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? 

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Comments (34)

Aug 19, 2021 - 8:03am

I don't really understand why you refused. These tests are pretty much required for junior level employees.

It just looks very odd, almost like you can't do it - that would be my takeaway and would definitely be a big minus in your file. 

  • 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

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

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

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

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!

  • Research Analyst in HF - Event
Aug 19, 2021 - 10:21am

Lmao it sounds like they're trying to farm out work and get the work done for free. You definitely dodged a bullet there.

Aug 19, 2021 - 1:52pm

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.

Aug 19, 2021 - 11:19am

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

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 - 12:15pm

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

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

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.


Aug 20, 2021 - 4:08am

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

  • 3
Aug 31, 2021 - 1:48pm

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

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

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. 

Sep 9, 2021 - 7:05pm

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