What Should (and Shouldn’t) Be on Your Commercial Real Estate Resume

For people looking to break into the commercial real estate industry for the first time (or looking to land a new job in the industry), looking good on paper is more important than ever right now.

As commercial real estate becomes more and more institutionalized, the expectations of incoming analysts and associates have risen higher and higher. And with that, making sure your resume stands out when applying for commercial real estate roles is key to maximizing your chances of landing interviews at top-tier CRE firms.

So, how do you make sure that happens and your resume stands out from the competition?

In this article, we’ll walk through three key things to include in your commercial real estate resume to help you stand out to employers, and three things you should leave off your resume if you’re looking to land a new role in the industry right now.

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

What To Include in a Commercial Real Estate Resume

Let’s start out this article out on a positive note, with things you’ll want to make sure to include in a commercial real estate resume.

Include a Clear, Concise Summary Statement

As a first order of priority, I would highly recommend adding a clear, brief summary statement at the top of your resume, that concisely describes why you’re the right fit for the specific job you’re applying for.

This is where you can add a few sentences on who you are as a real estate professional, what you bring to the table, and where you’re looking to go in the real estate industry in the future.

Don’t Be Overly Generic

One of the biggest misses I see on resumes is when people are just too generic with a summary statement, which can quickly lead to your resume being passed on during the initial screening phase.

A nonspecific, unclear statement along the lines of, “Recent college graduate seeking entry-level role in commercial real estate,” generally just isn’t going to grab the attention of the person reading the resume, and can often portray you as someone who might be lacking direction in the industry as a whole.

If an employer gets a sense that you might just be dipping your toes in the water to test out this whole “real estate” thing, this will significantly reduce your chances of making it to the interview round.

What To Do Instead

Instead of a generic summary like the one we just mentioned, that same summary statement can be modified to clearly show what you’re bringing to the table, and how you can be an asset to the firm you’re looking to work for.

For example, if you’re applying for an Investment Sales Analyst role on a team that sells office properties in Los Angeles, you might say something along the lines of:

“Analytical recent college graduate with strong skill set in Excel and ARGUS seeking office real estate investment sales role in the greater Los Angeles area.”

When hiring managers read something like this, this is way more attractive than a simple, generic summary, and this type of language will make this person much more likely to receive an interview invitation.

The goal here is to make it clear that you’re taking a targeted, intentional approach to your job search based on well-thought out career goals, rather than a “spray and pray” approach hoping that you land somewhere (and it doesn’t really matter where).

Include Detailed Experience Bullet Points That Directly Relate To The Job You’re Applying For

After you have your summary squared away, next up, you’ll want to make sure you’re including detailed bullet points in your work experience section that directly relate to the position you’re applying for.

If you’ve had jobs or internships in real estate in the past, or if you’ve worked in any sort of analytical or finance role with responsibilities that overlap with the responsibilities of the position you’re in the running for, you’ll want to feature and highlight that experience on your resume as much as possible.

Specifically, you’ll want to showcase those responsibilities or projects that demonstrate you can perform the tasks necessary to succeed in the position, and those that show you would require minimal training and supervision to get up to speed in the role.

A lot of people get tripped up here because they might not have direct real estate investment or brokerage experience to speak to. However, what many of those people do have is experience in adjacent industries, and that experience can often be directly applied to the real estate role they’re applying for.

For example, many Break Into CRE Academy members join the program with a goal to transition into the commercial real estate industry from a different career path, often coming from other areas of finance, residential real estate, consulting, or sales.

And fortunately, each of these disciplines brings a unique perspective into a commercial real estate role, and there are a significant amount of applicable skill sets and talents that come along with experience in each of these fields.

How This Works in Practice

To demonstrate this, let’s say, for example, that you’re just graduating from college and don’t have direct real estate internship experience.

However, let’s also say that you held a 6-month internship in corporate finance at a major clothing retailer, and you’re trying to figure out how that could be applied to a CRE role.

Well, in that internship, I’d be willing to bet you probably worked in Excel.

You may have also worked with income statements or cash flow statements, or even completed a dedicated project or two that highlighted your skills in Excel and financial analysis.

Even if these experiences were not directly related to real estate, these are still valuable additions to a resume that show your familiarity with many of the things you’d be working on in a real estate analyst or associate position.

To add a few more examples, if any of the below points (or related points) apply to you, you have something to work with:

  • You had a job where you analyzed leases and lease payments, so you have a deeper understanding of how commercial real estate tenants make leasing decisions.
  • A company you worked for was a startup and raised third-party equity from investors, and you helped with managing and analyzing investor data and cash flows.
  • You worked on a team responsible for budgeting and forecasting, and know how to model out cash flows based on assumptions and historical performance.

Whatever your applicable skill sets might be, make sure to highlight those on your resume, even if they aren’t uniquely specific to commercial real estate itself.

Include Technical Skill Sets That Directly Show You Can Do The Work

Last (but not least) on this list, the final key thing you’ll want to make sure you add to your commercial real estate resume is a list of your specific skill sets that directly show you have the knowledge and ability to perform the job from day one.

Similar to an online search engine, recruiters and hiring managers scan resume submissions quickly, often looking for specific keywords within those resumes that fit with the job description.

One of the quickest ways to draw attention to your resume is with a dedicated section that makes these skill sets clear, and doesn’t require an employer to go searching throughout your work experience bullet points to find them.

Which Technical Skill Keywords Should You Include?

For commercial real estate analyst or associate roles, the biggest keywords employers are looking for generally include those related to real estate financial modeling in Microsoft Excel, the ability to use a software program called ARGUS (for retail, office, and industrial positions), and more specific details about your modeling and analysis abilities that directly relate to what you’ll be doing on the job.

For example, one of the most highly coveted skill sets for principal side analysts and associates is real estate equity waterfall modeling.

Since this is a relatively complex and difficult concept to teach on the job, employers often want to see that an incoming analyst has a general knowledge of what real estate equity waterfall structures are, how they function, and how to model various structures in Microsoft Excel.

And if you don’t have this skill set yet, again, no need to worry.

In many cases, just adding coursework you’ve completed or certifications which show your understanding of the concepts necessary to perform on-the-job tasks will be extremely helpful in getting you to the interview stage.

If you’re low on related experience right now, Break Into CRE courses like The Real Estate Financial Modeling Bootcamp, The Real Estate Equity Waterfall Modeling Master Class, The Real Estate Development Modeling Master Class, and The Real Estate Pro Forma Modeling Master Class would all be excellent additions to a commercial real estate resume, and clearly show the specific skill sets you have that could be applied on the job.

What Not To Include in a Commercial Real Estate Resume

Once you have your summary, your bullet points, and your skill sets all lined up, now you’re ready to start tightening up your resume and “cleaning up” the parts that aren’t necessary (or helpful) in landing a role in CRE.

Remove Excessive Information About School Projects or Organizations

Something I tend to see over and over again, especially among people just a few years out of college, is excessive information on school projects, clubs, or organizations on a resume that overshadow the actual relevant work experience the person has.

Unless you’re just graduating from college and have zero work or internship experience, there is no need to add a laundry list of extracurricular activities you were a part of during your undergraduate or graduate college years.

There can be exceptions to this rule in cases where you can demonstrate in-depth research or expertise on a topic that directly relates to the role you’re applying for, or you can show significant leadership experience in the real estate community, however, these things should not be the main focus of your resume in almost all cases.

If your academic activities take up more space on your resume than your work experience, you’ll want to trim those activities down until that’s not the case.

Including just 1-2 bullet points on your academic experience is generally all that’s necessary (or helpful), and anything more than this tends to be overkill when applying for commercial real estate analyst or associate roles.

Remove Excessive Detail on Unrelated Projects From Unrelated Industries

Speaking of too much detail, the second thing I tend to see on far too many commercial real estate resumes is too much intricate detail on unrelated projects in unrelated industries, specifically in past roles the person has worked in.

As a rule of thumb, if the project isn’t Excel-based or directly related to what you’ll be doing in the job, you’ll generally want to leave it out, unless it’s an extremely impressive achievement that would be recognized in any field of business.

This means that if even you’re a whiz in Adobe Illustrator and Shopify, these skill sets don’t belong on the resume of someone applying for commercial real estate analyst roles at private equity and brokerage firms.

Remember, your resume has to catch the attention of the hiring manager as quickly as possible, and one of the quickest ways for a hiring manager to lose interest is to see an applicant highlighting skill sets that have nothing to do with the job they’re applying for.

Remove Unnecessarily Complex Language and Exaggerations

Finally, the last (and maybe most important) thing I would recommend removing from your commercial real estate resume is any language that is unnecessarily complex, or bullet points that exaggerate your experience or knowledge.

To determine the language that would fall under the “unnecessarily complex” category, if a recruiter or hiring manager would have to Google a word on your resume to make sense of it, it probably doesn’t belong.

Additionally, if you overstate your involvement in certain projects within your work experience or add certain skills to your resume that you really don’t have, these things can also come back to bite you in a big way.

Trust me, you do not want to go into an interview having exaggerated your skill sets or experience, only to be asked about those things and to fumble across an explanation. This compromises your integrity in a big way, and may end up discrediting your entire resume as a whole.

The goal here is to be clear and straightforward with what you know, but don’t “reach” and embellish things to try to make yourself sound smart or more experienced than you actually are.

Humility and recognizing your strengths go a long way in the application and interview process, and the more you can demonstrate your self-awareness around what you know and what you don’t, the better off you’ll be.

Need More Help With Your Commercial Real Estate Resume?

If you’re looking to land your first (or next) job in commercial real estate and want to make sure your resume gives you the best chance to do that, these are the things I’d recommend making sure you include (and don’t include) in your resume right now.

And if you’re looking for additional help with your own resume and want customized advice on how to tell your story so you can land more interviews at CRE firms, make sure to check out our premium training platform, Break Into CRE Academy.

membership to the Academy includes private, members-only, email-based career coaching, so you can ask questions and get feedback on your resume and cover letters before applying for commercial real estate jobs, and you’ll also get instant access to our complete library of video courses on real estate financial modeling and analysis, so you can build the technical skill sets you’ll need to ace Excel real estate financial modeling interview exams and land jobs at top real estate private equity, brokerage, and lending firms.

Thanks so much for reading. Good luck with your applications!

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