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7 Book Titles to Drop that Help You Ace the Job Interview

Discussing and name-dropping books can help you stand out in the job-hunting crowd. These titles will give you a smart, literary edge that could just help you land your next job.

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Emma Kapotes/

Think industry

Most fields have at least one go-to “bible” that everyone reads and quotes from. Name-dropping that specific book will mark you as an industry insider and help create camaraderie with the interviewer. Industry must-reads vary, and you’ll have to do your homework to determine which one, or ones, are key to your field. There probably isn’t a screenwriter alive who hasn’t read Story by Robert McKee, for example, and for budding Wall Street moguls, it’s wise to quote from the semi-autobiographical greed-fest, Liar’s Poker, by Michael Lewis. If you’re hoping to ace a job in the fashion world, quoting from D.V., by Diana Vreeland, is practically required. Vreeland was known for her wit as much as her fashion sense, and this book oozes with both. If you snag the interview before you finish the book, mentioning Vreeland’s famous quote, “As you know, the French like the French very much,” may be enough to land you the job. While you’re strutting your literary stuff in an interview, try to avoid making these body language mistakes.

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Emma Kapotes/

Flaunt your fluidity

The number-one book that career coach Win Sheffield recommends to job seekers is Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, by William Bridges. “Being human is about learning and growing all the time,” Sheffield says. “This book helps with those concepts in an in-depth way, by focusing on three key areas—endings, neutral zones, and new beginnings.” Transitions can help readers prepare for a new job or a total career change. It can also impress interviewers with your flexibility, your optimism, and your willingness to meet new challenges head-on.

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Emma Kapotes/

Get gritty

“The books you hone in on give interviewers a sense of who you are,” says millennial career expert Caroline Beaton. “Referencing the right books, either by quoting their contents, or mentioning titles, lets potential employers know you’re engaging the world outside of work and are committed to the job you’re applying for.” A favorite of Beaton’s is Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by psychologist Angela Duckworth. In this exploration into what it takes to achieve long-term goals, the winning ingredients are not talent or luck. If you want to tap into the heady combination of passion, self-control, creativity, and dogged determination that savvy employers find irresistible, this data-driven book is for you. It’s broken down into biographical vignettes for a breezier read, and includes a Grit Scale that readers can use. (Related: These are signs you have a gritty personality.)

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Emma Kapotes/

Make productivity a habit

“Reading psychology and business books are very important in today’s world of work,” says Beaton. “Name dropping those titles also lets potential employers know you’re a serious and studious candidate. High on Beaton’s list is Smarter Faster Better: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity, by Charles Duhigg. You’ve probably wondered why some people and companies are more productive and powerful than others. You can be sure that your potential employer is wondering the same thing. Discussing the simple concepts in Duhigg’s latest productivity bible shows that you understand the choice-making process of winning teams. And if you haven’t read Duhigg’s first book and New York Times bestseller, The Power of Habit, put both of these must-reads on your short list pronto. Adopting these daily habits will also make you look smart.

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Emma Kapotes/

Tip the scales in your favor

No matter what type of job you’re applying for, knowledge of trends, and how to create them, is a sought-after skill that all employers covet. Very little impresses interviewers more than proving you have the ability to intuit, and capitalize on what’s coming next. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, by Malcolm Gladwell, explores the eruption of trends and the sticky ideas behind them. Reading this book will not only give you a leg up during interviews, but it will also make you better at your job. To quote Gladwell, “The world of the Tipping Point is a place where the unexpected becomes expected, where radical change is more than possibility. It is— contrary to all our expectations—a certainty.” Master the art of the Tipping Point, and your chances of nabbing the right job may also become a certainty. (Related: These are words you should always say in a job interview.)

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Emma Kapotes/

Use fiction to create a real-life happy ending

Fiction can be as educational as it is pleasurable to read. Take The Giver by Lois Lowry, and the Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling. “One of the reasons we read is to see what other people’s experiences are like,” Sheffield says. “We see what it is people face, how they face it with resilience, how they fail, and the consequences of failure.” Find a book you love, put into words why it moved you, and you’ll have a sure-fire way to determine if you are a corporate-culture match. “If we get that the person we are speaking with reads what we read, we go a long way toward knowing if we’ll be a fit at the company,” Sheffield says. “If we make a literary gamble and it falls flat, we can then decide whether or not we want to work in the kind of place where we don’t have that connection.” One of Sheffield’s favorite fiction reads is The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare.

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Emma Kapotes/

Dabble in philosophy

“Read books that give you a sense of a life philosophy and the kind of professional you’re aspiring to be,” recommends Beaton. If you want to be inspired and create camaraderie just by referencing one book, go with Hamilton: The Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter. Hamilton: The Revolution meshes the iconic story of one of our nation’s founders with the story of how an unlikely concept revolutionized the Broadway stage. Even if your interviewer is not captivated by the Hamilton phenomenon, peppering your conversation with in-the-know facts about American history or hip-hop are bound to impress.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Corey Whelan
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer and reproductive health professional who has worked with infertility patients and adopting parents for over 25 years. Her work has been featured in multiple media outlets, including Reader’s Digest, The Healthy, Healthline, CBS Local, and Berxi. Follow her on Twitter @coreygale.

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