The Real Estate Interview Process – What To Expect [& How To Succeed]

The real estate interview process is a pretty unique way of hiring, and if you’re coming from another industry outside of commercial real estate, you might not know what to expect going in.

The people you’ll meet with, the questions you’ll be asked, and how many interviews you’ll end up having all tend to be some of the biggest question marks for new entrants into the business, and I’ve seen some pretty concrete patterns during my time in the industry that might be helpful to hear if you’re looking to break in.

So to help you navigate through this process for analyst and associate roles, this article talks through what the commercial real estate interview process actually looks like, including who you’ll meet with, what you’re likely to be asked, and how long you can expect to be interviewing before receiving an offer.

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

How Long Is The Commercial Real Estate Interview Process?

In total, it can often take anywhere from about 4-8 weeks from your first interview round to having an offer in hand. This is because the real estate interview process typically consists of about 4-6 rounds, ranging from the standard “get-to-know you” interviews all the way to a potential Excel modeling exam, each of which are broken down in this article.

Round 1

The real estate interview process generally starts with a first-round interview with HR or an external recruiter, and sometimes directly with the hiring manager at smaller real estate firms.

These conversations are usually conducted over the phone or via Zoom, with the goal to learn more about your background (in addition to what’s on your resume), and to give you more context around the position overall.

A lot of people get concerned with potential technical questions that might come up in this round, but in my experience, it’s rare to be asked many (or any) questions related to Excel or commercial real estate finance at this point.

And in most cases, if these types of questions do come up, they’re generally going to be related to very basic concepts like cap rates, interest rates, or your opinions on the overall real estate market (which won’t necessarily have a right or wrong answer).

Especially for analyst and associate roles, the goal during this stage is to very clearly show your commitment to commercial real estate, show that you’ve taken the time to research the company, and to be able to talk through your background (and how that makes you a fit for the role).

Rounds 2-4

Once you get through the first stage of the process, the next 1-3 rounds of interviews are usually going to be in-office meetings directly with your hiring manager, but also with other members of the company that you may be indirectly working for.

This is where you’ll start to run into a pretty wide variety of personalities, and begin meeting with a significant number of people that likely haven’t read your resume. At this stage, you’ll need to be prepared to quickly and concisely talk through your background (often multiple times in the same day), and you’ll need to be ready to remember a lot of names and faces.

In these interviews, you’ll often be asked to talk through concrete details about your real estate-related experience, and the accomplishments you’ve had throughout your career or in academics. And unlike when talking to recruiters or internal HR managers, these interviews are going to be with people who really know real estate, who will be testing your understanding of commercial real estate finance and general knowledge of the industry as a whole.

How long this part of the process goes on generally depends on how big the company is and how many people your hiring manager wants you to meet. In my experience, this is where interviews can start to get pretty tiring, when you’re sitting down with so many different people every time you come in.

At this stage, it also starts to become more likely that you’ll be asked a few simple technical questions, which can sometimes cover topics like the IRR, the equity multiple, or the effects of changing interest rates on the market. While these questions aren’t very common outside of a formal technical modeling exam, you’ll still want to be prepared in case these come up.

The goal here is to come into this part of the process being able to clearly talk through your experience and accomplishments, while also connecting that experience to the job you’re interviewing for (as clearly and concisely as possible), ultimately coming across as a personable, hard-working candidate that has both the background and the knowledge required to succeed in the position.

The Real Estate Financial Modeling Excel Exam

Once you’ve made it through this part of the process, the next step for many analytical roles is a real estate financial modeling Excel exam, where companies will actually put your skills to the test on a sample investment case study.

In my experience, companies will almost always tell candidates when an exam will be given (rather than springing these on candidates unexpectedly), and many firms will even give candidates insight into the general structure of the test beforehand.

Some modeling case studies are in-office, timed exams where candidates will usually be given anywhere from about 1-4 hours to complete the test.

Others are take-home assessments, where candidates will usually have anywhere from about 3-7 days to complete the assignment.

This video talks through some steps you can take to prepare for a modeling exam in more detail, but in either case, one important thing to note about these tests is that these are generally not going to be “pass/fail” exams.

At the vast majority of companies, these are simply used as an opportunity for the employer to take a closer look at your Excel skills, your commercial real estate finance knowledge, and how you work and think under pressure. And while it is important to perform as well as you can on this assessment, this is just one of many ways a company will evaluate a candidate.

At this stage, your goal should be to come in with a strong knowledge of Excel and real estate finance, and ideally, having completed a few practice exams like the ones we have inside Break Into CRE Academy. And if you can do this and perform well on the test, you should be in great shape to move forward with the process from here.

The Final Round Interview

If the company moves you forward to the next round after completing the exam, this is often a really good sign. At this point, you’re usually in the home stretch of the interview process, and very likely coming up on the last one or two rounds with senior leaders of the firm.

At this stage, you’ll likely be meeting with the head of your department, or even the CEO at smaller firms. This is the point where you’ll typically start to hear a lot of questions around where you want to take your career in the future, and how you can see yourself growing within the company long-term.

People in senior leadership roles pay a lot of attention to the culture of their organizations, including succession planning and leadership potential among young talent. And because of that, this phase of the process is often focused on confirming your interest in both the commercial real estate industry as a whole, as well as the specific part of the business the company operates within.

At this point, you also may be meeting with other analysts and associates on the team, usually to allow you to ask questions about what working in this specific role actually looks like on a day-to-day basis, and to hear answers directly from the people in the trenches.

This is an opportunity for you to get clarity on whether this role and this company is the right fit for you, and for the company to confirm they believe you can help them succeed and grow over the long term. If all goes well and you make it through this stage, this is finally when you’ll usually see an offer.

How To Prepare For an Excel Modeling Exam

Overall, the real estate interview process is a lengthy and time-consuming ordeal that, in a perfect world, you don’t want to have to go through multiple times.

And if you want to make sure that you have the skills you’ll need to succeed in real estate interviews and to pass an Excel modeling exam if one is 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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