Careers Advice: What every planner should know about job interviews

Handshake

The planning sector has had a buoyant start to 2017 with an impressive array of opportunities arising across the UK for planners of all levels. It has been great to liaise with an array of clients including consultancies, developers, house builders and local authorities about their plans for growth as they find their workloads increasing.

Understandably, the roles vary in seniority meaning that not every vacancy will be the right one for you; however, it is always worth being prepared for an interview should one suddenly arise. Interviews are commonly the thing that makes the majority of job seekers in the planning market most nervous. But this doesn’t need to be the case.

The best advice isn’t simply to wear the correct attire, turn up on time and give a firm handshake. Looking beyond this, the most crucial piece of advice I can give you ahead of attending an interview is to do your research.

Take the time to search the website of the company, but also search the business name on news websites to pick up useful information regarding recent projects or even recent appointments. This will mean you can honestly answer the inevitable question – ‘What do you know about us?’. In addition, the firm's recent projects often provide useful talking points that prevent an interview taking on a bland Q&A format.

Beyond the business, you should also look at the individual(s) you will meet. The obvious place to go here is LinkedIn and whilst not everyone in the world of planning has an account, I would suggest that there is a very good chance you will find your interviewers on the sites with information about their own backgrounds.

Doing your research equips you to answer some very obvious interview questions well but will also afford you the opportunity to engage your interviewers in more open conversation which allows you to demonstrate your wider planning knowledge and mutual contacts – something they will be keen to see.

My next tip is to review your own CV ahead of the interview. This may seem like an odd thing to do the night before an interview, but if it has been a few weeks or months since you wrote your CV then you may well forget which project examples you included, which responsibilities you listed first and second or even simply your employment history dates. Your CV is normally all the interviewers have to go on before the interview and so they will use the document as the basis for their questions and will expect you to not simply regurgitate the basic facts but expand on them to demonstrate why you are the right person for the role. It’s important that the CV allows you the opportunity to expand on your experience and show off your ability and personality.

My final piece of advice is to always remember that interviews are a two-way process. Admittedly, the interviewer is looking to hire and will be keen to find out more about your experience, personality and ambition before deciding whether or not to offer you a job. However, what should not be forgotten is that you also have a choice to make – so ask some questions! You should use the interview to find out more about your prospective employer so that should an offer be made you are comfortable when saying yes or no.

In short, every interview will take a slightly different pathway as we are all unique individuals but always remember that the best thing to do is simply to be yourself!

Jason Moore is town planning recruiter at Cobalt Recruitment

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