3 Real Estate Interview Questions You Need To Prepare For

Real estate interview questions very rarely involve just a yes or no answer, and there are a few open-ended questions I’ve found to be asked very frequently that can make or break an interview.

For some reason, people tend not to prepare for these as much as they should, and these questions often end up being answered in ways that can significantly hurt a candidate’s chances of landing a job.

So whether you’re just starting the application process or preparing for real estate interviews you’ve already lined up, this article covers three of the most common open-ended commercial real estate interview questions, and how you might want to go about answering each.

If video is more your thing, you can watch the video version of this article here:

Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

This question is intended to identify what went wrong in your last role, as well as what you might find challenging about the job you’re applying for given the day-to-day responsibilities of the position.

For candidates who left their last job on bad terms or quit due to frustration with co-workers or a boss, the knee-jerk reaction is often to talk about all the things they didn’t like about their previous role, make excuses for why they couldn’t succeed in that environment, or sometimes even complain about specific people within the company that held back their growth.

But the way you answer this question is often interpreted by hiring managers as your willingness to take personal responsibility for your own career success, so even if you did have a bad experience, make sure you’re focusing on the positives about your last position in your response, including the benefits of the job and what you learned from the people you worked with.

In addition to discussing your past experience, I would also recommend talking through what you’re excited to move towards, including what you want to be doing more of on a day-to-day basis, and what you’re looking for as far as mission, vision, and/or values are concerned.

For example, if you’re trying to transition from asset management into acquisitions, your answer to this question could focus primarily on your goal to move into a more transaction-oriented role. In addition, you could talk through your asset management experience as a valuable way to see the operations of properties in a portfolio over time, and how you’re excited to use that experience to help guide your underwriting assumptions in an acquisitions role.

Even if it feels difficult to do, try not to speak poorly about the companies you’ve worked for or the people you’ve worked with. Commercial real estate is a very small world, and it’s highly likely that any negative comments you make about your former employers will not only reflect poorly on you, but will also get back to these people at some point in the future.

Why Are You Interested In This Role?

For analyst and associate roles, the goal is to answer this question in a way that makes it clear that the actual job function you’re applying for fits your personality and what you want to be doing in your career on a day-to-day basis.

You’ll also want your answer to send the message that you’re interested in the job for the sake of the job itself, rather than just checking the box and immediately looking for promotions at other companies, or learning what you need to learn to go out on your own.

Even if you do have entrepreneurial goals, the company considering hiring you does not want to hear that you plan to become their competition in the very near future, and they’re going to choose the candidate who represents themselves as the best fit for the immediate need they have within the company. For these types of roles, this often means talking through your interest in things like investment analysis, Excel, and your desire to learn from experienced professionals, rather than aspirations to start your own shop.

This also often means talking about your interest or belief in the specific industry discipline you’ll be working in, whether that’s a passion for operations that led you to asset management, a background in construction or architecture that led you to into development, or a background in sales that makes you excited about building a career in brokerage.

If you paint the picture that you’re not a short-term solution, the job is a natural fit for you based on your skills and interests, and you’re willing to spend a few years learning the ropes from more senior members of the company, you’ll tend to see much more traction during the interview process.

Walk Me Through Your Deal Experience

For most people with less than about 2 years of experience, the overall transaction volume they’ve worked on isn’t going to be a huge number, or they haven’t had a significant amount of involvement in the transactions they’ve worked on.

Because of this, there are two different directions that I’d recommend taking your answer to this question, depending on which of those two categories describes you best.

If you have experience working at a high-volume shop with a company doing dozens of deals per year, the best way to answer this question is usually going to be with a high-level overview of your deal experience. This should include the total transaction volume you’ve worked on, some of the brand-name firms you’ve negotiated with or partnered with, and the markets and product types you have experience working in.

If your experience is at a company doing a significantly lower amount of deal volume, the best way to answer this question is usually going to be to highlight just a small handful of deals you’ve worked on individually, talking through your involvement in each. Ideally, you’ll want to highlight any challenges that might have come up in each transaction, how you overcame those challenges, and the specific role you played to get each deal across the finish line.

If you don’t have any direct transaction experience and you’ve worked in parts of the industry like asset management, portfolio management, or even loan servicing, you’ll also want to be honest about the lack of transaction experience you have, but shift the focus towards measurable metrics that you can point to instead. These might include the number of deals that were added to your portfolio during your tenure, how you helped with the takeover of each asset that was acquired by the company, or how you helped with the disposition process when properties in the portfolio were ultimately sold.

By asking this question, a potential employer is trying to get an understanding of how familiar you are with the transaction process itself, how you can respond to different scenarios that tend to come up during due diligence or closing, and what type of role you’d be able to play if you were hired for the job.

How To Prepare For Commercial Real Estate Interviews

If you can head into an interview focusing on what you’re moving towards, the specific job responsibilities that make the role the right fit for you, and your hands-on experience that shows your understanding of the transaction process overall, this will give you a huge advantage over your peers who haven’t thought these things through.

And if you want more help with preparing for real estate interviews, including building the financial modeling and analysis skills you’ll need to pass an Excel exam that might be given to you during the process, make sure to check out our all-in-one membership training platform, Break Into CRE Academy.

A membership to the Academy will give you instant access to over 120 hours of video training on real estate financial modeling and analysis, you’ll get access to hundreds of practice Excel interview exam questions, sample acquisition case studies, and you’ll also get access to the Break Into CRE Analyst Certification Exam. This exam covers topics like real estate pro forma and development modeling, commercial real estate lease modeling, equity waterfall modeling, and many other real estate financial analysis concepts that will help you prove to employers that you have what it takes to tackle the responsibilities of an analyst or associate at a top real estate firm.

As always, thanks so much for reading, and make sure to check out the Break Into CRE YouTube channel for more content that can help you take the next step in your real estate career.

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