Behavioral vs. Technical Questions
Real estate private equity interview questions can be generally categorized as technical or behavioral. Broadly, behavioral questions ask who you are (subjective/qualitative) and technical questions ask what you know (objective/quantitative). As with Liberal Arts versus STEM, the ways in which you are tested vary. Technical questions probe your mastery of a defined subset of knowledge, which you can refine through our courses and technical interview guide. And as with Liberal Arts, behavioral questions aren’t as mechanically formulaic as their STEM/technical counterparts.
Preparing for Behaviorals is Different from Technicals
To prepare for technical questions, you can drill through your study materials until you understand the subject matter back-and-forth. But to prepare for behavioral questions, you must turn inwards. Given their subjective nature, we can’t provide you a list of every possible behavioral question and the best possible answers.
Rather, we’ll convey a framework for tackling behaviorals that has worked out pretty well for us and our students. This method centers on preparing flexible narratives for various behavioral question archetypes. Yet before we dive into the method, let’s list out a few of the most common behavioral questions that we anticipate, and bucket them according to archetype. That way, we’ll have a bit more context for why our prep advice makes the most sense.
List of Behavioral Questions by Archetype
- Tell us about a time when you demonstrated leadership.
- Talk to us about a group project you were most recently in charge of.
- What defines you as a leader?
- What leaders do you admire most?
- Who is one of your role models, and which of their attributes do you most admire?
- Describe a challenge you currently face.
- Tell us about a time you worked with a dysfunctional team.
- Have you ever overcome a challenge you once thought impossible?
- Tell us about a time you were under immense pressure and how you managed through it.
- What’s your greatest weakness?
- What have past mentors or managers described as your areas for improvement?
- What weaknesses have held you back in the past?
- What improvements have you made in the last year?
- What was the most recent class/project you failed?
- When do you decide it’s time to give up on a [project]/[team]/[pursuit]/[etc.]?
- What lessons have you learned from your failures?
- Have you ever witnessed someone close to you experience failure? How did they handle the experience? What do you think made them successful or unsuccessful? In what ways did you try to help?
- Can you walk us through one of your more recent projects?
- What did you enjoy most about your [internship]/[campus job]/[current job]/[etc.]?
- Talk to me about this [summer project]/[deal] you [presented]/[closed] at the end of [your internship]/[last quarter].
- Why real estate?
- Walk me through your resume. (should always describe path to interest in REPE career when responding to this one)
- Pitch a contrarian investment thesis. (The response to this one is less of a personal anecdote and more of a market overview with technicals blended in)
- Why do you want to work for our fund which is specifically focused on [office]/[retail]/[multifamily]/[distressed loans]/[etc.]?
One Anecdote Can Answer Several Potential Questions
You will respond to each of these questions with a personal story or anecdote. Now, what’s helpful here is that your anecdotes can be modular. This means that one anecdote can answer more than just one question. For instance, leadership and adversity anecdotes are typically interchangeable. Perhaps two or so anecdotes could fit the bill in a response to any one of those leadership and adversity questions above.
Why Modularity is Helpful
Modularity is of course helpful because it means you have to prepare a bit less. But modularity is also helpful because behavioral questions are a lot less predictable than technical questions. There is a good chance you will be asked behavioral questions that are not in the above list. Yet, if you have enough anecdotes to answer all of the questions above, you should be ready to repurpose at least one of them to cover most styles of behavioral questions you can expect. After enough practice with friends, family, classmates, and also while networking, you will learn to more quickly improvise and weave these anecdotes into all sorts of behavioral question responses.
Your Responses Should Be Brief
Excepting the “walk me through your resume” & “contrarian thesis” questions, which can last about 1.5 to 2 minutes, your anecdotal responses to any of the above questions should last no more than 30 seconds. You risk boring your interviewer if you go on much further. Further, speaking for too long makes you appear unprepared. Brevity is a core REPE career skill, and concise responses will improve your polish. So, actually time yourself when you’re speaking.
You Must Practice with Your Voice
You’ll never answer real estate private equity interview questions in your head. You’ll always use your voice, whether you’re interviewing on-site, over the phone, or through video conference. Yet, one of the most common rookie mistakes is for candidates to practice responding to interview questions alone in their head. First, you should be responding out loud every time. So if this means you have to steal a breakout room in the library, go outside, or stay in your room, then do it. This is a non-negotiable practice requirement if you want to secure an REPE career.
At first, behavioral questions might feel difficult to prepare because you can’t just download an interview guide that feeds you the right answers. Rather, you must learn to package your life story in a way that will sell well when interviewing. The good news is you will get better at preparing and repurposing these anecdotes as you work through more interviews. As with college essay writing, you’ll get a hang of what sticks and what doesn’t. Here, the key ingredient is to verbally practice your responses to these questions out loud with your real voice, enlisting family, friends, and classmates/colleagues at least once or twice per week to give you a realistic practice setting. But do it alone if you have to. And good luck!