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Toughest Interview Question
Alumni Spotlight
Our Next Networking Event
Keep That Resolution!
Career Week Recap


Volume 4  |  Issue 4

December 2014



It's the question job interviewers love to ask and job candidates hate to answer: What is your greatest weakness? With a little practice and a better understanding of what the interviewer is really trying to find out, you can provide an answer that will impress your interviewer and instill confidence that you are the right person for the job. The key is to prepare ahead of time and keep everything positive, even though you're venturing into negative territory.

When job interviewers ask you about your greatest weakness, here's what they are likely trying to find out:

Is there anything about you that would keep you from effectively doing this job OR indicate that you would not be a good fit with this company?

So, with this in mind, you won't want to say that you're organizationally challenged if you're interviewing to be an event planner, or that you don't deal well with difficult people if you're interviewing to be a customer service representative.


To effectively answer the greatest weakness question, here are a few tips:

Do your homework.

Before the interview, find out everything you can about the available position and the company's culture. Then consider what kind of weakness they definitely don't want to hear AND what weakness could actually work in your favor or, at the very least, not matter as much.

Choose the "best" weakness.

When deciding on your answer, consider one of these approaches:

  • Go with a weakness that is not relevant to the job, like saying you're not a good public speaker when interviewing for a job as a backroom computer analyst.
  • Talk about a weakness that could be perceived as a positive for the job, like being a workaholic if you're interviewing for a managerial position that requires working late at night or on the weekends.

Prepare and deliver well.

Don't wait until the interview to think about your answer to the greatest weakness question. Prepare your answer ahead of time, and even practice it with a partner. Also:

  • Go beyond just stating your weakness, and give examples of how you compensate for it—like saying you double-proof your reports because you're not always the best speller.
  • Keep your answer positive both in what you say and how you say it, with an upbeat tone of voice and positive body language.

Stay calm, and be smart and prepared, and your greatest weakness may turn into one of your greatest assets in the eyes of your interviewer.

Interview questions

Division Director, Early Intervention
Maricopa County Juvenile Probation Department Phoenix, AZ

Back in 2005, Charlsie Cordova was working as a juvenile probation officer in Arizona when a flyer for the Western International University (West) Master in Public Administration (MPA) program* caught her eye. Several years and one MPA degree later, Charlsie found herself accepting the position as director of the entire Early Intervention Division of the Maricopa County Juvenile Probation Department (MCJPD), overseeing many programs to help get troubled youth back on track and keep them there. She credits her experiences at West for helping her get to where she is today.


What did you like most about your West experience?
I was able to network during my classes. I met a lot of great people from many different county departments, as well as the judicial branch and City of Phoenix. It was fun meeting all of these people, and I made a lot of contacts.

Did you think at the outset that your career would take off after you earned your degree?
Not at all. When I first signed up for the MPA program, I just wanted to earn a degree for myself. I didn't have a specific goal or expectation beyond that. But as I went through West, I got more focused and developed a drive and desire to become a manager. I also learned leadership skills and how organizations and governments work. My instructors were so knowledgeable, because they are all out there working in their fields.

How did what you learned at West help you become a division director?
I never thought about becoming a manager until I took a class at West and had an instructor who planted the seed. He also talked with me about a 5-year plan, which got me thinking and planning about what I had to do to land a managerial job. Later, I met a woman who was a fellow West student. As it turned out, she is the one who hired me for the director's job.

What are your responsibilities as a division director?
I oversee nine juvenile early intervention programs, including Teen Court, Citation Diversion, Drug Diversion, Safe Schools, Citation Court and Families in Need of Services (FINS). The main focus of early intervention is to keep our youth out of the formal court process, off probation, and moving in the right direction.

What would you tell someone who is considering a West education?
Do it! I am very excited about the West program and educational experience—especially after touring the new facility and seeing all the technology. I'm actually thinking about going back to West just so I can use the new technology!

*For complete program information, including relevant career occupations, our on-time completion rates, and the median graduate debt incurred by students who completed their programs, visit http://west.edu/online-degree-programs/public-administration-mpa.html

Charlsie Cordova

5 Rules to Win Being You

Don't miss our next networking get-together featuring Isha Cogborn—a sought-after speaker, trainer, author and media contributor—who will give you practical advice about identifying your personal "unfair competitive advantage" and how to put it to work for you. We'll kick off the evening with an hour of networking and refreshments, followed by Isha's workshop. West students, alumni, faculty, and local community members are all invited to attend with a guest—we look forward to seeing you there!

DATE Thursday, January 15, 2015
TIME Networking 5-6 pm MST
  Complimentary drinks and appetizers will be served.
  Presentation 6:15-7:15 pm MST
Campus, and online
PRESENTER  Isha Cogborn, Founder & President of Epiphany Institute and author of 5 Rules To Win Being You
PLACE Tempe campus
By Jan. 12

Campus RSVP
  Please include the number and names of campus attendees.
  Online Presentation RSVP
  Webinar link will be sent upon registration.
Questions? laura.lee@west.edu or call 602-429-1110

After becoming a single mom at the age of 18, Isha realized that living in subsidized housing and driving a $500 car was not the life she wanted for her new son. So she set about creating a different life. On January 15, Isha will share stories of her journey and help you forge your own path toward a more fulfilling, purposeful and successful life that celebrates the unique and talented YOU!


What do you mean by an "unfair competitive advantage?"
It's inherently who you are and what makes you uniquely qualified. It's the value you bring to the table that no one else can offer. I call it your "TAPE"—Talents, Abilities, Passions and Experience. It's as unique as your fingerprint.

How can a person's TAPE help them be more successful?
Knowing and expressing your TAPE makes success come more easily. If you bring all of YOU to work every day (all your talents, abilities, passions and experience), you will naturally succeed just by being who you are. The key, though, is doing a good job managing your personal brand.

What tips do you have for managing a personal brand?
It's not enough to let your work speak for itself. How do you know anyone is listening? You have to sell yourself in a practical way that is real—not just window dressing. You have to tell the world who you are and what problems you can solve.

How did your past lay the groundwork for your work today?
I was working a minimum wage job as a cashier right after I had my son. I looked at myself and realized there was so much more in me than that. Later I realized that work doesn't have to be a 4-letter word and that our lives don't begin after the workday ends. Our lives can be more fluid, and we should honor ourselves in our work.

What do you hope to accomplish at the January 15 event?
I want to equip, motivate and inspire people to start thinking about how they can better connect their purpose and passion with their profession. I don't want to give too much or too little information, so that people leave the event and don't know what to do. I want to give them practical tools that they can understand and apply right away.

Isha Cogborn

IT’S 2015. NOW WHAT?
Make Your New Year's Resolution a Reality

Every year, millions of people make New Year's resolutions, but only 8% end up achieving them (Statistic Brain Research Institute, 2014).** To increase your chances of success, you can take steps to finally get organized, pursue your dream job, lose weight, get in shape, start a company, sign up for a West master degree, or whatever it is that you want to accomplish in 2015.


Be specific.
The first step you'll want to take is to clearly define your resolution or goal, so you can set a clear path and know exactly where you're headed. For instance, don't just say you want to get in shape—that's too general and unfocused. Set a specific goal, like you want to run a 10K race in the spring or hike a nearby trail next summer.

Keep it in view.
Create a visual representation of your goal to keep you focused, inspired and motivated. Make Big Ben your screensaver if your goal is to save up for a trip to London, or hang up photos of beautiful kitchens if your resolution is to finally renovate yours.

Put it out there.
If you tell people about your goal, you're making yourself accountable. It's harder to not follow through on a New Year's resolution when you've told your family about it or posted it on Facebook.® An added bonus about sharing your goal is that people will be there to celebrate your successes and support you through your setbacks.

Use your resources.
Besides just telling people about your goal, be proactive in leveraging their connections, experience and expertise. Say you want a new job in the new year. Get a credentialed career coach through West to help you market yourself, set up a job search strategy, review your resume or help prepare you for an interview. To get started, log on to the West Alumni Connection website and go to the Fast Track Career Tools page.

Make it manageable.
One of the biggest reasons that people give up on their New Year's resolutions is that, at some point, reaching them seems too overwhelming or difficult. Before you get to that point, take your goal and break it up into smaller goals. Want to earn your West master degree? Sign up for your first 8-week course without financial risk, and focus on fitting your coursework into your schedule one week at a time. Want to run that 10K race? You could start by joining a running club or finding a running partner, and then running a mile or 5K race first. Before you know it, you'll be looking at that final goal and feeling better and better about your chances of achieving it.

Get out the calendar.
One of the most helpful tips for achieving a goal is to set dates for yourself and take action. Sign up for a conference, a race or a trip. Set it up, pay the fee, make the call. Setting dates means making a commitment, and it also gives you a specific timeframe to get things done. So: Ready, set, go—beat the odds and keep that New Year's resolution! Good luck!

New Year's Resolution

Productive, Insightful & Fun!

During this year's National Career Development Week, West hosted a number of career events for students and alumni. There was a full day of complimentary, one-on-one career coaching sessions on November 11, followed by new webinars launched on November 12 and a faculty panel discussion on November 13. Everyone walked away with valuable career tips and insights into today's job market.


Career Coaching
Many West students and alumni took advantage of the complimentary coaching sessions—in person, by phone or online—for help with everything from interview tactics to resume writing. Special thanks to career coaches Lindsey Fisher, Eleanor Augur and Norm Meshriy for their time and expertise.

From one of the many participants: "I learned a great deal about how to reorganize my resume based on my coach's advice!"

Career Webinars
Students and alumni alike appreciated the flexibility of being able to view our new, pre-recorded career webinars at any time. They found the topics interesting and helpful, including how to develop an elevator pitch and how to gain experience—when you don't have the experience needed for the career you want.

Faculty Panel Discussion
This was the first time that West hosted a panel discussion with faculty speakers online and in the classroom at the same time. Students and alumni made connections with faculty members, and some even got to meet their professor in person for the first time. The focus of the panel discussion was how certain areas of study can prepare you for specific career tracks. The theme was Career Pathways & the Workforce.

According to one student: "It was a great session, because all the professors shared their personal paths, which added unique knowledge and insights into careers."

Check out this event link to view a recording of the faculty panel discussion, and go to the West SlideShare to view the career week presentation slides. Log in to the West Alumni Connection website and visit the On-Demand Webinars link to view the newest career webinars.

Career Coaching 1

How about helping a friend, coworker, or family member to reach his or her educational goal? Do you remember how you felt when you reached one of the most satisfying accomplishments in your life? Think back to your first class at West—the nerves, the commitment, and the excitement of the journey ahead. Now think back to your pride on the day you walked across the stage at commencement, or when you opened your mail and received your West diploma. What a joy it would be to inspire and support someone else starting on this new journey!

Here at West, our alumni are a vital part of who we are and who we will evolve to become. You make the West Alumni Connection a true community and we value your recommendations. Introduce someone you know—who, like you, desires to reach their academic and career goals—through the West alumni referral program. Share the joy today!

Take a minute now to join the West Alumni LinkedIn® Group. It will give you the opportunity to get your name out there, network with fellow alumni, find out about mentoring opportunities and build stronger relationships within the West alumni community. You can even share job leads and promote your own business. Join the discussion, or start your own. There's no telling where your LinkedIn connections will take you. Get started today!

On the move? Getting married? Don't forget to keep your West alumni profile up to date. Simply log on to the West Alumni Connection and make your changes.

If you recently graduated and you've never logged on, do it now. Just use your preferred email and the password "welcome1." Be sure to change your temporary password and check the information in your profile, plus take advantage of career coaching opportunities and all the other alumni benefits. If you have any questions, email us any time.

In every issue of this newsletter, we put West alumni in the "Spotlight" to highlight their accomplishments since graduating from West. Send us YOUR story, including details about what you've been up to personally and professionally. We look forward to hearing from you!

Laura Lee
Alumni/Career Resources Manager
602-429-1110 or laura.lee@west.edu

Alumni Reenrollment
866-948-4636 or inquiries@west.edu

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*For complete program information, including relevant career occupations, our on-time completion rates, and the median graduate debt
incurred by students who completed their programs, visit

**SOURCE: Statistic Brain Research Institute (2014). New Year’s Resolution Statistics – Statistic Brain.  Retrieved from

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