Answering the 'What is the Last Book You Read?' Interview Question

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 3 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When interviewing for a job, it's important to set some preparation time aside beforehand, as this gives you the chance to plan some answers and practise delivering them. Something recruiters commonly ask during interviews is, 'What is the last book you read?', as this can tell them a lot about you on both a personal and a professional level. Knowing how to answer this question effectively can help you impress your interviewer and hopefully increase your chances of receiving a job offer. In this article, we explore this question, offer steps on providing a good response and review some example questions with sample answers.

Why do recruiters ask the 'What is the last book you read?' interview question?

The 'What is the last book you read?' interview question is popular with employers, as it's an effective conversation starter and reveals a lot of important information about candidates. First, the question serves to open up a dialogue between you and the interviewer and promote an open exchange of ideas. You can reveal information about your personality by telling the interviewer the last book you read. For example, employers may view people who read fantasy novels as creative and people who read non-fiction as more intellectual.

Employers may also want to determine how well-read you are, as this can be a good indicator of general intelligence. Depending on what job you're interviewing for, employers may look for a certain type of reading material that relates to their business. For example, if you're interviewing for a job at a bank, you may impress the interviewer more if you say you've recently read a financial book. If you're interviewing for a job as a graphic designer, stating that you've recently read a book on branding and design principles may be more impressive.

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How to answer the 'What is the last book you read?' interview question

While this may seem like a basic question on the surface, the way you answer it can shape the recruiter's opinion about you and potentially influence their decision regarding a job offer. For this reason, it's important to consider the question properly and prepare a strategic answer. Here are some tips for answering this question:

1. Prepare a response beforehand

So you can offer an effective and in-depth response to the question, take time before the interview to prepare for it. This means thinking about the books you've read in the past, as you can choose any book you've read, not just the last book. Selecting a book that's right for the situation is the best way to answer effectively, which means considering the context of the question and what the interviewer may seek. A good way to figure this out is to check the job description and look at the job criteria.

If the desirable criteria mention keywords or topics, think of a book you've read that relates to them. If you're interviewing for a sales position for example, you might mention a book that discusses the psychology of persuasion or digital marketing tactics. You can then prepare how you plan to discuss the book with the interviewer. Discussing the book in terms of its key messages and what you might learn from it, in addition to how this knowledge may help you do your work, can be very impressive to employers. This shows that you invest in your own development.

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2. Choose a book you've actually read

While you may want to impress the interviewer by choosing a book that's highly relevant to the job, it's important that you choose one that you've actually read. By choosing a book you haven't read, you risk sounding uninformed or even dishonest if the recruiter asks you to discuss it. Even if you haven't read many complex, intellectual books, you can still impress the interviewer by conveying your profound understanding of a more simple literary work. You can do this by explaining the impact it had on you and what it taught you.

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3. Choose a self-help or success-based book

If you've read books about self-development or success stories, these can be good examples to share. This is because people who read such books tend to be interested in developing their personal and professional attributes. Autobiographies of successful people can be good books to discuss, as you can explain how you've taken inspiration from them. Talking about these kinds of texts also gives you a chance to lead the conversation into a discussion of your own success stories. Examples of self-development and success books that may impress employers include:

  • 'Think and Grow Rich' by Napoleon Hill

  • 'The New Encyclopaedia of Modern Body-Building' by Arnold Schwarzenegger

  • 'The 48 Laws of Power' by Robert Greene

  • 'The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem' by Nathaniel Branden

  • 'The Magic of Thinking Big' by David Schwartz

  • 'Atomic Habits' by James Clear

  • 'Who Moved My Cheese?' by Dr Spencer Johnson

  • 'Rich Dad, Poor Dad' by Robert Kiyosaki

  • 'The Power of Now' by Eckhart Tolle

  • 'Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude' by Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone

If you've read none of these books, consider purchasing and reading one of them before your interview, as the messages they contain are highly relevant in most work-related contexts. Each of them contains messages you can link to the job you're interviewing for in terms of how they make you a more effective professional. 'Think and Grow Rich' by Napoleon Hill, for example, is about cultivating a positive mentality to attract success. You can relate this to your work ethic by explaining how the book made you more positive and goal-oriented.

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4. Choose a book that teaches a lesson

In many interview contexts, it's a good idea to discuss a book that contains a lesson for the reader. Unless you're interviewing for a highly creative or artistic position, opting to discuss a book that's overtly educational is usually the best choice. This is because it shows you're a practical person who may not read for entertainment alone but to develop your skills and expand your knowledge. By doing this, you can convey to the recruiter that you plan to increase your value as an employee over time, as you pick up new skills and useful information outside of work.

3 example questions with sample answers

To help you effectively answer questions about the books you've read in various contexts, here are some example questions and answers:

1. Tell me about the last book you read and how this can help you as a sales representative?

Example answer: 'The last book I read was "Cashvertising" by Drew Eric Whitman. This is a book about persuasion psychology and how professionals can leverage it to achieve more sales at work. It's a great book that contains 100 techniques for influencing people to buy things, which is extremely useful for me as a sales professional. It's a very practical book that has taught me how to communicate my sales propositions more effectively and how to generate sales in greater volumes.'

2. Tell me about the last book you read and how this can help you as an administrator?

Example answer: 'The last book I read is called "Atomic Habits" by James Clear. It's a book about eliminating bad habits and methodically forming new ones. One of the key messages of the book is that habits actually form your identity to a large extent, as they represent what you do every day. The author states, "every action you take is a vote for the person you wish to become". I find this message profound and it really resonated with me. This has helped me to be a more effective administrator because I now understand the importance of fulfilling my daily responsibilities.'

3. Tell me about the last book you read and how this can help you as a copywriter?

Example answer: 'The last book I read is called "The Old Man and the Sea" by Ernest Hemingway. This is a novel that expresses a message about sheer determination in the face of tribulation and how the will to succeed can overcome any hardship. This message resonates with me and has given me inspiration to be more driven. As a copywriter, the message of the book was not as important to me as the style and syntax of Hemingway, as studying these elements has taught me how to write simply, naturally and directly, while retaining purpose and conveying meaning.'

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