Book Review: Interviewing Books by Carole Martin
From time-to-time, as we receive career-related and job-hunting books and other resources from publishers, the staff of Quintessential Careers will review them to help you make better decisions about the best books to use in your career and job search.
Here, we offer reviews of two books on interviewing from Carole Martin.
Boost Your Interview I.Q., by Carole Martin, 165 pages, 2004, McGraw-Hill, $11.95; ISBN: 0071425470.
Interview Fitness Training: A Workout with Carole Martin, The Interview Coach, by Carole Martin, 44 pages, 2nd edition, 2001, Interview Publishing, $24.95; ISBN: 0970901208. Can also be downloaded in PDF format.
Reviewed by Katharine Hansen
I have to admit I was skeptical about the format of Carole Martin’s Boost Your Interview I.Q. at first. More than two-thirds of the book, 118 pages, consists of a lengthy quiz testing the reader’s knowledge of the best answers to 25 general, traditional interview questions and 25 behavioral questions. For each question, three choices are offered: one that turns out to be the weakest answer, one that is the mediocre answer, and, of course, the strongest answer.
The format grew on me, however, because the three levels of answers show common problems in responding to interview questions. The variety of answers also helps illustrate what the interviewer is really getting at with each question. And seeing responses of varying qualities demonstrates to the reader the difference between an adequate interview response and one that will really wow the interviewer.
It takes a bit of time to read each question, guess the best answer, and then read through all the explanations about the answers. But doing so can surely tune up the job-seeker’s interview skills.
A number of books are available to job-seekers that suggest answers for commonly asked interview questions. But Martin’s book goes a giant step beyond that format with her responses at varying quality levels. Along the way, Martin subtly teaches principles of effective interviewing. She notes, for instance, that the interviewee can greatly improve on a merely adequate answer by providing examples that demonstrate the skill in question.
The second, smaller part of the book also has its strengths. Martin offers a particularly comprehensive section on behavioral interviewing, a technique widely used in today’s job interviews. Because I am currently researching the use of storytelling in job searching, Martin wins points with me by noting that effective responses to behavioral questions should be in story form. Later she discusses common problems with behavioral responses and gives examples of weak and strong behavioral answers.
Martin also provides a highly analytical chapter on how to break down the key factors in a given job, along with fill-in-the-blank exercises, so the job-seeker knows what to emphasize in his or her interview responses.
Martin’s self-published workbook, Interview Fitness Training: A Workout with Carole Martin, The Interview Coach, is a fun volume that reminds me a little of a magazine with lots of reader-friendly lists, sidebars, and articles. One of my favorite features is the collection of real-life interview anecdotes scattered throughout the book. It is also, of course, a workbook with numerous exercises not only for before the interview, but also to follow up on interviews afterwards.
Topics covered include interview anxiety, the job-seeker as product, interview preparation, frequent interview concerns, the rules of salary negotiation, and follow-up procedures for after the interview.
A high point is Martin’s formula for addressing the ever popular interview request, “Tell me about yourself,” which, she notes is the No. 1 “question” asked in interviews. Examples supplement her formula, which consists of the beginning of the response, the transition, and a description of the interviewee’s current situation.
Her strategy for answering the annoying “What are your weaknesses?” question is also a gem. Martin proposes a “sandwich” response in which the weakness is sandwiched between two positive statements.
All told, effective approaches to 18 common interview questions can be found throughout the book, and one exercise provides the opportunity to compose one’s own responses, referring back to Martin’s strategies.
The workbook also contains a useful section on illegal questions and how to handle them, a discussion of what questions the interviewee should ask the interviewer, and a solid set of rules on the sticky issue of salary negotiation.
My only quibble with the book is whether or not it’s a good value. The pages of the 44-page workbook are printed on only one side, which I suppose leaves lots of space to write notes. If I were to buy the book, I would definitely buy the downloadable PDF version. The binding of the hard-copy version is awkward, making it hard to lay the workbook flat on a desk when completing the exercises. With the PDF version, the job-seeker not only can print out loose pages, but also can print out multiple copies of the exercises since some exercises could be done more than once or tailored to specific job interviews. Given that both the hard-copy and PDF versions are the same price — but shipping must be added for the hard-copy version — the PDF is a much better value.
We get many questions about interviewing from job-seekers here at Quintessential Careers, and for those willing to put in the time and work needed to succeed in job interviews, Martin’s books are a real boon. Interview Fitness Training is probably more of a beginner’s book, while Boost Your Interview I.Q. is better suited to higher-level job-seekers with a bit more knowledge of interviewing. If you can get only one of the two, Boost Your Interview I.Q., at $11.95 for 165 pages, is a better value than Interview Fitness Training and still provides all the interviewing basics.
Check out all our book reviews in Quintessential Reading: Career and Job Book Reviews.
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