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Clinical Research Associate Interview Questions

To help you prepare for your Clinical Research Associate interview, here are 30 interview questions and answer examples.

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Question 1 of 30

Describe a time when you made a pipetting error and what you did to fix it.

How to Answer

Your interviewer is looking for how well you respond to mistakes - we all make them sometimes! Since pipettes are one of the most used tools in the laboratory, you should understand how to use it properly and understand mistakes that are common. Additionally, you should be able to articulate how to avoid these common mistakes and minimize error.

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30 Clinical Research Associate Interview Questions & Answers

  • 1. Describe a time when you made a pipetting error and what you did to fix it.

      How to Answer

      Your interviewer is looking for how well you respond to mistakes - we all make them sometimes! Since pipettes are one of the most used tools in the laboratory, you should understand how to use it properly and understand mistakes that are common. Additionally, you should be able to articulate how to avoid these common mistakes and minimize error.

      1st Answer Example

      "When I pipette in the lab, I am deliberate and slowly pipette the necessary volume. There have been times that I've used the incorrect pipette size for the volume needed, but I notice this immediately as I am aware of how various amounts appear in the correct vs. incorrect pipette. For example, it's very obvious to me what 1mL looks like vs. 10ul. I would know immediately if the wrong pipette is used."

  • 2. How would you handle an unethical request from a superior?

      How to Answer

      This question touches on a few components: communication, integrity, and action. The interviewer is looking for how gracefully and professionally you might navigate this situation. When preparing a response, consider the various factors and influences that go into the circumstances, such as potential miscommunication or misinterpretation. If you have an example of a time when you have encountered this in the past, then use it!

      1st Answer Example

      "Maintaining integrity in clinical research is extremely important, so I would handle this situation very carefully. First, I would want to clarify the request to ensure that I am not misinterpreting it. I would also want to do that in writing and request a response via email or memo to ensure that I best understand what is being asked of me. Once I have a clear understanding, I would politely indicate my discomfort with the task and suggest an alternative approach. If my supervisor were to persist, then I would ultimately seek guidance from a superior."

  • 3. Are you a detail-oriented person?

      How to Answer

      This may seem like a straightforward question, especially in the scientific field. If you've made it to an interview, then your interviewers will expect your answer to be yes. What they are looking for is less about the 'yes' and more about the - you guessed it - details! Think about how are you detail-oriented, what does it look like, and what do you do? Don't be afraid to share examples!

      1st Answer Example

      "Absolutely - I am always focused on the details in nearly all areas of my life. Paying attention to detail allows me to see and learn patterns that can explain the way much of the world operates. I enjoy working in the scientific field, because it encourages me to fully embrace the details, whether hands-on in the lab or back at my desk creating workflows and conditions to streamline my work and allow me to bring the research to life in reports and on screen."

  • 4. What do you know about our organization, and what makes you want to work with us?

      How to Answer

      With any job interview, it is crucial to understand the organization to which you are applying as well as what motivates you to work there. Visit the organization's website to learn key information such as studies they've been involved in, specialties, and community impact. Knowing how the organization started, who started the organization, mission statement, vision statement, and core values will likely impress the interviewer. Consider looking for any headlines they have made recently for additional context.

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  • 5. What is your greatest weakness? What are you doing to improve it?

      How to Answer

      You want to be honest when answering a question about your greatest weakness, and you want to be mindful of what truth you are sharing. You might know that your greatest weakness is realistically snoozing your alarm each morning, but that isn't an answer you want to share. Instead, consider a weakness that doesn't paint you in a light that will deem you unfit for the position. You might also consider a weakness that in some cases might be seen as very relatable to others or even perceived as a strength to some. Be sure you have an action plan in place for improving on this weakness as well.

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  • 6. What is your greatest strength?

      How to Answer

      This can be a difficult question to answer - we are our own toughest critics - and the interviewers know it! Be sure to prepare for this question in advance so you don't find yourself sitting in silence searching for an answer during the interview. Make sure that the answer you share is relevant in some way, or find a way to explain it to appear relevant. If you have trouble thinking of a good response, then think back to past performance reviews or kudos you have received from your co-workers. You may also ask colleagues or friends for input. When it comes time to share, be confident in your delivery!

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  • 7. How do you manage your time when under pressure?

      How to Answer

      As a clinical research associate, you might have multiple projects on your plate at once, which can get stressful. Since this is a common reality in the profession, your interviewer is looking to make sure you are prepared and equipped to navigate that pressure while keeping things moving. Think about time management, organization, and prioritization techniques you employ when you are stressed. If you can explain with an example, then use one!

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  • 8. What have you done to further your own professional development in the past 5 years.

      How to Answer

      The interviewer is asking this question to determine if you are driven and motivated to progressing yourself professionally. Tell the interviewer about any certifications, career-related conferences, leadership workshops, or higher education. If you haven't attended many conferences or workshops, then consider how you have gone above-and-beyond in your work to learn from others. You might have a mentor, or maybe you've briefly stepped away from your career to try a new job in the hopes of gaining a new skillset that will compliment your profession.

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  • 9. What made you choose clinical research as a career path?

      How to Answer

      Interviewers are often curious what motivates candidates in their field, so don't overthink a question like this. When thinking about what initially motivated you, just be sure to frame your response in a way that draws you in to this path rather than pushing away from another path. So, if you are really interested in medicine but don't want to interact with patients, then consider how you can respond to focus more on investing in one rather than distancing from the other.

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  • 10. How do you prioritize when you have multiple deadlines?

      How to Answer

      Your interviewer is interested in learning about your process for completing and prioritizing several tasks at once. Be mindful that priorities might be fluid in certain conditions, so be sure to indicate your ability to assess and adapt as needed. You will want to demonstrate your ability to navigate this task on your own while also recognizing when it is necessary to involve your supervisor in the process.

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  • 11. Give me example of a large project or task you completed, the steps you took, and the overall outcome.

      How to Answer

      The interviewer wants to know how you go about planning out and breaking down a big project. They might also be interested in gauging how well you delegate tasks or seek support from others, so this is an opportunity to demonstrate a balance of thriving as an independent self-starter that also succeeds in collaborative teamwork environments. The interviewers might be interested in determining if you are a good fit for the organization's future plans which may require you to start working on some new projects. Don't feel confined to using an example directly in the field. A response from another profession or even from your education can be equally powerful if it is fairly recent and you outline it well. When preparing your answer, be sure to explain the project enough to give them an idea of its scope without oversharing. Also, balance how you speak to each point - you don't want to downplay the process or overall outcome.

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  • 12. Do you have any questions for us?

      How to Answer

      Take advantage of this question! This is a great opportunity to show your interviewer that you are genuinely interested in the position, and it's a good time to show off some of your research about the company! It is also a chance for your to ask about the hiring timeline, as this will help you with your own timeline for following-up. Prepare a list of around 3 questions in advance and bring them to the interview. You can also take notes throughout the interview to ask targeted questions pertaining to something you discussed; this will impress your interviewer and show that you were listening.

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  • 13. How do you feel about supervising others and their work?

      How to Answer

      As a Clinical Research Associate, you might be required to supervise a few people or a whole team. It is also possible that the interviewers want the person they hire to ultimately grow into more of a leadership role. When preparing your answer to this question, focus on your team management and leadership skills as well as your ability to guide and mentor others. If you do not have a lot of experience supervising others and their work, then reflect on a good supervisor you have had and what they did - or didn't do - to support you and push you to do well. Your response can be in or out of a lab - just be sure to provide an authentic response.

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  • 14. Describe your experience with writing a stand operating procedure (SOP).

      How to Answer

      The interviewer will likely ask a variety of questions regarding specific experience as well as how well you can explain scientific concepts to others. Following SOPs is a part of the daily routine as a Research Associate. You may also be tasked with writing one if the lab implements a new procedure and/or updates an existing one. This question is confirming that you either have experience or feel comfortable with such a task.

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  • 15. How would you describe Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) to a new employee?

      How to Answer

      This question allows for some creativity, so don't be afraid to have some fun with it. Your response lets the interviewer get to know your teaching ability, your understanding of laboratory terminology, as well as how well you explain concepts and guidelines to others.

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  • 16. When making a 1L 1X PBS solution from the stock 10X concentration, how would you do it; which formula would you use?

      How to Answer

      Your interviewer will likely ask you situation- and knowledge-based questions to understand how you outline your process as well as how well you are able to explain concepts to others. In this case, buffers and reagents come at concentrations that may or may not be suitable for direct use. This is a common calculation used on a routine basis as a Research Associate. Don't ask what PBS is as it's irrelevant to the result and it's a common reagent in most laboratories.

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  • 17. A colleague asks you to ensure the glassware is sterilized for next week's experiments, what do you do?

      How to Answer

      The interviewer will likely ask a variety of situation-based questions testing your knowledge as well as how you explain your process. Working as a Research Associate entails performing different sterilization techniques based on types of testing being done and technology utilized. Since glassware is common equipment used in labs, it's important to understand how it's used and how to sterilize it. You can get more specific with your answer if it is required for the specific position.

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  • 18. When your boss asks you to get 5 aliquots each of 5 different samples to delivery to another department, what is being asked and how would you perform the task?

      How to Answer

      The interviewer will likely ask a variety of situation-based questions testing your knowledge as well as how you explain your process. This question is confirming that you know common lab terminology; you should know what an aliquot is. Also, it provides the interviewer with a sense of how you perform common laboratory tasks. As with any situation-based question, be sure to clearly outline your process so you do not skip around and appear disorganized.

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  • 19. What is your experience with cell culture and what types of cell culture based assay have you performed?

      How to Answer

      Your interviewer will likely ask you a series of knowledge-based questions to understand how well you are able to explain concepts to others. Whether it's a clinical research or pure scientific research laboratory, you are likely to work with cells. Growing and maintaining cell culture as well as performing a multitude of assays is common in most laboratories.

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  • 20. In the scenario where your laboratory find itself in need of a new piece of equipment, what are steps you would take and things to consider when bringing new equipment aboard?

      How to Answer

      Your interviewer will likely ask you situation-based questions to understand how you outline your process as well as how well you are able to explain your steps to others. Procurement of reagents and equipment is a common yet often overlooked responsibility of a Research Associate. Like most other things in the field, it's necessary to understand what type of organization you are applying for since different organization handle procurement differently in regards to finding, getting quotes, and budgets. Provide an example that illustrates your experience in bringing new equipment into the lab.

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  • 21. A follow up to the inspection question, what if you encounter a documentation error prior to inspection? Is there a time when manipulating data is acceptable?

      How to Answer

      It is never acceptable to manipulate data in this field, so the interviewer could be interested in the way you answer the question in terms of integrity. Your interviewer might also be looking for how you respond to a somewhat stressful question as this touches on ethics and legality issues.

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  • 22. What is your experience with following procedure, preparing for, and involvement in a regulatory audit and/or inspections of any kind?

      How to Answer

      As a Research Associate, you will likely encounter an audit or inspection of some kind whether internal or external. The type of audit and/or inspection varies depending on the type of organization and type of lab testing done at facility. Your answer should reflect your experience as well as awareness of expectation for particular position interviewing for.

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  • 23. In the scenario where your laboratory finds contamination, what troubleshooting step would you take?

      How to Answer

      Don't ask what type of contamination! It's irrelevant since the interviewer wants to know if you have experience dealing with contamination (most laboratory professionals do) and how you were able to control it. Reflect on a time when you might've dealt with contamination in the lab. If you are early in your career, then think about experience with this as a student and what you might've learned from instructors and other professionals.

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  • 24. Give an example of the types of metadata and/or data analysis you are familiar with and have used in previous positions.

      How to Answer

      In this question, your interviewer is looking for how well you bring knowledge to application. Give a specific example that proves your experience level and awareness, and - better yet - your awareness of how it relates to the specific position to which you're applying. If the current position is for a breast cancer research lab, the best answer will show an awareness of the types of data sets you might encounter in that setting.

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  • 25. In the scenario where your quality control fails, what troubleshooting steps would you take?

      How to Answer

      This question will let the interviewer know whether or not you understand what a quality control is as well as provides an opportunity for you to impress with your troubleshooting and critical thinking skills. If you have a specific example to illustrate your knowledge, share that. Be sure to clearly outline your process and steps so you aren't going back-and-forth in your response.

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  • 26. Give an example of a time you trained someone on a procedure. What went well and what did you learn from the experience?

      How to Answer

      Training others in laboratory procedures is a task that will likely occur as a Research Associate. Your response not only allows the interviewer to assess your personality and how you approach training, but also your technical skills based on terms and approach used in training. If you do not have a lot of experience training others, then think of a positive and effective experience you've had with someone training you.

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  • 27. What is the difference between accuracy and precision?

      How to Answer

      The interviewer is looking for how clearly you delineate the difference between these two terms. You can reply by either providing an example that illustrates that you understand the difference and can relate it to real-world situations or by simply describing the difference. To further emphasize your understanding of the terms and their relevance to the position, follow up with saying why both are relevant and important in a laboratory setting.

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  • 28. When your boss asks you to design an assay to detect a mutation using PCR, provide a list of 3 things you will do before testing and optimizing begin.

      How to Answer

      Your interviewer will likely ask you situation- and knowledge-based questions to understand how you outline your process as well as how well you are able to explain concepts to others. Both in a research and a clinical setting, new and/or improved assays are being developed and implanted in the laboratory. Do ask whether or not this is a diagnostic assay with FDA regulations so that the interviewer knows that you know the difference between clinical and research.

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  • 29. When receiving a new piece of equipment in the lab, give a brief explanation of what you would do to verify that the equipment works properly for its intended test?

      How to Answer

      Laboratories upgrade and/or receive new equipment based on testing needs. The interviewer is verifying how well and thoroughly you handle new equipment as well as how you are able to explain your process. It's important to have an idea of what needs occur to ensure accuracy and precision of results. Answer with a real example if you have one.

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  • 30. What is the purpose of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and give an example of when you've ran one in the past?

      How to Answer

      Your interviewer will likely ask a variety of knowledge-based questions to understand how well you are able to explain concepts to others. PCR is a common type of experiment/assay that is ran in many different types of laboratories. It's important to assess the knowledge and utilization experience a candidate has with routinely used tests.

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