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 should I discuss salary in an interview?

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.

What if the interviewer is biased before meeting you? How do you overcome that bias?

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.

How do you explain career gaps?

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.

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.