Estate agency is not a career that requires formal qualifications, and while some (mainly larger) firms have apprenticeships and graduate entry schemes, there’s no single entry route. So getting a job as an estate agent might involve going straight into a trainee job from school, starting in admin and transferring to the sales side later, or switching into agency after a career in sales or even a military career – like Nick Goble of Winkworth, who joined the property world after his time in the army.
There are, though, a number of things you can do that will improve your chances. For a start, younger applicants should try to get some work experience, perhaps working in support functions or through job shadowing. Recruiters will see not just an applicant who’s serious about a career in property, but also someone who understands just what they’re in for having seen what the working day in an agency branch is like. Anthony Hesse of Property Personnel even suggests candidates straight out of school or university might try to get some customer service or sales experience in another sector first, to hone their skills and boost their CVs.
Those who are switching career need to highlight those skills and experiences that transfer across to the negotiator’s role: hitting sales targets, providing great customer service, solving problems, making presentations. You might not have been your firm’s top seller in terms of volume, but perhaps you were the one who was always called on for ‘difficult’ customers or when a potential buyer had gone cold. Be prepared to explain what you did and why it worked.
Estate agency is a sales job, so you have to be persuasive and have good presentation skills.”
Estate agency is a sales job, so you have to be persuasive and have good presentation skills. That requires confidence and cool, rather than braggadocio. Saying, “I’m the best” is bragging – explaining why you are an excellent candidate “because I have a track record of sales success and the ability to organise my time well” is persuasive. And Graham Martin, of Orchard Recruitment, says “You need to stand out”, but he warns candidates, “avoid clichés – they’ve heard them all before.”
Many candidates just fire off CVs to every agent in sight. A more targeted approach, researching each agency to understand its market positioning and culture, will pay dividends. Do they sell at the very top of the market, or are they mid-range? Are they innovative? Do they have a house style – pushy, relaxed, posh? With that information in hand, covering letters can be precisely targeted to each agency.
Persistence also helps. Some job hunters organise themselves to make follow up calls on the phone a couple of days after they deliver their CV. This isn’t just a one-way communication, a chance to sell yourself; it’s also a chance to find out information; what is the firm looking for in an agent, and what experience would they like to see on your CV that isn’t there at the moment?
Social media can also be a big help in looking for the right job. LinkedIn and Twitter are used by a lot of businesses…”
Social media can also be a big help in looking for the right job. LinkedIn and Twitter are used by a lot of businesses, and LinkedIn gives the chance to contribute to discussions and keep up to date on industry news. Getting a good bunch of contacts and a good reputation on LinkedIn doesn’t just help get that first job, it can also help with progressing your career further down the line.
Keep up to date
Keep up to date on agency news with industry web sites like TheNegotiatorJobs.co.uk. It’s always good to know whether an agency is expanding, or whether it’s cutting branches – obviously a job hunter is in with a better chance at the company that’s growing.
Using a recruiter
Using a recruiter can make sense. There are a number of recruiters who specialise in the agency sector, which is probably a better way forward than applying through a general recruitment firm – they have a good feel what each of their clients is looking for and whether a particular candidate makes a good fit.
Above all, though, job hunters need to make a 100% commitment to a career in estate agency. If an interviewer gets the impression that the candidate sees agency as a stop gap rather than a long term career, it’s the kiss of death to that candidate’s chances of getting the job. And you’ll need to have a good answer to the question: “Why do you want to become an estate agent?” Being ‘a people person’ or enjoying the latest series of Location, Location, Location are not good answers!