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Thread: Common interview questions: entry level

  1. #26
    1) How do you answer salary requirements?
    -I would like, given my degree, to get 45K....but I don't know what to say.
    I feel that would be too greedy...I feel like saying "I don't know" or "flexible" but then would be afraid this would come off as indecisive/get me taken advantage of...so how do you answer?


    2) I suck balls at GIS.
    -When asked GIS questions...or questions about classes I hate/poor skills...do I lie or omit this detail?
    -Being honest can eliminate me...lying can lead to a bad match.


    3) Night meetings.
    -Again...can I be honest and say 1-2 a month is fine...but on a regular weekly basis might be too much?

  2. #27
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    I used to love throwing in a real curve ball question, like:

    (A) What character from The Simpsons do you relate to best, and give us a quote. (We hired the woman that said Ralph Wiggam and even spoke in the voice.

    (2) If you could be a cookie, what kind of cookie would you be, and WHY?

  3. #28
    Cyburbian
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    The only question I remember being asked was "which one is more important: zoning or planning? How are they related?" I felt like it was trick question, one lays the ground work for the other. I debate and over analyze everything so that was the only question I did not feel very confident with my answer.

  4. #29
    Cyburbian Cloverhill's avatar
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    Practical Exercise

    Before they leave my interview I hand them a topo plat, an engineer's scale, and a calculator and see if they can figure out the slope between two points.

    I've had maybe 2 people get it right. Ever.

    I also like to ask: What job would you want to do if you don't get this job?

    One of my best hires answered: Truck Driver. I still give him a hard time about that.

  5. #30
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    Hi I just had an interview with Los Angeles County Metropolitan Authority for an internship position a week and half ago, I haven't received any word if I got it or not, do you think I should give up hope, or call them just to check? This waiting game is making me really anxious.

  6. #31
    Cyburbian kltoomians's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by globalwarmist View post
    Hi I just had an interview with Los Angeles County Metropolitan Authority for an internship position a week and half ago, I haven't received any word if I got it or not, do you think I should give up hope, or call them just to check? This waiting game is making me really anxious.
    If it was me, I would just wait it out. I know most government agencies (our included) are having budget meetings at the moment...maybe they just need to hammer out some budget issues. Good luck!
    "I'm a boomerang, doesn't matter how you throw me
    I turn around and I'm back in the game
    Even better than the old me"

  7. #32
    Cyburbian
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    If it were me, I would keep looking, preparing, interviewing, etc. The only thing that officially ends a job/internship search is a written letter of offer that is agreed upon by both parties.

    So...GET BACK TO WORK!!!
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  8. #33
    Some questions I just had at an interview were:

    What qualities do you admire most in other people?
    Who influences you most in life?
    How do you define success?
    Tell me about a situation where you felt overwhelmed, and how you handled it.

  9. #34
    Cyburbian kltoomians's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    Some questions I just had at an interview were:

    What qualities do you admire most in other people?
    Who influences you most in life?
    How do you define success?
    Tell me about a situation where you felt overwhelmed, and how you handled it.
    The question I hate the most is, "What is your greatest strength/weakness?" ahhhhh!...my weakness is not being able to talk about my weaknesses with a potential employer.
    "I'm a boomerang, doesn't matter how you throw me
    I turn around and I'm back in the game
    Even better than the old me"

  10. #35
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by kltoomians View post
    The question I hate the most is, "What is your greatest strength/weakness?" ahhhhh!...my weakness is not being able to talk about my weaknesses with a potential employer.
    Borrowed from an old friend: My greatest weakness is not being able to afford my addiction to heroin.

  11. #36
    Quote Originally posted by kltoomians View post
    The question I hate the most is, "What is your greatest strength/weakness?" ahhhhh!...my weakness is not being able to talk about my weaknesses with a potential employer.
    I had that one also (at the first interview for the same job), but it was "What are your three greatest strengths?" and then "What would you like to change about yourself?"

    I did not prepare answers before hand, and I think it worked in my favor. Interviewers can tell if you have canned answers, and the old "my greatest weakness is that I work too hard" type of thing is just not gonna fly.

  12. #37
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    Quote Originally posted by kltoomians View post
    If it was me, I would just wait it out. I know most government agencies (our included) are having budget meetings at the moment...maybe they just need to hammer out some budget issues. Good luck!
    Thanks yeah, I am definitely keeping my options open. I know that the LACMTA and all of LA is broke right now so I will just call in on Thursday (two week mark) to just get over my frustrations. During my interview they had a list of questions and just went down and asked each one of them which I thought was really strange.

    Good luck to the rest of you!

  13. #38
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by globalwarmist View post
    During my interview they had a list of questions and just went down and asked each one of them which I thought was really strange.

    Good luck to the rest of you!
    For entry level/intern positions they always have just a list a questions because more than likely they are not interviewing you, but probably 9-12 other people. Both myself and kltoomians interviewed for the same job a few weeks back. Our correspondence confirmed that they interview panel asked the same exact questions and had the same exact exercise. It is how we both answered the questions and how the questions closely aligned to the needs of the employer that determined whom made the cut to the 2nd round.
    follow me on the twitter @rcplans

  14. #39
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by globalwarmist View post
    Thanks yeah, I am definitely keeping my options open. I know that the LACMTA and all of LA is broke right now so I will just call in on Thursday (two week mark) to just get over my frustrations. During my interview they had a list of questions and just went down and asked each one of them which I thought was really strange.

    Good luck to the rest of you!
    That is actually a common practice, especially in the public sector. Often this is forced by HR departments that want to be able to demostrate that every interviewee had equal opportunity to respond to similar questions and that no applicants were effectively 'red-lined' by shifting around questions to benefit certain applicants over others. Many times these types of standard question forms are scored by the interview panel, turning applicant selection into a quantitative exericise based on subjective opinions of those on the interview panel.

    I hate this process, as an interviewer and as an interviewee. As an interviewer, I will just keep notes on the question responses and rank my applicants overall. Then I insert the scores so that they will reflect my ranking and comments I have on their responses. This has the added advantage of allowing me just to listen to responses and make it more conversational, rather than keeping score along the way.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  15. #40
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    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman View post
    That is actually a common practice, especially in the public sector. Often this is forced by HR departments that want to be able to demostrate that every interviewee had equal opportunity to respond to similar questions and that no applicants were effectively 'red-lined' by shifting around questions to benefit certain applicants over others. Many times these types of standard question forms are scored by the interview panel, turning applicant selection into a quantitative exericise based on subjective opinions of those on the interview panel.

    I hate this process, as an interviewer and as an interviewee. As an interviewer, I will just keep notes on the question responses and rank my applicants overall. Then I insert the scores so that they will reflect my ranking and comments I have on their responses. This has the added advantage of allowing me just to listen to responses and make it more conversational, rather than keeping score along the way.
    Thanks for the insight. I felt like they weren't really engaging since they had that predetermined list of questions. It was an interesting experience, its my first real planning related internship interview. I have been doing all GIS related work for my past internships and I am so tired of being the GIS monkey. I have had my fair share of interviews, but the one that is keeping me waiting the longest is the one I really want to get. I am currently working with the SCAQMD and they were pretty fast to get back to me.

    Thanks guys!

  16. #41
    Cyburbian
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    I will be interviewing for a entry level municipal planner position in the near future. I am a college grad with a degree in Geography but an emphasis in Planning. I graduated in spring 2008 and have been searching for a full-time planning job since (in the meantime being underemployed in a grocery store). I have 8 mos. of experience as an intern with a private planning firm (2008) and more recently, 4 mos. as a volunteer with a local MPO.

    Any suggestions in how to prepare, handle, and answer questions would be appreciated.

  17. #42
    Cyburbian kltoomians's avatar
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    "What does Planning mean to you?"...can you tell this is from a state agency?
    "I'm a boomerang, doesn't matter how you throw me
    I turn around and I'm back in the game
    Even better than the old me"

  18. #43
    Quote Originally posted by Johio View post
    I will be interviewing for a entry level municipal planner position in the near future. I am a college grad with a degree in Geography but an emphasis in Planning. I graduated in spring 2008 and have been searching for a full-time planning job since (in the meantime being underemployed in a grocery store). I have 8 mos. of experience as an intern with a private planning firm (2008) and more recently, 4 mos. as a volunteer with a local MPO.

    Any suggestions in how to prepare, handle, and answer questions would be appreciated.
    Hi,

    Thanks very much for this comment. It help me to think about my ideals.

    Tks again and pls keep posting.

  19. #44
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    I just had an interview where they asked me to describe my sense of humor. So do be prepared for an unexpected question like that.

    I guess they probably want to figure out how you will fit in well to the culture of the office, as well as if you let stuff roll off your back easily and not take things personally.

    Also, in this interview, they didn't ask me a lot of pointed questions, which was surprising. It was more conversational, where I was asked to discuss my background and professional experience, and where they did a lot of explaining about the position and the organization, benefits, etc. They even gave me a tour. But it's weird, cause I haven't heard back from them in almost 2 weeks. And I sent the thank-yous, email follow-ups, and everything. I thought this was how a great interview was supposed to go. I'm trying to be hopeful that I'm still being considered and it's just taking awhile to check references, write up offers, etc., but I'm losing hope with each passing day.

    Nevertheless, while most places probably will ask you a lot of pointed questions for entry-level jobs, be prepared to talk at length about yourself, your skills and experiences, and have lots of good questions ready, in case the interview tends to be more conversation-oriented rather than Q&A.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
    -Steven Tyler

  20. #45
    Cyburbian ThePinkPlanner's avatar
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    Interviewee Questions

    I apologize in advance if this should have had a thread of its own or is most related to this one already established. I feel like I have very good interview skills and am always comfortable and confident and do well with a wide range of questions and challenges. Except 1 which I always feel I fail at: what questions do you have for us?

    I never know the appropriate way to address this question in a manner that seems thoughful, without seeming rote or generic. Any suggestions for what an interviewee should ask a panel about? I'd prefer to leave specific questions such as hours of work, etc to the contact person or in some cases after an offer is made.

  21. #46
    Cyburbian
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    1. Ask a question/question(s) pertinent to the specific job or agency.

    2. My last queston is usually:
    Is there is anything that we discussed that needs clarification?
    and/or
    Do you have any concerns about my qualifications and experience?

    Some planners would never ask this last question. I would rather cover all bases during the interview and finish knowing that everything was addressed.


    There is nothing wrong with a simple answer provided it answers the question.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  22. #47
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ThePinkPlanner View post
    I apologize in advance if this should have had a thread of its own or is most related to this one already established. I feel like I have very good interview skills and am always comfortable and confident and do well with a wide range of questions and challenges. Except 1 which I always feel I fail at: what questions do you have for us?

    I never know the appropriate way to address this question in a manner that seems thoughful, without seeming rote or generic. Any suggestions for what an interviewee should ask a panel about? I'd prefer to leave specific questions such as hours of work, etc to the contact person or in some cases after an offer is made.
    Personally, I think you should always have questions based on the interview. This is the place that you will be working - no matter how good the interviewer, there is no way that everything was covered. Ask the questions that were not answered or something about the community like what projects are you currently working on? If you are moving to the state ask about the area, the community - is there work-related activities such as a softball league or such? There are always questions to be asked.... so ask them. Good interviewers will expect to be asked questions - if they answered all your predetermined questions be sure to at least ask one about something. It shows an investment on your part. Good luck!!
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  23. #48
    Cyburbian ThePinkPlanner's avatar
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    Thanks! Part of my concern with this particular interview is that it is a full panel- 8 members of development review boards, selectboard and planning commission. All are volunteers. Which is good in part because it means they all live within the community. I could ask about the community, but I'd also like to refine a question to somehow relate to what they think of a planner's responsibility....

  24. #49
    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
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    I just finished a phone interview this morning, so needless to say my nerves were a little out of whack until I finally finished.

    But honestly, it wasn't so bad. I only spent a couple hours casually going over my experiences beforehand and did the best I could to just be honest, it really paid off being able to just sound conversational over the phone. I'm not packing my bags for this job yet, but sometimes you can just tell when things went really well.

    My advice, don't worry so much. Just getting an interview should be considered a victory with the amount of competition going around. Failing to get a job after an interview puts you no further back than before which means you have nothing to lose.

    Oh and as far as the actual material covered, mine was almost entirely focused on asking questions about my Resume. No surprise that the aspects of the Resume asked about were related to the original job description.

    Also, asking the interviewer questions at the end is absolutely important!

  25. #50
    Cyburbian kltoomians's avatar
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    Describe what you see that relates to City Planning (and why) when you look out the window.
    "I'm a boomerang, doesn't matter how you throw me
    I turn around and I'm back in the game
    Even better than the old me"

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