When (& Why) To Turn Down a Real Estate Job Offer

It’s good news for the job market to be talking about turning down offers, but with what seems to be an economic recovery well underway, multiple-offer scenarios are starting to become a reality for many people looking to break into the real estate industry today.

But while having multiple options is an ideal situation, saying no to the wrong job is just as important as finding the right opportunity.

Especially if you’re in your first few years in the industry, it can be easy not to know what to look for when your only frames of reference are informational interviews or a short-term internship experience.

So, in this article, to help you weed out the opportunities that just won’t be the right fit, what we’ll do is break down three scenarios where I’d recommend thinking twice about accepting an offer you’ve been given, and how to make sure you’re not headed into a career dead-end in your first (or next) role in the real estate industry.

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

The Team Isn’t The Right Fit

The first scenario this list, and potentially hardest to spot during the interview process, is that the team that you’ll be working with isn’t the right fit.

It’s usually pretty easy to spot if a company as a whole won’t be a great place to work or doesn’t have a great reputation. However, what happens if you’re interviewing at a big, global company with a great brand name, and something feels off about the group of individuals you’ll be working for, specifically?

In my experience, probably nothing good.

If you get word from multiple people that your hiring manager is hard to work for, or that the office environment is tense and hostile, or that turnover is especially high within the team you’re considering joining, these are all things to take note of during the interview process.

Just because a well-known brokerage or private equity shop has a great national reputation doesn’t mean that their Atlanta office will operate in the same way as their New York office. And with that, the reputation of the company alone won’t help you feel any better when you’re at the office at midnight on a Friday night, or waking up early to jump on a 7:00am call on Easter Sunday.

If the environment is really bad, this can create a situation where you feel like you absolutely need to leave in just a few months on the job. And this can leave a pretty big black eye on your resume, and can raise some questions from recruiters when looking for your next role.

How To Know If The Team Is The Wrong Fit

The natural question from here becomes, “How do I know if the team I’ll be joining isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?”

The most direct way to find this out is to talk to two different people:

  • Someone who currently works in your position (another analyst on your team, for example)
  • Someone who formerly worked in your position (another analyst that has since moved on to a different firm)

The first person is easy to find, and most companies will have no problem connecting you with a current team member if you ask.

And this isn’t meant to be treated as an interrogation, but it can be a great opportunity to learn things like:

  • What the person wishes they knew before they took the role
  • How team managers measure success in the position
  • Where they’ve seen people who have taken this position go in the future

And with technology today, the second person is also usually relatively easy to find, with LinkedIn search being a great tool to identify people who have had the same job title at the company you’re considering working for (in the same city) in the past.

You can also take a look at employee tenures in the position and how long people decided to stick around, which can give you some sense of how they enjoyed their experience and whether they would recommend the role to a friend.

The Work/Life Balance Isn’t The Right Fit

If the team feels right, the next scenario where you might want to think twice about taking an offer is when the work/life balance of the position isn’t the right fit.

This is absolutely not meant to knock hard work, and in fact, it can be a huge asset for young professionals to put in long hours in the first few years of their career.

However, what I’m referring to here is a lack of alignment between either personal preferences or life circumstances, and the expectations of the role itself.

If you’re young, single, and just out of college, working 80-100 hour weeks can be a great fit, and can allow you to gain a significant amount of experience in a short period of time.

But for someone in their mid-30s who’s married with a young family that’s looking to drop their kids off at school every day and make it to soccer games, a job like this would not be the right fit, and this person likely won’t last long in this type of environment.

Too Much Balance Can Hurt You

This isn’t really talked about much, but on the other side of the spectrum of the scenario I just mentioned, I would also be careful of taking a position that might not work you hard enough for the stage of your career (and life) that you’re in.

If you’re just graduating from college, looking to gain experience quickly, and trying to progress through the ranks faster than your peer group, taking a job where everyone leaves at 5:00pm sharp every day is going to leave you really, really frustrated, and probably ready to jump ship in short order.

And again, jumping ship quickly can lead to questions on your resume, and potential issues down the line when you’re looking to find your next role.

The important thing here is to know yourself and what you want from a work/life balance perspective, and then follow that knowledge when deciding on a position you’re ready to take on.

The Pay Isn’t Right

Finally, the last scenario on this list where you might want to pass on a job offer is when the pay of the position doesn’t meet your expectations, and isn’t likely to change in the near future.

When you’re first breaking into the industry, learning should generally be your priority number one. However, if there’s a significant gap between what you know you’re worth in the market and what you’re being paid, this can be a recipe for a really big disaster.

There are definitely scenarios where taking a job that isn’t paying you fair market value temporarily can be worth it, but these scenarios either involve positions with dramatic learning potential in a short period of time, or very clear financial upside in the near future if you perform.

Salaried positions at companies with a very small pay-for-performance component (that don’t meet your salary expectations when you’re first being hired) probably won’t dramatically change two to three years down the road.

And unfortunately, this could also anchor you to lower pay expectations when you leave the company, which could mean you’ll sell yourself short in your next negotiation, potentially leaving tens of thousands of dollars on the table over the span of your career.

How This Works in Practice

The way this generally plays out is that a new hire reluctantly accepts a position, even when the company just can’t get to the employee’s target compensation package, with the new hire saying yes out of fear that something better won’t come along.

From there, every time something frustrating comes up on the job, one of that person’s first thoughts is, “They don’t pay me enough to do this,” and major resentment begins to creep in.

Eventually, this can lead to all-out rage when heavy demands are placed on that person’s time, leading to either outbursts on the job, that person looking for a new job within just three to six months, or the employee just quitting altogether without another position lined up.

And each of these scenarios spell trouble for a young real estate professional, in an industry that is a self-proclaimed “very small world”.

In my experience, it’s better to continue with the negotiations until you feel that what you’re being paid is fair, and if the company you’re negotiating with just can’t get there, it’s often better to pass and wait for the next company that can.

How To Land More Commercial Real Estate Job Offers

If you’re trying to break into the industry or make a career move, and want to make sure you’re prepared for applications or interview day, make sure to check out our premium training platform, Break Into CRE Academy.

A membership to the Academy will give you instant access to our entire library of coursework on real estate financial modeling and analysis to build the technical skill sets you’ll need to land a role in the industry, and access to members-only, private, email-based career coaching to help you navigate your own unique scenario and find the position that’s the best fit for you.

Thanks so much for reading, and I hope this helps with the decision-making process. Good luck!

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