Leveraged Breakdowns helps teach real estate private equity for beginners. We have plenty of materials focused on hard skills, from our courses and interview guides to our free case studies. This series continues our focus on a softer, yet equally important, skill set: networking into real estate private equity firms. This information is hard-earned after years of personally networking as an outsider and mentoring hundreds of others to do the same. So pay close attention!
#1 Keep the iron hot
When you connect with a professional, always end the call with a request to speak with someone else at the firm. This ensures your hunt never goes dry. I’d stick to speaking with juniors, only moving up to senior guys once you have a good lay of the land from the junior perspective. But again, take what you can and certainly don’t avoid speaking to senior guys if they are your best contacts.
#2 Don’t talk about the hiring process on your first few calls
Don’t ask about getting hired when first connecting with somebody. That much is already obvious, since you wouldn’t be calling if you weren’t interested. You do not want to appear over-eager. Instead of asking about recruiting, focus instead on learning key information about the firm that will make you appear in-the-know to your next interviewer at that same firm. Learn as much about the firm as possible so you can appear to be more of an insider.
#3 Learn about the firm’s culture
By this, I mean what personal attributes does the firm emphasize? Is the dress code conservative? Is everyone solemn, or are people lighthearted? What buzzwords do they use to describe themselves (let me guess, contrarian)? You should emulate this culture during your interviews. The more you fit in, the more likely you are to get hired.
#4 Don’t talk about compensation
Never talk about salary, carry, or any form of compensation when interviewing. This topic is taboo and won’t come across well during an interview. You will discuss compensation at the end of the interview process, usually when you’ve been selected as the top candidate. Until then, don’t bring it up for your own sake.
#5 Learn the firm’s informal history
What home-run investments gave the fund its fame? If it’s one of the newer real estate private equity firms, how did its founders raise its seed capital? They likely came from some prestigious background, what did they do before they launched the fund? Understanding these facts will help you know whether this fund is a good fit for your own career goals.
#6 Online applications are black holes
If you apply to a job online, imagine you’re adding your resume onto a stack of thousands. Without networking, your resume will be ignored because it has no name recognition. However, if you do network with individuals at the firm, you will become a real person that exists in conversation in the office. People will see your resume, and recognize your name. That’s what you want to happen.
#7 A signed offer is real, nothing else is guaranteed
Never stop networking. Candidates tend to fall off the networking grind once they have two or three interviews lined up. Do not make this mistake. You need to keep your pipeline active until you have signed an offer, even if you’re in multiple final rounds. Each interview process is more likely to result in failure than success, so weight the outcome accordingly.
I have taught real estate private equity for beginners to hundreds of students. Several of these have made the unfortunate mistake to stop networking as they approach final rounds. In short, they counted their eggs before they hatched. Their final rounds didn’t come through and they were left with no upcoming interviews late in the game, not even first rounds. The good news is they all at least learned their lesson and won’t repeat that mistake again.
#8 Start now
If you want to work in real estate private equity, start calling people immediately. Interview and case prep alone won’t make much of a difference if you don’t have anybody to speak with. Start now, no excuses. There is no valid reason to delay. You know enough, you aren’t too young and you aren’t too old. If you want to work in this industry, you need to begin networking as soon as possible. You can stop networking when you have a signed offer.