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Thread: Interview advice please!

  1. #1
         
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    Interview advice please!

    I have a bachelor's degree in Art History and have been working in an administrative function for my alma mater since graduating 6 months ago. However, I've known for some time that I want a career in planning and I am going to start work on a Master's in planning in January 2007. In April, I applied for a Planner I position with the local COG (only a bachelor's degree required, no experience necessary). Just today I received a call saying they want to interview me. I know that they're not necessarily looking for someone with experience, but I don't want to come off as completely ignorant. I have made efforts to educate myself on my own time about planning ( I went to the APA conference, I've read as much as possible, etc.). What advice would you have to someone interviewing for such a position? Do I really need to worry about seeming inexperienced? It would be wonderful to get this job as it is in the field I want to pursue and is close to the university where I will be receiving my master's. Thanks for any advice!

  2. #2
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    I would focus on:

    what you do know - office skills, computer literacy, customer service, letter/memo writing, reports (?)

    what your level of initiative is - that is, you are a quick learner, take direction well, and that you are looking for a mentor in the field (try not to giggle when you say that, okay?)

    and that your goal is to seek more education while you work as hard as ever for them!

    good luck - tell us how it goes!

  3. #3
    They will know you are inexperienced from your resume, which sounds like it is the least of their worries if they've called you for an interview. As you've shown a genuine interest in planning by enrolling in a Masters planning program and have attended the national APA conference, it shows you are motivated and interested. Let them know that pursuing the Masters is a priority for you. Promote your interest in planning and don't dwell on your inexperience. Planning experience is good, and if you are serious about the Masters degreee, carefully consider whether the position will allow you to pursue that or if it will take you away from getting the degree. I was in the same situation you are in - enrolled to begin a masters program, and poof - an interview for a job. I ended up taking the job which took me away from getting my masters, as I could not commute across the state to do both.

    Perhaps an internship would be a better fit for you rather than a full-time job. I doubt this job will be your life-long position, so if you are going to take a potential offer seriously, I'd try to key in on what you will learn in the position (job description - ask for that) that will benefit you in the long run, as well as the personnel structure in the office. Are they genuinely good human beings that want to help an interested soul to learn about their planning world or are they looking for someone to be their gopher? ASk a lot of questions in the interview - not only about the content of the work, but also about office policies, working relationships, and their expectations of a new employee.

  4. #4
         
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    Research the organization and their mission before the interview. Is there someone who knows the office that you can talk to before the interview? Ask questions during the interview that shows you know something about the COG. If you really want the job after the end of the interview tell them "I want to work for you". When we hire people recently out of college we want to know that they are mature, will act professional before boards and the public and will work.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    The others have given good advice. I would add to bone up a little on basics of zoning, what is a comprehensive plan, look at the regulations of the jurisdiction.

    They will definitely ask you:
    "How do you handle having multiple projects at one time?"
    "How do you deal with difficult coworkers and members of the public?" and
    "How do you deal with stress?"

    Those three questions were asked at nearly every interview I have ever had in the planning field.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  6. #6
    Cyburbian CDT's avatar
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    At my first city planning (planner 1) job they asked whether or not I'd reviewed site plans (which I had done a little for an architecture firm)

    They also asked me how I handle difficult customers, what I do if I disagree with a decision my boss made, etc.

    I am not sure what the position description is for the job that you're applying for but it's probably in either long range planning or development review. It could be a counter position where you'll have to give out code related information, review site plans for administrative applications, possibly plat applications. Answer all basic telephone and walk in questions, check in applications, etc. Let us know how it goes.

  7. #7
         
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    Thanks for all the replies so far. Specifically, it is a planner I position with the Sustainable Development area of the Transportation Department of the COG. They work on increasing bicycle/pedestrian trails and access, demographic forecasts for the area (large metro area), extending the rail system, etc. They definitely have a new urbanist bent, which is good as far as I'm concerned. I do have a question though--what exactly is involved in a site plan review? Also, I actually live some distance from their office and they are flying me out to interview--should I take that as a good sign?

  8. #8
    Cyburbian CDT's avatar
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    A site plan review for me would be different for that position. And it sounds like there may not be any site plan review with that position. At the last city I worked for there was a transportation planner who received a copy of all the new plats/use/special permits and he would comment on transporation concerns and/or opportunities. He made comments about bike racks, pedestrian access/connections, sometimes commented on vehicular access or traffic, checking it against the existing trails plans. A friend of mine does this for Colorado Springs. She makes the same types of comments to the project planner in development review(which is what I do)

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Plus dandy_warhol's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by otterpop
    snip
    "How do you handle having multiple projects at one time?"

    what kind of answer are they looking for with that question? i've gotten it in all my interviews so far as well.
    In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. -Martin Luther King Jr.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Rumpy Tunanator's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by momerath
    I know that they're not necessarily looking for someone with experience, but I don't want to come off as completely ignorant.
    Just BS your way through the interview. Thatís what I did to get my job

    Quote Originally posted by momerath
    I do have a question though--what exactly is involved in a site plan review?
    I currently am the transportation planner for a non-descript county in lower Alabama (FL Panhandle), and part of my job involves the review of site plans to make sure they comply with transportation concurrency, follow the LDR and comp plan as it pertains to transportation issues, make sure necessary improvements or additions to pedestrian facilities are included (developers love to cry about this), review traffic impact studies to determine what improvements are needed as a result of the development, etc. And thatís just one part of the job requirements. Iím all over the place.
    A guy once told me, "Do not have any attachments, do not have anything in your life you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner."


    Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro): Heat 1995

  11. #11
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Rumpy Tunanator
    I currently am the transportation planner for a non-descript county in lower Alabama (FL Panhandle), and part of my job involves the review of site plans to make sure they comply with transportation concurrency, follow the LDR and comp plan as it pertains to transportation issues, make sure necessary improvements or additions to pedestrian facilities are included (developers love to cry about this), review traffic impact studies to determine what improvements are needed as a result of the development, etc. And thatís just one part of the job requirements. Iím all over the place.
    Really, now? I had no idea that's what you did. What have you done for me lately?....and I thought you just sat behind your closed door and played lacrosse.....

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Rumpy Tunanator

    I currently am the transportation planner for a non-descript county in lower Alabama (FL Panhandle),
    Nondescript is not normally written hypenated. Just a clue, Bubba....

  13. #13
    Cyburbian TOFB's avatar
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    I agree with all the other posts. Don't forget one basic thing:

    MAKE SURE THEY KNOW YOU WANT THE JOB AND WHY.

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