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Thread: How to prepare for an interview

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Ringo's avatar
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    How to prepare for an interview

    If you have an interview in the upcoming week or so, how do you prepare?
    What should you know?
    What do you review on their website?
    Do you go as far as reading code, ordinance, or comp plan?
    how do you prepare?
    What questions do you always have an answer for?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    For my last interview, I did spend a lot of time looking at the website. I didn't read the entire ordinance or Comp Plan, but I did look over a few sections just to have an idea. Their Comp Plan was last updated in 2002, so that was telling to me. They also had recently completed a small area plan that I reviewed. If there's an Executive Summary, you could just read that, or glance over the Land Use section or whatever other sections might be relevant.

    I would also take a look at the most recent sets of minutes/public hearing packets. That will give you an idea of what issues are up and coming and the minutes especially will help you understand how the Planning Commission answers questions.

    There is a sticky note about common interview questions that would be good to look over. But be prepared for the question about your strengths/weaknesses, why you're interested in the job, and what you can bring to the table. I was able to communicate that I really thought my personal philosophy fit in well with the locality I was interviewing with and that I was very selective of who I considered to work with.

    Have some good questions of your own prepared. Some of the ones I asked were about the political dynamics, citizen engagement, the leadership style of the County Administrator, and then what their expectations would be for defining a successful fit 6 months to a year out. All of those answers confirmed to me that it was a cooperative environment and that the expectations were reasonable.

  3. #3
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    As an interview giver, I would familiarize yourself with the community. It is always nice to see that someone has done their homework. You certainly don't have to be an expert on the community, but going back and reading some ZC minutes or Elected Official minutes, to see what some of the bigger projects going on are, is something I would do.

    I think the first questions any interviewer should ask is why do you want this job. It is a simple question, but you should have a good answer for it. Career advancement? Interesting opportunity? Money?

    Also, always try and find something interesting about the community that you can ask the interviewer. "I saw you are working to create a plan for Main Street, what is the City hoping to create in that area?"

    Good luck!


    Edit: And look at that gtpeach beat me to most of my points.... good advice!!
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  4. #4
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    I usually skim the comp plan and zoning code. Because it's recent I'll see what they've done about sign code updates.
    I'll google all I can for local news on the community. Before coming here I knew about the bond issue for an expo center that wasn't planning related, but people wanted to know my thoughts on it.
    I go through the agendas to see what kinds of cases are coming up. Are they busy? a lot of zoning or mostly use permits? Any of them seem to present a problem?

    I always prepare for Hink's question of why? I like to answer in two parts. First show that the job has professional advancement or something professional for me - why else would I apply? Second, show some personal interest. I like your city because I'm from there or my family has history there or I just think you have a great reputation for hookers and blow. It makes you more than just another out of state candidate and shows you know the city.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Hink View post
    Edit: And look at that gtpeach beat me to most of my points.... good advice!!
    I just went through this process, so it's fresh on my mind! Also, I sat on our interview panel at work for a long time.

    One other note - I would also have some examples handy to pull from. A time you were involved in conflict resolution, a project you managed, etc. Everything's better with examples!

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Ringo's avatar
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    Thank you all for the response.

    Would you change your tactic if this is for one of Americas Premier cities, very progressive, trend-setting for planners nation wide, and facing issues such as affordable housing,?
    I ask because with my current job, which I love, It was easy to research and read the comp plan and current issues as not much was going on.

    This cities comp plan, just the housing section is 250 pages and has many programs to ease its problems and plan for the future.
    I assume you would research, research, research, and know about all of them.

    Since it is such a large city, I would be doing a small planning task, processing permits, which I do in my daily position, among many other things as well.

    I have read through the common entry level question sticky.
    For those who interview, what do you believe would be the most important things to convey for an entry level job? I am currently in an entry level position and doing all function for the planning dept. since I will be moving to a larger city, I will have fewer responsibilities but at a higher volume, I assume this is something to convey. Anything else?

    Thank you all, I am thankful for this opportunity, but also in a great position since I am happy with my current job. If I am not selected it is not the end of the world for me.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    I wouldn't really try to change my tactic, I just make sure my strengths for the particular job come out. For smaller towns I can offer XYZ For big cities it sounds like you should be able to offer a broader knowledge base than expected for a large city. You can handle a bigger variety of tasks because you already do them.

    If you have a contact of any kind, find out what is expected of the job. Is this a narrow position just processing basic entitlements and permits or are you expected to handle some zoning too? Try to get across the things you do at this job that are at or above the position for the next job. Writing staff reports for more complicated issues.

    Try to fit yourself to their needs. As a rural planner this is how I would approach different cities:
    Rural area: I'm the greatest rural planner ever. Just look at my current work.
    Suburb: As a rural planner and past suburban planner I know the conflicts at the edge of the city better than anyone.
    Big City: This is where it gets harder for me. I have to make my little things sound bigger (insert joke here). I start talking about working on zoning ordinances and other bigger projects. I find projects they can relate to. Public not liking the new big development or working with the local chamber to land a project.

    In a case like yours, if it were me, I would avoid talking housing too much. It's my weak point and seems to be something that city needs a lot of. Is the job heavily related to the housing problem? You better be able to talk about it. If not, make sure they know your other strengths and that you have no problem building on your current housing knowledge.

    Give examples like GTPeach said. Have you handled some difficult projects? Have you handled irate public? And make sure to have a good answer for why you want to work for the big city. My friend at Phoenix used to laugh because everyone would tell them how great Phoenix is. They know how great they are, what are you going to do for them? At least show me you know something about the city other than the big project that everyone knows about.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian The Terminator's avatar
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    tl:dr response:

    Find a specific caveat or "thing" that employer is known for, learn something about it and show your interested in their specialty, you wont become an expert but it shows good faith.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Ringo View post
    how do you prepare?
    Take a shower and clip your fingernails.
    Habitual Offender

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Ringo's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Richmond Jake View post
    Take a shower and clip your fingernails.
    Even for Skype!? This seems a little excessive, I will keep my hands in my pocket.

  11. #11
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Richmond Jake View post
    Take a shower and clip your fingernails.
    What's funny is this isn't even a joke.

    I had someone show up to an interview wearing a shirt with the logo of their current employer. Don't do that.

    Otherwise, the OP seems to be prepared for the interview process.

    "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)

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