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Leveraged Breakdowns

What Questions Should I Ask at the End of an Interview?

The Question

“What questions would you like to be asked at the end of an interview (if you were an interviewer)? Thanks!”

-/u/pinapoliz on Reddit

Thanks to /u/pinapoliz on Reddit for asking this great question. If you weren’t aware, I’m active on a few subreddits including /r/FinancialCareers, /r/CREFinance, and /r/CommercialRealEstate. Know any other subreddits or blogs where you’d like to see me? Let me know!

The REPE Interview Format

Real estate private equity interviews follow a standard format:

  1. The first five minutes consist of introductions
  2. The middle fifteen minutes are typically a series of technical and behavioral challenges
  3. The final ten minutes are open for you to ask any questions you may have of the interviewer in the Q&A round

This post will focus on the last segment, the Q&A round.

The final Q&A round flips the interview process on its head. For the first twenty minutes, you were the responder in a series of questions scrutinizing your background and technical capacity. Now you, the candidate, are expected to ask insightful questions of an industry veteran. Strong candidates understand this final session is an opportunity to easily set themselves apart from their competition.

But how exactly do you distinguish yourself? Let’s begin with an understanding of what not to do.

How not to approach The Q&A Round

If you focus on technical details, your interviewer will categorize you firmly within the bucket of Excel Jockey or Pencil Pusher

The primary mistake candidates make is to revert to their technical prep and begin discussing technical minutiae. Do not waste this final Q&A round by inquiring upon nuances such as tax abatements, ground rent resets, capital expenditures, cap rate valuation methodologies, etc. If you focus on technical details, your interviewer will categorize you firmly within the bucket of Excel Jockey or Pencil Pusher. Asking basic technical questions will make you seem like the type of person whose analytical capacity lies strictly within “the box.”

Why is it bad to focus on technical minutiae during your Q&A round?

Stepping back, your typical REPE inteviewer divides their world into two sets of individuals. Your first category of individual fits the description of an Excel Jockey or Pencil Pusher as mentioned above. We’ll discuss the second category, the Entrepreneurial Thinker, in just a moment. Yet the first category, the Pencil Pusher, excels within the realm of pre-defined conventions. Occasionally, such individuals slip through and somehow receive offers into REPE. Yet quickly, they choke on the job because REPE is far from conventional.

Why does the Excel Jockey choke on the job?

Real estate private equity professionals are not hired to manage routine responsibilities. To the contrary, each day in REPE presents a new unforeseen challenge that requires a level of ingenuity and entrepreneurship that would freeze your typical Excel Jockey or Pencil Pusher. There’s nothing special to offer in obeying rules and conventions, REPE teams need to hire individuals who excel in the face of uncertainty. So although acing the technical portion of your interview is necessary, it doesn’t demonstrate much more than your understanding of predefined conventions and ability to memorize formulas. The Q&A round helps interviewers weed out the Excel Jockeys from the Entrepreneurial Thinkers.

The Q&A Round Is Your Opportunity to Demonstrate your Passion and Curiosity

Thus, when your interviewer opens themself to questions, you must jump on this opportunity to demonstrate your passion and curiosity for real estate. Use your first question to ask for their general opinion on something that fascinates you. You could discuss a sector, a recent deal, a REIT, or even a single asset. Just make sure the topic is relevant and interesting enough to fill at least ten minutes of conversation. Once you’ve asked this first question, the Q&A round will evolve into a full-fledged conversation on the topic you’ve targeted. Engaging your interviewer in a meaningful conversation will set you leagues apart from the competition as a curious individual with true passion for real estate.

How I Leveraged the Q&A Round to Ace my Interviews

If it serves as a helpful template, I was fascinated by manufactured housing back when I was interviewing for my current position. I would leverage the Q&A round to discuss the sector. The exact question I opened with would depend on the context of the interview. Despite the context, my question would always lead to an insightful discussion on manufactured housing. As an added bonus, I learned a lot about the sector through these conversations. The knowledge I gained each interview would snowball into the next. After just a few rounds, my interviewers were commenting on my insight on the industry. Fortunately for me, I had gained a lot of this insight through previous interviews with expert investors!

Our Course Develops Your Ability as an Entrepreneurial Thinker to Stand Out in Any REPE Interview Setting

Hopefully this post has helped you understand the mindset you should bring to every interview. You need to demonstrate passion and curiosity to set yourself apart from the competition. Ultimately, your interviewers are trying to weed out the Excel Jockeys from the Entrepreneurial Thinkers. If you’d like to develop a more robust understanding of real estate underwriting to set yourself apart as an Entrepreneurial Thinker prepared to answer tough questions that don’t fit a cookie cutter mold, please check out my course Breaking Down Real Estate Private Equity.

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