Careers advice: gearing up for a job interview

Written by: Jez Abbott
Published on: 20 May 2015

Grant Leggett

Boyer director, Grant Leggett, offers crucial tips for planners limbering up for that big interview.

Planning is a people industry and about relationships as much as technical knowledge.

Your relationships are with clients, public authorities, interest groups and of course colleagues.

You need to relate to a range of different people, so you need to show an ability to relate in your interview.

Of course you should research the company website to check out interesting projects they’ve worked on, but I suggest you go a step further.

Research their clients so you can demonstrate you understand their core business - do they have a residential focus or specialise in other sectors?

You can even track down planning statements or committee reports for interesting projects that the company has worked on from council websites.

Pick out a few key issues they faced on that project. The trick – and perhaps the hard part - is working what you’ve found out into the conversation.

It also a good idea to demonstrate you’re up to date on what’s happening in the wider context of planning, such as politics, planning legislation and government consultations, and that you understand the bigger picture. Research the current issues in publications such as Planning.

Some useful pointers:

  • Remember, interviews are nerve-wracking, but try to be relaxed, it shows confidence and will help you build those all-important relationships.
  • The questions that throw people most are the big-picture questions that interviewers sometimes like to lob in: what are the biggest challenges planning faces? What is planning really about? It’s a good idea to think about these sorts of issues, but the best answers are not necessarily those that would score top marks in academic context. Those that recognise the practical applications and issues often go down better. Again, the journals are good places to familiarise yourself rather than text books.
  • Interviewees tend to remember people rather than the answers they gave, which hints at the importance of relationships. That said, perhaps the most memorable answer I ever had, if not the best, was when we interviewed an earnest young fellow for a graduate position.When asked to define planning as succinctly as he could, the young hopeful deadpanned: “political nonsense”. We didn’t offer a second interview.