Workzone: Be a 'crazy good' interviewee

Book urges job applicants to prepare, assess self, interviewer

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Common sense would suggest a potential employer does most of the evaluating during a job interview. John B. Molidor is trying to help job candidates reverse that thinking.

Assessing an interviewer's age, for instance, can help candidates tailor their responses to questions. When being interviewed by baby boomers, applicants might emphasize their hard work and professional progression with phrases such as, "earning my stripes" or "paying my dues."

Mr. Molidor, a professor at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, is the lead author of "Crazy Good Interviewing: How Acting a Little Crazy Can Get You the Job," which was released in May and was on's list of top 10 career books coming out in 2012.

He has used his background in psychology to help students and applicants with interviews for graduate schools, medical residencies and jobs. This book, he hopes, will provide an edge for those looking for work in a still-stagnant economy. It includes tips, 150 sample interview questions and examples from real interview environments.

"Crazy good" interviewing requires crazy good preparation. For instance, candidates can set up alerts from Google Scholar that will automatically send them articles related to a given industry. "It's a neat way to get good information pretty quickly," he said.

Applicants can do personality assessments by asking close friends and family to describe their attributes. "Once you eliminate all the negative ones, you look for the clusters" and draw upon them for an interview.

In addition to characteristics such as age, applicants should read their interviewer's personality. For example, when being interviewed by a quieter person, "I'm not going to [word] vomit all over the introvert," he said.

During an especially tough interview, he said, interviewers might be testing how candidates deal with stress. In those cases, interviewees could use the opportunity to give examples of how they've handled stress before.

Technology is another area where candidates may look for an advantage. If applicants don't know anything about iPads, for example, they might go to an Apple store and practice with one as a way to stay current.

More interviews are now done by video chatting or over the phone, Mr. Molidor said. By standing up and moving while on a phone interview and taping notes to a wall, candidates can maintain "a different type of energy" and still be prepared.

There are, of course, some "crazy bad" interview tactics, such as sending text messages during an interview in what Mr. Molidor labels the "smartphone prayer" -- head bowed, hands together.

But interviewing is perhaps more an art than a science, so applicants should make decisions on a case-by-case basis. Things like how to follow up with an interviewer might vary, for example.

"I'm not a big fan of sending balloons or singing telegrams ... unless the job requires enormous creativity," he said.


Elizabeth Bloom: or 412-263-1969.


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