How To Prepare For The Commercial Real Estate Job Search

During my time running Break Into CRE Academy, I’ve been able to gather a lot of different data points from members going through the commercial real estate job search process in real time, and many people have the same questions.

Most of these center around what to expect, when to expect these things, and how to prepare to land jobs at top firms in the industry, and even though these can differ from company to company, I’ve seen some very clear patterns at CRE firms.

So to make sure you’re prepared for this process, this article walks through four of the most commonly asked questions about the commercial real estate job search process, and my answers to each.

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

How Long is The Commercial Real Estate Job Search Process?

The length of your individual job search will depend on your experience in the industry, your existing connections in commercial real estate, and your Excel and financial modeling skills going into this process. With that said, for most people who are committed to landing a full-time role in the real estate industry, it usually takes about 2-6 months in total from the time someone starts the application process to landing an offer they plan to accept.

This process usually consists of two parts, with the first being a dual track of tightening up your resume and LinkedIn profile and running informational interviews, and the second being a transition into submitting applications, going through the interview process, and negotiating offers.

Will I Be Given an Excel Modeling Exam?

For many analyst and associate roles, candidates will often be given an Excel modeling exam toward the end of the interview process, but this isn’t always the case for every single position.

If you’re applying for jobs in leasing, pure sales roles, or other positions in the industry where your day-to-day responsibilities are going to be primarily focused on outreach to current and potential clients, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be given an Excel test.

However, if you’re applying for roles in acquisitions, asset management, investment sales, capital markets, or debt & equity placement, your chances of seeing an Excel exam at some point in the process increase significantly, and this is definitely something worth preparing for.

How Many Rounds of Interviews Should I Expect?

In most cases, 3-5 rounds of interviews are standard for commercial real estate roles, and if you’re given an Excel exam, this tends to be one of the very last steps of the process.

This is why it’s so important to prepare for these up front, since the last thing you want to do is go through weeks (or even months) of calls and in-person interviews, only to get to the last stage of the process and end up being disqualified.

Should I Apply For Entry-Level Jobs Requiring More Experience Than I Have?

In most cases, experience requirements for entry-level roles are more of a suggestion rather than a rule. Especially if you have a few months of related internship experience under your belt or you’ve taken courses that directly demonstrate your knowledge and abilities, it’s very unlikely that you’re going to be immediately disqualified just because you don’t have 1-2 years of full-time CRE work experience.

People who actually do fit these experience requirements are usually not going to be the ones applying for entry-level roles, and instead, these people are going to be focused on senior analyst or associate level positions.

In most cases, it’s probably not going to be worth your time to apply for jobs that require more than three years of experience when you’re first trying to break into the industry, but in general, aside from the time you have to take to actually put together an application, there’s usually not much to lose by throwing your hat in the ring for an open position.

When Should I Start Applying For Commercial Real Estate Jobs?

In most cases, I would highly recommend at least making sure you have the core commercial real estate finance and financial modeling fundamentals down before applying for jobs.

Adding these skills to your resume can be a huge help in landing interviews in the first place, being able to talk through these concepts with a hiring manager, and being able to pass an Excel modeling exam if one is given to you during the process.

Once you have the fundamentals down, the timeframe to submit applications depends heavily on when you would be available to take on a new role and the recruiting timeline of the companies you’re looking to work for.

Most firms in the commercial real estate industry operate with a “just-in-time” hiring process, meaning they won’t post an open role until there becomes an immediate need. And because of this, unless a start date far off into the future is listed directly within the job posting, it usually doesn’t make sense to submit an application unless you’ll be available to start in the next 2-3 months.

The exception to this can sometimes be when you’re trying to land roles at major private equity firms, since these types of companies can tend to follow a more traditional recruiting process. At firms like these, job postings will often look like the ones you might see for general investment banking or consulting roles, with applications opening up in the summer or fall for an entire incoming analyst class that would start the following summer.

With that said, in most cases, for jobs at small to medium-sized commercial real estate firms (which make up the vast majority of the industry), you won’t even be considered for a role unless it’s very clear on your resume that you’d be able to start in the next 60-90 days.

This means that, if you’re a college student or in graduate school, you’ll generally want to place most of your focus on building your technical skill set and network until just ~3-4 months before graduation. And while it does make sense to keep your eye out for a small handful of firms that might recruit early, there generally isn’t a need to double down the job search until this time.

How To Break Into Commercial Real Estate

I know firsthand how overwhelming this process can be, and if you want more help with preparing for real estate applications and interviews, or want to make sure your technical skill set is where it needs to be to pass an Excel modeling exam, 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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