1 strange interview question I’ll never forget.

The interviewer leaned over the table, shuffled papers, and asked the male candidate, “So tell me, are you currently (or do you plan to be) pregnant?”

Yes, I was actually asked this question during an interview for a phase leader role in a primary school.

Not all interviews are messed up by candidates. Perhaps that is reassuring to know if you are currently suffering with pre-interview nerves – then again, maybe not!

With many years involved in recruiting (and being recruited), there are not many interview questions that I have not heard versions of before. But this was a new one – undoubtedly because it was not a legal question to ask – but new all the same.

Quick-witted, I had multiple responses I could have thrown back to the panel.

  • “I have not been aware of any visits from hosts of angels.”
  • “Ah, I see you have read my medical notes about transitioning to a woman.”
  • “No, have you completely taken leave of your senses?”
  • “Interesting you should ask. I have just been impregnated by an alien.”
  • “No, it’s not in my current plans. I thought I might wait a few more years.”
  • “How dare you! Are you saying I look pregnant? I’m just fat. How rude!”

I will let you enjoy guessing which of the above I used in my reply to the ludicrous question.

The fact of the matter is that interviews are complicated.

For the candidate:

How can a series of questions really demonstrate your skills and abilities in a way that shows you are perfect for the role? Which are the right examples to draw upon from your career experience? How do you control nerves, so you don’t say stupid things or have brain freeze?

For the organisation:

How can a series of questions really determine if the interviewee is the right candidate for the job? Which are the right questions to ask? How do you factor in nerves? Nerves can make people say stupid things – give them brain freeze – or both, as in the case above.

Yes, I was asked if I was (or likely to be) pregnant by an experienced headteacher. He had to ask it. In the interview with a female candidate before me, an inexperienced school governor blurted out an inappropriate “follow on” question. To rectify the situation and ensure the process was fair and equitable, it left a red-faced headteacher having to ask every other candidate the same question.

Not all interview disasters happen because of the candidate. Sometimes nerves make a complete mess it from the other side of the table!

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