Do you remember your worst job interview? Or, if you are someone who does the hiring, I bet you've got some interesting stories to tell about job interviews gone bad.
Job applicants can look fabulous on paper, but often it's the face-to-face interview that can lead to a "you're hired."
In this tight job economy, knowing how to interview is important. To help you hone your interviewing skills (or get some) I'm recommending "Monster Careers: Interviewing" (Penguin Books, $15) by Jeff Taylor and Doug Hardy for this month's Color of Money Book Club selection. Taylor founded Monster.com, one of the leading online career Web sites. Hardy is a job and career coach and general manager and editor of Monster Careers, the company's publishing arm.
No doubt even the most seasoned interviewee can learn something from this book. But I think it would be particularly helpful for young folks starting out in their career life, especially college seniors graduating next spring. This book will get them thinking about mastering the art of job interviewing. And there is an art to it.
"Job interviews can be a dance of mutual frustration," Taylor and Hardy write. "You muster a big effort and then wonder why you didn't make a great impression. The interviewer wonders how to get a clear picture of you . . . in less than an hour."
There is a frankness about this book that made it stand out for me. It has the usual tips and interview strategies, but there are also lots of personal stories from applicants and the people who conduct interviews. The book opens with a guy trying to get a job as an office manager. The interview isn't going well and so he tries something simple to salvage his chances of getting the job. (You'll have to read the book to find out what he did.) There are two features in the book that I just loved: "What Were They Thinking?" (tales of terrible interviews) and "My Best Advice" (human resources professionals passing along interviewing tips). Honestly, I skipped ahead in the book just to read all the entries under these two categories. It would have been nice to see more.
Here are my favorite two from "What Were They Thinking?":
* From a Monster.com customer: "One time, during the interviewing process, I had to tell a candidate that unfortunately we would not be able to offer him a job because, even if he qualified for the position, his drug test came back positive. . . . After thinking for a few minutes he looked up at me and said, 'Can you tell me which one showed up on the test results?' "
* From an anonymous human resources director: "Some career changers just haven't thought very hard about making a case. I interviewed a gentleman for a television field technician position. His background did not reflect any type of experience in electronics or televisions. I asked him if he had ever taken off the back of a TV and actually seen the inside. His response was this: 'Are you kidding? It's dangerous back there.' Needless to say, he did not get the position."
"Monster Careers" is a comprehensive guide to help you get through just about any type of job interview. There are simple exercises. There is an amazing index of answers to more than 500 job-interview questions. Not that the questions are there for you to memorize the answers. Instead, they should be used to help you prepare for an interview.
Job interviews don't have to be like a police interrogation, the authors say. "Anybody can give a strong interview performance . . . anybody," Taylor and Hardy contend. "If you know what the person on the other side of the desk really wants -- and why -- you can transform your nervous energy into confident enthusiasm."
If you are interested in discussing this month's book selection, join me online at www.washingtonpost.com on Thursday, Dec. 15, at 1 p.m. Eastern Time. Taylor will be my guest and will take your questions.
To become a member of the Color of Money Book Club, all you have to do is read the recommended book. Then we chat online with the author or authors. In addition, every month I randomly select readers to receive a copy of the book, donated by the publisher. For a chance to win a copy of "Monster Careers: Interviewing," send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and address so we can send you a book if you win.
For this month I also thought it might be fun and helpful to pass along your "What Were They Thinking?" stories. If you're someone who interviews job candidates, please dish. Tell me what works, what doesn't and the applicant interview you will never forget. As a job seeker, tell me about your worst interview. Send your comments to email@example.com. In the subject line put "What Were They Thinking?" I'll be using the stories for an upcoming column so please include your name and city.
* On the air: Michelle Singletary discusses personal finance Tuesdays on NPR's "Day to Day" program and online at www.npr.org.
* By mail: Readers can write to her at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.
* By e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comments and questions are welcome, but because of the volume of mail, personal responses are not always possible. Please note that comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.