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Questions to Expect During an Interview for a Clinical Research Associate

7/22/2009 3:07:01 PM

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A clinical research associate (CRA) is a monitor for drug companies in the final phases of clinical studies on humans, animals and plants. A CRA designation opens up opportunities in the pharmaceutical industry and contract firms that conduct clinical trials. Companies typically look for specific training and experience for the kinds of research they are performing. Job candidates should be prepared to expect very specific questions in their initial job interview.


General open-ended questions commonly are used by interviewers to open the conversation. Questions such as "tell me about yourself," are frequently used to learn more about the candidate's character and enthusiasm for the job. The best answers pair personal information, such as where you lived in the past, with what kind of research project you were involved in. Every remark needs to include a reference to your experience, training and passion for the industry. Talking about your involvement in industry associations like the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) illustrates your dedication to the field and your self-directed professional development efforts. Association memberships, internships and healthcare volunteer activities also highlight your character, communication abilities and industry involvement.


Interviewers inevitably ask questions about past experience. They might reference particular skills they are looking for, such as regulatory documentation preparation, electronic record keeping abilities and protocol development. Preparing examples of how valid experience translates well to the company impresses interviewers anxious to hire good communicators. You should be able to quickly reference the exposure you've had to the specific areas being researched by the company, whether through reading and investigation, work with other researchers who have done specific trials or trials at which you have assisted in some capacity. Skills like database development, financial management of projects, teamwork and patient care easily transfer to any subject. Prepare detailed statements to bring out these skills with specific examples of how they are transferable.


Human resource professionals, clinical trial directors and project managers invariably include a time for candidates to ask their own questions. This aspect of the interview provides hiring managers with more information about the candidate, from how much he knows about the company to where his priorities lie. Thorough research about the company before entering into an interview situation will prepare you for this portion of the interview. Important information includes references to the company history and the hiring manager's place in the hierarchy, company goals based on previous performance and how the company fares in relation to specific competitors. During the candidate question period of the interview, successful CRAs bring in more references to their own credentials and where they believe they can fit in the overall goals and mission of the company.


Lead CRA

Clinical Research Associates

Society of Clinical Research Associates

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