CASAFARI X João Fonseca – Performance and passion in recruitment for the real estate market

João Fonseca, recruiting specialist at Hays

João Fonseca has already won at least 8 awards relating to performance as a recruitment specialist. Since 2017 he is connected to Hays – a leading international recruitment group. His first big challenge was to create the Construction and Real Estate department. From here on, the rest is delivery and passion.

In this interview, with the real estate sector in focus, João Fonseca gives his vision on the state of employment regarding real estate and gives tips for those who want to enter this market.

How has remote working changed recruitment in real estate? 

If we look at the construction property market, I believe that in this pandemic there has been a slight inflation in the remuneration of candidates. We all know that, at the moment, there is a labour shortage. There is a clear mismatch between the law of supply and demand, and this factor leads to the need for a salary increment in the market in order to be able to attract the right talent to organisations.

Every year, Hays conducts a study, the Labour Market Guide, where among other topics, it addresses the main benefits valued by candidates. As far as the construction and real estate area is concerned, according to the consultancy’s survey, a large part of the candidates respond that the salary offer is the main factor when making a professional change. Next comes “a good working environment”, which in recent years has grown as one of the factors most valued by professionals. In fact, there has been a higher number of rejected proposals, even with higher salaries, because the candidates feel very comfortable in their current team and do not want to take the risk of moving to a working environment they don’t know.

How do you define work-life balance in the context of remote working? 

It is curious to see how these younger generations, when they join a traditional structure, this means, without much autonomy, without a concrete career plan, do not have a sense of belonging in the company, and end up looking for new challenges. This is important, because the real estate market is still very conservative, where most companies do not have defined career plans for their employees.

The younger generations favour factors such as work-life balance, which contrasts with the more traditional generations present in the sector. Therefore, it is important that these organisations begin to implement strategies to attract and retain talent.

During the pandemic period there has been a growing trend in the sector towards flexible working hours. There is no obligation for the employee to go to the office five days a week. 

How do you recruit talent for the real estate market? 

We still look too much at academic training. If, for example, we are looking for junior profiles, we take into account the faculty, the average and the time of completion of the course. It is important to combine these factors with soft skills. For these profiles, I believe that proactivity, communication and problem-solving skills are the main factors to be successful in the field. 

It happens a lot that people who are connected to real estate already have family members who are connected to it. It’s a business that goes from generation to generation. They get that “taste” and then want to follow this area. It’s good to bet on young people who bring the ease of technology because, increasingly, projects are integrated into platforms where you can access everything. 

Is there a lack of manpower for construction or is this statement a fallacy?

There is a shortage of labour, both of qualified and unskilled profiles. This shortage is related to the years of crisis that were experienced in the country, where the construction sector was one of the most affected. In these last 5/6 years we have felt a strong investment in the area that has not been accompanied by the number of professionals needed to respond to the projects. It is only in the last few years that we have begun to invest, both in rehabilitation and in new construction.

Currently, not all vacancies in civil engineering are filled, even in the most prestigious universities. The averages, consequently, have gone down. Therefore, I believe that, in the future, we will have an even greater crisis of qualified profiles in the area of engineering. 

I think it’s fundamental to encourage young people to opt again for the civil engineering course. 

What importance have soft-skills gained in a hiring?

Soft skills are very important when it comes to hiring. They depend on the profile we’re looking for and the seniority level. 

For example, if I want a person to enter and train internally in the structure, I will look for soft-skills that demonstrate that the professional will have the right attitude to succeed in the sector, being responsible for training the person from a technical point of view. On the other hand, if I need a person to add value in a certain area, clearly I will opt for someone who already has credits in the market and has already done numerous projects within the area.

What should a real estate professional have as a sine qua non condition to be successful? 

There is no single condition for success, as it depends on multiple factors, including training, knowledge of the sector, knowing how to position oneself in the market, foreseeing future market trends, in other words, knowing how to anticipate the competition. 

Is the war for technological talent real?

Increasingly due to the scarcity of talent in the market, we see that candidates are involved in more than one process. The one with the best project, the best salary conditions, allied to speed, wins the candidate.

For example, if we have a very lengthy recruitment process in our company, we will end up losing people. More and more, companies have to provide salary offers and extra benefits that motivate candidates to go there. A good marketing and communication strategy also works very well. If we look at the market, there are always two or three companies that candidates prefer. Not forgetting a very important part on the employer’s side: clear communication of the projects and knowing how to sell the differentiating points of the challenge in question

According to the 2021 Labor Market Guide, published by Hays, CONSTRUCTION AND REAL ESTATE are “one of the best performing sectors” during the pandemic. How do you foresee the year 2022 going?

Like 2021, 2022 is expected to be very positive for real estate. Projects in the construction phase remain, as well as the demand for new investments. If it were not for the impasses of lack of raw material, the global problems at transport level and the delays in licensing, I believe that much more foreign investment would have come into Portugal in this period. 

However, as in 2020 and 2021, the real estate sector contributed to more than 15% of GDP, it is expected to continue, as investment in the sector is maintained. Not only housing, but also projects in the logistics area and in the renewable energy sector, such as solar and wind farms, are growing exponentially. In the public sector, there has been investment in the rehabilitation of the railways and the State’s urban heritage. If everyone joins forces, I believe that the real estate market will contribute even more to the common good, by improving mobility and the supply of housing for the population. 

What have companies been doing to retain talent? 

When they have the right people, companies have to adopt strategies to retain them. There are companies that are increasingly betting on wellbeing, where they aim at the employee’s wellbeing and adopt strategies in terms of salary and benefits. Others offer more holidays, days when the employee can do voluntary work, flexible working hours and the possibility of teleworking. These last two components are closely related to the salary component. 

For example, the availability of health insurance and the tendency to have a car, which has grown in pandemic, because of the discomfort of riding public transportation. The career plan is also a form of retention, which allows the employee to understand, according to his/her performance, how he/she can evolve within the company within a defined time spectrum. 

There are companies that award prizes at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of a project, and by placing attractive prizes at the end, they guarantee that the person will only leave the company when the project ends.

You have received 8 performance related awards. In 2021 you were considered Top Performer of the Year for Hays. How do you follow this path?

The Top Performer award at Hays is related to the completion rate of our recruitment processes, which is then reflected in the company’s annual results. The path is paved by our experience in the sector, as I have been dedicated one hundred percent to the construction and real estate market since 2017, allowing me to have a good knowledge of both the key players and the candidates. This allows us to best advise our clients and candidates.

When I joined Hays, the construction and real estate department did not exist and I was challenged at the time to create it from scratch. At that time there were many investors entering the Portuguese market who were completely unaware of how the labour market worked in Portugal. Basically, we were the partner they needed to find the best profiles for their recruitment needs. It is a great satisfaction to help organisations accomplish their projects with greater success.

Five tips to make a good impression in an interview? 

The first step to have more success in getting an interview is to have a good CV, with objective, visual and organised information. 

In an interview, the first impression is very relevant. For example, punctuality, presentation, cordiality, greeting the person, and a good preparation are preponderant factors for success in an interview. Knowing how to explain your career path objectively, sincerely and humbly makes a good impression on recruiters.

What are the most sought-after positions in construction and real estate?

The most sought after profiles in 2021 were construction site managers with experience in Civil Construction, which in turn are scarce in the market. During the crisis period, many engineers were forced to emigrate to other markets such as Africa, Asia and the United Kingdom, having carried out mainly road works and works of art. In Portugal, there is not a great demand for profiles with this experience, but rather for profiles with experience in civil construction. In addition, Portugal is not able to have the same salary attractiveness compared to those markets. 

In real estate development, project management profiles have been quite requested. Profiles linked to the commercial and marketing area have also been in emerging demand. 

It is important to mention that from our study, in 2019 and 2020, candidates within these areas were less receptive to new projects, as they caught projects at an early stage, not wanting a professional change without having completed a project from A to Z. 

Clearly, during 2021 and this early 2022, candidates are already more aware of the market, not meaning they are proactively applying for advertised vacancies. Increasingly companies themselves, when they advertise, feel that the candidate is no longer responding to advertisements, not least for the sake of ensuring confidentiality. The candidate increasingly adopts a passive posture waiting for companies to approach them directly, which ends up drastically increasing the candidates’ negotiating power. It is important to mention that it is not because they do not apply that they are not interested in a professional change. Nowadays, the candidate adopts a more demanding and selective attitude when it comes to a professional change, weighing factors such as salary, benefits, the project and the work environment. 


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