At Cobalt, we specialise in the recruitment of Town Planners across the UK working closely with a superb range of clients that includes planning consultancies, developers, house builders and multi-disciplinary consultancies. We have witnessed an impressive increase in the number of planning opportunities across the private sector over the last 12 months. Of course, this is great news; however, when there are such great opportunities available at all levels how do you make yourself stand out from the competition?
From my years of experience of working with a range of clients and Town Planners, here are the 5 key factors behind people succeeding at interview and landing their ideal Planning role.
1) Demonstrating your experience
First and foremost, our clients want to know you have the right experience to take on their role and succeed. Most interviews will begin with an overview and run-through of your CV and experience. This is your opportunity to share examples of relevant projects you have contributed to or lead, your client interaction and your ability to handle the responsibility of the role. Don’t be afraid to delve into the details of particularly impressive projects. Draw on examples where you have excelled or taken the lead on elements of the planning process and certainly use your experience to demonstrate how it has prepared you well for the opportunity you are interviewing for.
2) Commercial Awareness
Employers want to see your commercial awareness in an ever-changing world of networking and business development as the Planning sector continues to grow. Commercial awareness is not necessarily experience of having undertaken business development, but an understanding of how to interact with clients to ensure project delivery can encourage repeat business. Assistant Planners, Planners and Senior Planners will need to demonstrate their understanding of the current commercial climate; what factors may affect business? What might clients expect of you? What might you be able to do to ensure their future projects or business comes back? There are no easy answers to such questions and the only way to excel here is to put in the extra-time reading the relevant press, listening to experienced members of your existing team and even attending networking events yourself. Those of you with extensive experience of business development will be able to demonstrate that too – our clients want you to have a passion for business development and it could be the difference between you and another candidate.
Our clients want to employ individuals who will grow within the business and add value in the years to come. It is crucial then that you demonstrate your own ambition to further your career and exceed your own targets. I can’t list what your ambition(s) should be, they are down to you. However, it is important you make them clear. For example, you want to submit your APC by a particular date, become a Senior Planner within 12 months, win your first piece of new business, - the options are endless. The Planning sector is undergoing much growth and whilst this is good news for all it means it is as competitive as ever for our clients. Therefore, they are always inclined to hire those whose ambition will act as a driving force within the business, which will enhance their own drive for more success.
4) Be prepared to ask questions and demonstrate your knowledge
Always prepare well for an interview by undertaking research into the consultancy or business you are meeting. Of course, you cannot be expected to know everything about the business and their plans for the future. However, I would strongly recommend doing more research than simply looking at their homepage. At Cobalt, we endeavor to pass on all our knowledge of a client but always stress the importance of further research. Utilise your time before an interview to undertake further research of their recent projects, take a look at the LinkedIn profiles of those you will be meeting and brush up on any major news you’ve noticed about them in the recent press. For example, there is a general election looming at the time of writing with party manifestos offering many talking points for Planners. Of course, you can’t be expected to take an encyclopedic knowledge of the business into the interview with you so do not be afraid to ask further questions when there. You will quickly discover that those you meet will be proud of their recent achievements and will be happy to discuss them further with you along with their future plans for more growth. There’s a great phrase I always remind myself of, “Be prepared or prepare to fail!”
5) Be Yourself
Lastly, I cannot stress enough something I tell everyone when they are heading to an interview – it is crucial that you be yourself! Personality matters in an interview. Whilst you might have the relevant experience, a great deal of commercial awareness and demonstrated knowledge of the business, if you haven’t backed that up with your own personality it will count for nothing! Head in with a smile, firm handshake and be ready to seize the opportunity to further your planning career.
Article written by Jason Moore, Town Planning Recruiter at Cobalt Recruitment.