I’m posting to let you know what kinds of questions you might expect to be asked during a CRA interview. Practice these in the shower, in front of the mirror, or with a friend so you are prepared!
Here are general questions that you will likely be asked with tips for answering shown in italics:
- Tell me about yourself? Keep it short and hand them a copy of your resume to look at while you give the penny-tour of your background and experience. Showcase yourself, “I live in San Francisco and I have 5+ years experience in this industry. I have been working as a CRA for over 18 months. I have had the opportunity to work in Phase I, II, and III trials for the following indications… I attended courses for CRA training through a local university and I am an active ACRP member.” Be prepared to explain why you are currently job seeking and any gaps in your employment history or a trail of many past job over a short period of time.
- What are your salary requirements? I’ve had success with this script, “I will consider the entire package including employer flexibility, 401K, a competitive benefit package, etc. However, my minimum salary requirement is $$$$. I would be pleased by a compensation package that includes benefits and incentive compensation to increase the value. From my research, it appears that similar positions in this industry are paying between $$$$ to $$$$.” Then be quiet!!!
- What percentage/amount of time are you willing to travel? Be honest. Travel is difficult and it is not in yours or the employer’s best interest for you to misrepresent yourself when this question is asked.
- Have you had GCP training or formal CRA training through an employer or accredited course?
- Do you have experience with the following?
o Regulatory document review
o Selecting and recruiting qualified and interested investigators
o Performing source document verification
o Utilizing EDC, electronic diaries, or IVRS systems
o Database close
o Development of protocols or ICF?
- Do you have experience with the following therapeutic areas: Cardiovascular, CNS, Oncology, Diabetes, HIV, etc.? If you are interviewing with a CRO this is especially important because they will need to market you internally and to clients. There is no sense in lying here because there is no substitute for experience. Try to highlight experiences you have from other jobs that better prepare you for a monitoring role. For example: “Although my oncology experience at this point has been limited to clinical database and CRF design, that experience has afforded me the opportunity to read through no fewer than 10 to 15 different oncology protocols from a variety of sponsors and assist (at least on the data end) in these sorts of trials. I have had the opportunity to develop some very fundamental and transferable skills in XYZ indication this past year related to study start-up, maintenance, building/maintaining relationships with study sites, trial fiscal management, and facilitating cross-functional trial specific working teams to track and deliver important study milestones on time/budget.”
- What is the greatest number of [protocols, sites, patients] that you have been responsible for at any one time?
- Which phases have you worked in?
- How many [pre-study qualification visits, site initiation visits, site monitoring visits, site close-out visits] have you conducted in your career?
- Describe the three top challenges that I'll face in this job?
- What are the key metrics for measuring success in this position?
- If I were offered the opportunity to work with your organization, what would you like me to accomplish in my first 90 days?
- How would you describe the qualities of the most successful people at your company?
- How closely do my qualifications match the requirements for the open position?
At this point, I want to mention that there are various interview styles. Being familiar with how (and why) questions might be asked will only help make you more prepared when it is time to come up with the answers. I am going to discuss a few interview styles below. The person conducting the interview may stick to just one style or have a mix of several – this is especially true when you are in a panel interview. Then it feels like you are in a firing range but just stay calm and try to engage the panel so you aren’t doing all the talking. After all, this is your opportunity to interview them, too, right? Anyway, here are a few interview styles you might encounter:
Behavioral – Everyone knows that past behavior is a very good indicator of future performance. This interview style will require you to answer in a manner that shows you are creative and quick on your feet. Sometimes the right answer is not as important as the delivery. Before you answer think hard about why they are asking this particular question and try to cite examples of past behaviors that are relevant to the job you are applying for and explain at the end how the skills and experience you are describing would be transferable in your new role. If they ask you about a past mistake or you describe something you did but would now do differently, say so and explain why. Nobody is perfect so showing that you learn from past experiences can only help you in the interview.
- Tell me about a time when you showed your ability to [adapt to a new situation, solve a problem, etc.].
- Tell me about a time when you demonstrated [initiative, integrity, excellent communication, etc.].
- You’re at a site and discover an unreported SAE, what would you do?
- You are performing a routine monitoring visit and discover that the site has enrolled a subject but forgot or improperly consented them, how would you handle this situation?
- It sounds like you don’t have a lot of experience with [insert something rude here], what makes you think you can do this job?
- I have a lot of other more qualified candidates, why should I hire you?
- What are the critical components of an ICF document? Know your regulations and GCP guidelines – All of them – this one is CFR 21 Part 50.
- What are the activities that take place during an [initiation visit, close out visit, etc.]?
|Every person you interact with may be|
asked to provide input on your interview
performance. Remember to always respect
"gate-keepers" like reception/administrative
staff and the HR person who arranged
- Show up on time, be well-dressed/groomed, and be nice to the receptionist.
- Fill out the employment application in advance. When you ask for this you are demonstrating your enthusiasm for the position and you are showing how organized and methodical you are when approaching new situations. If there is no application to be completed, at least bring your government issued ID and a list of references and old employers in case this is needed.
- Avoid sounding cocky, smug, or coming off as entitled.
- Assess how the interview is going by using any of these targeted questions after you provide an answer: “Did I give you enough detail?”, “Was I clear on that?”, or “Would you like me to elaborate?”
- Never ever ever lie about your experience! Our industry is a small one and your reputation will precede you. It is a huge risk so just avoid it. Besides, as CRAs our primary objective is to ensure the safety of subjects exposed to Investigational Product. As an extreme example, if you lack the experience to do something and say that you actually can, you may be given a position that you are not qualified for and as a consequence, subject safety could be jeopardized.
- Never say anything nasty about a previous co-worker or employer – it only makes you look bad.
- Watch for and avoid illegal questions – It is absolutely inappropriate (and in some cases against the employment laws) for the interviewer to ask you questions about your age, race, religion, marital status, and whether or not you have kids. If you choose to volunteer this information in the course of an interview, fine. However, if you are queried about any of the items above just say politely, “I’m sorry, I don’t feel comfortable with that question but would be happy to address any others you have.” or re-direct the questioning in some other tactful way.
- At the end of the interview thank them for their time, ask what the next steps are in the process, and ask for the job! I know it sounds silly, but 90% of applicants won’t ask for the job. You don’t need to be shy. You researched this company for weeks, you got all dressed up and took an entire day (or several) to come in and interview. You don’t need to dance around why you are there, “When can I start?”
You may also like...from The Lead CRA:
- How to Become a CRA January 2009
- You Might be a CRA if...December 2008
- What are your Weaknesses? June 2009
- Challenges to a New CRA May 2009
- Introduction to Monitoring December 2007
- Creating a CV November 2007
- New Hire Orientation November 2007