How to attract town planners in a candidate-driven market

Written by: Matt Fraser
Published on: 7 Oct 2021

Penguin Recruitment

Matt Fraser at Penguin Recruitment shares his latest advice for those vying for talent in the town planning sector.


At a time when the availability of professional planners is scarce, finding the right people for your team can be tough. Matt Fraser, team manager - planning, economics & urban design at Penguin Recruitment, shares his advice on the latest recruitment strategies to help you recruit and retain the town planning professionals you need to succeed.

Offer a great candidate experience

As we universally know, first impressions and experiences matter, so give candidates the best impression of your company, starting with the interview, through to the offer stage, onboarding and ultimately to their first day and beyond.  

Good preparation on the employer’s behalf, such as picking the best location in the office (or house!) with the best lighting and signal, are obvious, but you’d be surprised how many don’t do this.

Most companies have developed brochures candidates can take away with them.  Others have taken candidates to lunch or brought lunch in.  ‘Breaking bread’ with someone adds a layer of interest, care and commitment that candidates will ‘feel’.  It also goes without saying that quick feedback after the interview sends the right messages to jobseekers.

Act and adapt quickly

Given that the jobs market is so busy, the companies that adapt and act quickly will stand the best chance of securing the candidates they want and snap them up before their competitors do. 

Virtual interviews, which became the norm throughout Covid, can play a key role in progressing the application process at a pace. I would encourage companies to continue to utilise Teams and Zoom for first stage interviews. Virtual interviews can be conducted quickly, removing the necessity to travel in the first instance.  It saves both time and money, which is attractive to both jobseekers and employers alike.

Consider including a written test of some sort in the recruitment process to give you a better understanding of where the candidate is at and if they are at the appropriate level for the role, helping to ensure you get the right person with the right skills and experience.

Advice for local authorities

More than half of respondents to a recent Planning Resource survey with local authorities said they find it hard to recruit professional planners. Career progression, good pay and benefits, and job satisfaction, remain the main reasons people stay or leave a role. The flexible working options we now see as a norm should be seen as a positive for local authorities as they can attract staff from a wider geographical pool.

Some local authorities offer supplements to enhance remuneration packages and compete with the private sector, so perhaps others could look internally to see if similar benefits could be offered to attract and retain the best people for their roles.  Ultimately, if you offer competitive packages, communicate well to your staff and give people room to grow, people will join and stay in post.

New expectations of the ‘workplace’

I believe the new ‘workplace’ will be a continuation of what employers are likely to already be doing, which is to make sure that any working environment is Covid-equipped with wipes, sprays, socially distanced desks and well spaced communal areas.  

Jobseekers are also asking about flexible working a lot more than before, so to remain competitive and meet the new demands of most planners, you should look to have some degree of flexible working in place.  After all, we’ve proven that it works.

Three steps to success

  1. Consider the following: career progression, pay and rewards, training and development, clients, projects, team building and regular reviews.   
  2. Then discuss internally with the relevant stakeholders on what you can do continuously to ensure your business is performing at the top of its game.  
  3. I believe, through experience, that companies that adapt and reflect often stand the best chance of attracting and retaining staff.

If you would like assistance with recruiting from a diverse and high quality talent pool of town planners, contact Matt Fraser at Penguin Recruitment:

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