Be the best: how to set yourself apart from other candidates and secure the surveying job you deserve

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Has there ever been a better time to apply for a role in surveying? Quantity, valuation and building surveyors are in demand as companies clawback the talent they were forced to lose during the recession.

Yet, it isn’t quite a seller’s market, as recruitment experts such as Andrew Pearson, managing director of Edgar Cowen points out.

“ In all three disciplines, chartered surveyors are in demand and there are enormous shortages at the junior end”, he says, “but more senior levels, such as associate, are more challenging for jobseekers, because some teams are already top heavy.”

So, despite the buoyant recruitment market, this is no time for complacency—your application and interviews need to have an impact. But this doesn’t mean flamboyance. Unlike the creative industries, where job applicants submit online films or dress outlandishly, “this is a traditional industry”, says John Clarkson, head of construction, infrastructure and property at Cobalt Recruitment. “You need to dress smartly, be suited and booted, and have a good degree.”

In other words there are no gimmicks or shortcuts to being an outstanding candidate. What will set you apart from other candidates is being your best self: showing your skills, experience, and ability to add value.

With this advice in mind, here are our five top tips to being an outstanding candidate.

1.Research and focus

At Macdonald & Company, managing director Peter Moore is an MRICS chartered surveyor who has worked in the recruitment industry for 23 years. He says never underestimate the value of research. “A big part of your armoury is having research under your belt so that you understand what the company stands for.”

You will get insight into their culture at interview, but at this stage, as you check your CV and compile a covering letter or email, indicate your knowledge of the company’s ambitions and key projects. Read the job advert and ensure that you match key criteria.

2.Write a standout CV

Think of your CV as a marketing document which sells who you are and what you can do.

Your qualifications and accreditations matter, so whether you hold APC, MRICS or the Chartered Institute of Building MCIOB status, display these accreditations clearly at the top of the CV.

“Then show most recent company first, education towards the end, and hobbies—people do read these”, says Pearson at Edgar Cowen, “ particularly when they are looking for team players.”

Other details need to be used carefully. “There is always a tendency to put too much in a CV”, says Charlotte John, DTZ’s head of resroucing for EMEA. “It is best for candidates to show key headlines which they can back up [later at interview] and information about  projects.”

For Clarkson at Cobalt Recruitment these headlines should cover the value of projects and the applicant’s contribution.

He would expect building surveyors to be detailing projects ranging from £20k to £5-6m, and quantity surveyors to list projects “ across the full spectrum of half a million to £200m” , he says.

Outstanding candidates are those who have worked on a project from inception to completion, he adds.

3.Be memorable at first interview

At the first interview your attitude will set you apart from other candidates, says Macdonald & Company’s Moore. “It’s about showing that you want to develop and demonstrating, from your research, that you understand what the company stands for.”

At DTZ, Charlotte John agrees. “If I was interviewing a candidate I would expect them to have read corporate information, show a desire to succeed and answer the ‘why’ questions --such as ‘why do you want to work here’ ”.

Your CV will be the main talking point, and so use it as a prompt for the projects you have worked on, so that you can talk about how you added value.

 “Surveyors need to show that they are commercially astute”, says Cobalt Recruitment’s Clarkson. “You need to be proactive and punchy, and add detail. Employers are looking for someone who will get involved with clients and develop business--- someone like this is going to differentiate themselves from other applicants.”

Across all employers, most first interviews are conducted by line managers or in- house recruiters. You may have had a pre-interview with a recruitment consultant, either at the company’s behest, or your own, which can be invaluable practice.

Think of the interview as a “dialogue” says executive coach and author of  One Hundred Great Personal Impact Ideas, Peter Shaw.  Shaw, who is partner at coaching specialists Praesta, says all memorable interviewees can offer “clear evidence of the difference they have made, give short examples and listen carefully.”

4. Cinch the second interview

Expect your second interview to be conducted by a more senior figure, perhaps a director.

“It will look at specifics such as project, culture or a personality fit, so have some good questions to ask about the future of the business,” says Clarkson.

For this reason you may be asked to give a presentation, which an employer will take as evidence of your customer-facing skills. At DTZ Charlotte John alerts junior candidates in advance of the presentation, to give them time to prepare, but would expect senior level roles, such as associate director, to undertake such a task with only 15-20 minutes notice.

John expects applicants at this stage to show that they are widely read (The Financial Times and Estates Gazette are de rigueur), and understand external influences on the property markets, such as the economy.

5.Always be professional

All the recruitment experts interviewed for this article agreed that it is important to react professionally to the outcome of your interviews, and that you respond to offers, or rejection, within a couple of days

“Don’t appear too negative or too eager,” says Charlotte John. “Ask for feedback and listen to it.”

If you are successful, then use your first 100 days in the role well. “Network internally and don’t wait for people to come to you, “ she says, explaining that it helps new joiners and existing employees to share information about projects and experience. “Big companies like ours have a collaborative culture,” she says.

Candidates should also remember that the property world is tight-knit. A good first impression could remain for the rest of your career, says John.

“Property is quite a small world and so you never know who you will meet again”, she says. “For this reason you should always maintain good relationships.”

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