How to prepare for a job interview in town planning

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Matt Fraser, team manager - planning at Penguin Recruitment, offers top tips to help you ace your job interview.

Got a job interview coming up for your dream town planning job? The key to interview success is preparation and confidence. Use these top tips to help you perform to the best of your ability and get the most out of the interview.

job interview

Swot up on your interviewer

What do you know about the people you will be meeting? The chances are you haven’t met them before and know nothing about them. Looking them up on LinkedIn and Twitter is a good start to get an idea of their personality and how they’re likely to conduct the interview. This will help you feel more prepared and knowledgeable about who you’re meeting.

Check out the company website thoroughly - not just the homepage but also their blog if they have one, along with any case studies, reports or other publications they’ve produced, and be ready to mention these in the interview. If their blog summarises a recent team social which you thought looked exciting, you could mention it as an example of how you feel you’d fit into the company culture. Or if there is a case study of a planning project that struck your interest you could mention it and highlight what interests you about it.

Practise answering common and unusual interview questions

In addition to the usual questions such as ‘Why do you want this job?’ and ‘Tell me about your career to date’, which you should absolutely prepare for, try to think about some tricky questions you could be asked and how you might tackle them. These could include ‘What’s your biggest weakness?’ or ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ Some even more unusual questions include ‘If you were on an island and could only bring three things, what would you bring?’ and ‘What is your least favourite thing about humanity?’ 

The key is to remain calm and answer in such a way that represents you in a positive light. As there is often no right or wrong answer to such weird interview questions, it’s about how you communicate clearly and explain your reasoning rather than the content of the answer itself.

Practise saying your answers out loud to a friend or family member so you can hear how you come across and get instant feedback from their perspective. That way you can keep practising and improving on your technique before the real interview. Whilst you can’t prepare for every possible peculiar interview question, by preparing for just a few you will have engaged your brain with a method for tackling such questions which you could hopefully adapt to any question.

Prepare your own questions to ask

The job interview should be just as much about establishing whether the organisation and job appeals to you as whether you’re suitable for them. Try to ask questions that you genuinely want to know whilst also leaving a good impression. You could ask about the culture of the organisation and whether you can see the workspace and team - this will demonstrate your enthusiasm and that you’re keen to get to know them better. You could also ask smart questions like ‘How will the success of this role be measured?’ This shows you mean business and are results-oriented. 

Dress to impress

Whilst in some industries it may be acceptable to rock up in jeans and a t-shirt to a job interview, in the town planning industry it’s normally appropriate to dress smartly for your interview. A conservative suit with a coordinating shirt or blouse is apt, along with clean, polished shoes. Go easy on the perfume or aftershave and make-up, and limit your jewellery.

Other interview etiquette to bear in mind during the interview is to switch off your mobile phone and maintain eye contact with the interviewer.

Visualise success

You may be feeling nervous, which is very natural, and the pressure that often comes with a job interview opportunity should not be underestimated. But there are techniques you could apply to help you manage the stress. Firstly, visualise yourself nailing it. Play out the interview in your head, or even better as a role play, and see yourself succeeding in answering the questions confidently and enthusiastically. 

Sometimes the pressure can come from over-eagerness for the role, so don’t put all your eggs in one basket - it’s not the only role out there for you. Go to the interview knowing in the back of your mind that if you don’t get the job, it’s not the end of the world, it will have been a learning experience either way. But do make sure you obtain feedback to help you improve for next time.

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