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Urban and Regional Planners Interview
Questions

29 Questions and Answers by Rachelle Enns
Updated August 17th, 2018 | Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter
who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.
Job Interviews     Careers     Design    

Question 1 of 29

Tell me about your education. How has it prepared you for a career as a Urban and Regional Planner?

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Answer Examples

1.

Tell me about your education. How has it prepared you for a career as a Urban and Regional Planner?

Talk about your level of education, where you went to University/College and where you completed your internship. Were you mentored by anyone along the way?

Rachelle's Answer

"I completed my Degree in Urban Planning from McGill University in Montreal. For my apprenticeship I worked for ABC architecture firm and was mentored greatly by one of the senior partners. This experience gave me a really full, and broad scope of the industry and it's expectations. The high level of quality work that was expected was immense but the pressure benefited me greatly."

Anonymous Answer

"I have a bachelor's degree in architecture with many classes in project management. I also have a master's degree in urban design. Not only can I design a project from a napkin sketch, but I can complete the cost estimate and manage the project from conception to completion."

Rachelle's Answer

Perfect! Your answer highlights your education while also exuding a ton of confidence.

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2.

What cities have you studied that impressed you the most?

Which city impresses you the most, and why? Be sure to include some thoughtful detail in your answer.

Rachelle's Answer

"For myself, I am very impressed with the design of Berlin, Germany. Berlin has become one of the greatest creative centres of the world and is now becoming leader in design. It's focus is environmentally conscious and sustainable."

Anonymous Answer

"Chicago, lakefront in public parks, also Paris, the height restrictions and scale of the streets works excellent."

Rachelle's Answer

Good observations!

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3.

Why are you the best candidate for us?

This is a great time to brag about yourself a little bit! Talk about any awards or recognition you have received and be sure to include something unique about yourself. This will help the hiring manager to remember you.

Rachelle's Answer

"I feel that I am the best candidate for you because I bring direct experience in the types of community and residential projects that you specialize in. I am also a very strong technical artist and won the design award last year in my current company."

4.

What is most important to you, something quick and flashy, or something that is timeless?

This question will be important to the interviewer, as it will determine much about your potential fit within their organization. Do your research on the planning group prior to the interview. Are they known for flashy work or are they a reputable company with a reputation for long standing design?

Rachelle's Answer

"I fully believe that creating a timeless design is the most important. That doesn't mean that it can't be attractive or somewhat 'flashy' either. It needs to catch the eye, but also keep it."

Anonymous Answer

"Something timeless, lasting design is a good design in my book."

Rachelle's Answer

Well said!

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5.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

What inspires you to be the best? Do you stay motivated through new inspiration? This answer can be basic or you can get a little bit more personal.

Rachelle's Answer

"My initial inspiration came from watching my mentor, a senior urban planner, take such pride when a project was complete. It truly is a great feeling to walk or drive through a project upon completion and be able to say that these were YOUR ideas, implemented. I also subscribe to a couple of architecture and planning magazines."

Anonymous Answer

"From nature, international visits, other cities that have prospered. Many different places."

Rachelle's Answer

Great! Try adding in your favorite places to visit or specifics when it comes to landmarks, etc.

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6.

The planning process involves input from numerous groups, which requires great communication skills. When have you exemplified such skills in past work?

Multiple groups means multiple personalities so it's best to give an example of a time when perhaps you were working with a team that didn't always see eye to eye.

Rachelle's Answer

"I am continually working with multiple groups that do not necessarily see eye to eye. We almost always have the same end-goal but not necessarily the same ideas on how to get there. Strong communication is key since it is so easy to misunderstand. What I do is take my time to talk to the other party and repeat back what my understanding of it is. This way, we know for sure if we are on the same page."

7.

What projects have you worked on in the past?

It is really important to mention projects that the interviewer will be familiar with. The more they can visualize your work, the better.

Rachelle's Answer

"The projects that you would be most familiar with would be some of the larger scale projects that I have worked on. For example, the community of Madigan is a big one in my portfolio. Mount Pleasant is another. For commercial, I also worked on the traffic flow, parking and green space for the Crossroads Mall development."

8.

Describe a time where you worked well under pressure.

Be sure to use a recent and relatable example when you answer this question. Spend less time talking about the problem and more time talking about what you did to find a solution. What was the outcome?

Rachelle's Answer

"Last week our client made some pretty significant changes to our plans just 2 days before the submittal deadline. Everyone was really stressed. I agreed to work many hours of overtime for those 2 days so that we could hit the deadline our client required. It's easy to freeze up in times like that so I was sure to create a milestones schedule and stick to that. I also made sure to utilize our technical staff and junior planners more than usual. We hit our deadline and our client was thrilled!"

9.

What area in this city do you believe has the most potential?

The research you have retained on the company prior to the interview will be important when answering this question. It is great to tell the interviewer about the areas of the city you would love to see revitalized however, be sure to know the company's past, current and future projects as well.

Rachelle's Answer

"I feel that the Inglewood area has the most potential as it's central, has a great vibe, and has a lot of thriving small businesses to offer amenities to the residents. Your recent project in the Renfrew area is a perfect example of that. It's another great neighbouring area that could benefit from a revitalization."

10.

Have you studied a poorly planned city project? Tell me about it and what went wrong.

How you answer this question will show the interviewer more about your keen eye for detail and your ability to think critically. Answer this is a way that remains positive but is also constructive. Avoid bashing the work of another firm.

Rachelle's Answer

"I was tasked to study a couple of former city projects during my time in University. One being the residential community of Waterfront and the other being the residential community of Silverado. These projects are full of confusing traffic circles which has made for an increase in vehicular and pedestrian accidents over the years. Drivers are afraid of missing their turn to get to the correct shopping area and they forget to keep an eye on the road."

Anonymous Answer

"I think rustbelt cities that were planned out around one industry are great examples of poorly planned cities because they have not all been able to adjust with the times very well."

Rachelle's Answer

You make an excellent point here - well done!

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11.

When have you worked with difficult individuals? For example, people that may have very poor communication skills. How do you handle these situations?

There are difficult personalities in every industry and it's always best to talk about those situations in as positive of a light as possible. Be careful not to bash other people in the industry either.

Rachelle's Answer

"Working with difficult personalities is something that comes along with the job, from time-to-time. Being an urban planner, I find that the more difficult situations to navigate come when we need a work-around with a city design. The government is not the easiest to navigate and the employees are not always given the ability to decision make. If I do not get the answer or response that I am looking for, I will call another time, until I reach someone that I can work nicely with."

Anonymous Answer

"I was in charge of sending out inspections for the General Business Licenses. When people didn't respond, I would send multiple emails requesting the information or send emails to their managers, copying the previous emails I sent to those people."

Rachelle's Answer

Were you able to help these people become better communicators in the end? How did copying their managers on the email sequences help the situation?

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12.

What would you begin to change about our community if you were given full access for planning today.

Your answer will speak to your level of attention to detail. It will also show the interviewer that you have the ability to think outside of the box and understand how communities continue to need improvement.

Rachelle's Answer

"In my current community I would start by adding more green space. The area is starting to see more young families and there are not a lot of options for them as far as parks and playgrounds go. I would also make room for more single family homes. There are a lot of condo developments which has caused some population congestion and parking concerns."

Anonymous Answer

"The way the permitting is done, I would transform it into an entirely cloud-based e-permitting platform that is a one-stop-shop on the front and back end."

Rachelle's Answer

This sounds very convenient. Nice suggestion!

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13.

What is your greatest weakness? What are you doing to improve it?

This answer should be focused on a work-related weakness but be careful not to say something you will regret later. Focus more on the positive. What you are doing to improve?

Rachelle's Answer

"In my last performance review my manager asked me to improve my working knowledge of GIS. I have since signed up for a course which will be complete in December."

Anonymous Answer

"I put too much into a project. I will work overtime because I am passionate about what I do, even if that has meant less family and friends time. I have taken steps against this, like turning off notifications of emails on my phone. On my latest vacation, I only looked at my email on the last day."

Rachelle's Answer

I recommend choosing a weakness that does not sound self-serving. "I work too hard" is an answer that many hiring authorities report as being too far towards selling your weakness as a strength. This could backfire. Is there anything listed in the job posting or job description that is a job requirement that you are not a 10/10 in when it comes to skills and strengths?

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14.

When have you had to explain a process or idea, to someone who was either stubborn to the idea, or just did not understand the idea or process?

Being able to teach is a really important skill, especially if you would like to become a manager or lead a team one day. Be sure to talk about a time where you were in this scenario and discuss the outcome.

Rachelle's Answer

"In my previous role I was tasked with the training of a new, junior planner. We were learning some of the basic steps on a project and he could not seem to understand 'why' we were doing things that way. I was able to break down the reason for his inability to learn and it was simply because he didn't understand the larger picture; or, end goal. We were able to move past that and now I am aware of the best way to communication with him."

Anonymous Answer

"During the process of getting important figures on board with the One Stop Shop permitting system it was difficult sometimes because some people did not understand the idea, so we had to set up multiple meetings and have much more communication with them than other people who understood the idea more easily."

Rachelle's Answer

This is a good example of a time when you needed to account for people learning at various paces. It may be useful to add in a bit about your ability to remain patient and helpful through the process.

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15.

When have you provided an excellent presentation? Describe it to me, and why it was successful.

Give an example of a time when you created your own presentation. Who did you present it to? What was the feedback?

Rachelle's Answer

"Just last month I was asked to present a city community plan to the surrounding residents. The plans were going to interrupt some of the surrounding wetlands which meant that some of the attendees were skeptical. I created a very clear and entertaining presentation in Keynote and rehearsed it for a few days prior. After presenting this to the 50 attendees, many of them commented on my knowledge and ability to answer their questions and address their concerns. I feel it was successful because everyone left with a full understanding of the project's pro's and con's."

Anonymous Answer

"I have provided many excellent presentations throughout my design career, specifically for the ULI competition in grad school. It was successful due to the amount of time and effort I put into the project, as well as the great infographics and renderings and how well everything connected to tell one cohesive story."

Rachelle's Answer

This sounds like a success, indeed! If applicable, discuss a bit about who you presented it to, and in front of how many people.

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29 Urban and Regional Planners Interview Questions
Win your next job by practicing from our question bank. We have thousands of questions and answers created by interview experts.

Interview Questions

  1. Tell me about your education. How has it prepared you for a career as a Urban and Regional Planner?
  2. What cities have you studied that impressed you the most?
  3. Why are you the best candidate for us?
  4. What is most important to you, something quick and flashy, or something that is timeless?
  5. Where do you get your inspiration from?
  6. The planning process involves input from numerous groups, which requires great communication skills. When have you exemplified such skills in past work?
  7. What projects have you worked on in the past?
  8. Describe a time where you worked well under pressure.
  9. What area in this city do you believe has the most potential?
  10. Have you studied a poorly planned city project? Tell me about it and what went wrong.
  11. When have you worked with difficult individuals? For example, people that may have very poor communication skills. How do you handle these situations?
  12. What would you begin to change about our community if you were given full access for planning today.
  13. What is your greatest weakness? What are you doing to improve it?
  14. When have you had to explain a process or idea, to someone who was either stubborn to the idea, or just did not understand the idea or process?
  15. When have you provided an excellent presentation? Describe it to me, and why it was successful.
  16. What is your greatest strength? How does it help you as a Urban and Regional Planner?
  17. Why should we hire you?
  18. Why is urban planning important to you?
  19. Tell me about a project you studied in college that impressed you the most.
  20. How have you incorporated public transportation into your past designs?
  21. Tell me about your portfolio. What do you like about it? What would you change?
  22. What do you believe makes a happy community?
  23. Where do you see yourself in five years?
  24. Are you a detail oriented person?
  25. How are your communication skills?
  26. How would your former employer describe you?
  27. What civic organizations do you belong to?
  28. What do you know about our company?
  29. How well do you know this market?
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