Interview questions you may not be prepared for, and how to prepare for them
There is no doubt that an interview is a nerve-wracking experience, particularly so in a formal setting or corporate environment, for a firm that could change your career trajectory. There are many articles available on the internet on how to prepare for an interview - all of the standard interview questions and top tips - but what happens when you’re flummoxed by something you weren’t expecting?
We’ve asked our consultants what are the weirdest and most wonderful questions their candidates have been asked and what they would recommend as an answer.
“What flower would you be and why?” – Matthew Heard, Legal Recruiter for support staff roles
Ironically this was asked of one of my candidates as an alternative when she was struggling to answer the question “what animal would you be?” – not much easier, I’ll be honest.
I assume this is a personality question, to judge team and culture fit, but it could easily also be a good opportunity for the interviewer to see how you think on your feet and how you take curveballs!
If someone else had asked me that, I would have laughed and attempted a light-hearted and more humorous response, probably something about being a thorn between roses.
“But what if the partner was threatening to dismiss you?” – Leilani Reader, Director
This was applied as a caveat to every question my candidate was asked, and it was really quite odd. He was a highly qualified and very experienced solicitor (and a likeable person!) so this was quite indicative of the culture which seems a shame. Had it been asked only once, I would assume the question tackled morality and how to handle a difficult situation. Most teams favour someone who is fair, honest and reliable so the answer would be revealing about the person’s attitude and behaviour.
I would have explained that I’d be uncomfortable with such a blatant attempt at intimidation, but ultimately it would give no reason for me to change my work quality, ethics or approach.
“Do you know how a fax machine works?” – Alice Neal, Senior Legal Recruiter specialising in property
This stumped me as much as it stumped my candidate. I couldn’t understand why they would ask her this unless they were planning on following it up with “can you take a look at ours? It’s broken.” I can’t even think what type of answer they were looking for – perhaps it was a question about knowledge or curiosity, or even interest in technology perhaps? It still sticks in my mind as the strangest feedback I have had from a candidate.
Had it been me in the hot seat, I would have brought myself a bit of extra time by saying what an interesting question it was, and one I had not heard before, before ultimately being honest and saying no!
“Are you honest?” – Alison Banks, Senior Legal Recruiter
Hearing everyone else’s answers, maybe this one isn’t so strange, but this was asked of one of my candidates years ago and I always think of it. What a blunt question to throw out - I always thought it was very clear cut, and they were looking for an honest answer, but maybe it wasn’t that black and white. Honesty is so important, but we’ve all told a little white lie to save someone’s feelings or have said we’re alright to avoid an unnecessary fallout.
If someone asked me if I were honest, I’d say I’m honest when it matters, but I’m never rude, so I wouldn’t say no if someone asked me if I liked their outfit or if I thought their baby was the cutest!
Overall our consultants agreed, that if you were asked a tricky question, the best things to do were not to panic, to try and buy some time if you can, be honest in your response and, if you really are struggling, you can ask the interviewer to come back to the question later on. After all, they already believe you are a good fit for the role and the firm, so they want you to do well in the interview.
If you are looking for a new role, and are unsure about your interview technique, please do get in touch with the team who are able to offer advice and support.