Urban planning community

+ Reply to thread
Results 1 to 11 of 11

Thread: Potential assistant planner position requiring written exam

  1. #1
    Member
    Registered
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Posts
    1

    Potential assistant planner position requiring written exam

    Hi there,

    I have been applying to planning jobs in SoCal for about a year and only in the past couple months have I been receiving positive responses. I have passed the initial screening for an assistant planner position and am invited to take a written exam. I am ecstatic, though the email said over 300 other applicants are invited to take the exam as well. Clearly the job market is very competitive and I've worked really hard just to get this far. I have never taken an exam, and am somewhat confused as to what questions will be on there considering it is an entry level position. Can anyone shed some light on what I should expect so I can study and be prepared?

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Quote Originally posted by grace.bogdan View post
    Hi there,

    I have been applying to planning jobs in SoCal for about a year and only in the past couple months have I been receiving positive responses. I have passed the initial screening for an assistant planner position and am invited to take a written exam. I am ecstatic, though the email said over 300 other applicants are invited to take the exam as well. Clearly the job market is very competitive and I've worked really hard just to get this far. I have never taken an exam, and am somewhat confused as to what questions will be on there considering it is an entry level position. Can anyone shed some light on what I should expect so I can study and be prepared?

    Thanks
    The "exam" could be one of many different things. They might have you write up a staff report, or a briefing, or a public notice, or something like that. And/or they might have open questions for you to answer, testing your knowledge and judgment. Or, there might be a little data analysis exercise. It's anyone's guess, really. If you've done well in school and can write well, I wouldn't stress over it. If the test is timed, just relax, do your best, and forget the rest.

  3. #3
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
    Registered
    Jun 2003
    Location
    at the neighboring pub
    Posts
    5,290
    A written exam is usually designed to assess two things: can you write in an articulate & concise manner on a level appropriate to the audience, and are you a capable critical thinker. I've never given a written exam to 300 potential applicants, and probably never would. Given that quantity, my guess is that HR folks are reading it rather than planners and therefore are focusing primarily on writing skills. If you did respectably well in school and write decently, you have nothing to worry about.

    I tend to use a written exam following an initial interview, whittling down the applicant pool before going through that effort--it is easier on me and easier on the applicants. I typically require a simple self-selected writing sample with the application & resume, which I use to help make a first cut (if you can't string together a conherent sentence in a self-selected writing sample, then I don't know how you expect to get a job). I'll usually select the top 10 based on their application, resume & provided writing sample for an interview. There's been a few times that I've issued questions for written response before the interview, with instructions to bring their written responses to the interview. I've also provided the questions after an interview with a 1 or 2 day response deadline. The questions I give are typically situational "how would you handle this" questions.

    A couple of times I've actually left them in a room for 20 minutes with a computer opened up to an email with 5-10 emails of varying complexity to respond to along with code books/plans to reference--they had to decide which ones were most important and respond in an appropriate way. We then met back up in the interview room and I had them briefly explain how they prioritized and to pick a couple to explain why they responded how they did.

    "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)

  4. #4
    Cyburbian developmentguru's avatar
    Registered
    Sep 2008
    Location
    My hammock. Not really. My office.
    Posts
    62
    I use a written exercise every time I hire; I provide an actual case of moderate complexity (changing the names, etc), give some basic facts and photos, and have them craft a staff report with an hour time limit. It does a few things: a) it is not sufficient time, so it shows me how well they can skim a large amount of information and their talent at extracting the important information; b) it demonstrates their skill at both analysis and writing; c) it demonstrates their basic knowledge of planning principles; d) it illustrates their natural ability to translate "planner jargon" into a format understandable for the general public; and, e) it's not a writing sample they've had an indefinite amount of time to work on, get reviewed, get help, etc. It's a short enough period of time that you're getting their natural writing ability - an important factor if you're the supervisor reviewing hundreds of reports and memos and don't want to be substantially reworking. I utilize these just prior to the final panel interview, after substantially narrowing down the field of applicants to less than a handful.

    Hope this helps!
    "In our profession, a plan that everyone dislikes for different reasons is a success. A plan everyone dislikes for the same reason is a failure. And a plan that everyone likes for the same reason is an act of God." - Richard Carson

  5. #5
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Where the weak are killed and eaten.
    Posts
    6,221
    High thier

    Eye were given a written exam. It past spell chuck. And I was not give en the job as a righter at the noose paper!

    Can u be leave it?
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
    Registered
    Feb 2007
    Location
    America's Happiest City
    Posts
    4,961
    The three written "exams" I have done in California as a shinny new grad were all multiple choice and used to establish the "interview" list. I made top tier and all of them. It covered basic stuff like density calculations, CEQA questions, etc. I am sure with 300 people, a multiple choice test is what you are going to get. Quick?!?! How many sf are in an arce, parking demand based on the criteria, etc. Don't sweat it.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Plus
    Registered
    Sep 2011
    Location
    newark nj
    Posts
    184
    Now I'm slightly concerned that I might not be getting an effective education in grad school. I'm only one semester in but I don't know how to do almost anything mentioned in here. Well maybe there are some things I can do. But, I don't know how to write up a staff report, or a briefing, or a public notice and a lot of the more technical stuff mentioned in here.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
    Registered
    Feb 2007
    Location
    America's Happiest City
    Posts
    4,961
    Quote Originally posted by ddomin4360 View post
    Now I'm slightly concerned that I might not be getting an effective education in grad school. I'm only one semester in but I don't know how to do almost anything mentioned in here. Well maybe there are some things I can do. But, I don't know how to write up a staff report, or a briefing, or a public notice and a lot of the more technical stuff mentioned in here.
    No school will teach you this mang.. its OJT. On the Job Training.

    Each supervisors will have their own way of writing staff reports, just remember, it is a exercise in technical writing. Your not writing to meet some gawd awful "1,000 words or 10 pages". You are writing a report. Just the facts ma'am.

    Remember this and you will do fine my young jedi.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  9. #9
    Member
    Registered
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Posts
    18
    Wow, I looked at the OP's linkedin profile (assuming she's using her real name, which by the way I don't think is a good idea)...she seems eminently qualified for an entry-level planner position. Good degree, good internships. I'd guess that in 2005 she'd have a good job in hand before graduation.

    The fact that she's struggling so much in her job search tells me the market is still extremely tough. That's certainly my perception.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally posted by CPSURaf View post
    No school will teach you this mang.. its OJT. On the Job Training.

    Each supervisors will have their own way of writing staff reports, just remember, it is a exercise in technical writing. Your not writing to meet some gawd awful "1,000 words or 10 pages". You are writing a report. Just the facts ma'am.

    Remember this and you will do fine my young jedi.
    Right... the fact that you may not know how to ape typical public notices, etc. is not a big factor. They will be looking at your ability to construct a well-written, concise piece of work. Basically, it's about being a good writer. That skill alone will get you a long way in your job search and your career. You'd be surprised how many paid professionals suck at writing. But like others have said, there's no way HR is going to have 300 applicants do a writing example. It'll most likely be a multiple choice exam.

  11. #11
    Member
    Registered
    Jul 2012
    Location
    California
    Posts
    4
    yesterday i completed a written exam for an assistant planner position. 10 questions, 10 blank pages in 45 minutes. not terrible aside from the cramped hand, but people complained that they were only able to complete up to #6 or so... and they were shocked that there were no "planning" questions! most must have been recent grads... on monday, i have an associate planner exam and they've given us a heads up for a scantron test. i prefer writing, so i'll be hitting the books this weekend

+ Reply to thread

More at Cyburbia

  1. Replies: 7
    Last post: 08 Jun 2014, 6:45 PM
  2. Assistant planner practical exam
    Career Development and Advice
    Replies: 4
    Last post: 21 Sep 2012, 12:32 AM
  3. Replies: 26
    Last post: 16 Sep 2011, 11:59 AM
  4. What to study for written planner exam!?
    Career Development and Advice
    Replies: 4
    Last post: 09 Oct 2008, 11:57 PM
  5. Replies: 3
    Last post: 16 May 2008, 1:47 PM