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Thread: Tips for Assistant Planner Interview

  1. #1
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    Tips for Assistant Planner Interview

    Hi, thank you for checking out this thread, any help is much appreciated -

    I am a newly graduate with a Master of City and Regional Planning, and after applying to 50+ entry entry level positions I finally have one call back! The position is for an Assistant Municipal Planner. I'm excited and nervous as this will be my first professional interview for a planning position. Do you have any tips to help prepare for my upcoming interview? What should I expect? Are there common interview questions for this position?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Congrats on getting the interview, but need some specifics. Larger metro area with 10+ staff? Small town/rural with 5- staff. It does make a difference.

    And welcome aboard.

  3. #3
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    thank you for the warm welcome Mike ! and help ~

    the job is in the larger metro - Sunnyvale, CA. currently am a Baltimore, MD resident so I will be covering the travel expense to get myself to the interview. so I hope to be well prepared.

    also, when applying for the position there were a couple of supplemental questions asked.

    1. Describe the two most compelling planning issues facing the City of Sunnyvale today and explain why you think these two are the most compelling.

    2. As an Assistant Planner with the City of Sunnyvale, describe what your relationship would be with one of the following: either (a) the City Manager, or (b) the Planning Commission


    I think I did a very good job with these questions. Do you they will bring that up again at the interview?

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Have your boned up on local issues, specific long term projects in sunnyvale, short term projects, dormant projects?
    Do you know CEQA (or even what it is, how it functions)?
    Permit processing, what is your experience in that?
    Site planning, have you dabbled in that?
    How rigid are you in applying the municipal code?
    Have you reviewed issues going in the bay area, or more so the peninsula that may effect Sunnyvale?
    Do you have experience performing plan checks?

    More so an interview question, but how is transition of El Camino Real coming along from auto-oriented to pedestrian oriented development?

    Congrats on the call back, especially from someone out of State, it is unheard of, especially if you don't have ties to the bay area already.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by planoodles View post
    thank you for the warm welcome Mike ! and help ~

    the job is in the larger metro [redacted]. currently am a [East coast - redacted] resident so I will be covering the travel expense to get myself to the interview. so I hope to be well prepared.

    also, when applying for the position there were a couple of supplemental questions asked.

    1. Describe the two most compelling planning issues facing the City [redacted] today and explain why you think these two are the most compelling.

    2. As an Assistant Planner with the City [redacted], describe what your relationship would be with one of the following: either (a) the City Manager, or (b) the Planning Commission

    I think I did a very good job with these questions. Do you they will bring that up again at the interview?
    Just an FYI...you might not want to reveal the muni name on here, as this board is searchable. Hence my use of [redacted]. The mods on here can revise your original post upon request.

    I found it helpful to (speaking of searching) look up all sorts of info about the muni and its issues. When they ask "do you have any questions for us?" toss them one about that public art zoning issue (hi Raff!), or swingset permits, or the TC development or the mixed use new construction. (Those last two are real, but entry level. Look into their muni newsletters and find something unique.)

    On a recent interview, the panel quizzed me about my availability for evening meetings. I referred to their scant agendas; since they only hold a planning commission meeting every blue moon, it really wouldn't be a problem.

    Since you have the advantage of a far-off viewpoint, think about some East coast practices and policies. Compare and contrast. (Consultants get selected in part due to their "not invented here" background. Use it.)

    If it's not too late, schedule an extra day or two to explore the area beforehand. Don't go hiking in the Sierras with a daypack, but leave yourself some windshield or handlebar survey time. (I once won some major cred by mentioning something that I'd seen "when I was out cycling here yesterday.")

  6. #6
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Welcome and looky here...

    http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showt...ns-entry-level

    And best of luck.

  7. #7
    Get to know more about the city. Among other things, be careful about saying it is on the peninsula, a lot of people consider it South Bay, Silicon Valley or a suburb of San Jose.

    The issues around there include the cost of housing, reliance on one employer (Yahoo) who is having difficulty and another employer (Apple) that seems to be scooping up lots of office space, pushing smaller newer start ups out of the city. The city's downtown development has had problems, one developer went bankrupt and some say the downtown there is not as nice or a central focus as some of the surrounding towns' downtowns. There is good transit, but the city recently said no to bus rapid transit going through El Camino.

    In short, its a prosperous community that has definite planning issues.

    You might want to explore the area from Palo Alto down to Willow Glen, Campbell, and Los Gatos, those places represent the region and potential competitors to the city.

  8. #8
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    Many Thanks!

    Hi All,

    Thank you so much for all the suggestions / advice. I followed and did most of suggested things...
    Anyhow, I did not qualify to move onto the next round. I'm bummed out. Still, am keeping my chin-up
    and continue applying because there are more opportunities out there right?

    But hopefully am not competing with Senior Planner(s) or overqualified person(s) with these entry level positions.

    Cheers

  9. #9
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    onto a second interview...

    I landed a job I've applied to so many entry level planner positions with the government because I want to be a municipal planner However, mostly I get the rejection notice or a couple phone interviews, then rejection. Then I tried the private sector (applied to 2 places and got interviewed from both companies) and got the job offer. it's a higher position than entry level too.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    After sweating bullets, it finally works out. Congrats on your new job!

  11. #11

    Assistant Planner Experience Needed

    Hi All,

    I have about two years of municipal experience post graduation with a bachelors degree in planning. I have applied to several places and have heard back from just a few... So far three interviews for an Assistant Planner out of applying to about 10 places...

    Just wondering how much experience is needed to be taken seriously. I was an intern at my last City and they hired an Assistant Planner who had already had several years of experience... Do I have to work in some awful place first before transitioning to a more desirable community?

  12. #12
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cdazzle View post
    ....... Do I have to work in some awful place first before transitioning to a more desirable community?
    The 8 Ball says: "Most Likely." Suck it up.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian jwhitty's avatar
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    I wouldn't count on that transitioning part.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cdazzle View post
    Hi All,

    I have about two years of municipal experience post graduation with a bachelors degree in planning. I have applied to several places and have heard back from just a few... So far three interviews for an Assistant Planner out of applying to about 10 places...

    Just wondering how much experience is needed to be taken seriously. I was an intern at my last City and they hired an Assistant Planner who had already had several years of experience... Do I have to work in some awful place first before transitioning to a more desirable community?
    hmm some of us actually like the awful places. It makes planning fun.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    Awful is a great, wonderful, fantastic word to use on any interview.

    I took some time and went on Webster's Thesaurus and found some terrific synonyms that can add some kick to your meeting!

    disgusting, horrible, terrible, dreadful, ghastly, nasty, vile, foul, revolting, repulsive, repugnant, odious, sickening, nauseating; gross, beastly

    Make sure, you use each of these as much as you can to show how much you detest the job. Finally, don't be afraid to ask if they have a taxpayer funded transition program that helps employees find work at more desirable places.

    Good luck!
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  16. #16
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    I like the thought that there is a not awful place. It would be nice to work their some time.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally posted by Cdazzle View post
    Hi All,

    I have about two years of municipal experience post graduation with a bachelors degree in planning. I have applied to several places and have heard back from just a few... So far three interviews for an Assistant Planner out of applying to about 10 places...

    Just wondering how much experience is needed to be taken seriously. I was an intern at my last City and they hired an Assistant Planner who had already had several years of experience... Do I have to work in some awful place first before transitioning to a more desirable community?
    Wow, I'm really surprised that you only got three interviews after applying to ten jobs. My advice: when going on these interviews, don't act like you really want to work in these awful places. Show up in your pajamas. Employers are much more attracted to people who don't really need the work, and acting like you want the job too much will be off-putting. So, seriously, wear pajamas, don't shave, and definitely don't do any research on these places, because, after all, they're pretty awful communities, and they know that. Tell them how much you learned in college, and about your goals to move onto more desirable communities once you've done your time there. Then they will take you seriously.

  18. #18
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    keep at it - even taking another internship is a foot in the door

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Really, the guy can't admit he doesn't want to live in an awful place?

  20. #20
    Just some clarification... I only applied to *desirable places where I would like to work long-term. If these interviews don't work out I think I will continue interning to gain further experience rather than go for job title... Further skills with current planning would help qualify me...

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