15 Great Clinical Research Coordinator Interview Questions

When deciding on Clinical Research Coordinator (CRC) interview questions, research sites need to think about how the role is changing. Gone are the days when a Clinical Research Coordinator (CRC) only needed to fill out paper forms and meet with patients. 

CRCs today need to:

  • Manage multiple technology systems
  • Have a strong grasp of recruitment
  • Know diversity, equity, and inclusion best practices
  • Build a strong rapport with patients while explaining technology and complex studies to them

As the requirements for a CRC become more and more complex, it also gets harder to find enough Clinical Research Coordinators. At the Research Revolution conference in November 2022, multiple sites mentioned struggling with staffing shortages. Some sites are also seeing turnover rates as high as 50%

At the Research Revolution session “Career Planning in Clinical Research,” Susan Landis of ACRP, Kimberly Jenkins of Cleveland Clinic, and Lauren Ballina Chang of Clinical Research Fastrack discussed how research sites can overcome staffing shortages by becoming more flexible when they look for CRCs. 

Instead of relying on old standards like “two years of experience”, sites can use the interview process to discover great, non-traditional CRC candidates who can fill open positions. 

Here’s a list of Clinical Research Coordinator interview questions that can help sites find qualified candidates for the modern role of a CRC.

Industry Knowledge Questions

Industry knowledge is important for a good Clinical Research Coordinator. But the Research Revolution speakers emphasized that there are different ways to gain that knowledge, such as through online training programs.

1. Describe your previous experience coordinating clinical research studies.

This Clinical Research Coordinator interview question should be used with experienced CRCs. This is a great chance for them to describe both their strengths as a CRC and some of the most exciting studies they’ve worked on. However, for CRCs who are new to the industry, you can use some of the questions below instead.

2. Can you explain why clinical trials are important? 

This question gives Clinical Research Coordinators the opportunity to share what they know about clinical trials:

  • How trials test the safety and efficacy of new treatments
  • Why trials help treatments receive approval from regulatory agencies like the FDA
  • The guidelines they use to protect participants

3. Why do you want to work in clinical research? 

Ask this question to give the candidate a chance to share their personal story. Maybe they want to work on oncology trials because they lost a loved one to cancer. Or maybe they’re passionate about finding new treatments for rare diseases. 

A candidate who cares deeply about the work they’re doing will be less likely to succumb to turnover and will be more motivated to become a highly skilled Clinical Research Coordinator.

4. What are the most important qualities of a Clinical Research Coordinator? 

The candidate can use this question to show their knowledge of a Clinical Research Coordinator’s job and to describe the qualities they have. 

If they think the ability to communicate clearly is most important, they might describe their experience communicating with patients or customers. Or maybe they’ll discuss the importance of attention to detail and (hopefully!) describe how they have that quality.

5. How would you ensure a study remains compliant with clinical trial regulations? 

If the candidate has experience in clinical research, they can use this question to describe past studies they worked on and how they ensured compliance with regulations like FDA 21 CFR Part 11 and EU Annex 11

But even if the candidate has never worked in clinical trials, they can use this chance to show their knowledge of Part 11, Annex 11, FDA regulations, the EU Clinical Trials Regulation, or global standards like ICH GCP.

6. How do you keep up-to-date with clinical trial best practices?

This Clinical Research Coordinator interview question can have a variety of answers. Some coordinators might receive on-site training as part of their job. Many CRCs or future CRCs also seek out training through an organization like ACRP or Clinical Research Fastrack

Clinical trial technology companies have even begun offering clinical research training, Florence being one of them! Our courses include Fundamentals of Digital Research and Fundamentals of Change Management.

All these different forms of education can help CRC candidates learn about best practices and changes in the industry. A candidate who is constantly willing to learn can embrace new technology, DEI initiatives, DCTs, and clinical research trends that haven’t even arisen yet.

7. Describe your experience using healthcare software.

Some CRCs may have experience with clinical trial software, like an electronic Investigator Site File (eISF), electronic Trial Master File (eTMF), ePRO, eCOA, or eConsent. Others may have experience with general healthcare software, like an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) or Electronic Health Record (EHR.)

Familiarity with any of these systems is helpful at research sites that increasingly rely on technology. However, don’t count out candidates who haven’t used a specific piece of software before. Many candidates are quick learners and can gain comfort with technology through training.

8. Tell us about a time you had to meet a tight deadline or juggle multiple priorities. How did you manage it? 

A CRC will always have multiple responsibilities on their plate–completing regulatory documents, seeking out signatures, working with participants, and inputting data. Knowing how to prioritize (and de-prioritize) without missing critical deadlines is an important skill for any CRC, and one a candidate could have learned in a variety of workplaces.

Questions About Clinical Trial Participants

Clinical Research Coordinators can benefit from knowledge about industry regulations and technology. But in many organizations, a CRC is also expected to consent patients or explain trials to them. 

Here are a few Clinical Research Coordinator interview questions that specifically address making trials patient-centric:

1. What is your experience working with patients?

Job candidates may have a variety of answers to this question. One could have worked with clinical trial participants extensively, while another may have worked with patients, and still another might have general customer service experience. 

Lauren Ballina Chang of Clinical Research Fastrack encourages interviewers to remember that candidates from non-traditional backgrounds may not have worked in clinical research, but they could still have a great understanding of how to work with people.

2. How would you help a participant understand the trial protocols, risks, and benefits? 

This question tests whether a candidate can pick up on trial protocol, understand medical terminology, and clearly explain all of that information to patients. 

Potential Clinical Research Coordinators also need to understand how important it is to give patients information about the risks and their rights, without taking the risk of unblinding them. A good CRC can calmly explain information to participants and take the time to answer their questions.

3. What would you do if a participant wanted to withdraw from the study? 

A good CRC candidate will understand that the patient can withdraw from the study and discontinue treatment at any time. They’ll follow the site standards for how to remove the patient from the study and inform the other staff and PI. 

An especially proactive CRC might even offer to help with recruiting more patients to make up the difference if the study is still accepting participants at that stage.

4. How would you handle a difficult patient or a patient who has concerns? 

Every CRC will encounter a patient who’s having trouble following protocols or who has concerns about the trial. Sometimes a participant will need to drop out, but sometimes they just need the Clinical Research Coordinator to listen to their concerns and respond to them. 

This is the CRC candidate’s chance to show that they can be patient, understanding, and knowledgeable when patients have questions to keep them engaged and, hopefully, retain them.

DEI Questions

Clinical Research Coordinators have a critical role to play in diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. A Tufts study found that sites with higher racial and ethnic diversity among staff members saw greater diversity in their patient population. CRCs also have the power to help diverse patients feel safe, included, and welcome at the site.

Here are a few Clinical Research Coordinator interview questions to help you find CRCs who are knowledgeable about DEI:

1. What strategies would you use to improve the diversity of our patient population? 

For this question, hopefully candidates will focus not just on recruiting diverse patients once a trial begins but also on raising awareness of trials in local communities. Helping patients know that clinical trials are a treatment option and what the risk and benefits are can help build trust and bring them into trials.

It’s also important for CRCs to ask patients if they want to join a trial, without presupposing that they wouldn’t based on ingrained assumptions or biases. CRCs who are aware of the risk of bias may be better equipped to avoid it.

2. How would you ensure diverse patients feel included and safe? 

Recruiting diverse patients for trials is only one element of DEI: making them feel included and safe is also critically important. Patients deserve the right to offer feedback on clinical trials before the trial begins. 

Clinical Research Coordinators should also go through or be willing to go through DEI training so they can understand their own unconscious biases. They should also be open to training on how to treat people of all races, ethnicities, ages, disability statuses, sexualities, and gender identities with respect. This is both the right thing to do and a regulatory requirement in many countries, including the U.S.

3. How has diversity been important to your work life?

This Clinical Research Coordinator interview question gives the candidate a chance to share why they’re passionate about DEI and how they believe diverse staff can improve the workplace. A deep understanding of why diversity, equity, and inclusion are critical can improve the experience not only of patients but of all the other staff at your site.

Clinical Research Coordinator Interview Questions to Consider

As the “Career Planning in Clinical Research” session at Research Revolution emphasized, traditional requirements for Clinical Research Coordinators won’t work anymore. There aren’t enough Clinical Research Coordinators to fulfill every role that requires two years of experience. And even experienced candidates may not have in-depth knowledge about decentralized technology, DEI best practices, and new strategies for serving patients. 

It’s time to consider CRCs who are new to the profession and to ask questions about working with patients, tech, and DEI, not just about past experience.

These Clinical Research Coordinator interview questions will help you get started. And if you’d like to learn more about how to prevent staff turnover and burnout, check out the article, “Combating Burnout in Clinical Research.