Clinical Research Coordinator Interview Questions
Clinical research coordinators work under a manager to conduct clinical trials for medications and medical products. Their day-to-day activities include gathering subjects, managing trials, and collecting data.
Clinical research coordinators guide their subjects through every aspect of the trials and distribute questionnaires after the study to help researchers gauge their viability. Coordinators work directly with subjects of trials while relaying information to researchers to ensure impartiality.
A clinical research coordinator’s responsibilities include:
- Collecting and analyzing data
- Overseeing the running of trials within a study
- Making sure ethical research standards are followed throughout the study
- Working closely with laboratories and researchers
- Overseeing recruitment for studies
- Ensuring all necessary supplies are available
- Administering exit questionnaires to evaluate the study itself
A clinical research coordinator’s skills include:
- An analytical approach to work
- Attention to detail
- Familiarity with scientific research standards and practices
- Ability to multitask
- Good organizational and communication skills
A position as a clinical research coordinator requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a medical or healthcare discipline as well as several years of experience working in healthcare. Some job opportunities also require a two-year master’s program for employment.
Salaries for clinical research coordinators range between $46K and $82K with the median being $64K.
Factors impacting the salary you receive as a clinical research coordinator include:
- Degrees (bachelor's, master's)
- Years of Experience
- Nature of the Research Projects Managed
- Reporting Structure (seniority of the manager you report to and number of direct reports)
- Level of Performance - exceeding expectations
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Clinical Research Coordinator Interview Questions
Question: Can you describe what a clinical research study involves?
Explanation: This is a general question about clinical research. The interviewer will ask this type of question to begin the conversation, find out more about your background, and collect some information they can use throughout the interview. This provides you the opportunity to frame the interview and point it in a direction in which you are comfortable.
Example: “Clinical research is a process of confirming the effectiveness of a drug or other medical treatment. If done properly, the research removes any bias and prejudice through control groups, carefully structured questions, and research parameters. The outcome of the research is not as important as whether it is trustworthy and accurate.”
Question: Why do you want to work in the area of research our organization is involved in?
Explanation: The purpose behind this question is to ensure you are interested in and passionate about the research being done. Anyone can manage a research project, but if you’re not committed to the project’s purpose and willing to invest the time to ensure the study is well managed, it may not be done correctly or completed on time.
Example: “The reason I applied for this job is the type of research you are doing aligns with my interest in finding cures for diseases related to brain abnormalities. I became passionate about this many years ago when my sister was diagnosed with epilepsy. I learned then that while there was a great deal of research being done in this area, none of it resulted in therapies that would help my sister. I decided to combine my love for research with this important cause, and I have worked in this field for the last 10 years.”
Question: Can you provide a summary of your previous work coordinating clinical research studies?
Explanation: This may seem like an unusual question since you already submitted your resume with all of this information. However, during an interview, it is common for the interviewer to ask you to provide more information about the jobs listed in your resume. They often do this early in the interview as a conversation starter and so they can collect information about your experience that is only summarized in the resume. You should always bring a copy of your resume to the interview so you can provide it to any of the interviewers and use it as a reference when being asked questions like this.
Example: “As you can see in my resume, the majority of my work in clinical research has been in the area of brain abnormalities. I’ve worked for several organizations with studies about therapies related to epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease, and other neurological disorders. I was fortunate to work for an extremely talented clinical research coordinator on my first job. I learned a great deal from him, and it motivated me to want to lead clinical studies in this area. I’ve worked with both large and small teams and studies involving both drug trials as well as brain-therapy methodologies.”
Question: In your opinion, what is the most important quality of a clinical research coordinator?
Explanation: An interviewer will ask this type of question to get you to describe your own qualities. By asking the question this way, it helps you relax and describe your qualifications for this job. We’re all a little reluctant to brag about ourselves, so this is an easy way to ask and respond to the question. The qualities you describe should align well with those in the job posting and your resume.
Example: “I believe the qualities a clinical research coordinator should possess include passion about the work they do, attention to detail, the ability to lead, and the capacity to overcome problems creatively and innovatively. They also need a great deal of patience and strong interpersonal communication skills.”
Question: Describe a typical day while working as a clinical research coordinator.
Explanation: The reason an interviewer will ask this question is to make sure your perception of what a clinical research coordinator does aligns well with the job description and what they’re expecting you to do after you are hired. It is a relatively easy question to answer since you already have experience doing the job and you’ve read the job description and know their expectations. Keep your answer brief and to the point. They will ask follow-up questions if they need additional information or want to explore this topic in more depth.
Example: “While there is no typical day in the life of a clinical research coordinator, some of the duties are pretty common. These include reviewing the previous day’s work, briefing the staff on today’s agenda and what needs to be accomplished, meeting with study participants to get their feedback, answering any questions they may have, and completing the paperwork required for the study. I also spend time compiling reports and meeting with the study stakeholders to keep them apprised of the study’s progress and to discuss any challenges we are encountering.”
Question: How do you ensure the study you are managing is in compliance with clinical regulations?
Explanation: Maintaining a study's integrity and keeping it in compliance with any applicable rules and regulations is one of the clinical research coordinator's key duties. To do this, you need to first be aware of any applicable regulations and then make sure the study parameters are being closely followed and the rules adhered to.
Example: “The first step in keeping a study compliant with clinical regulations is to understand the regulations. Before starting a study, I review the regulations myself and then review them with my staff. We brief the program participants on any regulations they need to be aware of. Once the study is underway, my staff and I closely monitor it to assure we’re following the parameters and staying compliant with the regulations. If a regulation is violated, we first document it and then decide if it has impacted the study. If not, we proceed. If it has impacted the study, we either terminate the research or report the violation to the proper authorities and ask for their guidance.”
Question: When was the last time you made a mistake during a clinical trial, and how did you correct it?
Explanation: Everyone makes mistakes. The correct way to answer this question is to cite a mistake you may have made during a previous study and talk about the way you fixed it. Denying you make mistakes is not appropriate. Make sure the mistake you discuss is minor and did not significantly impact the research you were involved with.
Example: “In a recent study, I mistakenly shared the purpose of the study with one of the participants. They were part of the blind group, and we’re not supposed to know exactly what we’re studying or the outcomes we anticipate. By doing this, I corrupted that individual's ability to participate in the research project. Fortunately, I always recruit more participants than are needed for each study I manage. I quickly isolated the individual so they could not speak to the others, explained my mistake, thanked them for volunteering, and paid them the full compensation they expected to earn during the study. We continued with the research, and my mistake did not impact it.”
Question: How do you describe the purpose of a research study to the participants without creating a bias that could affect the research outcomes?
Explanation: This is a follow-up question to the previous one. During an interview, the interviewer will ask follow-up questions if they want to learn more about the topic or dig deeper into a specific subject. Any time you provide an answer to an inquiry, you should anticipate follow-up questions. Keeping your answers brief and to the point encourages follow-up questions and gives you some control over the interview's progress.
Example: “When I first meet with participants in one of the clinical research studies I am managing, I provide a brief overview of the study we are conducting, its purpose, and some of the parameters they will encounter. I answer any questions they may have, except ones that may create bias or prejudice their behavior. I also do not share with them whether they are part of the control or the study group. I have found that the least amount of information I can provide them while still satisfying their curiosity and their questions about the study results in better outcomes and keeps us in compliance.”
Question: When briefing a participant in a clinical research study, how do you ensure they understand the risks and that all of their questions are properly addressed?
Explanation: As you may have noted, the interviewer is continuing to ask follow-up questions which explore your communication style and how you brief study participants before initiating the research. This indicates it is an important part of the job. You should expand the answers you provide to these types of questions and even volunteer suggestions about improving this aspect of the role you are interviewing for.
Example: “When briefing clinical research study participants, one of the requirements is to make sure they are aware of any risks they may encounter during the research. This is required by law and the regulations applicable to any clinical research. I make sure to neither overemphasize nor downplay the risks, but rather I provide an accurate assessment of any risks they may encounter. I take time to answer any questions they may have about this so they are fully informed before agreeing to participate. Anybody concerned about the risks is allowed to withdraw from the study and may be provided some portion of the compensation they were promised for participating.”
Question: What do you do to motivate your team to perform at their best in an upcoming trial?
Explanation: While it may not be immediately evident, this is a follow-up to a previous answer you provided the interviewer. When you are describing the qualities a competent clinical research coordinator should possess, you mentioned leadership. This question is related to that answer. Follow-up questions can occur at any time during the interview. This helps the interviewer calibrate your answers and confirm you are consistent throughout the interview.
Example: “I have found the best way to motivate my team about an upcoming clinical trial is to describe the purpose of the trial, its desired outcome, and the impact it will have on people who are suffering from a condition we are studying. I always try to describe how the patients’ quality of life will improve if the study is successful. I take time to answer any questions they may have and finish by creating a small incentive that will encourage the team to complete the research on time and within the parameters defined by the study.”
Additional Clinical Research Coordinator Interview Questions
How do you go about recruiting trial subjects?
How do you manage your time and resources when working with a large trial group? What about with multiple trial groups?
How do you handle subjects violating trial rules?
What resources and publications do you use to keep up to date on clinical trial practices?
In what field do you have a background in?
How does this background help you in clinical research?
What methods do you use to collect and compile data for researchers?
What challenges do you face when managing a team of research assistants?
What methods do you use to detect discrepancies in data?
Describe an instance in which your sense of scientific ethics was tested.
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