What recruiters look for in applicants at EXPO REAL CareerDay 2019

August 26, 2019

EXPO REAL CareerDay is the stepping stone into the real estate industry.

Two recruiters talk about what they look for in applicants, skills that count more than the right degree—and what applicants can expect from their new job.

Companies want graduates with real-world experience

Monika Ulmer, Owner, MONIKA ULMER Real Estate Recruitment

Most companies in the real estate industry have now recognized that it is an applicant’s market and are not only offering graduates higher salaries but also a range of attractive additional incentives, such as flexible working time models, the freedom to work from home for part of the week, further training and sabbaticals. But what do companies want from graduates? As a personnel consultant, I know that practical experience is at the top of companies’ lists.

Internship experience helps to choose the right segment

Experience gained from internships during their studies has many advantages—both for companies and for the graduates themselves. For example, many students I talk to at CareerDay are unsure which segment is right for them. Internships taken while at university can help graduates to avoid making wrong decisions and help them to find a suitable career opening. It makes sense for graduates to stay in their first job for at least three years: They benefit from a higher quality career path and the company reaps the rewards of the time-consuming induction process.

I asked three key personnel decision-makers in the real estate industry what is at the top of their wishlist:

For Sandra Scholz, Member of the Board of Commerz Real AG, an applicant’s degree qualification is “only one element of the requirements profile.” In addition to specialist internships, she looks for experience gained outside school and university. “Social and intercultural competence” cannot be learned from books; it is acquired “for example, from study or work abroad programs and social engagements” and “is at least as important, if not more so, than a good degree.”

Sabrina Lengenfelder, Senior Associate Manager in Human Resources Management at Corpus Sireo in Cologne, is also looking for “initial practical experience.” “Such experience provides a solid basis for the induction process and employee’s ability to take individual responsibility for their work.” With a variety of internships during their studies, graduates are able “to prepare themselves for evolving job requirements and be flexible for changing tasks.”

If you're looking for a high salary, start modestly

Practical experience is close to a prerequisite for Michael Guggenberger, Head of Funds and Asset Management Real Estate Europe at BVT Holding in Munich: “In my opinion, universities should do a lot more to emphasize practical training.” He wants his employees to have practical knowledge of the basics of real estate management before they aspire to higher tasks. And some graduates not only lack a “solid grounding” in a technical sense. Graduates often demand “high salaries and a home office,” based solely on their academic achievements during their studies.

Michael Guggenberger is not alone in this attitude. I, too, increasingly hear from company representatives that they would like career starters to demonstrate a greater degree of modesty: give and take should balance each other out.

A final tip from an experienced personnel consultant: “The good money will come”—once the graduate has demonstrated the qualities that make a good employee.

Recruiting junior staff—why a day working from home beats the company pension

Mike Schrottke, Head of HR, CBRE Germany

30 years ago, the real estate industry was relatively uncomplicated: Brokers handled transactions and property managers looked took care of ongoing processes and accounting. And when a building’s air conditioning needed an upgrade, technical services staff appeared on the scene.

Today, the situation couldn’t be more different. Real estate service providers are now not only internationally networked, but also interdisciplinary. The value chain is more differentiated than ever, and not least the process of digital transformation has ensured that new roles with specialized commercial, technical and management focuses are constantly being created. But wherever you look, real estate companies are facing the same challenge: a chronic shortage of skilled workers.

New opportunities, new tasks

In terms of attracting and retaining young talent, the growing differentiation and professionalization of the real estate industry has created a range of opportunities and new job profiles. Real estate companies offer sustainable jobs in a high growth industry. They also offer exciting exchange programs at home and abroad and opportunities for continued professional and personal development. For all of these reasons, real estate companies have undoubtedly become more attractive employers in recent years. And that’s not to mention salaries. At the same time, the real estate industry finds itself competing for talent with employers in other sectors. A company pursuing an interdisciplinary service and consulting approach, for example, needs experts from the consulting segment. And a freshly qualified civil engineer has the option of working for a general contractor or in the project management division of a real estate service provider.

In order to attract employees, real estate companies need to offer attractive career development pathways and, above all, pleasant working environments in addition to the usual incentives. Employers need to choose measures that focus on the here and now, rather than on some point in the distant future: Young employees in particular are more likely to be motivated by modern, digital processes and flexible working hours, with the option of working from home one day per week than they are by company retirement and pension plans.

Transferrable skills are more important than academic programs

Another essential point: Real estate companies need to question their recruitment criteria and open themselves to lateral entrants if they are to have any hope of filling vacant positions. Ultimately, a potential employee’s degree is far less important than the experience they have with real estate and the transferrable skills in their lockers. A working student position or an internship with a project developer can be decisive in ensuring that a graduate of a non-real estate related course is just as suitable for an opening in the real estate sector.

Of course, any applicant also needs the right soft skills. The more the real estate industry relies on networks and strategic partnerships, the more important team players become. And the more service-based approaches are developed for clients, the greater the demand for communication and presentation skills. However, the most important asset a young talent needs to make a successful start in the real estate industry is an entrepreneurial mindset. Talent that not only manages the daily tasks on their own desks, but also keeps an eye trained on the big picture and is willing to embrace new topics and new responsibilities, have a distinct advantage. The motto: It’s better to aim too high and overshoot the mark than to never aim at all.

Mike Schrottke

Head of HR, CBRE Germany

Monika Ulmer

Owner, MONIKA ULMER Real Estate Recruitment