This January, many young planners are graduating and embracing entering the workforce, while other professionals are looking for a fresh start for 2022. Job interviews are one of the most daunting parts of any job application process. They can often feel like you’re under a spotlight where the interviewer will render a verdict depending on your ability to give the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers. This can be especially daunting for those trying to land their first job or who have minimal professional experience. Navigating through job interviews and providing answers that showcase a candidate’s capability is a skill and one that many can find difficult to master. When Public Sector People reached out to professionals within the planning and environment space on what areas of the job-seeking process they felt they needed the most assistance, the majority of responses revolved around job interviews. Consequently, we’ve provided some key steps to help guide graduates through their first job interviews.
Because so much of a job interview hangs on how you answer the questions posed to you, stumbling over a question could be the deciding factor in landing your dream job. So how do you best prepare? When looking at any job advertisement, you should focus on the role’s key selection criteria; the skills, attributes, knowledge and qualifications that the employer has defined as being essential for satisfying the requirements of a role. For a town planner, this selection criteria could include a tertiary qualification in town planning. Applying for roles within the public sector (local council for example) make it easier in this regard because each role will have their key selection criteria clearly stated within each job advertisement. Within the private sector, a role’s key selection criteria won’t necessarily be clearly stated within the job application but can still be detected by reading through the key responsibilities and the essential skills listed for a role. Reading through this key selection criteria will give you a clear idea of what types of questions to expect in an interview.
It’s also important to remember that interview questions will fall into two key areas; behavioural and competency-based. Behavioural-based interview questions aim to reveal the way a candidate thinks; essentially what motivates and drives them at work. The purpose of this line of questioning (which usually focuses on your past work experiences) is to determine if the candidate aligns with the organisation’s culture and values. It relies on the theory that past behaviour predicts future action and this will help to reveal how candidates will act in particular situations within the role in question.
Example Behavioural Questions:
How do you like to set and work towards goals? Can you walk us through a recent goal you set and what you did to ensure you achieved it?
How do you think you work under pressure? Can you provide an example of a time you recently felt pressure at work and what you did to handle it?
What motivates you to work hard? Can you think of workplace examples where this applies?
Example Question: Can you describe a time where you faced a challenging situation at work – how did you handle it?
How to answer: When asked questions about conflict or challenging situations, interviewers are usually looking to gain a better understanding of how you handle stress and your ability to break down larger problems into smaller tasks. Many roles within the planning and environment space will be high-pressure and involve stakeholder management, so showcasing your ability to handle and resolve conflict in your answers is critical. For those just starting out in their planning career, try and draw upon examples of conflict you’ve had perhaps in a casual job, an internship or even conflicting assessments during your studies.
Example of a good answer: While in my final year of study I was doing an internship at a local council in their planning division. While there, my manager had to go on leave suddenly due to a family matter. However, it was a very busy time for our team and we had a number of planning applications with specified timeframes that needed to be prepared. Because of my manager’s unexpected leave, he hadn’t had time to provide me with any handover notes so, in order to ensure I was still delivering my key tasks by their timeframe, I organised a quick meeting with members of the greater planning team to establish what tasks they needed from me when. From there, I created my own to-do list based on what was the highest priority and closest deadline and worked backwards. This helped me to keep on task in my manager's absence and ensured all of the tasks I needed to deliver were achieved on time.
Competency-based questions are used by interviewers to assess the specific attributes, knowledge and skills a candidate possesses in relation to a particular role. When asking a competency-based question, interviewers are usually looking to determine if you have the specific skills required to perform a job, based on what you reveal in your answers. Again, the idea is that if you have used these skills before, you will be able to apply them to the necessary standard again.
Example Competency-Based Questions
How do you identify and deliver the standards required by your clients – can you provide a recent example of when you did this?
Has there been a big decision you’ve made at work recently? Can you take us through your decision-making process?
Can you give me an example where you collaborated with individuals or teams outside your business area to deliver a positive outcome?
Can you talk us through a recent circumstance when you had conflicting deadlines and how you managed these?
Example Question: What would you do if a customer said you were taking too long to handle an issue?
How to answer: A big portion of planning and environment revolves around customer service and stakeholder management; there are a number of different organisations, community groups and individuals that are involved within the one planning project and planners need to ensure each stakeholder’s needs and priorities for a particular project are being met to ensure the project is successful. A question like the above is designed to demonstrate your customer service skills and how you can handle or resolve issues with a disgruntled stakeholder/individual. Luckily, customer service is a skill that can be developed in a number of roles, so even graduates who haven’t had much experience of this within a professional context can still use examples of customer service they’ve had in a part-time job.
Example of a good answer: When I worked at a call centre for Telstra while finishing my studies, I would try to avoid this feedback by giving customers an estimate up-front of how long a task would take to help manage expectations. Of course, accurate estimates aren’t always possible. If I got this feedback, I'd start by acknowledging it without getting defensive. I'd probably say something like, "I apologize that this issue is taking longer than anticipated. There’s been a delay in resolving the issue” and try and explain the reason for the delay as best as I can. No one likes to be left on hold, so I would then promise to call the customer back once the resolution was resolved – this also frees up their time. Keeping customers in the loop is always important, as it helps them feel like their problem is being prioritised and they are valued as a customer. I would then provide updates by email in the interim, and then ensure I’ve communicated with the customer once the issue in question was resolved.
Another popular and useful tool you can use to prepare and answer interview responses is the STAR Method, which helps to ensure your answers follow a clear structure and best showcase your competency and skillset in relation to a particular role. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action and Response and can be applied to your answers as follows:
The Situation- Start your answer by sharing the context around a particular work challenge, task or experience; the who, what, when and where.
The Task- Then describe your involvement or role in that particular task, challenge or situation.
The Action- Explain the specific steps or processes you took to overcome or resolve a challenge or complete the particular task. If the action was carried out by a team, focus on your efforts as it is your efforts that are being assessed.
The Response- Finish by summarising the outcome that was directly achieved by your efforts. In this section, it’s important to quantify your results to help demonstrate your capabilities so try and include figures or stats where possible – e.g. this resulted in a 5% increase in traffic to the organisation’s website.
Another option for job seekers – especially those who have just graduated or are trying to establish their planning career – is to reach out to specialist recruiters. For graduates who are still trying to establish a professional network within the planning industry, recruiters who specialise in the urban planning space can be a great option. They will have established clients within the industry and will know of opportunities best suited to those just starting out in their careers. They will also help their candidates with all stages of the recruitment process - resumes, selection criteria and interviews- and know what organisations are looking for in a candidate’s answers. Using recruiters can provide additional support and help to ‘cut through’ within the current job market.
The key difference between using recruiters and approaching an organisation independently is that recruiters will act as middlemen between the client and the candidate (you). They will negotiate on your behalf and if the end result isn’t a job offer, they can pass on constructive feedback to assist you as you progress in your job search. To ensure this happens, you need to be working with recruiters you can trust. Do your research, take the time to meet with experienced recruiters in your market and tell them your ideal future direction, your previous experience and work background. Because you should feel comfortable and confident in who is representing you.
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Public Sector People specialise in assisting and supporting professionals within the public sector including those who work within the planning and environment space. For those interested in learning more about any of the information discussed above, you can reach out to us at email@example.com
Duration: Ongoing Immediate Start l Local Government Contract $61 - $67 per hour + Super Per Hour PSP is working with a prominent Local Government organisation looking to engage Senior Development Assessment Planner on an ongoing contract. Role: The assessment, , processing and determination of development applications, Section 4.55 applications and provide planning comment on applications for construction and building information certificates Written and verbal advice regarding land use, zoning, planning legislation, Council policy and procedures. Critical analysis of development proposals, predevelopment application meetings with the development industry Reporting to Council Local Planning Panel in response to submitted development applications Communication of allowable development opportunities of land and Council, State requirements and/or provisions affecting and regulating such development Tickets/Qualifications: Copy of up-to-date Vaccination Driver C License Relevant degree Town Planning with the eligibility for acceptance to the Planning Institude of Australia For a confidential discussion or to register your interest in Town Planning roles, please contact Wallentina Simmons at PSP on 0412 102 322. Alternatively, please e-mail your current resume in Word format to firstname.lastname@example.org
PSP is working with a large Local Government organisation. They are looking to engage an IR Business Partner on a 12 month contract role. Role: Provide end to end support on all operational Employee Relations and case management matters Provide a point of escalations for all Industrial Relations across the organisation Conduct formal investigations in response to workplace misconduct and/or grievances. Interpret and provide specialist advice in relation to the interpretation of industrial agreements and conditions. Lead specific Employment and Industrial relations projects Be a point of contact and representative for discussions, negotiations and hearings with Unions, State and Federal based Tribunals and Commissions and the Fair Work Ombudsman. Strong experience working in industrial and employee relations. For a confidential discussion or to register your interest in Human Resources roles, please contact Wallentina Simmons at PSP on 0412 102 322. Alternatively, please e-mail your current resume in Word format to email@example.com
12 Month Contract 37 hour week $70 per hour + super PSP is working with a Western Sydney Council, looking to engage an experience Development Engineer on an initial 12 Month contract. Role: Assess stormwater and flooding development applications to ensure they meet Council’s requirements, professional engineering standards and are of high quality Complete and review relevant drainage and flood models Provide technical advice to ensure compliance with Council’s relevant policies, technical standards and the NSW Floodplain Development Manual Liaise with and advise developers, architects, planners, engineers, designers, government agencies etc. with regards to engineering stormwater information and clarifying Council’s requirements in accordance with Council’s stormwater and integrated water management requirements and Engineering Guide for Development Experience: Experienced staff need only apply. Must have experience in assessing Development Assessment (DA) referrals - drainage/stormwater & flooding For a confidential discussion or to register your interest in Development Engineer roles, please contact Wallentina Simmons at PSP on 0412 102 322. Alternatively, please e-mail your current resume in Word format to firstname.lastname@example.org
PSP is working with a Local Government organisation looking to engage a Senior Landscape Architect on an initial 6 month contract. The Landscape Architect will project manage the design and development of key landscape masterplans, open space, playground, natural area, shade structure/ building and amenity projects. Duties: Develop a framework and detailed concept designs for key parkland and urban spaces Manage special projects arising from the Liveable Centres Program Prepare detailed designs and cost estimates Participate in community consultation processes Develop and document landscape master plans Provide a technical advisory service to other Departments of Council on environmental and landscape matters. Skills: Qualifications in Landscape Architecture or recognised equal in related design field; Current Class C driver's licence; White Card. Experience or demonstrated skills in all stages of open space planning, urban renewal and environmental improvement projects; High-level skills and experience in design and documentation using AutoCAD For a confidential discussion or to register your interest in Landscape Architect roles, please contact Wallentina Simmons at PSP on 0412 102 322. Alternatively, please e-mail your current resume in Word format to email@example.com
Public Sector People are inviting expressions of interest from Town Planning professionals seeking Local Government opportunities. As an approved supplier to councils within NSW, we are actively seeking industry experienced planning professionals to fulfill long and short term contract roles. We work with a number of leading public sector organisations in both metro Sydney and rural NSW and have positions at all levels. If you have already had public sector experience and are seeking your next contract opportunity, please register with us today! Requirements include: Tertiary qualifications, at degree level in Urban Planning or related discipline. Experience in the assessment and resolution of planning, heritage and urban design issues associated with development applications, preferably in local government. Strong communication skills and an ability to balance a broad range of stakeholder needs and customer expectations. Benefits include: Flexible working hours, secure the elusive work/life balance. Attractive hourly rates. Gain valuable experience within progressive councils. Work with a recruitment consultant who has been recruiting planners in Local Government for the last three years. For a confidential discussion or to register your interest in planning roles, please contact Wallentina Simmons at PSP on 0412 102 322. Alternatively, please e-mail your current resume in Word format to firstname.lastname@example.org
Public Sector People are working with a local metro council on the recruitment of a Band 5 statutory planner for a contract role. This council are undergoing massive growth and this is a great opportunity for a planner seeking exposure to growth area planning. You will be joining a team with an excellent culture, very friendly and supportive. This council have a strong customer service focus, so would suit a planner who knows the importance of providing a first class service to applicants and residents. You will be managing a caseload of basic applications, residential, industrial and commercial. This role is suitable for someone with at least six months local government experience. You will be working a hybrid model with 2-3 days per week in the office, the rest from home. This is a fantastic council to join from both a cultural perspective and for career development. Requirements include: Tertiary qualification in Town Planning, Urban Studies, Environmental Planning or related discipline. Local Government experience, ideally within Victoria. Excellent customer service skills and ensure a great experience for applicants. Benefits include: Excellent team culture and plenty of support provided. Working from home and Office balance. A council with diverse planning issues, not just rescode. For a confidential discussion regarding this position and other planning opportunities within Metropolitan and Regional Victoria, please contact Emma Murphy at PSP on (03) 8535 3111. Alternatively, please e-mail your current resume in Word format using the link below.
PSP are currently working with a metro Council in the North Eastern suburbs who are seeking an experienced Band 5 or experienced Band 6 planner for a period of six months. This is a busy metro council, you will be responsible for managing a caseload of applications, along with undertaking phone and counter duty. The applications will vary, you will gain exposure to residential, commercial, industrial and heritage. This is a contract role in a busy council and it is very likely to be extended. Open to part-time or flexible work arrangements, will be a hybrid model with two to three days working from home. Requirements include: Tertiary qualification in Town Planning, Urban Studies, Environmental Planning or related discipline. Experience working with Victorian Planning Scheme, ideally in a metropolitan context. Benefits include: Secure a six month contract before end of financial year. $50 – 65 p/h depending on experience. Flexible hours / days to suit you. Please apply with your current resume. For a confidential discussion regarding this position and other opportunities within Metropolitan and Regional Victoria, please contact Emma Murphy at PSP (03) 8535 3111. .
PSP are currently working with a peri-urban council on the recruitment of a Band 5 Statutory Planner for a 6 month contract. You will be responsible for managing a caseload of applications and will perform counter/phone duty on a rotational basis. Your level of experience will dictate the complexity of applications you will be responsible for. This council is undergoing a massive growth and redevelopment period and will be a fantastic learning curve for an ambitious and enthusiastic planner. This council operate a hybrid working model so you will be in the office twice a week, or more if you prefer. The office is based approx. one hour 30 mins from CBD, in the South East. Requirements include: Tertiary qualification in Town Planning, Urban Studies, Environmental Planning or related discipline. High level customer service skills, measured on KPIs in accordance with “Same Day Service” methodology. Some previous planning experience within Local Government, State Government or a consultancy. Benefits include: Enhance your planning experience at a growth area Council on the cusp of Metro Victoria. Secure a 6 month contract. No day the same with a variety of application queries from a diverse community. Great experience and team culture, develop your own career and opportunities. For a confidential discussion regarding this position and other planning opportunities within Metropolitan and Regional Victoria, please contact Emma Murphy at PSP on (03) 8535 3111. Alternatively, please e-mail your current resume in Word format using the link below.
Public Sector People are working with a large regional council who are seeking a Statutory Planner at a Band 5 level. This is a 12 month contract. You will join a large planning team covering a large range of applications, residential, industrial, heritage, native vegetation and bushfire management overlays. This is a busy council with a strong focus on customer service. You will be managing a caseload of basic applications, along with phone and counter duty. This is a busy regional hub, and would be a great opportunity for a planner with regional experience who would like to move to a bigger council or to a planner who wants a variety of applications and a change from Metro Melbourne. You can avail of a hybrid model with 2-3 days in the office or can consider a fully remote working set up. Requirements include: Tertiary qualification in Town Planning, Urban Studies, Environmental Planning or related discipline. Strong written and verbal communication skills. Local Government experience within Victoria, ideally with exposure to Regional planning. Benefits include: 12 month contract. Varied workload with some interesting applications to sink your teeth into. Hybrid working arrangements or fully remote, depending on your situation. Can offer full-time or part-time. For a confidential discussion regarding this position and other planning opportunities within Metropolitan and Regional Victoria, please contact Emma Murphy at Public Sector People on (03) 8535 3111. Alternatively, please e-mail your current resume in Word format using the link below.
Public Sector People are working with a local council council on the recruitment of an Environmental Health Officer. This is an initial three month contract but likely to extend. You will be able to demonstrate your excellent industry knowledge and previous experience working for a Local Council as an EHO. You will be able to competently complete registered premises inspections whilst communicating with local proprietors in a professional manner. This role will pay $45 - $50p/h + super for candidates at a Band 6 level with previous local government experience. You will be working on Customer complaint investigations Public Health and Wellbeing Act inspections Food Act inspections Pandemic Team support Health promotion support and program implementation and development Customer engagement and setting expectations Requirements include: Suitable qualifications – Bachelor of Applied Science or Health Science (Environmental Health) – or recognised equivalency Current Victorian driver licence. A tertiary qualification in environmental health or equivalent is required and experience in the field is highly desirable however, graduates are encouraged to apply. For a confidential discussion regarding this opportunity or other Environmental Health roles within public sector, please contact Emma Murphy on (03) 8535 3111 | Emma@publicsectorpeople.com.au.
Public Sector People are working with a Council, South East of Melbourne who require a Report and Consent Officer with some experience working within the Public Sector. This role reports into the Municipal Building Surveyor but is suited to someone with a planning or building background. Your core role will be to co-ordinate the Report and Consent (dispensation) function of Council under the Building Regulations 2018, advertise applications when required and follow up and communicate with respondents whilst maintaining the relevant computer database. This is suited to someone in planning or building who wants to transition into the public sector or someone who wants to develop their knowledge of the report and consent aspect of planning and building. Open to fully remote working and/or part-time hours. Requirements include: Tertiary qualification in Town Planning, Urban Studies, Environmental Planning or related discipline. Strong communication skills. Experience using Trapeze is highly desirable. Benefits include: Short contract until 30th of June Option to work fully remotely Round out your experience at a metropolitan Council. $45 - 55 per hour plus super, depending on experience. For a confidential discussion regarding this position and other planning opportunities within Metropolitan and Regional Victoria, please contact Emma Murphy at Public Sector People on (03) 8535 3111. Alternatively, please e-mail your current resume in Word format using the link below.