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Thread: Tips for an entry-level planning interview in development review

  1. #1
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    Tips for an entry-level planning interview in development review

    Hello everyone,

    I could use some advice regarding an upcoming second interview for an entry-level planning technician position in a county office near DC. The purpose of the interview is to measure my technical ability for the development review department, and to compare me to one other candidate in consideration.

    Does anyone have any experienced advice to share about possible questions or "excercises" I may encounter? In another interview for a similar position I was asked to write a memo to approve/disapprove a daycare center proposal in a residentially zoned neighborhood and adjacent to a collector road. I'm expecting something similar. Are there common steps taken by people at the development review counter, or standard information I should know?

    I'd really like to get this position and differentiate myself from the other candidate, so I appreciate any and all advice. Thank you!
    Last edited by Rambler; 20 Sep 2006 at 9:44 AM.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Rambler View post
    Hello everyone,

    I could use so advice regarding an upcoming second interview for an entry-level planning technician position in a county office near DC. The purpose of the interview is to measure my technical ability for the development review department, and to compare me to one other candidate in consideration.

    Does anyone have any experienced advice to share about possible questions or "excercises" I may encounter? In another interview for a similar position I was asked to write a memo to approve/disapprove a daycare center proposal in a residentially zoned neighborhood and adjacent to a collector road. I'm expecting something similar. Are there common steps taken by people at the development review counter, or standard information I should know?

    I'd really like to get this position and differentiate myself from the other candidate, so I appreciate any and all advice. Thank you!
    Development review is all about interpersonal skills and being able to deal with all types of personalities. You need to be able to keep your cool under pressure. Most importantly, you need to be able to convince people that you can't swing deals overe the counter; you are bound by the regulations and the policies implemented by your managers and the elected officials.

  3. #3
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    If itís pertinent, I graduated a year ago with a bachelor's degree in Environmental Policy and Planning and have one year's experience as a land surveyor.

    I'm new to this forum, and everyone seems so thoughtful and intelligent. I look forward to hearing from you.

    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    Development review is all about interpersonal skills and being able to deal with all types of personalities. You need to be able to keep your cool under pressure. Most importantly, you need to be able to convince people that you can't swing deals overe the counter; you are bound by the regulations and the policies implemented by your managers and the elected officials.
    I do understand this aspect of the job. I was a surveyor so I understand how tense people can be when it comes to property and land use issues. I've seen all different personality types, and even been in some rough situations in the field where all we could do was remain cool and polite.
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 20 Sep 2006 at 3:11 PM. Reason: double reply

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Plus Salmissra's avatar
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    As you said, you'll probably have to write a report for a proposed use. They will be looking for proper planning jargon, good grammar and attention to detail. Hopefully they will also provide you with some regulations to review/use when writing. They may also quiz you on "what would you do/how would you react if . . ." Remember, they're looking for a professional, so play up your professional experience, and how you handled in the field issues as a surveyor.

    I had something like this in AZ when I interviewed at a county. They gave me the appropriate zoning district regs, Site Plan submittal requirements, and a "submittal", then gave me 30 minutes to write a staff report. Your experience in surveying will help you with plat review, read through the county regs (if available in advance) and check out staff reports (on line, or at your nearest planning office) to get a handle on the "Planner-ese".

    Good luck on the interview, and keep us posted!
    "We do not need any other Tutankhamun's tomb with all its treasures. We need context. We need understanding. We need knowledge of historical events to tie them together. We don't know much. Of course we know a lot, but it is context that's missing, not treasures." - Werner Herzog, in Archaeology, March/April 2011

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Cal_Planner's avatar
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    I see that Salmissra already mentioned this but I'll add that I was recently asked in an interview to look at a set of site plans (e.g., engineering, landscape, arch.) and determine their conformance to city code. You may be asked about specific details such as building height, density, retaining walls, grading, etc.

    I'm not sure what your experience as a surveyor entailed, but you may want to ask someone you know in the industry to point out a few things for you before the interview.

    Good Luck!!!!

  6. #6
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Hmmm....

    Know roof pitches, types, house styles (colonial)
    Acre to sf 43,560
    Know if the Comprehensive Plan is mandatory there, or just "advisory"
    Have filing system ideas that may help them out....(this always seems to be a problem)
    Be positive in negative situations at the counter (even with sleazy strip club owners)
    Focus on the chain of command and know your place in the system
    Thinking "outside the box" is not what most employers are looking for in entry level planners....
    Take your time and speak clearly and confidently.....

    mix...stir and enjoy the process....
    Skilled Adoxographer

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally posted by Cal_Planner View post
    I see that Salmissra already mentioned this but I'll add that I was recently asked in an interview to look at a set of site plans (e.g., engineering, landscape, arch.) and determine their conformance to city code. You may be asked about specific details such as building height, density, retaining walls, grading, etc.
    Quote Originally posted by The One View post
    Know roof pitches, types, house styles (colonial)
    Acre to sf 43,560
    Know if the Comprehensive Plan is mandatory there, or just "advisory"
    Have filing system ideas that may help them out....(this always seems to be a problem)
    Be positive in negative situations at the counter (even with sleazy strip club owners)
    Focus on the chain of command and know your place in the system
    Thinking "outside the box" is not what most employers are looking for in entry level planners....
    Take your time and speak clearly and confidently.....
    Thank you all. These are the types of suggestions I was hoping for. I was interested in what specifically they might ask me to do during the interview that relates to this position.

    Interestingly, I was under the impression that comprehensive plans were always "advisory" and not necessarily binding. I will certainly double check for this jurisdiction. Finally, I was "fortunate" enough to survey a strip club and meet its aging owner. I may lack specific development review experience, but I've already met all kinds of characters!

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    I just dont believe, at an entry level, you can really prepare for this. It is an entry-level position, what could they possibly expect you to know?

    Be cordial, respectful, peruse the applicable plans/codes prior to going in...and dont sweat it.

    Best of luck!

  9. #9
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    Yes you're right about entry-level knowledge. I'm just looking for an edge. After all the planning theory, density debates and zoning explanation in school, practical things such as parking requirements aren't always discussed at length. I did have a broader program.

    I feel a lot better now. It's a big help to us beginning planners and students when career planners share the details and nuances of your jobs.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian solarstar's avatar
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    I never realized the comp plan could ever be considered as advisory - it rules in every jurisdiction I've worked in (in and out of Florida). I'm a bit surprised that you'd even have to evaluate a plan, since our entry level people can't usually do that. But we would definitely give you a situation of an irate customer and ask how you'd handle it - that carries a lot of weight in our interviews. You may want to play up your surveying experience - it means you have no trouble reading surveys and site plans, and won't have any difficulty reading land use maps and flood zones. For our entry-levels, you would be over-qualified and that may come up as to your future plans. Good luck!!!

  11. #11
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    Thank you all again for your advice. In case anyone's interested, I just got out of an interview with an engineering firm that has a large planning aspect to its landscape architecture team. The interview went extremely well and has me considering bypassing the public sector altogether.

    I've always planned on ending up in the private sector with urban design projects, but I figured public work would be invaluable. Irregardless, I'll try to keep looking at development from both sides of the coin.

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