Top tips on preparing for an interview in commercial property

Written by: Stephanie Sparrow
Published on: 30 Oct 2015

Cartoon Property Professional - Freelance

The adage “fail to prepare means prepare to fail’ is certainly true at interview. A wealth of online information means that there is no excuse for ignorance about specific employers or for being tongue-tied about the commercial property sector.

Candidates are expected to have conducted their own research and to make explicit the synergy between their chartered surveying experience and the needs of the business. They need to look keen, credible and a good match for the rest of the team.

“Interviewers want to know how a candidate would contribute to the success of the business”, says career mentor and chartered surveyor Hannah Furness. Furness, who is also a senior lecturer in the Department of Architecture at Northumbria University, says that preparation and research can furnish candidates with confidence and some valuable talking points.

With this advice in mind, follow our five top tips on preparing for a successful interview.

1) Research effectively

At property recruitment company Judd Farris, associate director and head of the Manchester office David Williams advises candidates to reserve plenty of time (a fortnight if possible) for pre-interview research. He suggests they refer to the business press to gain the most recent information, and to use corporate websites and brochures to get an insight into long-standing values.

“It is imperative that candidates take time to research the company, and to read its website, not just to be able to quote where they operate, but to talk about their values, culture and mission statements”, he says.

You should also digest the recruiter’s information about the interview location and names of interviewers. Plan to arrive 10-15 minutes in advance of the interview time.

2) Demonstrate your relevance

At Alexander Lawson Surveyors, director Costas Papadopoulos, says that he expects candidates to have researched the company website and services and also read the backgrounds and achievements of its senior people .

“Can you bring something else to the table?” he says. “Look at the senior partners, does their experience reflect yours? Anything else that you can bring?”

Furness agrees. “Look at the people and the business. Understand the deals they have done and be prepared to talk about when you were in a similar situation.

“In this way you can show how you would contribute to major wins and fit in with the rest of the team”, she says.

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3) Convey business efficiency

Candidates who have been invited to interview have already proved, through the application form, that they have the necessary skills to do the job. The next stage is to make a good first impression when you enter the interview room. The usual interview checklist of well-groomed appearance, in business dress, matched with a handshake and eye contact will suggest that you are a potential ambassador for the firm.

“Aim to show that you can be put in front of their clients”, says Furness. “Your demeanour must convey business efficiency.”

Chartered surveyor and CIOB gold-medal winning Construction Manager of the Year James Mc Dermott, reminds candidates that being well-prepared means that they are more likely to be articulate.

“Listen to the questions and don’t answer them in jargon”, he says.

4) Prepare a question.. and an answer

Candidates should always have a question ready.

“Not preparing a question can look like lack of interest in the company”, says Williams. “Interviewers usually ask ‘do you have a question about us’, and even if that question has been answered in the course of the interview, you can still use it to show that you have prepared, and that you have been listening. For example you could say ‘I was going to ask about your training programme but you have covered it in the interview.’ ”

All our career experts agree that you should also be prepared to answer the dreaded “tell me about yourself”.  However, keep the answer business-relevant.

5) Build rapport

Well-prepared candidates, who make relevant, thanks to that early stage research, comments throughout the interview will help it flow. Your aim is to create a conversation.

“If you get to interview stage the chances are that you can do the job,” says Williams, “but the ability to build rapport will bring success. People ‘buy’ people.”