Hiring is projected to increase across the board in New York City in the coming quarter, and the commercial real estate industry is no exception.
Firms are vying with each other to bolster their ranks with top talent.
“It’s scary actually thinking about it, but probably 40 percent of my time now is spent recruiting,” said Peter Hennessy, president of Cassidy Turley’s New York Tri-State Region.
Cassidy Turley is growing fast, he said, adding 15 percent to its New York area headcount last year and aiming for another 20 to 25 percent increase this year.
Instability in some firms — such as the pending acquisition of Grubb and Ellis by BGC partners — means opportunity for headhunting competitors.
“Transition creates uncertainty, and career changers are looking at stable, well-capitalized, employee- and partner-owned businesses,” Hennessy said. “We get to be selective of who we bring in.”
Newmark Knight Frank has had two high-profile defections since BGC Partners took over in October, and a third move is rumored to be in the works.
At other firms, industry veterans who have been riding out the bleak economy with one employer may be wondering if it’s time for a change, according to recruiting experts.
“I am seeing a lot of candidates at the higher levels who feel they’re a little stagnant. They are currently employed, but they feel like they’ve maxed out on what they’re learning in their position,” said Sun-Sun de Swaan, who heads the real estate recruiting practice at Glocap Executive Search.
Movement between companies at the VP and director level is limited but picking up, she said, as senior players bring people they worked with in the past into new companies.
“If a couple of people were able to make a move there would be some shifting around, but I’m not sure what would be a catalyst,” she said.
New York City employers expect to show a net increase of 17 percent in the coming quarter, according to a recent survey by the ManPower Group. The survey found job prospects appear best in construction, manufacturing, transportation, wholesale and retail trade, information, finance, professional and business services, education, health and hospitality.
One indicator of the growth among real estate firms is their own leasing decisions.
Lee & Associates NYC recently closed on a 47-month, 22,000 s/fsublease at 600 Madison Ave. The company started its search for a new headquarters looking for nearly half as much space, according to a news release announcing the deal, and the larger lease is a response to successful recruiting as well as a plan to add 10 more brokers when the office opens later this month.
The greatest beneficiaries of the hiring boost so far have been young professionals looking to begin careers in the industry.
Most hiring in recent months has been among recruits with have two or three years of experience in the workplace, with new hires coming form backgrounds in real estate, investment banking and consulting work, according to de Swaan.
Firms are adding positions at the junior level in part because of still-limited growth, she said. “Most funds aren’t sharing additional capital, so they’re really hiring at the junior end, after they put hiring on hold for the past two to three years.”
Cassidy Turley is making a particular effort to draw in young talent, Hennessy said. “We’re looking for the 22’s to 32’s who are going to be here when they’re 27 to 37,” he said. “They’re going to be the heart and soul of what the business will look like in the future, so we’re investing in them heavily.”
Employers still have the upper hand when recruiting young talent with financial know-how, de Swaan said. “There are many more candidates out there than positions.”
De Swaan expects the emphasis on junior-level recruiting will continue for the next three to six months, with a possible increase in higher-level hiring later this year. Her best advice for mid-career job seekers, she said, is to get out there and network.
“As a recruiter I would love to see all the transactions come through formal processes in a recruiting firm, but you never know where your next opportunity is going to come from,” she said.
Professionals making the most of their current situation are the ones likely to catch the competition’s eye.
“Our focus is not in going and recruiting the dissatisfied,” Henessey said. “We want those individuals who are true achievers, and those are the more difficult ones to pull away, because we have to create a compelling argument that we would provide a better platform for them to perform.”