25+ Best Research Assistant Interview Questions & Answers

I've cataloged and written the best research assistant interview questions and answers in this article. A research assistant is primarily an entry level position in what is usually an academic position. Although you may see research assistants be hired inside of law firms as they often have to reference many historic documents as well as legal references which can only be found in law books. If you are looking to apply for this type of a position you should expect to get questions that are more related to your personal goals and professional desires. As with all interview question answers, I suggest you print this or make this into a PDF so that you can reference these questions during a mock interview session done with a friend and then create your own set of answers. Good luck in your future employment.

Research Assistant Interview Questions Table of Contents


Research Assistant Interview Questions & Answers

1. Can you tell me why are you interested in the Research Assistant position?

The interviewer would like to know if this position is aligned with your particular career goals. They would like to know if the position is a logical step along the career path. You should be prepared to speak about the research assistant position and be well-informed about your own personal career goals in more detail. You can talk about the way this position directly connects with a personal passion of yours and how it is going to assist you in the advancement of the goals you have in a manner that is going to benefit the company as well. In addition, the person who is interviewing you would want to know the value that you would bring to this position and thus the company. Speak in a way that shows concern to how the motivated skill set would be a good match for the position and what it needs. You should not speak to the areas which are going to show some self-serving desire, like that you need the job because it’s a job, or the salary is good or the policy for certain benefits are appealing. Focus more on the passion for the work and the skills of the position. This is not a question about you, it is about you but in relation to the manner, you would fit for the position.

2. If you were hiring an individual for this position, what attributes would you search for within a successful candidate?

This happens to be one of the indirect tests given to you by the person who is providing the interview. You should not be general. Say something like ‘You should look for an individual that has good communication skills and someone who is a long-term team player.’ Be specific and relate it directly to the position at hand. For example, you might say, ‘Based on high volume of the quantitative work, you can look for someone that is very analytical in their behaviors and that has a proven track record in attention to detail and a person that has mastered Microsoft Excel.

3. Please tell me about yourself. What should I know about you?

This question here is frequently asked by future employers and in most cases, it is the first question you might encounter. The trouble is some do not know how and where to begin answering. Do you begin from when you were a child or after college? The way you answer this question though is going to set the tone for the rest of the interview so it is important to get this right. Interviewers may get a variety of responses for the question from information concerning the family of the candidate to the external interests to even recitals of facts on their resume to a litany of skills that they may possess. This is a time where you should be primarily focused on your response and set yourself apart. The correct approach is as follows:

• Give a small introduction: claim your current achievements as stated from your resume. It could be a recent graduation in the relevant field or completed internships. You can say this would be your first opportunity to work from college and you are excited concerning the application of both your academic and practical experience.
• Express your well-researched and informed career goals: you might say that based on your internship or academic or even interview experiences with professionals within the field; you have developed a sense of what is needed.
• Mention some of the key qualifications you have for the position: mention the professional and academic qualifications that are relevant to the field and mention life experiences, which make you a fit for the role.
• Show that you are the fit: you might say that you are attracted to the firm because of its reputation. Show that their values in their mission statement are the same as your personal values and mention them giving a relation in each case.

4. What are your career goals as a research assistant? This question is going to test your ability and ambitions for developing yourself and the ability you have when it comes to planning.

• Levels of your career goals: you may not be sure about your goals.
• You may have goals but they do not relate to the current position.
• Your current goals are oriented to this particular career.

5. Where do you see yourself in 5 years with regard to the Research Assistant position?

It is essential that you discuss your objectives and the course of action that you intend to take so that you achieve them. For example, you can say that you have the intention of becoming the best in your department or you would love to be the person that your colleagues can depend on. You can say that you would want to reach a point in your skill and experience where you can handle any responsibilities that come your way.

6. Describe the hardest situation you faced and the actions you had to do in order to settle the issue.

The reason for this question is to get a sense of what is hard for you and how you handled the situation. You may opt for a difficult work scenario, which you did not initiate or contribute to in a negative manner. In so doing, you can show how you added positively to the situation by explaining the way you handled a toxic work environment well.

7. What is your greatest asset in terms of strength?

This may be a very simple question if you do it well. Talk about the strengths, which you deem valuable to the organization. You could say that there are various “do’s and don’t’s” here. Some of the “dos” of the may include:

• Maximizing on the question. This allows you some leeway so you can weave the discussion to where you want it to go.
• Place some emphasis on the strengths which are aligned to the position.
• Get a sense from the job description and consider the strengths the company is investing in.

Do not:
• Employ too much honesty or make up something which you are not.
• Do not say things you cannot backup with an example.
• Do not say some strengths which are not relevant to the position.

8. What would you say your weaknesses are with this particular position?

This is a behavioral assessment question as much as it is performance related. This question can also be manipulated into strength. You might say something like you do not take it well when you are challenged within you work setting on things which you know. You might mention a weakness that is not relevant to the position and which can be cured through reorientation or some training. This is one of the ways to turn a trick question into an asset, which is going to benefit you. There are times the interviewer may ask concerning specific challenges that you went through in your previous job. When asked about the question, lean towards the issue that happened during your career and how you were able to overcome it. The worst thing to do is blame others so you have to identify the main issue and your responsibility in it. Then go to how you played a role in solving the problem.

9. How would previous colleagues describe you if they were asked?

These are queries, which are asked to get a sense of your hidden qualities, which you have not advertised as yet. You could illustrate the way your colleagues counted on you for certain things on the job or they liked having you around to make things cohesive. That is an indication you are either a leader or a team player.

10. Think of a good call that you made and a call, which was not the right one. What was the difference when you were making either of these decisions?

The answers for this have to illustrate how well you can own up to the mistakes and how well you can be objective even when you are being successful in your endeavors. Discuss the manner you factor in variables such as resources and constraints.

11. During the delegation of a duty in your previous job, illustrate how you showed confidence and an ability to execute that task.

Here you can discuss a number of ways you assigned responsibility to the candidates who were appropriate for the task. The manner you communicated with your candidates to make them what was expected is crucial. This goes hand in hand with the way you make the workers have the needed resources to carry out the tasks. You should also illustrate the backup protocols you had for issues on the job.

12. What is your greatest accomplishment?

This is the same as asking what your greatest strength is and so you should answer it likewise. Pick the achievements that show you are an asset to the firm and can add value to the organization. Even if you have a stack of achievements from other positions try and limit it to what is relevant to the current job. In addition, when your interviewer goes in your resume and sees a master’s degree or Silver Star, which you had not enunciated before during the interview, it is going to show you are humble and that is a big plus.

• Highlight achievements illustrating you are the perfect candidate for the role.
• Show passions for the job as you discuss things.

Do not:
• Do not ever think that the accomplishments are too small. You ought to remember that the accomplishments, no matter how little can be relevant if it is in line with the position than a massive breakthrough that is not related.

13. Describe a typical day in your current position?

As much as you would want to sell yourself in the best possible way, you should not make the mistake that comes with exaggerating the current position. You may add some of the routine tasks in order to make it as realistic as possible. You should not neglect things such as paper work for example. Try to think if you were in the shoes of the interviewer when answering this question. A task, which you have been doing for years, should be within your makeup already and so you must know all of the tasks within the position and the way they are done. You ought to try and show them that you plan before starting the normal day and after attaining what you set to achieve, you review the entire process in order to see where else you would have been efficient.

14. How do you respond to working under pressure?

The essence of this query is to test your composure, ability to solve problems and staying true to the particular task especially when it comes to unfavorable conditions. Provide an example of a time where you had faced a challenge and what you did so that you could defuse the situation. In the process, highlight the manner you were calm and in control up to the point everything was okay.

15. What is the salary that you are looking for?

You ought to note that every time you are going for an interview, this question may come up. Before you go, you can find what the average salary is for someone that is holding that position. This may assist in preparing you for what the figures are. You should not forget that this is just an interview and you have yet to be offered the job, so do not go on negotiating. Just state something within the range you have researched and then move forwards. Whatever you do, you ought not to sell yourself short in the process.

16. What is the reason for which you would like to leave your present occupation?

Regardless of what you say, you should not mention negative things about the one who employs you currently or even in the past. You should also not mention anything concerning the desire for more money because it will become clear your real loyalties can be bought and sold. The interviewer will know you will definitely leave the company to move on to another job if it comes with a better paycheck. The best thing to do would be to claim that your previous position was not sufficiently challenging you anymore. You can indicate as well that you want to have more responsibility and show what you can offer is more than the responsibility that was given to you in your previous position.

17. What is the extent of your knowledge concerning this organization?

The premise of the answer here would be very dependent on research. The main complaint that is given by interviewers concerning the job candidates is they have not taken the time to find information concerning the company. The employers may want to know if you are aware of the organization and they would like to know if there are specific reasons why you would want to work for them except from the fact there is an opening. At the absolute minimum, you ought to review the website of your employer. Get more information about them on platforms such as LinkedIn. Google the firm name and see what pops up as it relates to the recent news. This can be really helpful. You can even request a copy of the most recent financial report in hopes of gaining some insight. Find out if there, are connections within the firm and then do an informational interview with your contact for tips on how to handle the executive panel when you go for the interview. Use as many sources as you can find online to research the institution and learn more about their current and past position. The depth of your knowledge concerning the institution should make a difference. The person who is interviewing you is definitely going to be impressed that you took the time to learn more about their mission. Some of the sample answers would include the following:

• I know that this is a good organization with great management and a great working environment. I head that here, I would be able to gain knowledge and work in a good atmosphere.
• According to me, this is one of the best companies. It has a good environment. People tend to feel good working in companies that have adequate growth in the IT sector. The organization has all the qualities such as good growth, environment and the maintenance of the best level within the designated sector.

18. What have you done to upgrade your knowledge as research assistant during the past year?

You can try to include improvement activities, which relate to the task. A variety of the activities may be mentioned such as positive self-improvement. There are good ones, which can be mentioned/ the employers tend to look out for those applicants who are goal oriented. Display a desire for the continuous learning by listing your hobbies, which are not related to that particular field for example. Regardless of what hobbies you may decide to illustrate, you need to know that the objective is to prove that you are indeed self-sufficient and have a great sense of time management and motivation. Some of the answers that you can give for this question include the following.

• Everyone needs to learn from their mistakes. I always try and consult where I have gone wrong especially with people that know me and have more experience than I do.
• I enrolled myself in a course that would be useful for the next version of our current project. I have also attended training seminars to assist with my personal development and improvement of my managerial skills.

19. If you were able to design the perfect work environment for a Research Assistant or other wise, what would it look like?

Here, the interviewer determines if you would be in sync with the organizational culture. If you have adequately done your research and found things out concerning the way the organization is run and it is appealing to you then you may communicate this fact to the interviewer as a component of what you would consider to be the optimal work environment. On the other hand, if the organization were not a good fit for you then the description of your perfect work scenario wouldn’t be a match, which probably makes perfect sense to you. That is going to lead the person interviewing you to determine whether you would be a fit or the organization or not.

20. Were you comfortable working as part of a team or would you prefer to work alone?

A lot of jobs require both of these abilities but there are increasingly more firms, which would prefer the workers function in a team scenario. You need to analyze the position and what it entails as well as the organizational culture before answering this question. This is to determine which type of work would be more appreciated between the independent and the team based work. Focus the response according to the situation while still maintaining integrity in the manner you respond. It would not be advisable to represent yourself as something, which you are not. Working by yourself means dedication, self-discipline, good judgment and initiative. Working as a team would mean having skills like conflict resolution, good communication and the ability to compromise. Remember to focus on the positive traits and attributes, which you have that will match the work environment of the organization when you are formulating your answer.

21. Can you elaborate on a time when you had to work as part of a team and had been able to achieve a great outcome with them.

This is a behaviorally based question so you should consider that which has been discussed previously within the goal setting department concerning why you would be the best candidate for the position. One way of tackling the question is to identify a relevant story from your life experiences and then remember to tell in in three parts, which can be woven together.

• The scenario: describe a situation where you were working as part of an effective team.
• Action: give a description of the role, which you played as part of the team and how you contributed to its success.
• Result: Describe the qualitative or the quantitative result of the team when it is working together. You should also remember to be concise, clear and particular and end with a positive result.

22. Would you consider yourself as risk taker or someone that always plays it safe?

The way that you answer this question is going to depend on the organizational culture of the institution. A lot of the organizations at the present are looking for employees who are both creative and have initiative. They would want someone that is not afraid to follow their gut especially when it comes to research topics within an educational institution because that is the way new ground is broken. Although it also depends on who you are working for. Some professors would rather you stay within your advisory lane than challenge the barriers every time you want to do so. With that being said, if your intrinsic nature is playing it safe and the employer is looking for a risk taker then it may be time that you go back and reassess if are a fit for the position you are applying for, sometimes this is the case and sometimes the opposite is the case.

23. Can you please walk me through your resume.

The goal of the resume is to get the job interview in the first place though it should play as one of the significant talking points during the interview as well. Therefore, you have to be able to explain and tell stories about what the resume entails. The response that you give for this query should be reflective of a coherent and clear perspective of the contents of the resume. You need to remember with this question that the interviewers are endeavoring to find about that which is in your resume and catch the inconsistencies from what you verbalize to what is on the paper and get an opportunity to dig deeper in order to ask detailed questions. The question being asked is to evaluate how your experience and education are directly related to the position that you are applying for, so be sure you clearly understand that with regard to your answer here.

24. If I were to go back and consult with your previous employers or bosses, what do you think they would have to say about you as a Research Assistant?

In this question, the employer just wants to know what they are going to hear when they check your references. They are going to consider if there are inconsistencies about what you said and what your previous employer’s sentiments. If there was a good relationship with your past boss and you left the position in a good way then you can always ask them what they are going to say if they are contacted as a reference for you. Similarly, if they gave a letter of recommendation to you, then you also have a good perspective as to what they would say if contacted by the new employers (so I recommend always getting a letter of recommendation). On the other hand, if the relationship with the previous employer left a lot to be desired then you have to be honest with what you think they would say. This would not be a time for you to put blame or play on the defensive. It is a chance to give a clear description of what went wrong and take responsibility of your part in it. Then you can usually outline or put together what you learned from that particular situation. At the very least, the interviewer is going to be impressed at the fact you admitted your part in the fallout and respect you for coming clean. There are employers that have yielded positions based solely on this premise of responsibility.

25. Describe a period when you were at odds with your employer or someone of higher rank than you in your previous position and the way that you dealt with that situation.

This question is built to assess your behavioral attributes and how you address conflict with a superior. Identify a story, which is relevant from your work or life experience thus far, and tell the story in three clear parts which are woven together.

• Situation: Describe a situation where you were at odds with the employer or high-ranking individual. Conflict may not necessarily be bad so you can opt for a situation where there was a healthy clash of opinions concerning a particular issue. It does not have to be an open brawl with fists or wordplay.
• Action: Try and describe the action that you took in that particular scenario, especially the manner you contributed to resolving the conflict in a rational, calm and constructive way.
• Result: Describe the qualitative or quantitative result of the resolution pertaining the conflict Remember to be really clear, concise and very specific and end with a positive result or note.

26. Who do you admire as a leadership figure and why?

Everyone is expected to show leadership within careers and positions. A leader is not just someone that has the leader title. The leadership position is institutional. You may be called upon at any time to show leadership within a particular position or working when you are part of a team. The question then becomes more so about what kind of leader you may want to be. Ask yourself what you consider as the best attributes of a leader. The individual who you admire the most as a leader may provide the person who is interviewing you with a sense of what you consider to be the best attributes of a great leader. In this case, choose an individual that has value systems you admire and are in some way alike with. Then you may talk about these characteristics as concerns your admiration for them.

27. If you were able to change one thing about yourself professionally, can you please tell me what would it be?

This is just another version of the behavioral weakness query. You need to be prepared for an interviewer to ask similar questions or even the same question but just in a different manner. That would give the chance for them to seek inconsistencies in the answers that you have given and if there is evidence of that, then it would be a red flag of course.

28. How well would you say you handle professional change?

In the current workplace and especially in the research world, things change on a constant basis in order to remain relevant. As such, the interviewer is probably searching for someone that is flexible and able to adapt to changing situations. It is important to talk about change from a positive light and ensure you are displaying the ability to evolve and be flexible. Give an example of a difficult change, which you had to go through in your life or career and the way you adapted to it.

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author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.


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