Getting Hired: Tips for Interviewing

Members of APA's Women and Planning Division recently hosted a panel discussion "Getting Hired: Hear from a Hiring Manager." The panelists offered their perspectives on preparing for, and acing interviews:

  • Corrin Hoegen Wendell, AICP, community development director for the City of Little Canada, Minnesota
  • Breanne Rothstein, AICP, economic development, and housing director for the City of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota
  • Anna Laybourn, AICP, principal at Design Workshop
  • Aimee Duffy, director of human resources at Design Workshop and Principal.

Prepare, Ace, and Follow Up

Preparing for the Interview

Research the community or company. Read its plans and strategic goals and familiarize yourself with its mission and vision.

Your understanding will set you apart from other candidates as someone willing to take the initiative. If you were given a questionnaire or project before the meeting, take it with you to the interview. It will remind you of your replies and help you offer consistent answers.

Consider the values espoused by the organization. Do they align with your own? Would the culture suit you and allow you to be your authentic self? Will pursuing its mission help you accomplish your professional goals? Doing the research and making an effort to understand the culture will give you a solid footing for the interview.

During the Interview

An interview is a two-way street — a conversation between an organization and you to see if your professional experiences and skills meet their needs and requirements. Don't be intimidated! You need to find an employer that will foster your professional growth.

Don't assume that everyone who is participating in the interview is familiar with your resume or your application. You can ask how familiar they are with your resume; it is good practice to have a summary available if needed.

What key points are you most confident in that will help you stand out? Think carefully about how you're going to deliver the message. Go ahead and write out your responses beforehand, but also practice with a friend or colleague. Your personable style and ability to make a connection are what will resonate. Remember, the interviewers are thinking, "Is this someone we can see as part of the team?"

Be ready to highlight your abilities and how they will enhance the team. Even if you don't have direct experience, your ambition and drive to contribute are what matters. Think of an example of your successful collaboration with and contribution to a team. Tell that story and describe the project's impact.

Find ways to share your vision and how you can contribute. If you can, link your mission with the mission of the organization or talk about the work they do that inspires you.

At the end of an interview, you will be encouraged to ask questions. This is your final opportunity to make a positive impression, so have some good ones ready. Consider asking, "What does it take to succeed in this role?" Always ask, "What are the next steps?" Be sure you know who the hiring manager is so you can follow up.

Following the Interview

Set yourself apart with a thank you by email or in writing. (Even though a note or letter may take longer to arrive, it shows extra effort and may give you a certain distinction.) Mention some of the topics discussed in the interview and reiterate your eagerness to contribute.

Public-sector employers have notoriously long hiring processes. Be patient, but show interest by maintaining communication. Reaching out to the hiring manager once every two or three weeks is optimal; more often than that might not be welcome. Keep in mind that if people aren't responding, it's probably not about you. Either they're slow or the HR team won't allow them to contact candidates (because that's the role of HR).

Read more from the webinar on how to answer tough interview questions and how to negotiate your compensation and salary.

Top image: iStock/Getty Images Plus - SDI Productions

Bobbie Albrecht is APA's Career Services manager.

August 8, 2023

By Bobbie Albrecht