Interview Questions For Research Assistants

Who are the research assistants?

Research assistants are employed by research institutes to assist with academic or private research. They are individuals who provide the service of assistance to research institutes, universities for academic research, or at times private research as well. Research assistants are often employed on a temporary basis, although permanent positions exist as well. Let us discuss, Interview Questions For Research Assistants.

Interview Questions For Research Assistants

The primary duty of a research assistant is to assist a research team/fellow and support the concerned by collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data. Research assistants often function under the supervision of research fellows. The research scholars like professors and scientists conduct numerous research projects at colleges, universities. Scholars are often in need of help while completing a huge amount of research involved in the studies. That’s where the role of research assistants comes in. They are highly needed by scholars to carry out most of the data gathering, experimentation in the research studies. Also on the other hand it becomes highly profitable on the knowledge side for research assistants as they get to work under experienced scholars, thereby they get to learn the work, perform experiments, and collect essential data to study. This way research assistants can go on to become professors and research scholars themselves. 

Such roles are taken by postgraduate students and the ones completing their Ph.D., hence research assistants can fetch income alongside preparing for an academic career. 


Becoming a research assistant is one of the beginner steps for a great career in academia and applied research. You will be able to learn and experience a lot of aspects of research life. You will develop skills that include data analysis, communication, and problem-solving. 

You can learn and earn at the same time. You will get an amazing opportunity to include yourself in publishing papers. Also, it gets way better when you have made a significant contribution to the research study, you get the chance to become an author, also at times the first author, if you’ve led the research, write up, and manuscript.

Research Areas

There are a lot of research areas. But overall it can be classified into five categories :

Arts & Humanities 

Under arts and humanities, we cover research areas relating to architecture, art, Asian studies, art forms like dance, music, theater, classics, film, radio, television, history, philosophy, literature, religion, and many others.

Life Sciences & Biomedicine

Under life sciences, we cover research areas relating to agriculture, allergy, anatomy, morphology, anthropology, anesthesiology, audiology, speech pathology, behavioral sciences, biochemistry, molecular biology, biodiversity, conservation, biophysics, biotechnology, applied microbiology, cell biology, cardiology, critical care medicine, pediatrics, physiology, zoology, toxicology and many.

Physical sciences

Under physical sciences, we cover research areas relating to astronomy and astrophysics, chemistry, crystallography, electrochemistry, geophysics, geochemistry, geology, mathematics, meteorology, atmospheric sciences, mineralogy, oceanography, optics, mining, mineral processing, physics, physical geography, thermodynamics, water resources, and many others.

Social sciences

Under social sciences, we cover research areas relating to archaeology, area studies, biomedical social sciences, business, economics, communication, criminology, cultural studies, demography, development studies, educational research, ethnic and family studies, geography, government and law, women’s studies, international relations, linguistics, psychology, public administration, social work, sociology, urban studies, and many others. 


Under technology, we cover research areas relating to acoustics, automation and control systems, computer science, energy & fuels, engineering, construction, photographic technology, information and library science, instrumentation, mechanics, material science, metallurgy, microscopy, Nuclear science, management science, operations research, remote sensing, robotics, telecommunication, and many others.

Market research

There is another area of research quite gaining traction in the area of research which is market research. Market research is done to gather information on certain services and products coming into the market to determine their viability for potential customers.

A crucial component of a business plan that can help a company to understand its target customers. Also in demonstrating ways to reach out to its ideal customers. 

Like any other researcher, it is also carried out with primary research ( focus groups, interviews, research groups, surveys), secondary research(journals, research papers, and many).

Market research is important as it helps a company to understand if its product, service is going to survive the competition in the market, as well as test its feasibility. The research also helps companies identify new sectors, it also aids in various campaigns for the promotion of the product, services by providing ideas, also the best thing is the market research assesses the current market trends which further helps companies to develop strategies. 

The areas of market research involve research on products, sales methods, policies, advertising, pricing, distribution, business environment, corporate responsibility, and many.

Key skills of a research assistant

Every job position requires a certain set of skills. These include:

Leadership: a research assistant must be able to tackle every layer present in the research project smoothly. Assistants should be well-coordinated with every task and be proactive in handling and informing the supervisor about every change or update.

Communication: It is a key skill also a crucial component in any research. With proper communication, the research process, along with results may turn out to be invalid and invaluable somehow. Be it primary or secondary research, assistants should be adept in communicating with the samples or at the time the concerned people to carry out successful research, which brings us to the third crucial skill which is 

Attention to detail: Research assistants should be able to identify the nuances going on in the research process, as they are the first ones to tackle a plan of action. Which compels them to be attentive, proactive individuals at the same time.

Time management: A research project takes a lot of time, at times even years to complete. The longevity also depends on how the various tasks of the research are being carried out, which is where time management comes. Research assistants should be very diligent with the picture of a plan of action discussed with the supervisors. Time management will go a long way in developing the other skills of a research assistant as an individual.

Besides, there comes other skills as well which involve critical thinking, technical skills( IT skills), data collection, data analysis, planning and scheduling, and holding interviews.

Duties of research assistants 

The duties of a research assistant can vary. In the initial days, assistants are required to seek funding opportunities or grants, as without proper funding research projects cannot be undertaken. Research assistants are asked to develop a proposal to seek funds, and

For planning the tasks 
  • Research assistants are also expected to plan out 
  • research projects, coordinate and prepare
  • surveys, and schedule 
  • interviews, identify statistical and analysis techniques thereby using graphs, charts, tables to highlight the key findings. Research assistants are also required to collect, analyze and interpret the data.
  • In the end, they are required to give out a summary of the findings, that will help produce reports/articles. Which will be later given to agencies or parties for funding purposes.
The core duties are: 
  • Preparing a proposal for grants
  • Doing a review of literature and publishing reports 
  • Collecting data, assisting in lab work, preparation of samples
  • Doing a thorough analysis of data, statistical reading and graphically presenting the data
  • Assist the recruitment, and performing interview
  • Then taking notes of meetings, interviews, and others
  • Research assistants are expected to handle project meetings, along with occasional seminars. They also have to handle the external conferences often that are always on the agenda. 

Thereafter they are supposed to stay prepared with posters, presentations, reports related to the concerned research projects. At times, they also have to teach the undergraduates various research methods. Research assistants also have to 

  • review other’s reports
  • present findings on behalf of the research team 
  • carry our financial management of research projects
  • manage or deal with numerous collaborations with funding agencies
  • handle the management of project correspondence and the website
  • follow protocols for research development
  • stay updated with new tools and methods that are being evaluated and developed.

There are various day-to-day responsibilities that will be to the position of the research assistant.

Average salary and demand of research assistants

The average base salary of a research assistant is $17.21 per hour in the United States. If you’ve experience of less than a year then it is $16.56 and $25.52 if you have more than 10 years of experience.

Some of the top recruiters for a research assistant in the United States are:

  • North Carolina State University which pays $35.00 per hour followed by 
  • S&P Global which pays $34.55 per hour
  • ORAU/ORISE paying $26.60 per hour. 

The average salary of an individual working as a Research Assistant will be around 62,700 USD per year in the United States. Salaries vary based on experience, skills, and location. Salaries range from as low as $33,900 to $94,700 being the highest.

Due to the ample opportunities available in the market, research assistants’ salaries are varied. The starting salary goes from around £20,000 to £25,000 in the UK. The employees that recruit research assistants are universities, charities, trusts, private research companies, public/government councils.

Such positions ask for a good undergraduate and postgraduate degree in a relevant subject. Some even require you to be enrolled in a Ph.D. program. One must have a thorough understanding of the subject area, must be able to show research skills like data collection, analysis, and others.

Interview questions for research assistants

A typical day of a research assistant involves basic admin tasks that include record keeping, account management. Also, research assistants are expected to update the lead researcher in the progress of the research project, supporting them in their day-to-day tasks.

Research assistants are asked to coordinate with the team members involved in a research project, checking the track of the progress. They are also vested with the duties of planning, scheduling, organizing interviews and meetings. Mostly everyone operates from a laboratory or office, occasionally there occurs fieldwork as well.

Once you’ve entered the interview stage make sure 

  • You are aware of the current happenings in your field of research. If there are any current gaps or its direction for the future
  • You may have to talk about your interest in the research field, your career path/growth, why this job is fit for you, how you are a suitable candidate?

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How does this position align with your career goals?
  2. Any previous experience you want to share?
  3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  4. What are your skills for the job position?
  5. Any skills beyond research? ( Like proficient in any foreign language, any hobbies you are currently involved with)
  6. What was your thesis based upon, what did it involve?

Probable research assistant interview questions: 

  1. Anything innovative about your research?
  2. Any person in your life who has inspired you the most?
  3. What are the most important issues in your research area?
  4. Give us a two-minute overview of your research.
  5. Any experience in attracting funds for the projects?
  6. How do you plan to bring significant amounts for funding?
  7. Why makes you the perfect fit for this position?
  8. How do you plan to do your research project, if hired?
  9. If you have performed any committee work, what are the challenges you have faced?
  10. Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
  11. What skills do you wish to improve?
  12. Are you comfortable doing data entry work? 
  13. Any interesting research projects of yours?
  14. Are you familiar with presentations? Have you done it yourself before?
  15. What was the role in your last research project? How was your experience?

Some extensive questions

  1. How do you handle multitasking?
  2. What are the sources of your information for research?
  3. How did you present the findings of your last project?
  4. How do you tackle disagreements with your colleagues in the research process?
  5. How will you apply for a new research method for the first time?
  6. What do you know about research ethics? How will you handle it if they are tested? 
  7. What do you do to minimize the errors in your work?
  8. How to handle task distribution in a team?
  9. How do you handle a conflict with the lead researcher in a team?
  10. How do you handle failed experiments?
  11. Why do you want to work with us?
  12. What’s a typical day of work for a research assistant?
  13. Who’s an ideal boss/colleague according to you?
  14. How well equipped are you with software applications needed for research?
  15. How do you stay motivated with work that is repeated over and over again, sometimes for months or sometimes for years as well?
  16. What expectations are you keeping for your salary?
  17. Describe quality and integrity according to you?
  18. Which was the most important scientific discovery made in the research field, according to you?
  19. Do you have any questions? How did you find this interview?
  20. What are your accomplishments in the research field?
  21. Which is the best research work according to you? How did it change the way people approach the field?
  22. List your most important publications?
  23. Do you have any upcoming papers?
  24. Are there any issues in your research area?
  25. Do you have any competitors? How do you keep up with them?
  26. How do you keep up with the contemporary trends that are going on in the research field? How do you manage for funding purposes?
  27. If there is any gap between the research and the research users, how will manage to bridge them?
  28. Your research firm aims to serve the community, economy for the greater good. Does your research area have the potential to serve these areas?
  29. Why is your research project worth a look at? Explain in a very simple way or in layman’s terms.
  30. Any productive period in your career? Why was it productive?
  31. Where have you applied for funds earlier? If not, where do you plan to?
  32. How will you convince the funding body? 
  33. If you’re currently involved in a research project, who funded the project? What made them interested in your proposal?
  34. Your major goal as an independent researcher?
  35. How will you deal with limited resources compared to what you need for the research project?
  36. How will you manage time and tasks if you’ve multiple research projects going on?
  37. What can you give to our firm?
  38. What more can your research offer for multi-disciplinary work, in case our firm wants to collaborate between various departments?
  39. How are you thinking of contributing to this department other than research and teaching?
  40. How have your administrative skills improved with the quality of work that you display?
  41. What are the methods you practice to manage your workflow capacity?
  1. What makes you interested in this position?
  2. Tell me something about yourself?
  3. Share any adversity you faced and the steps showing how you tackle it?
  4. How sound are you in technical skills?

All in, the job of a research assistant involves lots of learning as it covers diverse topics, be it market research, academic research, applied research, and many others. Almost any small topic on the earth can be taken for a research project. Also, at times the topics pop up in the most unusual way possible. While having coffee with your colleagues, sometimes at lunch, at outings, parties. Research is beautiful. So, is the job of a research assistant. It involves a lot of skills and helps an individual to undergo development in the best way.

Interview Questions For Research Assistants

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