Academic Research Fellow Interview Questions

Answer the question asked, but look for opportunities to say something which might lead to interesting conversation which brings out the points you’d like to make in your interview. Establish a context right from the first answer you give. Subsequent questions may well come from something you’ve already said… Remember, this is chess.

Don’t just give a lot of curt answers which require follow-up questions: verbal ping-pong is tiring and not very interesting. While keeping it brief, give examples or elaborate a little—you want this to be a conversation—but don’t let them wonder why you’re going off on what may seem like a tangent. Be clear about how things relate to one another, and remember that what’s obvious to you may not be to others.

Show you’re interested in what the other person has to say. One way to do this is to take cues from the other person’s posture, tone, pace. If they’re relaxed, you shouldn’t be too rigidly at attention. If they speak slowly, don’t give them machine-gun speech; if they speak swiftly, keep up. If they smile, smile back; if they’re serious, be serious back. “People like people who are like them…”

Take account of circumstances, don’t go in with a prepared act or script—see what the tone of the interview is like, and listen to what you are asked. Don’t answer the question you wish you’d been asked, the question you think you heard, or anything other than the question you were asked.

Don’t say “no”—it’s a missed opportunity and may make a bad impression. Don’t ask a question if you don’t care about the answer. (Or simply because someone else said it would be a good idea. It’s another conversation you don’t want to have.) Don’t ask a question that shows you haven’t done your homework. (Could you have gotten the information from their website had you bothered to look?) Try to get them to talk about everyone’s favorite subjects—themselves, their interests, their experiences. While you may not get this kind of question much in a fellowship interview, this is exactly the sort of situation which arises during the social parts of some interview processes…

How did you hear about this postdoc position?

Are you ready to apply to a posdoc job offer?

About your ability to gain funding

  • What experience do you have of attracting funding?
  • Previously, you have only brought in small amounts of funding: how can you convince us you will be able to bring in larger amounts?
  • Where will you apply for grants? If your funding applications are unsuccessful, what alternatives do you have in mind? (looking for knowledge of the funding infrastructure)
  • How would you convince a funding body that they should fund your research rather than one of the other hundreds of proposals they receive?
  • Who are you currently funded by, and why do you think they were interested in funding your project?
  • What will be your major focus as an independent researcher?
  • In one sentence, what is the most important question you want to address?
  • How does the work you propose follow on from what you are already doing?
  • What will you focus on and what gives you a competitive edge in this area?
  • What is the overall importance of this project? How do you see this work impacting the field?
  • What will you do if your hypothesis is proved wrong? Can you see any of your research proposal failing?
  • Why is the technique you have chosen more likely to succeed than other approaches?
  • Have you already done anything to test the feasibility of your project?
  • If you could only do one aspect of this project, which one do you think is key?
  • If we gave you unlimited resources, what would you do with them?
  • If we gave you X amount of money, what would you do with it?
  • What resources will you need?
  • How would you deal with the more limited resources or facilities compared to what you anticipate for the project?
  • How do you plan to manage this project on a day-to-day level?
  • Mock interview for a Clinical Research Training Fellowship

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