15 JAN 2019
Which skills do modern property professionals need? Five recruiters share their insights on key qualities and experience, and what candidates will need in the future.
The starting point for recruiters is qualifications, and chartered surveyors already have a huge advantage over non-professionals. But, to be irresistible to an employer, you must show how your experience aligns to their needs, as well as have an excellent command of soft skills. This can fall into areas such as commercial acumen, the ability to work in new teams, relationship building, customer service and problem solving. Employers are impressed by people who come ready made with those points, but can also adapt.
Technology is changing the surveying world. For example, drones are increasingly used for residential surveying. Does this mean all surveyors in this sector should become drone experts? Probably not, but there is a degree of inevitability that such technologies will become the norm in some aspects of the job. So, it is worth having an awareness that today — and especially in the coming years — you have to be able to keep up. It might be a piece of software, or style of remote working that a company needs you to comply with, which makes adapting to technology a smart thing to do.
There are many opportunities to self-educate, and employers will help develop you — it makes sense for them to not let you get left behind. Both employer and employee have to offer something to keep the relationship moving forward.
Ideally, you’ve got to be technology savvy. I’m not saying employers would necessarily turn away surveyors who are not, but there is greater appeal from surveyors who can hit the ground running with the latest industry tech. Whether that’s having a good working knowledge of Q-mobile or BIM, or knowing the ins and outs of the latest construction toughpad, willingness to work with new tech is definitely a bonus.
As with any industry, personality counts. Surveyors can have pretty lonely days immersed in their work, so you should get involved with sociable activities if they are on offer from a company. Surveyors have adapted well to this over recent years, and are getting much better at socialising. This helps you be a better team player, and these kinds of soft skills are also essential for growing closer client relationships.
There is currently a retirement bomb on the horizon. The average age of surveyors is somewhere in the late 50s — and many are considering retirement options. Therefore, in the coming years, there will be a race among corporates to offer more opportunities to younger surveyors who are at an earlier career stage in an effort to bring that average age down, and maintain the company’s technical expertise. There is going to be a lot of expertise lost from the older group that may never be recovered.
Show that you can see the bigger picture and have the open-mindedness and flexibility to listen and consider options.
Recruiters get excited by people who go above and beyond the technical. These skills are essential, but in a highly competitive work environment, you need to show what else can you bring. We often talk about “the rounded professional” — but we find that, as long as you’re good enough technically, clients aren’t necessarily interested in whether your qualifications are better than the next person’s. But this doesn’t mean you should hope to get away with being below average.
To become a rounded professional, it is essential to be a confident communicator. It’s fair to say that built environment professionals often prefer the comfort of efficiency, practicality and logic. But, if you do think you are an introvert, it is possible to learn techniques that can help you form stronger relationships. Nevertheless, our research shows there is no correlation between your personality type and being good at client relationships or selling skills. Again, it is about learning the best techniques suited to you.
Sometimes the expert professional can be too quick to come to a solution for a client — although it’s often hard-wired into them to be like this. But, now and then, it is better not to pounce on an answer too soon. Show that you can see the bigger picture and have the open-mindedness and flexibility to listen and consider options.
The world of surveying will dramatically change in the next 10 years. The technology curve is making the way we work faster and more efficient, while the huge intake of tech-savvy, young chartered and AssocRICS-qualified surveyors will bring down the average age of the profession. Furthermore, we will probably see more lenders using automated valuation technology on low-value properties. The marketplace will get more competitive, and surveyors will have to differentiate themselves to get an advantage. This could be by having exceptional local knowledge, reputation for high quality and accuracy, or offering a particular in-demand service.
Candidates should also note how the marketplace is becoming more competitive, due to the way the assignment of work is changing. Mortgage lenders are increasingly recognising the skills of AssocRICS-qualified residential surveyors, so much so that experienced AssocRICS surveyors now carry out the same work for them as chartered surveyors.
I would say experience isn’t everything. For us, it is more important that candidates are in tune with the company ethos of ‘getting it right first time’ and have the polite and flexible customer service skills that make you memorable. Just because you have 20 years’ experience, it shouldn’t mean you have nothing else to learn.
An ability to "just do the day job" isn’t quite enough anymore. Recruiters want people who can demonstrate strategic thinking and bring value to a company and its clients. Such candidates also tend to be more successful over the long term within a company — and gain more opportunities for promotion. As so much work is client facing, great communication skills are essential, too — surveying has probably become one of the industry’s most sociable professions.
For me, likeability is very important. Someone with strong interpersonal skills, who knows how to deal with people from all walks of life, will always be somewhere near the top of the list of ideal candidates. A recruiter will have certain questions running through their mind: how is this person coming across? Can we see you fitting well into a particular business? How are you going to act with our client?
A good deal of experience is necessary, but having great personal qualities will differentiate you in the marketplace. Many businesses look for people who can be a bit entrepreneurial — by building client trust and bringing more money into the firm. If you consider your role not as just your job, but as your mini business, this can help you think outside of your limitations and push you forward into new challenges.