Application process

Learn how to prepare for our assessment process.

Potential candidates in logo

Pathways to Planning has been designed as a fast-track entry into a career in planning within local government. It is open to graduates from any degree background, with no work experience required; we want to measure candidates’ best fit for a career in planning. The assessments start quite broadly and become more specific to a planning context as the process progresses.

Applications are currently closed.

Application Timeline: Cohort 2

Below is the timeline for our most recent cohort.

16 January – 2 April 2024: Cohort 2 applications open

As part of stage one, applicants completed the application form and situational judgement test by 2 April 2024. The team reviewed their results and communicated outcomes the following week.

April 2024: Video interview

Applicants who met the minimum threshold for the situational judgement test were then be invited to a video interview. Each applicant then had 10 days to complete the video interview from the time they received the link by email. 

20-24 May 2024: Virtual assessment centre

Applicants who pass our video interview are be invited to a half-day, virtual assessment centre around the end of April or early May. Candidates are able to choose a morning or afternoon slot and will complete three exercises during the assessment centre.

Late June and early July 2024: Council-based interviews

Applicants who pass the assessment centre rank which councils they would prefer to interview with, so our team can take this into account when allocating interviews. We anticipate applicants will interview with up to three councils during this period. Councils choose who to offer a role to.

July and August 2024: Onboarding

Pathways graduate planners begin onboarding procedures with their council employer and also begin the application to process to the appropriate postgraduate course with support from their council and the Pathways team.  

September 2024: Commencement of work and study

Pathways graduate planners will start work at their appointed council and will also begin their RTPI-accredited postgraduate study. 


Our entire assessment process has been built around the following competencies, which were designed by an occupational psychologist along with volunteers from the young planners network, the BAME planners network, the Planning Advisory Service and the National Graduate Development Programme for Local Government.

Stages of the recruitment process

Situational judgement test

All candidates will start by completing a situational judgement test. This test uses real life scenarios from graduate planners and general management trainees, all working in a local government context. You will be given a short scenario and then three possible responses. You will be asked to select your most and least likely responses to the scenario. 

The test will take you through 24 different scenarios, measuring each of our competencies three times over the test. It is not timed, but we anticipate that it will take you 30-45 minutes on average to complete. We suggest you complete the test when you have at least an hour to spare to avoid putting yourself under unnecessary pressure. If you want to pause the assessment, you will be able to do so after answering a question, before proceeding to the next question. You can log back in at any time as long as you complete the entire situational judgement test by the application deadline.

Please watch our short workshop below for examples of situational judgement test questions and tips on how to prepare.

Sample questions

Video interview

If you pass the situational judgement test, you will then be invited to complete a video interview. You will have 10 days from the time we send you an active link to the video interview to choose a time that works for you to complete this assessment. We anticipate it will take you 15-20 minutes to complete this assessment but again, we would recommend leaving yourself an hour to use the practice function and ensure all you are at ease with the platform before you begin. You will be asked three questions, one at a time, which relate to our competencies. You are encouraged to draw on any relevant experiences and examples, as we do not expect you to have experience working in a related area. 

The assessment is timed, but you will get one chance to re-record each question if you are not satisfied with your first answer. If you require any reasonable adjustments, please get in touch with our team before you begin the video interview. We will not be able to provide extra time or other measures retrospectively. 

Professional assessors will mark the video interviews as audio files only, but our team will spot-check the video content to ensure that candidates are completing their interviews independently. We will also check the video of interviews where there have been technical difficulties or other issues.

Below is a short video which contains tips about how to perform well in the video interview.

Virtual assessment centre 

If you pass the video interview, you will be invited to attend a virtual, half-day assessment centre where you will complete three tasks. These will be a written task, a group discussion and a presentation. Everything you need will be provided during the assessment centre and no advance preparation will be required. The assessment centre will take place on a virtual platform and assessments will be marked by trained professionals. You will access the assessment centre using a link in an email from our team. Please enter the assessment centre at least 15 minutes in advance to check that your sound and video are working.  

If you require any reasonable adjustments, please get in touch with our team before your assessment centre takes place. We will not be able to provide extra time or other measures retrospectively. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Council Information Hub, Preference Form and Interview Guidance

The final stage is to interview with up to three of our participating councils, taking into account your availability, where you would like to interview, and the availability of interview space with participating councils. 

Candidates who have attended our assessment centres will be invited to visit our online council information hub to learn more about the councils taking part in Pathways to Planning. You will also be given a form to outline the councils and regions that they would prefer to interview with. You can also declare any special circumstances that we need to take into account, such as restrictions on where they could live/work. 

Candidates who are successful at the assessment centre stage will be quickly matched with councils / regions they have expressed an interest in for interviews. As you will have passed through an intense competency-based process, this is what we call a ‘best fit’ interview. It is a chance for the council to determine whether you are the right fit with their team, local area, and priority areas of work. It’s also a chance for you to see that fit from your perspective so you can make a decision between multiple offers, should you receive them.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of the information hub?

The information hub is intended to give you additional information about the councils taking part in Pathways to Planning so you can make an informed choice in your selection of preferences, and also to help you get a sense of councils in advance of attending interviews. Some councils may hold virtual drop-in sessions for candidates or offer contact details. You can attend any sessions and make contact if you wish. 

Do different councils offer different things? 

All councils sign up to the Pathways to Planning under the agreement that they will: 

  • Employ graduates on a minimum three-year fixed term contract, though some authorities may offer a permanent contract;
  • Pay national management trainee salaries a minimum salary of £24,000 (*may be more but will not be less, subject to local agreement and pay negotiations)
  • Provide a range of work experience over the three years to support your MRTPI accreditation in year 3; 
  • Allow you to take part in your Master’s qualification, including cover all associated costs and allowing day release from your work to attend lectures.

There will be differing opportunities at each local authority. For example you may wish to explore:

  • The top issues facing the planning team in that area;
  • The variety of work experience / skill development on offer;
  • How the council will support your postgraduate study;
  • The organisation’s culture;
  • Whether work is remote, in person, or hybrid.

What is your advice on selecting councils on my preference form?

We encourage all candidates to be open minded and utilise the information pages online to understand the different opportunities available from each authority. Councils are best placed to answer questions any questions about what they can offer you, and the Pathways to Planning team are unlikely to be able to answer these types of council specific query – so you will need to address any questions regarding this directly to the council. It is your responsibility to ensure you have a clear understanding of this before you complete your preference form.  Doing so will enable you to make informed choices and will be important when/if presented with an offer/s. 

Will there be any more councils signing up to Pathways to Planning that are not on the preference form?

No. All the councils registered for this year will be on your preference form. 

Does selecting your preferences in a particular way guarantee an interview with your first choice council? 

No. The interviews are allocated to provide candidates with at least one interview in their preferred councils or regions. We must also balance the fact that some councils are more popular than others, and candidates’ availability will play a role. Of course, the order of your preferences will be taken into consideration and we will do our best to honour them but, when making your choices, keep in mind that you could be offered an interview with any of the councils you have listed. You may also be offered one in the wider regions you have expressed a preference for.

Does having a local connection to a council help?

It is definitely not essential and most councils will be keen to interview candidates from all over of the country. However, we will provide space in your preference form if you want to let us know about any connection to a particular council you feel it would be pertinent for us to know.

When will I hear back about the assessment centre and any interviews?

Our team will inform you of your assessment centre outcome and, if applicable, your allocated interviews by Monday 10 June 2024.

How many interviews will I be allocated?  

Each candidate will receive at least one interview (dependant on your completion of the preference form) You may be offered more, depending on the demand for candidates from participating councils.

When will interviews take place?

Interviews will take place on weekdays and during working hours on 17 – 28 June. Councils will choose whether to interview in person, virtually or in a mixture of modes.  

What happens if I can't attend on the interview date given? 

You should check council interview dates on the information hub and you should ensure availability on the dates councils are hosting interviews. It is, therefore, unlikely that an alternative date will be offered should your availability change at a later date. Exceptional circumstances may be taken into consideration by the interviewing council but it is at their discretion to decide whether to reschedule an interview or not. 

How many interviews do I have to attend? 

Each candidate should be allocated at least one interview but you may be offered more. You are required to attend all the interview/s that you have been allocated. If you do not attend an interview on any other date, without providing a reasonable explanation more than 48 hours in advance, we reserve the right to assume that you are withdrawing from Pathways to Planning and will cancel your remaining interviews. 

Is there any reason why I may not get an interview with my top preferred council? 

Interviews are allocated to provide candidates with at least one interview in their councils and/or regions of preference. We anticipate that the majority of candidates will get one interview within their top council choices but, this depends on the availability of interview slots with your preferred councils and their popularity (i.e. how many other people put them down as a top choice). Where a council is particularly popular, we may use scores from assessment centres to help us prioritise who gets the interview.

We really appreciate your open-mindedness and flexibility. We will do our best to honour your preferences as much as possible, whilst ensuring fairness for all candidates.

How will the interviews take place?

Once your interviews have been allocated by the Pathways to Planning team, a contact from the/each council will liaise will you directly about arrangements for your interview (e.g. timings, location, logistics, etc).

It will be at each council’s discretion to decide whether they hold face-to-face or virtual interviews and this will be made clear on the information pages.

The specifics will vary from council to council, as they will manage the organisation of this directly and have discretion over how they run their interviews.

 Is there any preparation I need to do before my council interviews? 

There is no mandatory interview preparation, but the more you can demonstrate your understanding of the council planning team's needs and show a passion for local government, the better. We recommend: 

  • Accessing our coaching offer if you would benefit from additional support: more information will come from our team or you can email [email protected]
  • Looking at the council’s local plan and/or any documents listed on its planning team’s website;
  • Having an awareness of some of the local issues facing the community by looking at the council’s strategic priorities, local news and your own knowledge of the local area.
  • Review the resources about planning on our website.
  • Check out the resources on the RTPI website: RTPI | About planning.
  • Making sure you can confidently explain why the council you’re interviewing with is of particular interest to you.
  • Practice how to structure your responses, the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) technique can be helpful.
  • Being yourself! 

What questions, if any, should I ask at the end of the interview?

This is completely up to you, but it is a good opportunity to understand more about what your role would be like at the council. Remember, these interviews are as much about you finding out about the council as them finding out about you.

 If you’re struggling for ideas, here are some suggestions:

  • What types of projects would I work on at the council?
  • Do you offer any mentoring or support to graduate planners?
  • What would success look like for someone six months into this post on your team? 

Who will be interviewing me? 

Councils will determine their own interview panels. The majority of councils will have a recruitment policy which explains their processes and practices. Many will inform you in advance, either directly or in response to a query, who will be conducting interviews and other details of the day. If this is something you’d like to know, you can raise this question when you correspond with the council about interview arrangements.

What information do you share with councils prior to interview?

We share your contact details and the written answer to the question on your preference form. We do not share the marks you have received in the application process, any information provided through the equality and diversity process (including information about disabilities) or your specific preferences for interview. This information remains confidential to the Pathways to Planning team. 

If you would like the council(s) that you are interviewing with to know about a disability/any particular requirements in advance of interview, please let the council know directly so that they can make appropriate accommodations.  Use the point of contact provided (e.g. the person arranging the interviews with you).

Do I need to have any documents with me to interview?

The interviewing councils will inform you of what you need to have for the interview. If you are unsure, please contact the council directly. 

Will I need references? 

The interviewing councils will inform you of what you need to have for your interview. If you are unsure, please contact the council. 

When will I find out my interview outcomes?

Councils will send their interview outcomes to our team and these will be communicated to you on the online platform and also by email. Our goal is to have sent all outcomes out by Friday 5 July.

What happen if I receive an offer/s from councils?

Following an email from the Pathways to Planning team you will be given instructions on how to accept or decline your offers and will have 24 hours to decide whether you would like to accept the offer(s) available to you. 

Please note, if you have received more than one offer, once you have communicated your decision you cannot revise this choice. 

When will my job start?

Once you have been offered and accepted a job from a council, you will arrange your start date. Most start dates will be arranged for early September 2024 so that you will have been introduced to your council before onboarding with your postgraduate degree. You will arrange your start date directly with the council, and the university provider that the council has chosen for your postgraduate study will inform you of key dates with their processes after your offer of employment has been confirmed.  

Can I defer my offer to next year? 

Deferrals are not offered on Pathways to Planning due to the high demand for places, changes in council participation year-on-year and adaptations made to the Pathways to Planning assessment process each year. You can, however, apply to Pathways to Planning again if you wish to do so.   

What happens if I don't get offered a job? 

Unfortunately, we will have a small number of candidates who do not find their best fit at the interview stage and are not offered (or choose not to accept) a job. Some councils however, struggle to fill all their desired vacancies in the first round of interviews and may arrange additional ad hoc interviews over the course of July and August. Candidates who have not previously interviewed with the council will be informed as opportunities arise. We also operate a ‘national talent pool’ where councils can request candidates for interviews if they have other local vacancies. The talent pool stays open for two months. We will also direct you to other opportunities as we are able.