What to Expect at a CRA Interview

What to Expect at a CRA Interview_feature

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!

Typical Questions
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.

So here are the more role-specific questions:

  • 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?

What to Expect at a CRA InterviewUndoubtedly, the last question you will be asked is, “Do you have any questions for me or about our company?” And the answer is, Yes, you do! I know you will be nervous, but ask good questions and listen to the answers to the questions and try to get feedback during the interview so you know how you are doing.  You may have been misunderstood during the interview or missed an opportunity to really sell yourself.  Asking great questions will give you one last chance to show your best or address any concerns the interviewer has before you part or even in a follow-up letter or email.  Here are some generic ones, but you have to ask something:

  • 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?

Interview Styles
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.].

Situational/Scenario – If you have no idea what the right answer is, you can try stalling, asking the interviewer for help, or just qualifying your response. For example, “Honestly, I am thinking of a few possible answers for the question. On the one hand, I feel like this might be the right response, but on the other hand, I can see a scenario where this might be the right approach. Which are you looking for?” or “Well, I must admit that I haven’t ever been faced with this particular situation, but I imagine I would handle it as follows….” Here are some examples of situational questions:

  • 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?

Assertive – I personally find this style offensive. Any employer that utilizes these tactics is likely not one that I am very interested in working for. After all, if they are a jerk in the interview, what is it going to be like on a daily basis or when it is time to sign your expense reports, or partner to work on your performance goals, etc. In any case, an assertive interviewer will treat you really nastily or act very cold/aloof to see if you will get nervous or flustered. I find brevity is key in these types of interviews and if there are long periods of silence, just sit calmly and pretend like you are unaffected. Be careful not to be too defensive – it is usually a trap to see if you can keep your cool under pressure. They might say something catty like:

  • 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?

Structured – This interview is basically just like a test and you need to pass to make it to the next round. It is a typical style for CROs (where many different people perform new candidate interviews but then need to assess all applicants against the same standards) or for first-round interviewers. Essentially, the interviewer is looking for a specific answer, and once you say the magic word or list the 3 bullets they are looking for, they will move on to the next question. It is fine to ask how you are doing if you are feeling nervous along the way – they will probably find it endearing rather than count that against you (they probably suffered through the same type of interview when they were hired).

  • 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.]?


The Receptionist
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
the interview.

Here are a few other random tidbits of general interview advice:

  • 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?”

Now you know what kinds of interview questions to expect but this is really putting the cart before the horse because we haven’t even scratched the surface of how to execute a sound job search. I will be posting in the future with more information that will make you better prepared for your new CRA role including: ‘Choosing the Right Company as Your New Employer’; ‘Networking’; ‘Doing Your Homework Before an Interview’; ‘Following up After the Interview’; and ‘Tips For Excelling in your First 90 Days of Employment’. Let me know if there are other topics that are of interest and I will be sure to address them in other future posts.

You may also like…from The Lead CRA:
About The Author

The Lead CRA

Nadia started The Lead CRA blog in 2007. She is now lead author for ClinOps Toolkit. Nadia is currently working as a Clinical Program Manager at a small specialty pharmaceutical company in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can reach Nadia via email at [email protected] anytime.


  • ak

    March 24, 2013

    This is an excellent blog! I have learnt so much from reading the blog! Thank you so much!

  • Liz Fletcher

    January 16, 2013

    If anyone is interested in a career or education in Clinical Research then take a look at the Clinical Research Masters Degree at The University of Southampton. This Masters Degree is a recognised component of the National Institute of Health Research Clinical Academic Careers Training Pathway. Have a look at http://www.southampton.ac.uk/healthsciences for more information.

  • Liz Fletcher

    November 26, 2012

    Hi all, the importance of education when entering the field of clinical research is vital to your future careers. Be sure to check out every possible University or College that you can. There is a great course at the University of Southampton that will set you up for a career in clinical research. If you wish to find out more information about the MRes clinical research masters degree, simply visit the Health Sciences website at http://www.southampton.ac.uk/healthsciences

  • Graci

    November 8, 2012

    Thank you for your tips Nadia, I hope to have good news after my interview tomorrow!


  • Anonymous

    February 23, 2012

    Hi Nadia, is it typical to have a medical terminology assessment during an interview? How much medical terminology is a CRA expected to know?

    • The Lead CRA

      The Lead CRA

      February 24, 2012

      I’ve never had to demonstrate mastery of medical terminology at an interview. I have had to play the acorym game and explain, “What is an SAE”; “What part of ICH GCP says XXX?”; “what is a SUSAR?”, etc.

      I am not a trained nurse or scientist and I have picked up all of my therapeutic training on the job at IMs and in training sessions with medical monitors. I have supplemented that with podcasts, books, the internet, etc.

      It seems a little unreasonable to me that you would be drilled on medical terminology during an interview (mastery of science is not the single-most important predictor of whether or not you will be a great CRA) so I’ll advise you to brush up on the regs and stories of how your communication style has helped you on the job instead.

  • Didierdrogba

    January 14, 2012


    I read this post two times.

    I like it so much, please try to keep posting.

    Best regards

  • Marina

    November 6, 2011

    Great job! I loved your blog.
    Thank you!

  • campbell

    September 16, 2011


    Tks very much for post:

    I like it and hope that you continue posting.

    Let me show other source that may be good for community.

    Source: Research interview questions and answers

    Best rgs

  • The Lead CRA

    The Lead CRA

    September 12, 2011

    Hello Heich, the oncology CRA jobs tend to be more lucrative and more difficult to obtain. The studies are more complex, the duration is long, and there are many safety events. A lot of oncology CRAs have specialized background in nursing or another medical discipline. Applying for the first CRA job is extremely difficult. Definitely network with CRAs that you know and also look for CROs that are willing to train entry-level CRAs. The entry-level opportunities are hard to come by especially in a down economy. It is a good time to be in school and the masters program sounds like a great way to demonstrate your commitment to the role.

  • Heich

    September 9, 2011

    Hi!!! I’m almost starting my master in CRA and I’m really interested in the information you are providing.
    I have one question: after the master how can I choose if I want to work in oncological or other clinical field? Do I have to participate to a specif course? How can I apply to a job in a specific field in which I don’t have any experience?


  • Thank You…

  • Anonymous

    May 20, 2011

    This is absolutely helpful.i have a CRO interview in a couple of days and am glad i read this blog.Interesting!

  • Anonymous

    February 3, 2011

    Hello everybody,
    Does anyone work for PPD as a CRA or CTA?
    What questions to expect on the job interview?
    What is their SOP regarding the same?
    Thank you

  • The Lead CRA

    The Lead CRA

    February 2, 2011

    Hi TrueBossy, comments like yours make the project worthwhile. I’m so glad you have enjoyed the blog. Please continue to check back for new content or subscribe to receive an email upon updates using the link to the right. Please don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected] if you have any questions or blog topic suggestions in the future. Thanks again!

  • True Bossy

    January 7, 2011

    Hello Nadia,
    I am so grateful to stumble across this blog. I’m a CRA intern right now. It is so exciting to see someone so passionate and willing to give sound advice to others. I see people like you as very inspirational and encouraging to me. This is an affirmation that I’m on the right track towards my new CRA career path…Thanks for Sharing!

  • Xabi

    October 26, 2010


    I read this post two times.

    I like it so much, please try to keep posting.

    Let me introduce other material that may be good for our community.

    Source: Interview questions to ask

    Best regards

  • Anonymous

    August 7, 2010

    Hi, I like your post really. Nowadays the role of CRAS moved towards protocol development and CRF design while it is more responsibility of Clinical Data Manager. What role does CRAs play in CRF design and protocol development? Is it limited to gathering data collection tool or also in software design? If it is data collection then what type of Data they collect.

  • Anonymous

    June 29, 2010

    I really like this blog its really helpful.
    Right now i am preparing for an interview for CRA position so can you be able to tell where can i find more CRA specific interview questions.
    Or if possible can you be able to put more questions so that help me to practice more for an interview.
    Thanks a lot..

  • Anonymous

    April 16, 2010

    Hi have been a CRA for almost 3yrs and have been to a lot of interviews with different CRO and Companies, with no success, Im wondering watz my problem?

  • Anonymous

    March 16, 2010

    I wished I had found this blog before my interview with a CRO a few months ago. Thank you for all of the information. I am now reading from beginning to end. I am hooked! lol

  • Anonymous

    March 11, 2010

    Love your blog Nadia! I’m glad I found it 🙂

  • Anonymous

    March 5, 2010

    excellent,have done a great job. thanks a lot.

  • Alan

    March 5, 2010


    I like this post very much. It help me to solve some my work under my director’s requirements.

    Apart from that, below article also is the same meaning

    situational interview questions

    Tks again and nice keep posting

  • Ana

    February 5, 2009

    Thank you for this post – I am preparing for a job interview at a CRO tomorrow and this is really helpful! I will keep reading your blog! Take care!

  • rakhi

    January 19, 2009

    This blog is very useful for my future endeavour and keep more blogs on this topic
    Thanking you

  • Happier

    January 13, 2009

    Hello. I am CRA in Korea.I have a interview tomorrow. So I can find out your blog and very helpful. Thank you

  • Andre

    August 28, 2008

    Hi Nadia

    What a great blog. I am preparing myself for an interview next week. Can you give me please an idea how to answer the question: what to do if you met a SAE during your Monitoring visit?
    Just send a report to sponsor but what to do on the site?
    Thank you for your help. I have a CRA experience but in Medical devices.

  • Anonymous

    July 31, 2008

    You have done a great job by placing all these details in your blog. It is very helpful. Thanks. Will wait for your news informative blogs.

  • Mandy

    February 10, 2008


    I think this posting is great for anyone interviewing for a new job. Rusty and I love your blog– keep writing!

    Rusty and Mandy Neighbors

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