Susan Arledge: 10 Reasons Why You May Not Get a Job in Commercial Real Estate

Susan Arledge
Susan Arledge

I have been searching and searching for a blog topic I could write that would allow me to use what I personally think is the World’s Greatest Headline as the lead for this article, but after countless tries, I just couldn’t find any connection to my story:

Drunk driver crashes while having sex; leaves ejected lover on the road then hides behind cactus

When I read that headline, I just had to read the article, which was—shockingly—not much longer than the headline (which was, of course, the headline’s intent). But there’s just no possible tie between my blog topic and leaving a lover on the road and hiding behind a cactus—except as a viable reason for not hiring someone as the result of a background check.

Hiring and mentoring young real estate brokers today has been a major topic of conversation with my colleagues in other commercial real estate firms, many of whom are struggling with the hiring process. My friend, Chuck Dannis of Crosson and Dannis, is chairing Southern Methodist University’s initiative to create a world class real estate degree program, and leading the search for the dean for this program.

As an adjunct real estate professor at SMU, Chuck has determined that incorporating interviewing skills will be a critical component of the program, and for that, I am extremely grateful. I don’t think that I can endure one more interviewee asking me how long it takes to make a lot of money in this business and in the next sentence, asking if we work on Friday, as his bungee-jumping team has Friday jumps planned for the rest of 2013. Well, future barista, you probably won’t be a good fit here.

You’ve likely heard the famous “You Are Not Special” speech by Wellesley High School English teacher, David McCullough, which he delivered to “The Cupcake Generation.” (Thanks, Mike Tannery, for “The Cupcake Generation.”)

The Cupcake Generation, Tannery explains, all grew up with the idea that “everyone gets a cupcake.” Adversity and challenge breed character, but Cupcakes got a medal for just showing up, so it’s not hard to understand them, or to blame them, for their concept of self-entitlement. It’s what we taught them to expect.

The Cupcake Generation, also known as Millennials, now represents the highest percentage of Americans lacking enough money to meet their basic needs, outdistancing Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers, Tannery says.

Adult children now rely on their parents for more financial support than ever before, causing many parents to sacrifice their own retirement. Parents are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on education, only to find their children moving back home, possessing little ambition and being highly selective prior to taking a first job, according to a survey released in May by WSL/Strategic Retail.

Unfortunately, a great number of the individuals in this age group interviewing for jobs today will never get hired for commercial real estate positions; sadly, it has very little to do with their education or qualifications.

Here are 10 reasons why you likely won’t get a job in commercial real estate:

1. Your resume is full of fascinating, but irrelevant details. It’s very interesting that you spent summers on mission trips in Haiti remodeling orphanages, were the homecoming or prom queen/king in high school, became a Navy SEAL, joined the Rockettes chorus line, won a Grammy for musical composition and/or found time to climb Mount Everest, but what are the skills that have prepared you for this particular job? We don’t have a lot of free time in this business to compose symphonies or Skype with your sherpa.

2. You did not prepare for our interview. You can probably surf the internet faster than the speed of sound, so spend time gathering information about our industry. If you are asked “What are your assets?” don’t tell me you own a bike.

We have the standard lists of questions you’d expect to hear, but at any given moment, I might ask, “If you were an animal, what animal would you be and why?” The most shocking response I’ve received (so far) is, “I’d be a cat, so I could lie around all day and not have to do anything.” Really? Well, you won’t be doing “nothing” here. Try lifeguarding.

When I asked one interviewee to describe an instance when he had managed his time effectively, he recounted managing his time in dungeon raids in World of Warcraft. The word “necromancer” should never be used in an interview. Future barista.

3. You didn’t bring any questions to ask about me, the company, or our industry. Most of us are fairly easy to stalk, so check out our web pages, LinkedIn profiles, etc. Show some proactive interest. We recently asked a job candidate, “What do you know about us?” He leaned back in his chair and replied, “Not much. Why don’t you fill me in?” He wasn’t hired.

4. You wrote a thank you note and told me how much you enjoyed our time together. Well, I really enjoyed our time together, too; but instead of just thanking me, tell me how you will add value to our organization. I don’t want to have to do the work for you—I need to know that you have some idea of what you will be contributing every day when you show up.

5. You dressed to fail. Offices may be casual these days, but we still wear traditional attire at the office and for client meetings. There are times when a client requests an unexpected meeting and it really irritates me when someone isn’t dressed appropriately and has to go home to change clothes for the meeting. Show up for the interview as though you are ready to go to work.

6. You weren’t able to tell me what you want to do, but rather, left me to assume that you want us to invest large amounts of time and money in training to help you figure it out. If you want to be a phlebotomist, don’t confess that you really don’t like needles. Don’t tell me your main goal is to be a rock star and this is more of a backup plan. Figure it out first.

7. You only get the “social” aspects of social media. Unless you are in a witness protection program, do not use that faceless, ghostlike Sorry game playing piece on your LinkedIn profile. What it says to me is that you are too lazy to download a photo. Make sure your last tweets did not have more profanity than a 2 Live Crew song.

8. You didn’t proofread your cover letter, resume, etc. If you can’t bother to eliminate grammatical mistakes, how can I expect you to communicate with our clients? How do you think my clients respond to us when they get an email full of mistakes? Learn the difference between your and you’re. Don’t spell Tumblr with an “e”.

9. You lacked professional courtesy. I introduced you to an associate and you didn’t even ask what he or she does, or even worse, you were five minutes late for our meeting. Our clients don’t accept it when we are late. I was once five minutes late for a meeting and the client told me we would have to reschedule “when I could be on time.” You only have to learn that lesson once.

10. People don’t like to work with jerks. Life is too short to spend it working with people you don’t respect or who don’t respect you. An employer has a choice and a voice in who they hire. Cutthroat competition and increased choices of real estate service providers have created very high levels of expectation by our clients. We have to make good hiring decisions. Today’s clients won’t think twice about firing a real estate firm that doesn’t provide the level of service they expect, or that doesn’t offer the ability to work with people they like.

One of my friends, the president of a real estate development company, conducted a final interview with a real estate management prospect. At the end of the interview, the job was going to be offered to the candidate. The waiter brought the bill and the candidate, who was employed at the time, took it, pulled out his company credit card and said, “Don’t worry about this, I’ll put it on my company’s expense account.” My friend later said he didn’t know which shocked him more, the lack of ethics or the candidate’s stupidity.

People don’t like to work with jerks.

(h/t Mark O’Toole at HB Agency)

Susan Arledge, president of Arledge Partners Real Estate Group, is the mother of two Cupcakes who are (slowly) becoming (somewhat) appreciative of the summer jobs forced upon them and the used “beater” cars they were ‘lucky’ enough to drive. A summer of selling Cutco knives or a year of driving your grandmother’s 1997 beige Buick Century sedan with cloth, bench seats, and a bumper sticker that says “I’m a Longhorn Grandma”—because you totaled your car—are, hopefully, life lessons that won’t go to waste. And for those of you who are laughing at me for believing that, I totally get it.