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Thread: Common interview questions: entry level

  1. #51
    I have found that by the time a potential employer has gone through all the process of interviews and reviewing CV's, they really just want to know about YOU as a person and how you will fit in to the existing team...they may only test you on one planning related question but that's about it. Mind you I interview people myself but have never been on the receiving end - that’s right I'm a word of mouth employee...could be interesting later on!

    I love the post about the Simpsons character above...I have seen a job advert that a mate of mine applied for (non planning) that listed criteria such as team player, independent worker etc (all the usual) and then last point was 'extensive knowledge of the Simpsons Season 1-3...needless to say, my mate got the job!

  2. #52
    Cyburbian Signature's avatar
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    Thank you

    Thank you for this list. Its been really helpful. Please continue to reach out and cultivate young planners. For those of us who are the first generation of "professionals" in our family, we could always use the mentorship and advice. Interviewing is very difficult, and its not something for which formal education prepares you. Again, on behalf of the young planners, thank you!
    "Believe. No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit."

    ~ Helen Keller

  3. #53
    Cyburbian Kingmak's avatar
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    So just had my interview today with a mid-sized Texas city. Most of the questions were behavioral-based such as "describe a time when..." or "can you think of a situation where..." I was prepared for the common "tell me about yourself" and "strengths/weaknesses", but felt I did a good job at throwing them in where I had the opportunity. The thing is I'm graduating in June with my Masters but they said that it would be desirable for the person to start ASAP. So I don't know...I guess if they want me they'll wait.

  4. #54
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    What's an interview?

    I know I had a few years ago, but none lately....

  5. #55
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    I like to check in on this thread periodically and offer any additional thoughts.

    RE: the "do you have any questions for us" question...

    nrschmid had a good response--directly ask if you need to clarify anything discussed and whether they have any concerns about your experience/qualifications. A good interviewer will give you a straight answer, which provides you an opportunity to address them.

    Also, remember that the interview is not just about them evaluating you--it is also about you evaluating them to determine whether you are compatible. Some questions I like to ask or be asked:

    Since you've been working here, what is the accomplishment you are most proud of?

    While I see __________ as a big challege to ______________ <city interviewing you> from my brief time here, what do you see as a significant challenge?

    What are some projects the department will be taking on in the next year?



    Also, I'm seeing a trend in interviewing away from some of the trivia-like questions, with a lot more emphasis on personality, quality of past experiences & interpersonal communication skills. I've got a feeling this might be related to morale issues at many cities following the economic downturn, along with increases in overqualified individuals applying for lower positions (they are doing so begrudgenly and will leap at the next better opportunity). I've seen a lot more questions popping up regarding longevity in a position once you get it, etc. If you are a job-hopper, that trait can negatively affect your consideration. Also, as somebody with maybe less experience going up against these overqualified persons, you need to emphasize things like creativity, energy, long-term goals at the employer, QUALITY of your past experience, etc.

    "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)

  6. #56
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    I would just like to say thank you to all of you for your advice. I've got an interview tomorrow for my "year in industry" placement as part of my University degree and this has helped me to no end!
    I'll update this thread tomorrow evening with the interview questions and how I think it went; returning the favour I suppose!
    I have just one question for the interviewers - are there any mistakes which tend to crop up again and again with interviewees?

  7. #57
    Random question that may or may not belong in this thread -

    I'm interviewing for a position in a few weeks, and since the deadline for the job has passed of course, the agency has taken down the job description from its website. Problem is, I'd like to have a copy of the job description so that I can review it in preparation for the interview. Would it be weird or otherwise reflect negatively on me if I e-mailed HR asking for a copy of the job description? I know it might sound like I'm kind of overthinking things, but I really want this job and if I don't get it or if I'm written off for any reason, I want it to be because of something related to my skill set and experience, and not because I committed some sort of job interview faux pas or whatever.

  8. #58
    Cyburbian kltoomians's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jazzman View post
    Random question that may or may not belong in this thread -

    I'm interviewing for a position in a few weeks, and since the deadline for the job has passed of course, the agency has taken down the job description from its website. Problem is, I'd like to have a copy of the job description so that I can review it in preparation for the interview. Would it be weird or otherwise reflect negatively on me if I e-mailed HR asking for a copy of the job description? I know it might sound like I'm kind of overthinking things, but I really want this job and if I don't get it or if I'm written off for any reason, I want it to be because of something related to my skill set and experience, and not because I committed some sort of job interview faux pas or whatever.
    I've been in your situation before. My strategy is to google search it and look at the cached version of the website. You can PM me if you need assistance...
    "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"

  9. #59
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    Two colleagues and I just went through the interview process (we direct separate agencies). We compared notes on our respective interviews, but not interviewees since there may be overlap. Here are some tips from the interviewer's perspective:

    1. All three of us prefer a somewhat relaxed interview atmosphere. It helps the interviewer to see the person, not just the skills and knowledge. So take a deep cleansing breath and relax before entering the interview.
    2. It helps to know a bit about the area and agency you are interviewing for, and demonstrate that by weaving it into your answers.
    3. All of us ask an off-the-wall question to see how you 'think on your feet'
    4. Do not try to read ahead on the interviewers list of questions. Engage the interviewer with your answers. The next question will come soon enough.
    5. Engage everyone at the table, even if there is a primary interviewer.
    6. Most will ask about a planning project you have worked on . Use a studio class project, internship, independent study, thesis, or whatever. Surely if you have a planning degree you had some kind of planning work that went into that degree.
    7. Allow ample time. If the interviewer does not tell you how much time to allow, ask. My interviews go about a half day; one colleague allows 90 minutes, and the other an hour. I know of another agency a few miles up the road that takes an entire day for each interview. The amount of time will allow you to see how much preparation needs to go into the meeting.
    8. Remember that we as interviewers need to assess not only your skills and knowledge, but also if you will fit into the existing team at the organization. To do that we need to see the "real you."
    9. For entry-level, all three of us include a site review exercise in the interview to ensure you know your way around a plan.
    10. A follow up note is always appreciated. In one case among us, it will be making the difference between two otherwise-equal candidates.
    11. Even if you do not land this particular job, you have made a professional contact (or several) that you can build your network on. In every case between us (there were over a dozen interviews), we expect to see the candidates in the field, and be able to call on them or assist them as professionals in the future.
    12. Bring work samples that can be left behind.

    There are probably more, but that covers the bulk of what is on our collective minds.

    Kit.

  10. #60
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    Thank you all for contributing to this helpful thread! I've carefully copied and pasted all of your responses for future references

  11. #61
    I think interviewing comes down to three things: Competence, fit, and temperament.

    Competence: do you have the relevant skills/experience?
    Fit: Will you be a good fit for the organization; with others in the office; in your role?
    Temperament: Will you be "in balance" with expectations and the pace/nature of work? Even if you are competent and may get along well with others, can you adapt to a different way of doing things? Can you lead and follow?

    Competence is probably the easiest to measure, and what most people think they'll be interviewing about. But interviewers really bring you into the office to weigh whether you'll be a good fit and if you have the temperament they are looking for.

  12. #62
    Cyburbian
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    The thing to remember is by the time an employer gets to interviews, or at least the final v
    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    I think interviewing comes down to three things: Competence, fit, and temperament.

    Competence: do you have the relevant skills/experience?
    Fit: Will you be a good fit for the organization; with others in the office; in your role?
    Temperament: Will you be "in balance" with expectations and the pace/nature of work? Even if you are competent and may get along well with others, can you adapt to a different way of doing things? Can you lead and follow?

    Competence is probably the easiest to measure, and what most people think they'll be interviewing about. But interviewers really bring you into the office to weigh whether you'll be a good fit and if you have the temperament they are looking for.
    The thing to remember is by the time an employer gets to interviews, or at least the final interview round, all the remaining candidates are probably more than qualified for the job, which means everyone will probably do well in those three criteria. You can't count on the other candidates flaws or flubs, so it's important to just stand out and make yourself unique.

  13. #63
    Cyburbian
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    Just curious-- what does everyone consider to be entry-level?

    I was always under the impression that entry-level is 2 years experience max, but mostly tailored toward new grads. But the other day, I found a planning position that was listed as "entry level" but the experience requirements was 4 years for a Bachelors and 2 years for a Masters.

  14. #64
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Backstrom View post
    Just curious-- what does everyone consider to be entry-level?

    I was always under the impression that entry-level is 2 years experience max, but mostly tailored toward new grads. But the other day, I found a planning position that was listed as "entry level" but the experience requirements was 4 years for a Bachelors and 2 years for a Masters.
    If it requires more than two years experience, it is not a true entry-level position. Maybe a journeyman, but calling that entry-level is not accurate.

    "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. #65
    Cyburbian dw914er's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Backstrom View post
    Just curious-- what does everyone consider to be entry-level?

    I was always under the impression that entry-level is 2 years experience max, but mostly tailored toward new grads. But the other day, I found a planning position that was listed as "entry level" but the experience requirements was 4 years for a Bachelors and 2 years for a Masters.
    The "new normal" has skewed that perception...
    And that concludes staff’s presentation...

  16. #66
    This question doesn't really pertain to interviews specifically, but it didn't seem worthy of a whole other thread either.

    Just out of curiosity, when employers post jobs with a deadline (say, 4 weeks from now), do they review applications only after the deadline has passed, or do they review applications as they come in, in spite of the deadline? In other words, if a position has an application deadline, is there still any advantage to sending in my materials as early as possible?

  17. #67
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    No advantage for being early. The decision maker does not see applications until past the deadline. The decision maker does not want too see any before the deadline. Hopefully the decision maker asks for all the applications, not just the ones HR "recommends".

  18. #68
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mike gurnee View post
    No advantage for being early. The decision maker does not see applications until past the deadline. The decision maker does not want too see any before the deadline. Hopefully the decision maker asks for all the applications, not just the ones HR "recommends".
    My process is pretty much exactly as Mike puts it. I get all of the applications from HR, but not until after the deadline has passed.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  19. #69
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jazzman View post
    This question doesn't really pertain to interviews specifically, but it didn't seem worthy of a whole other thread either.

    Just out of curiosity, when employers post jobs with a deadline (say, 4 weeks from now), do they review applications only after the deadline has passed, or do they review applications as they come in, in spite of the deadline? In other words, if a position has an application deadline, is there still any advantage to sending in my materials as early as possible?
    It depends on how hierarchical the hiring process is. Most of the public sector has a date where apps have to be submitted to HR, then HR may or may not review them for minimum qualifications being met, then they actually go to the department that's hiring. Private sector and non-profits often review applications as they come in, we do, but we won't start scheduling interviews until the closing date.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  20. #70
    Cyburbian
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    This may have already been discussed but I'm wondering what the makeup of the interviewer groups have been for people.

    Most of all the public-sector planning jobs I've applied to have all led to a big panel interview, with between 3 or 4 interviewers at one time (once had 5! that's ****ing ridiculous!). But I've noticed that I'm FAR more comfortable interviewing with only one or two interviewers. Does anyone feel the same way? I'm guessing that's the case with most people.

  21. #71
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Backstrom View post
    This may have already been discussed but I'm wondering what the makeup of the interviewer groups have been for people.

    Most of all the public-sector planning jobs I've applied to have all led to a big panel interview, with between 3 or 4 interviewers at one time (once had 5! that's ****ing ridiculous!). But I've noticed that I'm FAR more comfortable interviewing with only one or two interviewers. Does anyone feel the same way? I'm guessing that's the case with most people.
    In my last two towns HR liked the panel format. But most often one person (the Planning Director/me) orchestrated the whole thing. I wrote the questions and the panel took turns asking them. Basically the others were there only for decoration. In my ideal world, I would prefer a panel to pick the top 2-3, then have a one-on-one follow-up interview.

  22. #72
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    In a larger jurisdiction, I would assemble a 3-person panel to interview applicants. They were allowed to come-up with their own questions and ask follow-up questions in the interview. It would typically be myself, someone that will be the applicant's peer in the department, and ALWAYS the department secretary. We would narrow it down to the top 3, and I would do one-on-one interviews with them typically off-site in a more casual setting (I think I'm unusual in that regard).

    I liked to include the department secretary because she had an outstanding feel for the personalities in the department and how well an applicant would fit in.

    "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)

  23. #73
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    I have recently registered and cyburbia has already been so helpful.
    I have a phone interview tomorrow for a Planner I position and this thread has guided my preparation.

    Thank You

  24. #74
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    Quote Originally posted by Jazzman View post
    Random question that may or may not belong in this thread -

    I'm interviewing for a position in a few weeks, and since the deadline for the job has passed of course, the agency has taken down the job description from its website. Problem is, I'd like to have a copy of the job description so that I can review it in preparation for the interview. Would it be weird or otherwise reflect negatively on me if I e-mailed HR asking for a copy of the job description? I know it might sound like I'm kind of overthinking things, but I really want this job and if I don't get it or if I'm written off for any reason, I want it to be because of something related to my skill set and experience, and not because I committed some sort of job interview faux pas or whatever.
    That happened to me once already. Since than for every job I have been applying to in preparation for graduation in May, I have saved a PDF copy of the job description along with the exact cover letter/resume I sent to that particular agency. This way I know exactly where they are coming from and what they see. If I have an new experience to add, I can be sure to address it in the interview.

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