Common interview questions: entry level

Johio

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#41
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.
 
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#43
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.
 
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#44
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.
 
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#45
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.
 
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#46
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.
 

Hink

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#47
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!!
 
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#48
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....
 

HomerJ

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#49
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!
 
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#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!
 
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#52
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!:)
 

Kingmak

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#53
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.
 

Suburb Repairman

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#55
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.
 
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#56
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?
 

Jazzman

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#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.
 
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#58
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...
 

Kit

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#59
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.
 
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