Novel gazing and a nice Chianti

Training contract and vac scheme applicants are facing epically testing times at Withers and Charles Russell. The two firms, charitably determined to break the monotony of mind-numbingly uniform application forms, are posing more unusual questions.

Withers’ tradition is to ask candidates which literary character they like to think of themselves as. Meanwhile the graduate recruitment team at Charles Russell changes their rogue question every year or so, asking their current trainees to help pick the puzzler.

HR and development manager Julia Dalton told Lawyer 2B: “Whenever we want to change it we ask the current trainees for their ideas. They’ve had to go through the application form process so it’s a chance to inflict their pain on others.”

Sweet schadenfreude indeed.

Withers recruitment manager Jaya Louvre listed some of the more unusual answers the firm has received over the years.

“We have had the Very Hungry Caterpillar in the past and even Hannibal Lecter – though the applicant did discount the cannibalism aspect and focused on his intelligence, precision and attention to detail,” she recalls.

Common – read boring – answers include Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, (often with Bennet spelt incorrectly, apparently), Atticus and Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird and Hermione Granger of Harry Potter fame.

But better a predictable answer than a lie awkwardly uncovered at interview.

“We have also had people who have chosen characters from obscure Russian novels that they haven’t read, only to find that their interviewing partner has,” Louvre reveals.


Questions at Charles Russell over the years have included, ’what animal are you and why?’ and ’if you were a character in a film who would you be?’

The dolphins and the ants queued up citing teamwork and intelligence as did the Erin Brockovichs, James Bonds and Jerry McGuires.

Meanwhile we’re left pondering what’s worse: sycophantically making up a new breed of dog named the Charles Russell (a cross between the King Charles Spaniel and the Jack Russell with their best qualities combined) or saying that of all the movie characters in the world, you would be Dirk Diggler – star of Paul Thomas Anderson’s porn mockumentary Boogie Nights.

We’re guessing that candidate didn’t make the cut.