How to Survive and Win on the Job Hunt

April 18, 2013

By Kent Elliott, principal of RETS Associates

NEWPORT BEACH, CA- Although the economy continues to improve, jobs in the commercial real estate industry remain very competitive and the interview process has become more demanding. Interviewing is particularly stressful experience for many candidates.

For any professional seeking a career in the field, an interview takes more time and effort than just throwing on a tie and showing up on time. All too often, interview fundamentals are forgotten, some that are simple and others that are not. Adequate preparation related to questions and professional etiquette is vital to any successful interview.

Start Planning and Be Prepared

Adequate planning and preparation prior to an interview can only benefit a candidate. Take some time to conduct background research on the company and a potential employer. LinkedIn is a great resource to learn more about your interviewer and the organization. Check to see if you have any shared connections with your interviewer on LinkedIn. If so, possibly send a note to your shared connection notifying them of your upcoming interview and your interest in the position.

Read and other industry trades regularly and find any relevant articles about the company to become familiarized with the company’s recent activity. Conducting mock-interviews can help ease nerves and give you that extra confidence one needs on interview day. Don’t forget the basics, make plenty of copies of your resume and bring a notebook to take notes on the day of the interview.

Make Sure You Look Good

Be sure to familiarize yourself with your audience and your interviewer. Although it is unlikely that you can overdress, it is always good to acquaint yourself with who you will be meeting. Your appearance must be sharp. Men should wear a conservative suit, well-tailored, clean and pressed and ALWAYS wear a tie—this is real estate, not high tech! Women should wear a conservative blouse, suit jacket and well-tailored skirt or slacks. Avoid wearing too much perfume, do not over accessorize and leave your sunglasses in the car and not over your head! Conservative hair styles keep the interview focused on the candidate and on his or her experience, precisely where it should be.

Professional Etiquette & Delivery

Arrive a few minutes early to the interview and, at the very least, always be on time. Remember, the interview begins the moment you pull into the prospective employer’s parking lot. Your “game face” must be on from the moment that you step out of your car to the moment you get back after the interview. Treat  the person at the front desk as important as anyone!  Greet your interviewer with a firm handshake, and stay poised and confident during the meeting. Remain as calm as possible and speak in a professional tone and manner. Body language including sitting up straight, nodding one’s head and keeping eye contact is important as it shows the interviewer that you are engaged and interested. Leave the chewing gum at home.

The Interview

When responding to interview questions, be sure to take your time to think about the questions and provide a solid response. Don’t give a one word answer and don’t give a 500 word answer – somewhere in between is best!  Know your elevator pitch and be prepared for the most common question, “So, tell me about yourself…” Use open-ended questions to highlight why you believe you are a good candidate, what you can contribute to the organization and how the company will benefit with your hiring. Provide another firm handshake at the end of the interview, with most importantly, a smile. It is also appropriate to follow-up with a thank you card or email no later than 24 hours after the interview to show your continued interest in the position. You will be surprised how far a little enthusiasm and proper conduct will go to land you the next job.

Kent Elliott is a principal at RETS. The views expressed in this column are the author’s own.