What NOT to Say in a Real Estate Interview
We have a lot of videos on the Break Into CRE YouTube channel that talk through what to do before, during, and after a real estate interview (in detail), but sometimes, what you don’t do is just as important as what you do.
And in my experience both interviewing for roles myself and talking with companies that are looking to hire new talent, there are a few things that are really important to avoid saying during the interview process that can significantly reduce your chances of landing an offer.
So to make sure that you’re steering clear of these topics within these conversations, this article covers three of the biggest things that you’ll want to avoid saying during the real estate interview process, and what to say instead to stand out from your competition.
If video is more your thing, you can watch the video version of the article here:
So, the first thing that you’ll want to avoid saying during a commercial real estate interview is that you want the job because you ultimately want to be an entrepreneur.
Hiring employees is extremely time-consuming and expensive for companies, and by telling an employer that you want to go out and build your own company during the interview process, this is directly communicating to that employer that by hiring you, they’d be investing their time and money into what’s very likely going to be a short-term solution (that may even become their competitor).
Now, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be applying for jobs in the first place if you do have aspirations to start your own business in the future, and this is actually one of the best ways to learn the industry before striking out on your own, but this is not information that you need to bring up voluntarily.
So instead of talking about your entrepreneurial goals, what would come off much more favorably is highlighting your characteristics that make you entrepreneurial in the first place, without explicitly saying the word, “Entrepreneur”.
For example, if you want to start your own business one day, you’re very likely a self-starter, you can take ownership of projects, you’re a skilled leader, and you can manage a team, and all of these things would be assets to a commercial real estate employer.
The goal here is to think about how you could describe yourself as an intrapreneur within an established team, and if you can demonstrate these things through past work experiences (or even academic experiences), you can end up making your entrepreneurial “itch” work in your favor during this process.
Using The Job as a Stepping Stone
The second thing that you’ll want to steer clear of within a real estate interview is telling a hiring manager that your long-term goal is to work in a different part of the business than you would be working in if offered the position.
A pretty common question during the real estate interview process goes something along the lines of, “Why do you want this job?”
And especially at the analyst level, many candidates will answer this question by explaining how they plan to use the position as a stepping stone to get into a different part of the industry altogether, which is one of the worst answers you could give in this type of situation.
Even if this is the case, employers don’t want to hire someone that already has their sights set on something else, and hiring managers are going to favor candidates that have a reason to want the job, whether that’s an interest in the specific job function, the use of a certain skill set, or a core value or belief that aligns with the company.
It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean that you have to know with 100% certainty what you want to be doing forever in the first job you take, or that an entry-level role needs to be exactly where you want to build your career long-term. However, you should at least have some interest in the industry discipline, or product type, or investment strategy that the company uses, and be ready to talk through what that interest is during the interview process.
Talking Negatively About a Current or Former Employer
The last thing I want to mention in this article is very easy to do (especially if you’re unhappy in your job), and this is talking negatively about a current or former employer.
During the interview process, many hiring managers will ask candidates why they’re looking to leave their current role, and the best answers here say a lot more about what you’re trying to move towards, rather than all the things that are wrong with your existing situation.
Commercial real estate is a surprisingly small industry, and if you come into an interview saying negative things about a company that you’re working for (or any other company within the industry), it’s very likely that the person interviewing you has some sort of knowledge of or relationship with the companies you’re talking about.
And by doing this, you’re also making it clear that you’re unhappy in your current role, which can make you come off as desperate and often gives you much less leverage during a negotiation.
If you had a bad experience at a job (or if you’re having a bad experience at your current job), instead of framing this negatively, this is an opportunity to shift the focus towards what you want to be transitioning into, and why this specific job is a better fit long-term.
For example, instead of talking about all the negative characteristics of your boss or how disorganized the company you’re working for is, your answer to this question could mention your desire to:
- Work for a much bigger or smaller company
- Focus on a different product type that your company isn’t looking to pursue
- Anything else that’s outside of your control and would require you to switch jobs to get that experience
Managers want to hire people that are committed to taking action and taking personal responsibility for the outcomes within their organization, and the more your answers can center around what you want to move towards, rather than what you’re moving away from, the more success you’re likely to see during the interview process.
Sometimes, what you don’t say is just as important as what you say, and I hope this is helpful to make sure you’re steering clear of these topics within these conversations.
And if you want to take the next step to prepare for real estate interviews a potential Excel modeling 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, which 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.
Good luck with the interview process!