Our career counselors sat down recently to answers some questions from our students and alumni. Send us your questions to PhoenixFlight@phoenix.edu. Your question might be featured in a future issue.

“How do I define my ‘weaknesses’ during an interview?”

Asked by Ryan D. | BS in Security Management/Cyber Security, 2017

Heather: This is a difficult one because we’re all human, and no one expects you to be perfect. However, you don’t want to give an answer that would prevent you from being hired, so you should never say, “I’m always late,” or “I’m unorganized and forgetful.”

On the other hand, you want to be as honest as you can in answering this question so the employer realizes you acknowledge areas for improvement.

Try to choose a response that, by itself, would ordinarily be interpreted as a positive trait but could potentially turn into a weakness. For example, you might say something like, “I’m a very detail-oriented person, but sometimes I’ve found that being too caught up in the details can get in the way of working toward the overall goal. Because I’m aware of this, I sometimes take a step back and remind myself of the big picture and about what we’re trying to accomplish.”

“How can I break into HR when I only have formal experience in transportation and manufacturing?”

Asked by Leticia C. | BS in Business/Human Resources, 2018

Alice: Leticia, you may not have formal work history in human resources, but you have valuable industry experience you can leverage when making any career change.

Since you’ve worked in transportation, I would recommend applying for entry-level HR jobs within the industry. You’ve also worked in manufacturing and could use the transferable skills you developed in your transition.

For example, have you thought about HR roles in employee safety training? This type of training is typical when driving vehicles and working with sometimes dangerous manufacturing equipment. This could help you transition into safety-related roles.

You could also connect with your local chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management. Network with members and ask how you may be able to break into an entry-level HR job involving safety training with a transportation or manufacturing industry employer.

The skills you’ve acquired give you an advantage in HR because you understand the transportation and manufacturing industries and the challenges involved. This will help you empathize with workers as an HR representative in the future.

Good luck!

For personalized career advice, schedule a session with a University of Phoenix career coach. Visit PhoenixLink, then select Counseling and Calendar and Schedule an Appointment.

Previous Career Questions

Asked by: Mike W. (BSHS/M, current student)

Steven’s answer: It’s always helpful to research the market data using salary research tools (such as Glassdoor, Indeed or PayScale) to understand typical salary ranges. This will help you provide a range that aligns with market data.

If you’d like to defer the salary discussion until the offer stage, you could say, “If you don’t mind, it’s a bit too early to discuss salary because I need more information about the specifics of the role. If it seems like a good fit for both parties, perhaps we can discuss salary later in the process.”

Remember your job search is about getting the right job, not about “winning” a negotiation. You may not get everything on your checklist, so you’ll need to pick your battles and be ready to communicate the value you can offer to the employer. If you show you’re the best candidate, your negotiation leverage will increase during the offer stage.

Asked by: Artina G. (alumna MBA/ACC, ’06)

Haley’s answer: Questions regarding race, color, sexual orientation, gender, disability, age, etc. are generally illegal, and you’re not obligated to answer. Focus on making a favorable first impression with a positive attitude and energy, and find areas you have in common with the interviewer. Likability plays an important part in hiring decisions.

Asked by: Latoya K. (BSB/HR, current student)

Haley’s answer: Gaps in employment happen for a variety of reasons. The ones I most often see are because of a candidate’s health problems or the time he or she spent as a caregiver. If it was a family or health issue, you can explain you chose to take a break to manage some personal matters.

Of course, employment gaps can also be the result of an involuntary separation from a previous job. If you’re in this situation, keep details to a minimum and refocus the conversation on why you’re ready for the job at hand.

The next piece of your response should include activities you engaged in during that break that helped prepare you for the job. Maybe you read more about your field, refreshed a skill, volunteered or even prepared for a career transition. In any case, give the employer confirmation your skills are sharp and that you’re truly ready for the opportunity in front of you.