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Industry Insiders: Amanda Graham on Recruitment in Real Estate

Summit Search Group

Amanda Graham

Director, Recruitment

Amanda Graham

Director, Recruitment

“It’s been a really interesting time to work in recruitment, that’s for sure!” Amanda Graham shares, looking back on 2020. “We had a very busy year working with clients in the real estate industry.”

Amanda’s specialties lie in corporate and commercial real estate recruitment at Summit Search Group. Like her clients, she’s happy to embrace the silver lining of an otherwise tumultuous past year. “People have taken this extra time at home to really assess where they want to take their careers. They’re thinking about what’s missing from their current roles, and they’re considering workplaces and positions that might provide some of those things they haven’t had in the past.” She adds, “There is also amazing talent available right now — companies have been forced to reorganize due to the impact of Covid-19, and that means people are open to discussing new opportunities who might not be out there otherwise.”

We chatted with Amanda about the intricacies of recruiting for real estate, what she’s learned from an unprecedented year, and how to make the most of what’s coming up next.

Real Estate Hiring Challenges

“Sourcing talent has certainly been challenging, as many people are more apprehensive about making a move due to the pandemic — especially if they have something secure right now, particularly at the senior level,” Amanda says. “That said, commercial and corporate real estate is a competitive industry, and it’s not slowing down. It’s an exciting place to work.”

“The talent in this industry is really amazing,” she adds. “These are extremely bright, sharp and dynamic individuals. Exceptional candidates at the junior to mid-level, and those who find success in the industry at the executive level, are highly sought after. Executives who are well-known in the real estate space are often contacted by headhunters weekly, if not daily.”

For Amanda, that means the main challenge — for both herself and clients looking to hire — is standing out in the bustling landscape. “You really have to set yourself apart. You can’t just be one of the many recruiters reaching out. It’s essential to focus on building long-lasting relationships within the industry, and to maintain a solid reputation for your trade.”

Outstanding Candidates in Commercial and Corporate Real Estate

In such a high-energy industry, what differentiates a really exceptional candidate from other high achievers? Amanda points to education.

“Today’s real estate market is ever-changing, and that makes continuing education very important,” she explains. “There are a lot of really interesting post-secondary real estate programs out there, and these kinds of credentials are very attractive to employers. For instance, MBA programs focusing on real estate are a great opportunity. Some universities are now offering Bachelor of Business Administration programs with a specialization in Real Estate that have a co-op component. Programs like these are a great way for junior professionals in the industry to set themselves apart in the space, and to position themselves to get their foot in the door of a larger real estate organization. Depending on the needs of a particular role, some companies are looking for certifications in programs like Argus or Property Management/Facilities Management designations as well.”

She’s sure to note that great certifications won’t take the place of bright, engaging energy, though. “There are extremely sharp, dynamic individuals in this industry. Generally speaking, individuals get into this industry who are results-oriented and high achievers. The best candidates need to bring that goal-oriented focus and dedication, no matter what.”

Today’s Real Estate Recruiting

Intense competition is a recurring theme in real estate, whether you’re a candidate, a company, or an expert recruiter. Amanda sees two major impacts on today’s real estate recruiting that are a direct result of the industry’s underlying nature of competition.

“First, leadership is a bigger differentiator than ever before. High potential employees in this industry are aggressively sought after by competitors. So, for those aiming to work in management and have an impact as leaders, the thing that sets them apart is the ability to engage, motivate, empower, and ultimately, retain their teams,” she explains. “Once you get to the executive level in commercial or corporate real estate, the technical knowledge of the industry is great, but most clients are looking for the leadership piece first and foremost.”

Her second point is all about longevity, and how those expectations have changed. “I believe the days of people staying with the same organizations for 10-20 years will become even more unlikely in the real estate space,” she says. “This is particularly motivated by the new demographic we have entering the workforce — they’re motivated by different factors than people were before them. These candidates have an abundance of choices. We’ve noticed that it is unlikely to see candidates who bring longevity on their resumes in this field (i.e. staying with a company for longer than 2-3 years). I really don’t see this changing. I think it’s the new normal; it’s here to stay.”

Tips for Connecting with Top Real Estate Talent

Amanda emphasizes that the real estate industry runs on amazing talent, and that companies need to meet candidates at their level of performance to truly connect.

“Sell yourself as much as the candidate is selling themselves,” she notes. “Generally speaking, the candidates that get into the corporate and commercial real estate space are driven and hardworking, and they will strive to overachieve. If you can connect with talent and offer them a sense of autonomy and good faith, they often really appreciate that, too. That level of trust from their leadership means a lot.”

It’s also about the benefits, of course. “Because candidates have so much choice, their decision to take one job over another is based on a lot of criteria,” Amanda adds. “Money is great, and we have noticed salaries in this industry increasing significantly in recent years, but that’s not the only thing that matters. Remember that there are a lot of other things candidates are seeking when making a decision to join a new organization. For instance, work-life flexibility, remote working, flexible benefit plans, tuition reimbursement programs — all of that plays a role in really connecting with the right candidate.”

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