The Real Estate Job Hunt - Mid Level

BigCompanyGuy's picture
Rank: Monkey | 39

Was wondering how everyone's job search is going, especially those with 5 to 10 years of experience.

I'm currently an Associate (acquisitions & development) at a boutique investment shop in a major non-NYC east coast market. I have 6 years experience including 2 years at a brokerage shop and 4 years at my current role. Have done over 10 deals (acquisitions and development combined) so far worth over a billion dollars. Very mediocre education background though. Non-target undergraduate followed right away by a sub-30 ranking school's Master of Accounting.

I have been job hunting since March 2019, and have found it extremely difficult to land interviews for mid to large size firms, be it LP, PERE, national or regional developers. When I was job hunting at the brokerage firm, it was as difficult but understandable since I had little deal experience. Thought it would be different when I have more years and deals under my belt.

What's more frustrating is that I just got rejected by a national firm after 3 rounds of interviews over 2 months, including one final round lunch interview. I thought I got the job when I received the lunch interview invitation.

Anyway, for those with over 5 years experience, how is your job hunt going? Is it difficult for everyone, or just me because of my education background. Appreciate the input.

Comments (72)

Aug 7, 2019

Are you me?

But seriously, i think at this point in our careers it's tough to rely on job postings/conventional application approach. My peers have been transitioning laterally through their network, mentor referrals, or headhunters.

Aug 8, 2019

Agree. Feel like cold-email is not the way to go anymore though. When you have more experience it seems like it's more effective to expand on the relationships you build on a company level. But I find it risky to reach out to a LP partner or client regarding my personal career

Aug 7, 2019

Credit officers and relationship managers at banks like BoA, Wells Fargo, Capital One....tons of openings

Aug 8, 2019

That only hire people with bank training, especially at associate and up level.

Aug 8, 2019

I do GSE/CMBS at a bank in NYC, but want to transition back to my home state in 3-4 years. Only CRE jobs seem to be at banks and brokerages. Do you think my experience would check the box for a bank's balance sheet if they don't have GSE business down there?

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Aug 9, 2019

Seems silly as commercial banking is not rocket science...

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Aug 7, 2019

I found the same. Just not that many large companies out there. Keep looking

Aug 8, 2019

I have 6 years of experience (brokerage, credit risk, LIHTC) and went to a good liberal arts college and it hasn't been easy to land interviews in my market in the northeast, probably because there are 100+ applicants for every job.

Aug 8, 2019

Any tips for people looking to change markets? I have a friend trying to relocate from NYC to LA who is having trouble, especially since its hard to network across the country. Is reaching out to an LA based RE focused headhunter the right move?

Aug 8, 2019

I would say so. What does your friend want to do in RE?

Aug 8, 2019
Ricky Sargulesh:

Any tips for people looking to change markets?

Can't be afraid to travel. It shows a certain level of commitment to fly to a new city just to grab coffee with someone.

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Aug 8, 2019

It's really tough though given we all work full time. Would need to take time off for coffee, then multiple rounds of interviews if you are lucky. Do this 3 to 4 times and it might get suspicious.

Aug 8, 2019

Confused on this...aren't relationships all that matter after 5-10 years? And moving geographically destroys most of your network...

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Aug 8, 2019

You can have relationships that extend beyond your specific region, albeit smaller. There's also more to life than just career upside. Sometimes you take two steps back to take ten steps forward.

Aug 8, 2019
VolatilitySmile:

Confused on this...aren't relationships all that matter after 5-10 years? And moving geographically destroys most of your network...

Not to mention your market knowledge, but there's work and then there's life.

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Aug 8, 2019

Depends what role you play. Local broker? Yeah, moving could crush your network. National lender or LP? Shouldn't matter as much.

I am on the LP side and most of my network is scattered across the country.

Aug 8, 2019

He's in REPE acquisitions/asset management and operates entirely outside of his own market already. Firm is based in NYC but he covers random cities in the south and midwest and spends 95% of his time interfacing with non-NYC RE people so I don't think he's concerned about losing many contacts if he leaves. Would obviously still have to "start over" a bit if he relocates to a west coast REPE but it's not like he's a broker and would have to totally restart.

Aug 8, 2019

I think the older you get the longer it takes to move jobs. Given you started in March of this year, that means you've been in the market for ~5 months, the majority of which coming during the summer months when things are generally quieter. Just keep plowing through opportunities and stay in the market and eventually something will stick. All of my job moves have taken 12+ months from the time I initially started looking. I'll also add that the jump between Analyst / Associate and VP / DM / AVP rarely happens when switching firms. You'll probably come in as an associate wherever you land.

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Most Helpful
Aug 8, 2019

Over the past couple years it seems the supply-demand dynamic at the mid-tier acquisitions professional level has gotten out of whack. I know a ton of guys who feel they are underpaid (and they are IMO) looking around while simultaneously attempting to negotiate with their current employer. Thing is there doesn't seem to be a lot of great openings and the ones that are open pay like absolute shit. So OP, you're not imagining things, the amount of associate level professionals looking for greener pastures has grown while good opportunities are few and far between. It's a helluva a lot tougher out there than it was 18-24 months ago. A lot of that is cyclical, for sure.

The Associate level job market is just so damn fickle right now with no where to go

I'm sure everyone has seen the compensation spreadsheet on WSO. I can't believe how low comp is for investment guys (dev, acq or otherwise) with +-5yrs experience. I think this is a product of a lot of quality talent at the associate level and few openings at this point in the cycle. The market just sucks at this level. Think about it, you don't REALLY add tremendous value at the associate level. The jump to director / AVP is the most important one and the most challenging to achieve.

It's sad that you basically have to go to market, get a competitive offer / get close to one and use it as leverage with your firm to get paid somewhere near what you're worth.

I just reread this and it's a really unorganized shitty rant so I apologize.

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Aug 8, 2019

That's quite a hard-to-swallow pill

Aug 9, 2019

This is 100% accurate. There are way too many qualified associate level candidates gunning for shrinking pool of Director positions. The problem with acquisitions and development is that the turnover at the Director/VP level is very low at top shops because it is an interesting fulfilling career path with high upside for principal track.

The real demand in the CRE space is for qualified superintendents and project managers that can run large complicated developments. College-educated superintendents are making $200k+ while recruiters blast them with emails every week.

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Aug 9, 2019

Agreed. At the associate level you are basically just an analyst who doesn't need to be trained on the absolute basics, but will still be a liability for a few months while you are finding your groove. Also once you reach a point where your comp is tied to deal execution it almost never makes sense to leave.

Aug 10, 2019

Could this be due to the massive bracket of millennials finally getting old enough to pursue more senior jobs? A wise fund manager once told me real estate (and probably anything) is like a pyramid. Fewer jobs as you go up.

This could be scary if it applies to the industry and really any industry in the US. Aren't millennials one of the biggest generations in a while?

Aug 8, 2019

Anyone here work at a top 50 REPE firm and having the same trouble as the guys above?

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Aug 12, 2019

Yes. Been in touch with all of the top recruiting firms/headhunters and there really aren't many attractive associate/director/VP-level roles out there right now. My geographic focus is narrow, which limits the pool of jobs, but even then, those that I've seen in other top markets really aren't compelling enough to make me want to leave. Have had a few interviews but the comp was either low or the teams dull and lackluster. It's nice not to be in a rush to move, however it's still surprising there aren't more interesting, high-paying jobs at this level given the amount of capital raised over the last 12-24 months that needs to be deployed by a lot of firms.

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Aug 20, 2019

Delete

Aug 9, 2019

Also wanted to use this thread to get your guys' opinion on this. If you get rejected after the final round, is it wise to ask the interviewer to introduce you to other firms that might be hiring? Suppose you did well in the interview but didn't get the job only because competition is strong.

I'm in similar boat as OP, and i think I didn't get the job because of fit more than anything else. Maybe non-target as well. The interviewer went to HYP although he click well with me.

Aug 9, 2019
Chinese RE Guy:

Also wanted to use this thread to get your guys' opinion on this. If you get rejected after the final round, is it wise to ask the interviewer to introduce you to other firms that might be hiring? Suppose you did well in the interview but didn't get the job only because competition is strong.

This feels extraordinarily odd to me and I would recommend against it. It's your job to find other firms, not the person who didn't hire you.

It is very different, in my opinion, from grabbing coffee with someone, them telling you they aren't hiring, and then asking "who else should I be grabbing coffee with?"

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Aug 9, 2019

If you are polite and thank him for his time I don't think that this is a bad idea at all. You have absolutely nothing to lose...

Aug 9, 2019

I went through this 12-16 months ago. 2 years of top 5 capital markets/IS analyst/associate experience and 3 years of development associate experience at an institutional shop. Undergraduate degree in finance from a "good" public school (not top 10).

I got plenty of first round interviews and was flown out 4-5 times for final rounds. Some of the feedback after the final rounds I received was that I was too experienced for the senior analyst or associate role and they thought I would leverage the experience to try to land a Director role elsewhere (true).

I probably applied to 50+ shops. Feedback from recruiters was that there is a large oversupply of talent currently in and coming into the space. Many top 10 MBA's now view CRE as a preferred career space, particularly development/acquisitions principal side. I was fortunate to find a boutique discretionary REPE fund where my personality clicked extremely well with the managing principal. Still at the associate level, but will ask for a title change soon because internal recruiters think title = experience.

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Aug 9, 2019

How is your deal experience compared to your competition you think? I think we are similar but I'm in a worse position because I'm trying to move from small to large firms. My current firm has absolutely no name recognition.

Aug 9, 2019

~$500 million in total stabilized asset value on the acquisitions/development side. $1.5b+in closed investment sales and debt/equity placement on the capital markets brokerage side.

I've now worked on every single asset class other than data centers and marinas. Of course, these idiot internal recruiters would rather hire a top 10 MBA with zero real estate experience because apparently receiving an MBA makes you a genius that can learn 5 years of high-level CRE experience in a few months.

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Aug 10, 2019

I also find it difficult to get interviews at firms based in NYC if you are in other markets, while the other way around is so much easier. I've been looking at opportunities in NYC since there are 2-3 times more openings there than other East Coast markets. I've exactly hear back from 0 people.

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Aug 11, 2019

Supply and Demand. It was tough getting interviews while being from NYC metro. Its a rat race

Aug 12, 2019

I was / currently am in your position and I felt the same way. Granted I am looking at analyst level jobs and I know this is an Associate-type post, but I am from the Midwest and was able to get 3 in-person interviews in NYC in July and should be hearing back soon.

No networking or anything, just the standard pump and dump of online applications. Like triops44 said, it's all about supply and demand for these firms, but at the end of it, luck and timing play a huge role. Keep grinding and guarantee you find something.

Aug 12, 2019

Agreed - super tough out there.

Reasons are (some have been addressed here, some have not been):

Deal quality is rapidly deteriorating and there are significantly more players fighting over deals. At the same time, there are more people looking for real estate jobs as people are figuring out real estate is just not that complicated.

Here is that comment broken down:

  1. Deals are getting tougher. We are seeing cap rates sub 3% in gateway cities for core assets and land prices have more than tripled in the last 8 years. We are close to end of the cycle in some markets for some asset classes.
  2. Rising tide lifts all boats - there are people doing literally idiotic things. I saw buyer go hard day one with a 15 day close on a 1974 350 unit MF in a secondary market last week. There are people who's success in a up market has emboldened them to believe they have the Midas touch and they are just not being prudent. This again makes dealflow harder.
  3. Debt - there is some really loose debt out there, especially in the private money space. This means tom, dick, and harry can break off on their own and become competition to the real players fairly easily. At least at acquisition.
  4. Equity - Equity is slowing down - with many institutional players shifting from common equity to pref equity.
  5. Nepotism - Many analyst/associate jobs are being given based on who your parents are rather than your merits. Real estate is not rocket science and depending on your market you may just not have the right family connections.
  6. Spreads on real estate are compressing and good organizations are starting to run leaner.
  7. A majority of real estate principals are C students who hire who they like over who can do a better job.

As an associate you are a cost center. Figure out how you can add a component that will make the firm more money and I think you will see some doors will open.

Good luck!

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Aug 13, 2019

Pretty spot on on with a lot of these comments. However, I would somewhat disagree with your equity comment; there seems to be a ton of dry capital sitting on the sidelines. The challenge (as you've previously highlighted), is getting deals to pencil for these groups. No one is buying into endless market rent growth. And factoring in a defensible cap rate expansion will be a deal killer for a good chunk of the deals on the market.

One has to be creative in their acquisition approach. How can you create value that others aren't seeing is critical to winning deals in this market.

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Aug 16, 2019

Sub 3% cap-rates? Holy shit...

Aug 20, 2019

I think that's a bit of a stretch. I've seen core industrial deals flirt with the 3.50%-3.75% range, but I don't think sub-3% caps are possible. No firm has a cost of capital that low.

Aug 13, 2019

Has your Masters of Accounting provided any value to you for your career in RE? Have seen quite a few guys in my country with a Master in Acc or Acc&Fin that work in RE..

Aug 13, 2019

In terms of the actual day to day job, very little value.

In terms of looking for a job, maybe seeing a Master of Accounting or Finance degree is a check for some employers.

I feel like when looking for employment, a good MBA still gives you the best value, while a MSRED is important as well if lots of alumni work in your market. Master of Accounting or Finance might give you a slight advantage over Bachelors Degree, but far less important than MBA and MSRED.

Aug 14, 2019

LOL...I am in the exact same situation as you are, except on the debt side. Tons of jobs out there, but mostly Senior Analysts/Junior Associates - and for the roles that are senior associate/VP levels, the competition is intense.
To provide some background - I am a CRE debt guy and its been extremely frustrating over the past few months. Wish I had some input to add.

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Aug 20, 2019

We are in the same boat my friend. Hard to justify making a lateral switch

Aug 21, 2019

Agree.. tough out there rn

Aug 14, 2019

VP/manager level usually only hire people who are already VP/manager

We exclusively promote internally at manager/director and above, it's almost impossible to come in at manager level and above unless you are already VP/manager at other major financial institutions

We just hire a director from invesco and he came in at sr.associate level, true story

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Aug 19, 2019

Interestingly two recruiters reached out to me today regarding RE development associate roles for two different positions along the East Coast. Not sure if it has anything to do with firms waiting until the end of summer to begin their search or what....anyone else seeing mid level openings?

Aug 19, 2019
AB84:

.anyone else seeing mid level openings?

I'm seeing a lot of questionable listings - either places you wouldn't want to work, or at least wouldn't leave your current job for, or places looking for "Development Associates" that "must have 5-8 years of experience" or "Development Managers" that "must have 10-15 years of experience."

Aug 22, 2019

Isn't development associate a mid to high tier positions.(typical caveat that real estate titles are not homogenous). At my last company we had a 30+ year old who was an associate for huge name private condo company. His/Her background was construction lending at an AVP level at a BB. He took the developer job in his 30s with like 8-years of experience.

Doesn't the heirarchy go, analyst, project associate, PM, development associate, VP/Director?

Aug 20, 2019

Echo this sentiment above heavily. Been hunting for associate roles in NYC and have gotten tons of first round and phone interviews but when it comes to actually getting an offer, it's proven very difficult. Associate job market seems very fickle and the thought of lateraling for a similar pay package with the unknown risks surrounding a new team and environment, just don't make much sense.

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Aug 20, 2019

Associate roles are weird imo. Our bank generally prefers to promote our own analysts and make them associates. We are open to hiring analysts at the junior most level and directors at the senior most level from outside but a lot of our mid level hires are promoted from within.

Aug 21, 2019

Totally agree with this. When I was an Analyst, I had zero luck moving up externally. As a result I kept lateraling to other Analyst roles at new companies which essentially gets you nowhere besides a slight bump in pay. I eventually buckled down and outright fought for a promotion at my current company. It is typically the only way to go at mid-level unless you happen to luck out and get one of the rare Sr. Analyst/Associate roles externally. There really is zero reason to hire an Sr. Analyst/Associate externally when you have dozens of Analysts internally that can be promoted (assuming all of the Analysts internally aren't horrible at their jobs)

Aug 22, 2019

Hi @BigCompanyGuy ,
It's not just hard for you, everybody with more years of working experience suffer from this condition at one point of time. There is nothing wrong with your educational background or something, it is just you are over-qualified for the jobs you are seeking. If bigger firms push you down, try helping out the start-ups who will qualify your working experience.

Aug 22, 2019
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