An assessment centres typically include a range of the following:
- a group exercise or task
- a presentation
- a written assessment
- networking opportunities
- psychometric tests or situational judgement tests
Candidates will be assessed against a recruiter's set list of competencies, and throughout the day candidates will have multiple opportunities to demonstrate these in a number of different scenarios. Your goal during the assessment centre should be making the best overall impression, rather than standing out. So, for example, during the group exercise recruiters will probably find a candidate who focuses on the overall success of the group more impressive than a candidate who takes charge at the expense of others.
How to write impressive graduate property CVs
Your CV needs to include details of your education, your work experience and your skills, achievements and extracurricular activities. It is very important that you tailor these to the property industry and to the employer in question. These do not all need to be directly relevant to the property industry. However, the best candidates will know to link skills and qualities developed through unrelated activities to the requirements for the graduate surveying role.
Creating impressive property covering letters
Covering letters are your opportunity to build on the details your presented in your CV and application form and create a narrative which shows recruiters why you are right for the job that you are applying for. Your covering letter should include paragraphs on why you are good for the rule and why the employer is interesting to you. Remember to close by thanking the employer and advising them of when you would be available for interview.
What is it like to work in the property sector?
Surveyors and planners are based in offices and their work typically follows a standard nine-to-five pattern. However, large amounts of time will be spent travelling to sites and properties or visiting clients. There is also a significant social aspect to these roles and networking is not uncommon. These can occur out of hours.
Do I need to network or join a professional body?
Whatever stage you're at in your degree or job search, networking can be an invaluable resource for gaining advice. It can be as easy as attending a dedicated networking event, using the contacts you already have or joining in with conversations online. Networking may even lead to finding out about internship or job opportunities.
Find out more about the benefits of networking and how you can get started here.
Membership to a relevant professional body, likely to be either the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), will bring a number of benefits that may be useful throughout your job hunt and the upcoming academic year. As well as access to a number of academic resources and publications, you will also be able to attend networking events or talks, enter property-related competitions and even get involved in volunteering opportunities. These can help you get noticed by employers and will supply you with concrete examples to point to in applications and interviews that will demonstrate you interest in the industry.
Read more about what benefits membership to a property professional body can have here.
Top skills to get a job in the property industry
Recruiters are looking for graduates who will become successful property professionals and the following skills will show that you have this potential:
- Communication. Property surveyors will be working with people and clients from different backgrounds and will need to be able to communicate their own viewpoint in a clear manner. Negotiating skills are another important skill for surveyors and planners to have. Property firms may include presentations as an exercise in assessment centres in order to evaluate candidates' communication skills.
- Relationship building. Property is considered to be a 'social' sector as there is a focus on building and maintaining relationships with clients and other property professionals. Surveyors and planners may need to work closely with clients, developers, construction firms and planning authorities. You can develop your networking skills and get job-hunting advice through attending formal networking events.
- Commercial awareness. The property sector is influenced by, and in turn influences, many other industries. Employers are looking for candidates who are able to see how current affairs will affect the property industry and are able to stay up to date with industry news. Clients of property firms will also be from many different industries and, in order to advise them in the best way, surveyors will need to have an understanding of the goings-on in the client's industry.
Read more about staying commercially aware in the property industry.
- Attention to detail. As property professionals work closely with clients, attention to detail is crucial as any mistakes may impact your employer's relationship with this client. Preparing reports and planning applications and carrying out property valuations also require a strong attention to detail. This can be developed through work experience, such as updating a database.
- Entrepreneurialism. Surveyors and planners need to be able to spot opportunities to increase the value of land and make the most of these as they present themselves. Joining or setting up an entrepreneurial society at university, or even starting your own business, can show employers that you have this skill.
- Find out more about the skills that property recruiters are looking for here.