38 Research Assistant Interview Questions (With Answers)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 20 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Interviewing for a research position may involve being asked different questions about yourself, including your background and skills. Hiring managers can use these questions to understand whether you're a good fit for an open position. Understanding the questions they might ask you can help you prepare for your interview. In this article, we discuss research assistant interview questions a hiring manager might ask during an interview and then show you example questions and answers to help you prepare.

General questions

When a hiring manager asks you general interview questions, they're trying to get to know you as a professional before learning about in-depth career questions. These questions often involve information about your goals and personality, so you have some flexibility when you answer them. Remember to be yourself in your interview and answer the questions to the best of your ability. Below are examples of general interview questions:

  1. What's your favourite field of research?

  2. Where do you see yourself in one year? Five? Ten?

  3. How can this organisation best support you and your goals?

  4. Describe a challenge you overcame in a previous position.

  5. What do you see as your best strengths for this position? Weaknesses?

  6. Do you have any hobbies?

  7. Why are you pursuing a career in research?

  8. What development have you pursued in the last year?

  9. How would your best friend describe you?

  10. How would a manager or other professional describe you?

  11. Tell me something interesting about you that's not on your resume.

Related: 56 Funny Interview Questions (Plus Sample Answers)

Questions about your experience and background

Throughout your interview, a hiring manager might ask you questions to determine if you have the right education and work experiences to support you in their research assistant position. There might be questions about positions you've had before, ones about your education and others about other qualifications you write about on your resume. Below are examples of questions a hiring manager might ask you about your experience and background:

  1. How much experience do you have working with computers?

  2. When you were in school, what was your favourite research project?

  3. Can you perform data collection and data entry tasks?

  4. Are you comfortable giving presentations about the research we do?

  5. What was your role in the last research project you worked on and what was the research about?

  6. How much research experience do you have?

  7. What was your major in school and how does that support you at work?

  8. Where did you attend school?

  9. Tell me about your work experience.

  10. What was your favourite class?

  11. Have you ever worked on multiple projects at the same time in a professional setting?

In-depth questions

Many organisations and their hiring managers might ask you in-depth questions to understand your problem-solving. These questions might include hypothetical challenges you may experience, specific tasks you might do for your research position and how to access information. Questions can also be about new methodologies and how you handle research ethics. Below are examples of in-depth questions a hiring manager might ask you:

  1. Describe your process for researching topics with which you're unfamiliar.

  2. How would you handle a disagreement with a lead researcher?

  3. How would you present inconclusive research?

  4. Describe how you'd apply a new research method.

  5. How do you apply for funding for your research?

  6. Can you describe how to work on several projects simultaneously?

  7. What's your vision for this position?

  8. How do you handle conflict between you and another professional?

  9. Describe a time you made a well-informed decision that wasn't well-received.

  10. What are your short- and long-term goals for this position?

  11. What steps do you take to ensure you're following the most recent research protocols?

Related: How to Prepare For An Interview

Interview questions with sample answers

Use these common research assistant interview questions with explanations and sample answers to help you prepare for your next interview:

1. What type of research are you most interested in exploring?

Depending on the organisation, some companies, institutes or schools might have a few different areas of research ongoing. If you have a background in a certain area or if you're interested in learning more about a particular field, let the hiring manager know. If you're open to working on any project, be clear about that. The hiring manager wants to know where your skills can be most useful for the organisation.

Example: "Since I'm a recent graduate, I'm interested in working on any research project. I have experience assisting my academic advisor, but I would love to broaden both my skill set and my background knowledge by researching varied projects."

Related: What Is Primary Research vs. Secondary Research? (And Types)

2. Describe your research process.

Hiring managers want to ensure you understand how to perform appropriate, replicable research. Describe how you manage research tasks and the order in which you normally perform them to show you're ready to research immediately after you're hired.

Example: "The basic process I usually follow when researching begins with the identification of appropriate, peer-reviewed sources to help structure our work. From there, I work with the head researcher to structure any experiments and recruit any volunteers. Then, I assist as needed and direct through actual research and experimentation. Finally, I help process and write up our results for publication or presentation."

Related: Research Skills: Definition, Benefits And How to Develop

3. Are you comfortable working in a team?

Many research projects include a team of researchers and assistants. If that's the case for the organisation with which you're interviewing, the hiring manager wants to ensure you're comfortable working on a team and prepared to delegate or perform assigned work from a leader.

Example: "I feel very comfortable working as part of a team. In my last project, there were three research assistants. We all took turns performing different functions and responsibilities so that we could all gain experience and improve our research skills. I would enjoy working on that sort of team again."

4. Can you tell me about your biggest challenge while working in a research position?

A lot of researchers may experience challenges during their duties. This includes being blocked from accessing data, unorganised data sets, upholding ethical standards and conflicting information. Hiring managers might ask this question to understand how you approach challenges during your workday and especially when it's a significant challenge. As you answer this question, focus on how you overcame the challenge using your skills, knowledge and research protocols.

Example: "The biggest challenge I ever experienced while in a research position was being unable to access any of the information I was told to use. I was taking part in a time-sensitive study and the sources my lead researcher told me to use weren't publicly available, so I couldn't access them. To solve this, I let my lead researcher know I couldn't access the information and when they looked, they also couldn't. Together, we drafted an email to the organisation that had previously had the information and asked if they could send us a set, which they did."

Related: How to Use The STAR Interview Method (With Example)

5. Can you tell me about your favourite research project?

A hiring manager might ask this question to determine what type of research you enjoy doing. It can also help them learn about ways they can support you as you perform the duties of your job. When you answer this question, give the hiring manager as much information as you can about why it was your favourite. Include what you were researching, the outcome of the research, how your colleagues supported you and other information that can help them understand why you enjoyed the research project.

Example: "My favourite research project was the only one I worked on during my time with TECHSMYTH. In that research, we studied the effects of our new virtual reality and augmented reality on a population sample of people. I enjoyed the project because I could understand the immediate effects of our technology on people. This included understanding how our technology helped them and learning about the overall effects of the technology on the general population.

Ultimately, we upgraded our technology to meet a larger set of abilities based on the information from our research, including adapting it for people with colour-blindness."

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