How to find top talent in your interview process

5 min read
Logan Nagel
Published on
October 14, 2022

Is experience or skill set a better indicator of an “A” player waiting to happen?

McKinsey says that “Assessing candidates based on skills, instead of their last job title, can help fill critical roles with the best talent.” By way of example, Ryan Roslansky, CEO of LinkedIn, says a majority of food servers have skills that would position them well for customer service jobs, despite their lack of relevant job titles.

Relevant job titles, degrees, and certifications are a useful shorthand for likely expertise. However, from candidate to candidate you may find this to be a false signal.

Described below are some strategies to help you uncover top performers from your candidates, regardless of their backgrounds.

What to look for in a resume

Resumes should meet a minimum standard of polish but shouldn't be the sole determinant of whether or not someone should be interviewed.

More important than past experience, your hires must be a strong culture fit with your current team. If you know you want to hire a highly charismatic people person, don’t worry too much about their GPA or the school they attended.

Resumes should be properly formatted, but it’s the content that counts. Candidates should be disqualified for a particularly poorly written resume, but shouldn’t be hired based on a particularly attractive resume design (unless you’re filling a marketing or graphic design role).

You’re looking for the resume to tell a story of consistent professional growth, but always remember the story behind the bullet points. If an otherwise attractive candidate only worked at a company for a short stint, or is making a career change, ask why.

Don’t rule out career changers for no reason. These professionals often bring a unique perspective to their new roles, if they have the technical skills to execute them. Hard skills can be taught, but perspective is difficult to train for.

Interview questions to ask

Your job during the interview is to gauge the candidate’s people skills and fit with your team, as well as ask technical questions to help uncover their skill set.

Good interview questions don’t have yes or no answers, and they aren’t basic trivia tests either. If you’re hiring an entry-level analyst, you may be able to get away with “pop quiz” questions on general real estate concepts, but anyone beyond a year or two of experience may be put off by that kind of questioning.

Open-ended questions allow candidates to break down the wall of impersonality and give a glimpse into what motivates and challenges them. Here are a few to get you started:

What role do you play in your social group?

Where would you say you gained most of your professional skills?

Tell me about a defining moment in your career.

More advanced real estate questions can give great insights into your candidates’ technical strengths while also giving a rewarding sense of challenge during the interview. These are some of the ones we ask during our own interview process:

If your cap rate goes from 8% to 10%, by how much does NOI need to grow/shrink for value to remain the same?

If you had $100 million to invest in real estate, how would you invest it?

What is the value of a property with $10 million NOI at an 8% Capitalization Rate?

How to deliver a quality case study test

A case study is a fundamental part of the job interview for technical roles.

In fact, we’ve developed a proprietary, take-home case study that freelancers in our network are required to pass before they can be placed with clients. It works like this:

  1. We email candidates an Excel template of assumptions and accompanying instructional PDF
  2. Candidates are required to return the case study within a reasonable amount of time, or the results are disregarded
  3. The case studies are scored on the work product’s presentation and quantitative outcome. For our financial modeling case, candidates must calculate IRR and equity multiple within 10% of our results.

A case study can be customized to the type of role for which you’re hiring. A few examples include:

  • Brokerage Analyst: BOV analysis
  • Investor Relations Associate: Equity offering memo
  • Graphic Designer: One-page teaser

As we note in our article on prepping your organization to bring on “A” players, don’t make your case study into free work for an actual project you’re working on.

Red flags throughout the process

Here are a few red flags that should ring significant alarm bells.

  1. Candidates that are far off base on a multitude of technical questions
  2. Candidates that speak negatively about past colleagues or companies
  3. Resumes that demonstrate a lot of job-hopping without a clear explanation
  4. Employer references that are not specific and highly enthusiastic
  5. Comments indicating values that are clearly misaligned with your company’s pillars
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