Clinical trials are a the only way for researchers to find out whether a new drug, diet, or form of treatment is safe and effective in human beings. From a legal standpoint, they have to follow after studies in animals and lab tests, and before a new drug or treatment is approved for use in general public.
Clinical research coordinators help with recruiting participants. They inform them about the objectives of the study, do questionnaires with them, monitor their adherence to rules, and maintain detailed records following FDA guidelines during the trials.
Said in a simple way, they respond for the administrative part of the trials. Paperwork, questionnaires, monitoring results, entering data to databases. Let’s have a look at questions you may face while interviewing for this interesting job.
Why do you want to work as a clinical research coordinator?
You can try to connect two things in your answer. First one is your love for science, and an honest desire to participate in the process of approving some drug or treatment that can improve the life of people in your country, suffering from certain medical condition. You weren’t lucky (or ambitious) enough to become a doctor or a scientist, but you still can play your part in the process of some important advancement in medicine or healthcare.
Second thing are your excellent communication, organizational, and analytical skills, simply great predispositions for this particular job. You are aware of your strengths, and can clearly see how you could benefit from them as clinical research coordinator. They will help you to do the job with great precision, which is very important in this case.
Can you please tell us more about your previous working experience?
It is a common misconception to think that aspiring coordinators need an experience from the lab (lab assistant or technician), or from healthcare (nursing, research assistant) to apply for this job.
You won’t respond for any clinical duties, you won’t even administer drug to the participants in the trials. You will talk with the participants, and do paperwork. And your manager or one of the scientists will create the questionnaires and tell you exactly how you should do your job.
Do you see any logical reason why you’d need healthcare or lab experience in this case? I cannot. However, any experience with paperwork, customer service, or even with data entry, is definitely a plus. Whatever you did in the past, you should talk about duties that are at least somehow similar to the things you’ll do as a clinical research coordinator.
At the end of the day at least some people in the interviewing panel will be scientists and researchers. And they love their field. If you did any research work in the past, or anything that at least borders with science, you should definitely mention it in your answer.
Describe a conflict you had with one of your colleagues in the past. What did you do to solve the conflict situation?
Behavioral (or situational) questions are typical for most clinical research coordinator interviews. They will inquire about different situations from the past–situations that can happen in any workplace, especially in the lab or research center, trying to understand your attitude to your colleagues and to your work.
Remember that your attitude is always more important than the situation you narrate. They do not care whether it is something trivial, or even something from your personal life. Your way of thinking and attitude to the given situation matters.
Back to conflicts, you should talk about a constructive conflict–for example you pointed out a mistake your colleague did, or suggested some improvement to the work, or didn’t agree with something from an ethical point of view, and discussed it with your colleague in a professional manner.
The two of you disagreed about something–which happens in every workplace, and it is completely normal. But you didn’t become enemies and didn’t start fighting on the ground. At the end of the day your goal was to improve the way in which the job was done. And that was also the reason why you became involved in the conflict.
Ensure the interviewers that you do not get involved into pointless emotional conflicts. At the same time, you do not mind disagreeing with your colleagues (or them disagreeing with you) about the way the job is done. Oppositely, you embrace creative criticism, as it helps you to improve on your work.
Tell us about a last time you made a mistake in your work.
Once again, this is a question of your attitude. Everyone makes mistakes and you should admit making some in your previous jobs. In fact, the bigger the mistake the better.
Talk about a mistake, and explain why you made it. Perhaps you underestimated something, or wasn’t focused, or took things too lightly. Show them that you can analyze your mistakes and will learn from them.
The most important thing is to avoid blaming someone else for your mistake. Some job applicants say that they made a mistake because they didn’t get proper information from their manager, or the clients didn’t tell the truth, etc. This is a wrong attitude. If you found yourself in a similar situation in the past, you can describe it in a different way, for example:
- I didn’t do enough to verify the authenticity of the information provided by the client.
- I didn’t question my supervisor properly, I should have asked them for more information, but I did not ask.
Talking about the same situations, you show a completely different attitude. Instead of blaming the manager or the client for the mistake, you take the responsibility on your shoulders. People in the interviewing panel love such attitude…
Describe a situation when you struggled to communicate something to one of your clients. What did you do to eventually get your message over?
Most participants in the trials won’t be scientists, or doctors. As a clinical research coordinator, you will often have to describe them difficult things (such as medical terminology, various possible side effects, etc) in a simple language, in a language of common people.
You should talk about a situation from the past when you had to do exactly the same thing. Explain the interviewers how you used demonstration, practical examples, or just a very simple language, to get your message over.
Maybe you had to repeat the same message ten times, always in a different way, but you were patient and persistent, and continued until you finally succeeded. That’s the attitude they want to see in a good applicant for this job…
Some other questions you may face in your Clinical Research Coordinator job interview
- Tell us about a last time you faced an ethical dilemma, either in work or in your personal life.
- How do you imagine a typical day in a work of a clinical research coordinator? Describe such a day from morning to afternoon.
- Tell us about a last time when you had to meet a tight deadline in your work. How did you change your daily routine and prioritized your tasks to meet the deadline?
- What would you do to ensure that the study subject understands all the risks of the clinical trials, and that all their emotional concerns are properly addressed?
- Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss.
- Describe a situation when you were overwhelmed with work.
- Describe a situation when you faced a particularly demanding problem or challenge in your personal life. How did that affect you in your job?
Conclusion, next steps
Interview for a job of a Clinical Research Coordinator belongs to difficult job interviews. You will typically interview in front of a small panel. People with various skills and backgrounds (HR, management, healthcare, science) will be present, all of them having their own preferences and expectations.
Satisfying four people with different backgrounds with your interview answers is much more difficult than convincing one person only. What’s more, they will typically ask you some tricky behavioral interview questions, some of them seemingly unrelated to the role of a clinical research coordinator.
This is not an easy interview, but you can succeed. Do a good research about your prospective employer, their principal work, latest trials, discoveries, corporate values. Try to prepare for the behavioral questions. And if you are not sure how to deal with them, or experience anxiety, have a look at our Interview Success Package 2.0. Multiple brilliant answers to 31 most common behavioral interview questions (+ more) will help you to ace your interview, and get a job of a Clinical Research Coordinator.
Thank you for checking it out, and I wish you good luck in your interview!