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Advice on Lab Manager/RA interviews

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Hi GradCafe community, 

I've been applying for full-time lab manager/RA/Research Coord. positions in order to gain more research experience after college and strengthen my apps for PhD graduate programs. I'm having a couple of interviews coming up. I did a quick search for this topic on GradCafe, but could only find 1 thread regarding questions that should be asked to the interviewer. I thought I'd start a new thread on questions that an applicant might be asked. In case it helps, my background is a bachelor's in psych and I'm interested in PhD programs in social/cognitive psych. Specifically, I have the following questions:

1. What are some challenging questions that I can expect to come up in an interview for these positions?

     a) For those who have gone through the process of applying, what would you suggest is a good way to handle these challenging questions?

     b) For those who have experience hiring candidates for these positions, what sort of answers were you looking for? What should the answers highlight/include?

2. For positions with multiple-round interviews:
     a) What is one possible reason for having more than one round of interviews? 

     b) What might be some differences in terms of questions between the first and subsequent rounds of interviews? 

     c) Any advice on how to stand out or make a good first impression in the first round to facilitate progression into the second round would be appreciated! Thank you!

If you have info or advice on any other aspects that I haven't covered, please don't hesitate to share. Thank you so much! 



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I am currently applying, and can answer 2A--the first interview may be with the current lab manager or post doc, while the final would be with the actual professor. The difference also is in content--the first is more about management/organizational skills, while the 2nd interview is more about your research interests

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I've had 2 RA positions, position 1 was through applying to places, and position 2 I got through networking. From position 1, I had 3 interviews - a phone interview, in-person interview, and HR interview. Phone interviews are usually used to narrow down the pool of applicants, in-person to determine a single applicant (usually) and the HR interview was a formality. For position 2 I had one in-person interview and that was it. The questions were not too different in the phone and in-person interview, but in-person you get to really ask more about specifics since you'll be in the environment you could potentially be working in. 

Hardest questions I've gotten is "If your job is great, why would you want to leave your current position?" and "Why are you interested in this job if your career goals are in a different field?" Sometimes it is hard to spin these kinds of questions, but be prepared for them and always have a positive response.

The advice I would give is to be enthusiastic and engaged, smile, and demonstrate your curiosity and scientific thinking by asking thoughtful questions about their research. It would also help to at least skim some abstracts before the interview. Hope this helps!

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