I refused to take the Excel Modeling Test

I am sure you can notice this from other threads I have posted, but I am a well qualified applicant with around 4 years of experience, $3B+ of direct real estate experience, and hold prestigious degrees (Not ivy league, but target schools). 

For this reason, I am told by experts (Recruiters, HR, and Employers) that I am a $100k base candidate (not NYC market). 

A recruiter connected me with a brand new firm in the US with established Europe presence. They haggled me (before an offer came) to see if I would take a $90k base, then came back with $85k base. I agreed since its 1 mile from my house. 

I was asked to build an over the top, complex and dynamic model that needed to be completed as the potential employers "Test". Argus not available. It required a full dynamic model (principal amortization, market leasing assumptions, CapEx schedule, TI/TA/LC, multi-property, multi-property tax ID's, Waterfall (IRR & EM driven), and even a full investment summary with sensitivity tables). Imagine the templates you create for your current employer to create efficiency when underwriting.

Crazy enough, they asked me to model an exact portfolio that I already modeled in my current job and put together a beautiful marketing package for major LP's ($150MM + deal). So, I sent them my underwriting and my dropbox of all my prior work through my career. They still asked for me to complete the model, I refused to do it.

Did I do the right thing? 

Comments (37)

  • Analyst 2 in RE - Comm
Aug 26, 2021 - 1:24am

Starting a new analyst job making 80k base plus bonus and wasn't required to take an excel test. This excel test is completely over the top.

  • Investment Analyst in PE - Other
Aug 19, 2021 - 8:28am

That's a wholly unreasonable ask on the potential employers end. And for 4 years out 85k base is laughable. I'd imagine that's an awful place to work.

Sep 9, 2021 - 11:51pm
Risk Weighted Ass, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Yeah I would never accept a place that went down in negotiations. If you offer me 90k then come back with 85k I'ma laugh in your face.

That said, I would do the model for my own learning and practice and see what their feedback is out of curiosity.

Regardless you should not be taking anything with that low pay if you have 4 yrs of experience regardless, especially now that you can work virtually from literally anywhere in the world.

Move on to the next.

Most Helpful
Aug 19, 2021 - 9:25am
pudding, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Here's the deal, it doesn't sound like you were on board to begin with. I think what the ask they gave you to do is ridiculous. A modeling test is fine, but to ask for what sounds like 10-20 hours of work is nuts. On top of that, they were haggling on the price. Besides that it is one mile from your house, considering how difficult they've been already, do you really want to work for them? You are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. If you think you are an $100K candidate (which I'm sure you are), and they are fighting you over $15K, just imagine how hard it'll be to get a raise over time. I would move on and (1) find a firm that values you (pay), and (2) find a firm that recognizes the interview process times take and a modeling test should be a few hours tops. I always hated when firms would email me Monday morning and ask me to put a test together by Wednesday / Thursday. And when you viewed the prompt, it was 5-10 hours. It's almost like they don't care or forget that you are also holding a full time job. I had one firm tell me I needed to come into their office from 9-5 to take a modeling test and when I said I could do it on a Saturday, they had issues with it until my recruiter got involved. Needless to say I moved on and have since found out they have a rough reputation in the market. It's about finding fit and if they don't treat you well when you're interviewing, just imagine how you'll be treated when you're working there. 

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Aug 19, 2021 - 10:13am
centermvp, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thank you for your input, this is very helpful... I was losing sleep over it last night... The test was the most aggressive I have ever seen. You would think that the employer would be smart and say 'Holy Sh*t we found somebody that has balls to dispute an excel quiz. Think about what they can do in the RE world'.

Aug 19, 2021 - 12:04pm
rhivc, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Couldn't agree more with this. A modeling test that can show you know what you're doing in excel should take less than 30 minutes at MOST. The ask that you build a new template with waterfall components and the fact that they went from $90k to $85k is a bad sign!

Aug 19, 2021 - 1:52pm
porkbellies, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Exactly what I was thinking - sounds like they need a model they can't build on their own but don't really want to hire you. Pass, next please.

May 19, 2022 - 7:28pm
Freja, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Also, they might be aware you've worked on the  asset before and since the ask was so ridiculous they might have wanted to get your confidential materials - which you have willingly passed to them.

Aug 19, 2021 - 11:19am
redever, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I'm mixed on this one tbh. I don't blame you for saying no to the modeling request, but did it actually occur post agreement on offer/price? Like this was more due diligence on you? Or something like that? Most "modeling tests" are more screen out methods for junior people, and yeah with ~4 years exp not a common item. But, this doesn't sound like a modeling test, more like a full audition. I'll agree not standard, but more senior roles due do ask people to make presentations on strategic vision, investment strategy, etc. (in fairness these are more "leadership" items), so I guess a trial run model at more junior/mid level could be a thing (I wouldn't do as an employer to be clear). 

Personally, I'd find a way to "negotiate" on this (if it is really a good job you want and still under active consideration), like "If I do this successfully, then I'm clearly worth 100k base, etc.". Since you don't seem like you "need" this job, play hard ball!!!

Aug 19, 2021 - 11:57am
centermvp, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Yes, it was more like an audition. There was no offer, but there was already salary discussions...They couldn't budget for my $100k salary, so I agreed to a little bit less. Next time, I think I will suggest an offer letter pending successful modeling test?

Aug 19, 2021 - 12:12pm
redever, what's your opinion? Comment below:

My point is more using these type of "odd" requests as leverage in negotiating, essentially making the trade of risk/time for more certain/better job. If they insist on this being for "screening" then you may not get very far, but if they really want you, this can be smart move.  

Aug 19, 2021 - 12:06pm
rhivc, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I think the fact that the salary offered is $85k means it's definitely not a position where OP will be relied on heavily to direct the firm's strategy or vision. 

Aug 19, 2021 - 12:15pm
redever, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I wasn't suggesting for the OP's situation that any of those items would be requested, just that is something that gets more common at more senior roles. The last two jobs I took required and/or gave me the opportunity to submit essentially "strategic plans" and even present one in one case. This made sense given the nature of the roles. Can junior/mid people be asked or expected to similar things that fit those roles, sure, why not, but less common. 

Aug 19, 2021 - 12:40pm
centermvp, what's your opinion? Comment below:

UPDATE: They shared, "You are too senior and too mature for this role. We are moving in a different direction for this hire, which is really a more low level analyst position."

  • Associate 1 in PE - Other
Aug 19, 2021 - 3:53pm

First, this is based - absolutely fuck case studies.  Especially ones that take over an hour, presuming you already have transactions experience.  Literally the biggest waste of time considering every single firm already has templates.  If they don't, it is probably a bottom tier firm if juniors are building models from scratch.

Second, was this Mill Creek residential? Had a good friend do their case study (apparently killed it) and it took him 18 hours and they made him do 8 interviews, and then ghosted him lol

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Aug 19, 2021 - 9:38pm

I hate when firms ask to build a model from scratch when there's literally no time for that BS on the job when you have templates and then they have the audacity to ghost candidates that even attempt the case study like WTF? Firms that make people jump through hoops are just insecure because of their lack of judgement when hiring. They could suck suck my left nut lol.

Aug 19, 2021 - 5:51pm
money.monkey, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Yes brotha. A modeling should not take more than 2 hours of your time, however complex they want to make it.

Any company reserves the right to ask the candidate to demonstrate their skills on excel/ppt whatnot. But the potential employer must be respectful of people's time since it is the candidate interviewing the firm just as much as the other way around.

Good for you for slamming down the hammer.

Array

Aug 20, 2021 - 4:08am
TheBuellerBanker, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I've heard of some smaller shops in PE asking for absolutely asinine modeling tests only for the VP/Principal to tell the candidate they just wanted to see how far they'd go. I think that's stupid as hell and puts undue pressure on candidates. I think you did the right thing because if you didn't agree with the interview process they presented you then there's a chance you wouldn't gel with the culture there anyway. A lot of the shops which purposefully create ridiculous modeling tests or case studies with unreasonable expectations are usually full of dudes who wear black dress shirts and excessively use the word "hustle" anyway so I don't think you missed out lol

  • 4
Aug 31, 2021 - 1:48pm
PEarbitrage, what's your opinion? Comment below:

That for 100K base even in real estate is a joke.  It sounds to me like they had an asset pop up on their radar that they want to raise some additional outside capital on and are hoping they can stick the work with someone interviewing.

Sep 9, 2021 - 1:11am
BuscandoDatos, what's your opinion? Comment below:

If I was looking to hire a candidate and he/she refused to do any part of an interview assignment, I would immediately can that person. That would signal to me that the person is (i) incapable of doing the work (irrespective of what the Dropbox files might show) and (ii) believes he/she is above the task and is, therefore, likely arrogant, lazy, and not a team player - all terrible qualities. It sounds like everything worked out for the best here, as neither OP nor the company actually wanted to work together. But for future jobs that you actually want to land, I would take the test and ace it. And once hired, don't ever complain about a task being too menial or beneath you, whether you're a first year Analyst or an MD. Sometimes we all have to do a little extra, so might as well do it with a smile. If that attitude seems unreasonable, don't expect to get paid or ever achieve anything more than mediocrity in your career. Attitude is everything.

Sep 9, 2021 - 10:01pm
PeterMBA2018, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Your whole post sounds like candidates work for you ("can them", "complete tasks"). They do not work for you at all. 
 

People do work and complete tasks when you are paying them to do so. You can talk about the work and tasks they do, ask for a short sample, etc but assigning actual work that takes hours to complete is way out of bounds. 

Array
Sep 9, 2021 - 7:05pm
yoruba123, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Companies should require a modeling test based on the role or set expectations, if not, high caliber candidates will end up leaving on their own or get pushed out due to politics.  I have been on both sides of the coin... previously worked at a shop where my boss/head of acquisitions had no idea you can link two excel files, or do a basic MIN, MAX or IF statement to build basic proformas in excel.  This moron and scum of a human being also had no idea what sources & uses, discount rate, etc meant which led to a lot of frustration.  Top down, it wasn't about being accountable for your work but about kissing ass to leadership to move up or get rewarded.  It wasn't a learning environment which made it frustrating!  I don't expect my boss to know excel but they should have a VERY STRONG foundation in real estate, JVs, negotiations, creativity, etc. and be able to get in the weeds if needed to execute if or when I am stuck.  Based on shop structure, I think it's critical to use analytical skills to drive impact while also learning so it's a "win win" for all parties especially at analyst through VP/director level.  I got my current job because an MBA from a toptier real estate program BSed his way through the interview process and got fired a month later because he couldn't model a basic hold / sell/ refi analysis.  During my interview at my current firm, a strong boutique developer, I asked to see their in-house model and also wanted an excel test so it would be a "win win".  I have been more than impressed with the firm and the leadership team!  I have worked on very complex deal structures (we partner with family office, PE, converatible strucutures, etc) and if/or when I am stuck, the principals of the firm who are in their mid to late 40s will sit side by side to figure out how to solve the problem.  THAT'S LEADERSHIP!  Hold me accountable but also be willing to help me learn and grow.

I have worked with morons who couldn't do their job but used their relationship with management to control others in the organization.  Quite frustrating working with these type of people.

Array

  • 7
Sep 11, 2021 - 12:40pm
skier13, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I wanna work with you and your firm. You guys hiring? Haha

Cultures like this breed success from the top down and limit turnover.

Mar 9, 2022 - 12:59am
absolutenobody, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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Mar 9, 2022 - 7:54am
SwagLevel, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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