How to Cope With Quirky Interview Questions

“Would you say you’re a good communicator?” is a classic interview question, but the follow-up, “Explain why”, can really scupper interviewees, who might find themselves mumbling and scrabbling for examples and looking like anything but a good communicator!

Going into an interview for a Legal Secretary or PA job feeling fully prepared and confident about relevant skills will help you greatly on the day. But regardless of how much research you’ve done about the job, the firm, and its management style and global strategy, you could still be caught out by those pesky, quirky, unexpected ‘curve ball’ questions interviewers sometimes like to throw in.

A question reportedly asked some of its job hopefuls – “How would you cure world hunger?” – was clearly designed to test practical thinking and discover whether candidates had a perspective on big issues in the world. Another US firm asked: “How would you get an elephant into a refrigerator?” – presumably a test of project management and planning skills.

In the main, interview questions are designed to work out whether you can do the job in question and whether you will fit in with the organisation’s culture. But it’s true that some interviewers come up with very strange questions to see how people cope with them. There’s probably an element of interviewers getting bored and wanting to mix things up a bit too!

Rather than exploring your skills and experience, these quirky questions can show how you react when you’re thrown in at the deep end. They can also reveal a lot about your emotional side, your social skills, the way you process information, your inner thoughts about the world and even your moral stance. Experts advise taking a few seconds to think your answer through and to try not to talk for too long. Remember, interviewers will particularly be looking out for any negative personality traits your answers flag up!

Here are five quirky questions to look out for:

If you could be someone else, who would it be?

Answers here will reveal a lot about your ambitions and you personality. Your answer would ideally be someone inspirational, and you should have a clear reason for wanting to be this person.

What seemed unfair to you in your previous job?

Be careful with this one. The interviewer will be listening for tales of you not fitting in, feeling resentful and failing to sort out issues with a boss or colleague. Use tact with your answer and turn this into a positive if you can! 

Outside work, what are you most passionate about?

Here the answer isn’t hugely important, but the way you answer matters a lot. Interviewers are hoping to see candidates respond with genuine passion and interest. If you’re animated and articulate, talking about family, cancer research, modern art, Chelsea FC, or flower-arranging, you will come across well. Not having a passion looks bad!

What makes you angry?

Your answer will reveal a lot about your personality traits and motivations. Again, be careful not to moan about a previous job, and don’t paint a picture of anger management issues. Focus on themes like when communication breaks down or bad customer service – but swing it round to how you do your best to stop this from happening.

What are the first three things you’d do if you got this job?

This very direct question examines whether you have fully understood what’s needed in the job, and your answer will show whether you have the ability to add value to the company. Confident candidates will be able to demonstrate their understanding of the company culture here, as well as the operational aspects of the job.

Alison Clements

ILSPA publishes an article from specialist recruitment site each month. advertises thousands of the latest legal jobs from leading recruitment agencies and direct employers across the UK. By registering as a jobseeker you can apply for jobs, upload your CV to be seen by employers and sign up for email job alerts.