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How To Be a Top Candidate When Interviewing For a Real Estate Private Equity Firm

By April 7, 2021April 8th, 2024RETS Blog

For those who are about to graduate or recently graduated and are on the job hunt then this information is for you. I bet you are asking yourself, “How in the world am I supposed to get a job when I have applied to the same role that 700 other people have as well?”  There are things you can do but they all depend on the opportunities you have given yourself in the past. Various firms look for any number of criteria when selecting a candidate. Many (the word some is used too often in this paragraph so I used alternative words that are close to the same meaning as the word some) of those qualities can already be in your rear-view mirror.    


Some firms might ask for information from your past education such as ACT or SAT math scores. Hiring managers will look at what college you attended and if it was a top 20 institution or not. Information such as your major, final GPA and core GPA is almost always considered. During your college years were you one of the top achievers in your class who defined early on what you wanted to do with your career? Did you obtain an internship with a firm that is well known and successful in the private equity industry or were you sitting on the beach getting tan, fit and having a great time? There is nothing wrong with either one of those options, however, one will give you more leverage over the competition than the other.    


Real estate private equity firms may be searching for candidates who earned an Argus certification or became advanced users of Excel financial modeling. Your past experience is one of the strongest attributes that can set you aside from the other applicants. Did you intern with an applicable firm during your college years or is your current job preparing you for the private equity industry. 


These are all potential questions and conversations that many real estate private equity firms have when sorting through hundreds of applicants for a small number of job openings. What happens when you tick all of these boxes and have a strong background? Let’s talk about the personality and characteristics of a candidate that would be the unicorn in the stack of horses.   


When the interview process begins, the end objective is to ideally land the role. Hiring managers will look at previous experience but will also consider if your personality is a match with the team. Culture fit is a big component of the selection process when it comes to hiring a candidate.  Even though this quality is one you do not have control over, it is imperative that you be yourself during the interview and not try to be someone you think the firm will hire. 


Some may say that passion is just as important as experience. Demonstrating that you’ve got a genuine interest in the industry, the company and the role will illustrate that you are focused and decisive about the opportunity.  The stand out candidates will not just use the word “passion” during the interview but they will find ways that demonstrate or quantify their passion.  Your chance to get to the next phase of the interview process will depend on how your balance your experience, educational background and passion. 


It is evident that you are supposed to talk highly about yourself during an interview. However, to stand out from the 400+ other applicants that are doing the same thing is to back up your skills and provide evidence of your successes. A great way to do this is communicate how you completed the goal to a high standard or how you exceeded the expectations of your associates. For example, turning the statement of “I work well with others” into listing the reasons why you successfully worked well collaborating with others and how you completed the project would go farther in an interview. In addition, finish each point you talk about with what you learned from the experience; quote what your co-workers or managers have said about working with you.  The goal here is to back up your talk with a lot of walk. Remember that specific examples of your accomplishments and experiences will speak for themselves and you will avoid coming off as arrogant.   


Emotional intelligence can be a tricky one to resemble, but we have a few tricks to show off this great characteristic trait. When an interviewer asks about what negative experiences you had in previous role, the best way to answer is avoid casting blame. The worst thing you can do in this situation is blame others for whatever situation happened.  Be prepared to share your responsibility in terms of what you would have done differently looking back. Interviewers understand that people make mistakes but they are looking to see if you are the type of person who learns from their mistakes and made a lesson out of the situation.   


Hopefully, these few tips on interviewing and securing a real estate private equity role will provide valuable!  Remember information is power so use it!

Kent Elliott and Andrew Reising serve as Principal and Director at RETS Associates, a national real estate executive search firm. They can be reached at: and

The RETS Team brings a deep, strategic understanding of the real estate industry to your recruitment needs. Click here for more insights & tips.