research interview questions for students

Sample Interview Questions for Research
  • What is innovative about your research?
  • How is your work distinct from your supervisor’s/principal investigator’s? …
  • What influences have you been exposed to? …
  • Who has influenced you the most?
  • What has been your role so far in developing research ideas and carrying them forward?

Most interviewers will set aside time specifically for you to ask questions. Asking good questions reinforces your interest to the interviewer and provides useful information in your evaluation of the employer. Come to the interview prepared with more questions than you will actually ask. Here is a list of questions you might use:

It is common for these questions to arise in social situations with well-meaning (but ignorant) interviewers. For example, during a site visit lunch, an interviewr might mention something about their children, then inquire if you also have children. When responding to such questions, assess the situation and do your best to understand the concern or reason for the question. You may determine that you are comfortable answering the question. Other times, you may want to deflect the inquiry. In general, avoid responding with a combative tone. It is your choice whether you wish to volunteer information that would be illegal for interviewers to ask.

Ask relevant questions for a successful interview

Each semester, when you select your classes, you apply a methodical approach. You no doubt consider several factors such as: what will satisfy major requirements, help you prepare for the MCAT or GRE, add weight to your transcript, and, of course, what sounds the most interesting. Essentially, you don’t play “registration roulette” and find yourself in advanced string theory when you really need a cell biology course.

Yet, when it comes to an undergrad research interview, most students don’t know that they need a solid strategy for asking questions that will allow them to evaluate the position. Instead, many approach interviews with a single goal in mind: get an offer to join the lab. Although this is a good goal keep in mind, it should not be an your sole objective in a research interview.

To make the most of your interview for an undergrad research position, you need to ask the right questions to determine if the project, training opportunities, and lab is right for you. That might sound easy (and obvious), but if you haven’t held a research position how do you know what questions will give you the most meaningful information? Many interviews are short and therefore do not provide the luxury of time for a student to ask everything that comes to mind, so you want to avoid asking low-value questions.

Take for example commonly asked questions such as, “What equipment does your lab have?” or “How many graduate students are in the lab?” Answers to those questions will definitely give specific information about the laboratory, but—and here is the key—what will you do with that information? How will you use it to evaluate the position, or to decide between two research positions?

First consider the question about lab equipment. If the interviewer rattles off a list, chances are you won’t know what most of the equipment is, or what is needed for the available research project. In this case, asking the question wouldn’t be helpful. However, if you have an independent research project in mind, and you know you’ll need specific equipment, then asking would be essential.

As for personnel, it’s nice to learn how many people are in the lab, and in what positions, but it’s only information—not a meaningful metric to evaluate an undergrad research position. For example, if an interviewer says, “Zero undergrads, three postdocs and two grad students,” or “Two professional researchers, two undergrads, and four grad students,” how will you compare the two labs? How will you evaluate which is the better choice for you? Is it better to be in a lab with several postdocs and be the only undergrad student? Would you receive extra mentoring, or would the postdocs devalue your contributions because you’re “only” an undergrad?

Or is it better to be in a lab with several grad students and but no professional researchers? Does that indicate a professor who places a higher value on mentoring students over training professional researchers? What about labs that are all-undergrad? What if the PI mentors only a few students at a time or has more than ten? How do use you that to determine if the PI embraces mentoring or using undergrads as “free labor.”

And finally, what if a professor is just establishing her lab and you would be the first member? Would you have the opportunity to help set up a lab and receive significant personal instruction, or would it prevent you from getting much research done because you’ll be busy putting items in cabinets and on shelves?

By asking about personnel in an interview, you’ll learn who is in the lab and in what positions and that is indeed good information to have. However, without actually working in the lab you can’t know how the other lab members work together, and how that will affect your research experience. Any opinion you receive from someone about how to evaluate a lab based solely on its personnel will be influenced by their research experiences and their personal research baggage, and won’t necessarily reflect the realities of the lab you interview with.

This doesnt mean that you shouldnt ask about who else in in the lab–but simply keep in mind that it will only be some of the information you need to evaluate if its the right lab for you.

Ask questions that will give meaningful answers

There are far better questions that will give you insight on the position and the research mentor’s expectations. The answers of which you can use to carefully consider the opportunity.

Your pre-interview strategy is this: imagine the first thing the interviewer will say to you is, “What questions do you have for me?” before she has explained anything about with the project, or mentioned her expectations. This will help you determine what you need to ask at every interview, and prepare a list of questions ahead of time. Not only will you have a more professional interview (students who come with a list of relevant questions appear to be more invested in a research opportunity than those who don’t), but you’ll also have more confidence at the start.

FAQ

What are the questions asked in interview for students?

Several general questions include:
  • Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • What interests you about this job?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What do you consider your weaknesses?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Can you describe your ideal work environment?

What are the 10 most common interview questions and answers students?

Top 10 Interview Questions and Best Answers
  • Tell Me About Yourself. …
  • Why Are You the Best Person for the Job? …
  • Why Do You Want This Job? …
  • How Has Your Experience Prepared You for This Role? …
  • Why Are You Leaving (or Have Left) Your Job? …
  • What Is Your Greatest Strength? …
  • What Is Your Greatest Weakness?

How do you prepare for a research interview?

Preparing for a research interview
  1. Before the interview. …
  2. Prepare the questions with care. …
  3. Start with the easy ones. …
  4. Remember that the time is a limited resource. …
  5. Talk about what you are doing and why. …
  6. Prepare for surprires. …
  7. Make sure your equipment works. …
  8. Learn your interview script by heart.

What are research questions and interview questions?

Interview and survey questions are the detailed questions you will ask participants in your study; whereas the RQs reflect the high-level purpose of the study. The research question can cover several concepts and aspects of the purpose that can then be hashed out in an interview, focus group, or survey.

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