How to Get Into a Megafund's RE Arm Out of School?

Senior monkeys and real estate gods,

I am a senior in at a semi/target school, with a decent GPA, who always found investing interesting. I dug deeper into this and decided that I want to pursue real estate investing to start my career. While there are pros and cons to being at a large fund vs. a local investor or developer, I have realized that I would like to have an aerial view of real estate instead of focusing on a specific market right away. Thus for internships, I managed to work at multipe well known global institutions (think life co, pension funds, endowments, sovereign wealth funds, family offices, etc.) investing across the capital stack in real estate. However, I have envisioned myself to work at a private global investor for various reasons. Call it picky and unrealistic if you want, but I have thought really hard about the pros and cons of working at these shops. I know that I want this and came close to recruiting for a few of them the last time around, so I want to keep trying.

  • For those of you who are working in Megafunds (BX, BAM, Starwood, Carlyle, KKR, Ares, Apollo, Oaktree, etc.) in the real estate group, how did you get in? What was your background like?

  • How did you or your colleagues who came out of undergrad get in? What were the most important things that drove success? Simply applying, networking, being a local or target student?

  • If you are on the recruiting team for these types of firms, what do you look for in candidates and, if possible, what do your interview processes look like for college students? How many rounds do you usually have, are your technical questions more RE related or IB/ corp fin too, is there a modelling/knowledge test, superday?

  • Does your firm hire in a typical timeline for Analysts or is it on an as-needs basis?

  • If you were in my shoes, what would you be trying to do most? Keep up to date with market news, continue practicing modelling tests, networking, applying, etc.?

  • For modelling practice, which source would you use and why - BIWS, ACRE, REFM, other?

I know I threw out a bunch of questions right now, anything would be greatly appreciated!

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Comments (49)

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
May 18, 2021 - 4:18am

Going to be very tough path assuming you're aiming for acquisitions. Blackstone and Starwood are the big ones (along with MSREI) that recruit out of undergrad. School is very important for all of these, specifically Starwood (recruit at Ivies and maybe have a chance if going to another target like Georgetown/Duke/Michigan etc.). You seem like you have great internship experience, so if you can get your foot in the door, you should have a good shot. Ares and Brookfield I believe recently started analyst programs, but the rest rarely take undergrads and to the best of my knowledge don't really have a formal program either (at least for acquisitions, so not including KKR Credit or TPG MREIT). Smaller shops to maybe also look that hire undergrads include Northwood Investors (NYC), Tishman Speyer (NYC), Harrison Street (CHI), Walton Street (CHI), Crow Holdings (Dallas) Greystar (Charleston) etc.

May 18, 2021 - 4:35am

Thanks for your advice! In terms of equity vs. debt, I experienced and saw +/- for career paths and enjoyment of the role of both sides, and am still open to either sides (also figured this makes my recruitment shot better too).

I don't go to any of those schools, so my alumni network is limited in finance, and in this level of real estate. I've had luck by hitting the pavement and networking (some calls at 4am with time zones lol).

From your knowledge of the industry, would you consider MSREI a top-tier fund to work at in terms of deals, comp, and learning exposure? What about JPM AM and GSAM RE arms?

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
May 18, 2021 - 4:46am

Yes, as analyst it's basically as good as it gets from an experience/exit perspective. Can go anywhere in RE from there. Recent exits include TPG, KKR, Baupost, RockPoint, Northwood etc. Seems to be a two and out program though and performance of the fund doesn't exactly have the cleanest history (basically went under in GFC). Can't comment on culture. 

May 18, 2021 - 8:07am

If you are dead set on those funds, 2 years of banking and than making the transition is generally your best bet. 

I understand you've thought this through, but don't be so dead set on these large funds. There are plenty of other funds you can work at, directly out of college, that are extremely similar. If you open your view a little bit, it would open a slew of opportunities for you. 

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May 18, 2021 - 12:37pm

Thanks! Open to banking, what do you think about real estate capital advisory to get into these roles? Some BB and EBs have these groups, but don't have much info, or the potential exits. I have been networking with many funds, and am not turning away from them (that would be a mistake to be that narrow given my background IMO). I've seen people work at various REITs or private equity firms and move over to the larger funds as well. 

  • Intern in RE - Comm
May 18, 2021 - 9:31am

This is an extremely narrow career goal. What do you want to do after your associate stint?

May 18, 2021 - 10:17am

Keep in mind that each of these firms can set unique desires for UG hires, if any, so I think you just need to apply and hope the OCR/campus recruiting gods shine light your way. I remember reading an interview with Schwartzman at BX who said they have no more than 100 analyst spots total per year for UGs, and they get like 1000s of apps per spot (this was a global stat, meaning 100 globally all offices). From what I've heard (and this was in part from a BX person directly), they really only look at like 3 schools in the US for 95% of the people they hire direct from UG. Grad school is more diverse, and your work resume matters a ton (i.e. they want the M7 MBA person with 2-3 years at least if I-banking or similar experience). 

Some firms like UGs and have wider targets (I've heard Carlyle is like this), others generally skip UG altogether for front office roles (will do for middle/back office roles) and just hire experienced (and typically grad degree + exp.)

If you go down this "prestige" list, you will find many that will hire direct from UG and not just the "HYP" types. So really, I don't see any great advantage in narrow casting this search. It means far more to people in school, those in the industry could care less about working for these firms, that should tell you something. 

May 18, 2021 - 12:49pm

Thanks! these routes (banking, MBA, experienced hires, etc.) are other routes I am open to. But for those few spots designated for UGs, not just at BX, I'm wondering what the best thing was that people did. For me, prestige is not the primary reason to work at these sort of funds. Also, there were many that I did not list (ex. Cerberus, Bain, Sculptor, etc.). I've seen UGs get hired at these places and am wondering how they did it.

Most Helpful
May 18, 2021 - 1:39pm

I know a person who literally was hired direct from UG in to one of the firms you listed above, not sure their "story" of how they got hired... presume they had to apply (I'm like 99% sure they didn't have a family member there or anything like that), get interviewed, and got picked. 

I mean applying to these firms isn't different from any other job (and they really don't deserve all the hero worship imho). You use alumni connections, extended networks, and even cold contacting where possible. You have to clear screening, second rounds, superdays, final rounds, etc. Hopefully you made good impressions along the way. I don't know if any secret key exists, it's just a job. Clearly the "high prestige" jobs/firms will get many, many more applicants per position (just cold hard truth), but the steps you take to look good in front of BX aren't really different for any other firm.

My consistent advice to the readers of WSO, apply broadly, take the best offer you get. The best job is the one you actually get offered. Plus, the first job out of UG will not be your last (you are very very likely to change jobs many times). You can always do grad school later or other things to "level up" if needed. Thus, don't stress this. 

May 18, 2021 - 12:52pm

Haven't graduated yet. Yes, that's why I was also wondering if the funds hire on an as-needs basis or in a typical recruitment timeline. I have seen many shops hire at random moments this year.

Jun 5, 2021 - 3:42am

The timeline is completely sporatic. Traditionally, Blackstone and Starwood recruit about a year before you start so summer after your junior year/early fall. They also take summer analysts too which at some places has a pretty high return rate. Not many of those top firms you mention have an undergrad summer analyst program and even those that do don't guarantee high return offers. 

  • Analyst 2 in RE - Other
May 19, 2021 - 1:21pm

Don't rule out the smaller regional shops, as they might be more willing to hire out of UG. Find a shop with good deal flow and institutional partners, then you can make the jump to the bigger shops (maybe to the aforementioned partners) with more deal experience under your belt. 

Regardless, if you don't have on-campus recruiting, your best bet is to network. Throwing your resumes out into the LinkedIn/Select Leaders void will only get you so far. Use alumni connections or cold email people through LinkedIn/by guessing their company email format, and go from there.  

May 20, 2021 - 12:30am

Thanks, networking really will be the biggest factor of my success I guess. By no means am I ruling out smaller regional shops, banking, or other types of institutions. I jsut want to try to get to my goal directly while it is possible. There's always other ways to get there too.

May 20, 2021 - 2:40pm

REPE funds that recruit out of school are looking for those who've already learned the "basics" through a dedicated real estate program at their school. Wharton and Cornell Hotel School are viewed as the top tier (I know of several firms that almost exclusively recruit from those two schools out of undergrad), with UW Madison, Michigan, and NYU in a close second tier. 

Large funds/REITs that recruit out of undergrad I can think of include:

  • Blackstone – actually prefers to hire junior people straight out of undergrad, and the "basics" comment may apply less here
  • Goldman REPIA
  • SL Green
  • Vornado
  • Starwood
  • KKR
  • Walton Street
  • Square Mile

I'm sure I'm missing a bunch.

Also I see the comment now about your school not having a real estate program – there's definitely still hope! In my mind it would take two things: #1 is being extremely scrappy about going to networking events, cold emailing/Linkedin messaging, etc. to get a "foot in the door" with someone. #2 is just being knowledgeable and conversant about specific markets and deal metrics, with the ultimate goal of showing you are the type of person who can think critically to distinguish between a good and bad investment. Being able to talk building-by-building about a market you're passionate about goes insanely far, especially with more senior people. Know the big historical deals and how they played out (Equity Office, Stuy Town, GGP a couple times, etc.), and use historical examples to support how you think the current market will play out. Reading the Real Deal, Commercial Observer, even BisNow, etc. along with the classic RE books (Liars Ball, Zeckendorf autobiography) and just listening to people in the industry speak will get you far. 

May 20, 2021 - 8:48pm

This is amazing, thank you. I looked at a few deals from the funds you mentioned as sponsors or GPs in JVs. Do you think it would be appropriate to ask them about it when speaking with people at these shops, or is that inappropriate because it's private information and I'm not at the shops I interned at anymore?

In interviews, I've been asked about deals I've worked on and recent deals I read about and usually answer those well. But I never thought about being able to speak on a landmark deal well (unless the fund itself did it). Great advice! 

May 20, 2021 - 11:47pm

Glad to hear it was helpful! Absolutely not inappropriate and actually encouraged to ask about as many specific deals a company has done as possible – they're more than capable of managing their own disclosure. Obviously best to bring up deals that seem to be successful ones though – e.g. I wouldn't talk about the GFC at MSREI or REPIA. 

Knowing about the landmark deals just shows you're passionate about the business, and also that you can synthesize information and think critically about how an investment will play out. It's all about how you can take past information and apply it to future situations (past experience being the only real difference between senior and junior people). For example something along the lines of this will knock your future MD's socks off: "Blackstone's equity office deal shows that prudent risk management and advantageous financing terms can help deliver attractive returns even for one of the biggest acquisitions ever made at the absolute height of a cycle."

Jun 5, 2021 - 3:46am

Can confirm, this info is accurate. I think I saw every one listed here except for Goldman and Vornado post handshake links. Also keep in mind, that these opportunities are not limited to Hotel School, it's across all of Cornell undergrad which is career service's policy. I came from a physics major and was still able to land most of my real estate interviews. 

  • Analyst 3+ in PE - Other
May 23, 2021 - 3:35pm

In order of path most likely to end up there:

1) Land an internship in the group

2) 2 years REIB

3) 2-3 years acquisitions at a smaller REPE (my route)

4) Brokerage for 2-3 years (Eastdil prioritized) or real estate asset manager same time

5) Don't try and get back 20 hours per week for the next 20 years of your life

  • Investment Analyst in RE - Comm
Jun 3, 2021 - 1:16am

Accurate. However, it should be noted IMO that 3) only works when the smaller REPE still has some name recognition (lower on the PERE 100 or not too far from making it). Working in brokerage for 2-3 years will yield much better results than experience at an REPE of 3 dudes in an office running friends & family money

  • Analyst 3+ in PE - Other
Jun 3, 2021 - 1:40am

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  • Analyst 3+ in PE - Other
Jun 3, 2021 - 1:56pm

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