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Questions to ask During a Real Estate Private Equity Interview

One of the more common questions I get from students is: “what questions should I ask at the end of a real estate private equity interview?” Right off the bat, that question implies there is a set list of best-to-ask real estate private equity interview questions at the end of each round. But if there really were such a list, then my students probably wouldn’t keep asking me for it – it’d be easy to research. In fact, you probably have, and have run into the same list of questions as nearly everyone else.

The Generic Questions

Below are the questions you’ve probably seen before. There’s nothing wrong with these questions, they’re just boilerplate. Everybody knows about them, so they aren’t quite memorable. And if you ask the same questions as everybody else, you’re not increasing your odds of standing apart from the crowd.

  • Could you walk me through the day-to-day of your job?
  • What is your favorite part of the job?
  • Could you tell me about a deal you recently worked on?
  • What do you think sets your firm apart from its competition?
  • Could you share your thoughts on the market?
  • What do you think about this particular transaction?

It’s fair if you ask one or two of these, especially if they are relevant to a particularly engaging bit of your interview. But just be aware that they’re a bit of a hedged bet. The probability of striking a home run “oh that’s a great question” is diminished.

So how can you stand out?

In a vacuum, the advice above leaves you no better off. You still aren’t sure what questions to ask at the end of an interview. That’s predominantly because the best questions to ask depend entirely on your interviewer and the course of your conversation.

To negotiate around this “case-by-case” caveat, you should focus instead on the things you want to learn – rather than the specifics of the question itself. This advice is similar to the archetype advice shared in an earlier post, but reversed. You’re giving the interviewer the opportunity to pitch themselves and their firm. 

The goal is to remember their pitches, and rework them into your subsequent rounds with the same firm. For instance, say you’re asked in another interview why you like their firm in particular. Well, you can list off the pitch bullets you received from your last interviewer. The less generic you sound, the better your odds of nailing that interview question. Thus, the more firm-specific intel you can gather, the better.

Guidelines for Insightful End-of-Interview Questions

The goal is to convey a deeper understanding about the firm. Interviews are more than real estate private equity case studies and technical questions. The firm wants to know you’re genuinely interested in their unique culture. 

During an REPE interview process, you will interview multiple people. You will aim to learn more about the company with each interview. Here are my guidelines that will help you learn firm-specific details in each interview, with the end goal of reworking that knowledge into your next interview at the same firm (and possibly other firms):

  1. Ask the interviewer about a specific instance where they were provided an opportunity to push themselves beyond their limits. Then, in your next interview, you can say “I like this fund because it emphasizes growth at the junior levels. For instance, so-and-so was allowed to run point on this process early on as an Analyst.”
  2. Figure out the cultural elements that the senior leadership emphasizes most. Is the dress code all white dress shirts and conservative attire? Are people loud and congenial, or reserved and pensive?
  3. Are there instances where your interviewer has advocated a contrarian strategy, and how did it go / is it going?
  4. What parts of the business do they get their hands on? Do they get a broad array of experiences, or are they narrowly focused on a particular task?
  5. And outside of their own experience, are other peoples’ functions strictly defined (investments people only invest, PM people only manage, and so forth)?
  6. How do they feel about their opportunities for growth? If they’re junior, have they had the chance to manage anything meaningful? At which point does “hand-holding” stop and they’re afforded more autonomy on their processes?

Conclusion

Every minute of an interview is precious. You must demonstrate passion, curiosity, hard work – and all other virtuous elements of a job candidate. That’s a lot to pack into a thirty-minute window. 

Asking questions of your interviewer is a great way to treat your interviews like active conversations rather than a passive, one-way Q&A routine. Further, recycling the knowledge you learn allows you to efficiently demonstrate your thoughtfulness and ability to diligence an unknown entity – one of the core job skills in REPE investing.

Learn With Leveraged Breakdowns

Preparing for real estate private equity interviews isn’t easy. You must excel both technically and behaviorally. And beyond that, there’s always a material element of chance that you cannot hedge away through preparation. That said, there is always room for improvement. Leveraged Breakdowns offers real estate private equity case studies and technical guides that help level the playing field when competing for a position as an outsider.

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