CRA Interview Failure

I was floored. I couldn’t believe her interview failure was so extreme. She passed our competency assessment and CRA interview questions with flying colors. She was incredibly ‘buttoned up’ when interviewing with our internal team. She was also able to gracefully walk that fine line of being both personable and professional throughout her multiple interviews with us. Her tenures were excellent and her references were glowing. I was sure that she would be a perfect fit for the client. 

But no…the Sponsor was extremely unimpressed.  So what happened?  Was her CRA interview failure avoidable? Did we miss something when preparing her for a discussion about the client’s project? And a better question…was there a way to recover? 

Maybe. Let’s share some tactics you may want to use in order to recover a blunder when going through the CRA interview process.  

How to Recover During the CRA Interview Failure

The typical interview blunders we see include simple things like arriving too late or early, wearing inappropriate attire, not having your mobile phone turned off during the interview, not having completed a thorough research on the company…and talking too much.  

Holy cow…stop talking!

While we have seen hundreds of ways CRAs flunk their interviews (including one who had an extremely inappropriate piece of art hanging behind him during a video interview), the number one interview blunder we see in the interview process is that the CRA candidate is rambling. Maybe it is nervous energy. Maybe the CRA interview questions aren’t clear or was misunderstood. Maybe the answer to a particular interview question isn’t surfacing quick enough and the candidate is stalling. The root cause of the ‘ramble’ isn’t as important as the impression the babbling will make to the interviewer. 

My favorite tactic to recover from this type of  interview failure?  Tap the brakes and redirect the conversation away from you and back to the interviewer. The best way to do this is to be prepared to ask ‘ice breaker’ questions of your interviewer…not in a creepy-stalky way, but in a professional way.  

Some of my favorite recovery questions include:  

  • What do you like most about this company (or this team or this project)?
  • Why did you decide to join this company (team / project)?
  • What would you consider ‘success’ in terms of what type of outcome you want to see for this project?
  • What are some team or project accomplishments you are most proud of?

Everyone loves to talk about themselves, and by asking about the hiring manager’s hopes and desires in relation to the company or team or project, you will gain a lot of clues as it relates to what type of new team member they are looking for. What’s more, by asking your interviewer non-stalky questions about themselves, they will relax and open up to you; hopefully building a connection with you.  

Since the interviewer will tell you things that will give you a better idea of the team dynamics, you will then be able to highlight your skills and character traits that you feel will ‘fit’ what the interviewer is looking for.  And most importantly, gaining this keen insight as to what your future manager enjoys in this company or team or project, as well as his or her goals of the outcome of the study, will help you make an informed decision to accept or decline a future offer. 

Powerful Interview Closure

When you have committed an interview failure, another way to recover is to close the interview properly.  There isn’t a hiring manager alive that doesn’t want to hire people who WANT to work with the company. A proper interview closure will make it clear that you do want the position while providing an opportunity for the hiring manager to ensure any outstanding questions or concerns are addressed.  

The key to this part of the CRA interview process? When closing the interview, you want to ask for feedback. But you have to be very careful because many sources will advise you to ask if the interviewer has any ‘concerns’ or ‘has any reason to not select’ you, etc.  Don’t ask for negative feedback! Managing the closure to ensure a positive impression is left while also relaying that you want this job is the goal. 

The best way to do this is to ask for positive feedback.  Not in a non-genuine or superficial way, but in a way that will encourage the interviewer to truly assess the skills and qualities you possess that do fit while leaving the door open for the interviewer to seek clarity in other areas. The golden question is to ask the interviewer “What skills and qualities do you feel I possess that will make me a perfect fit for this opportunity?” 

Here is why this CRA interview closing question works:

  • First off, if you have committed an interview blunder and the hiring manager is concerned, it is likely he or she will bring up the details of that concern now.  The beautiful thing is you can then safely correct, clarify, or otherwise provide additional information to recover from that blunder. 
  • The other key to this question is that you are asking the interviewer to list specific ‘skills and qualities’ you possess that will make you a perfect fit for their team. I have never seen this question fail. In order for the hiring manager to answer this question, she has to visualize you in the role working side by side with her team…which is an exceptionally powerful way to end an interview. Furthermore, she will list those specific ‘skills and qualities’ you possess that resonated with her which means that a) she will ensure these outstanding characteristics are in her notes and b) those thoughts are what she leaves the interview with. 

After the hiring manager answers your question, simply close by asking for the job.  A simple ‘when can I start’ will typically suffice. 

Post CRA Interview Failure Damage Control

How do you decide if post CRA interview damage control is necessary?  While you are likely to be very hard on yourself for the interview error, the hiring manager may have a better impression of you than you think…and you certainly don’t want to damage any positive impact left on your interviewer by calling out an error post-interview unless absolutely necessary. Do you? 

While your instincts may be to plunge head first into an apology for an interview fail or blunder, first take a moment to objectively analyze the error. You will want to evaluate whether the mistake could be considered ‘make or break’ in terms of your candidacy. If not, it may make more sense to let the slip-up ride, as bringing up the error might simply draw more attention to the mistake.

Apology vs Clarification?

Ask yourself this:  Would a recovery sound more like an apology rather than providing new information? If so, you may want to abstain from calling the error out.  

With that being said, if you can recover by simply sharing additional information or clarifying the information already provided, post CRA interview damage control should be performed…but do it carefully.  

The most graceful way to recover from a CRA interview blunder is to provide a short comment in your thank you note. I am not talking about an apology…but a clarification. Since thank you notes typically start with showing gratitude for your interviewer’s time and interest, you would then simply transition the note into additional information that will reinforce your strength as a candidate.  An example: “Since we were talking about my Phase I Oncology experience, I should also mention…”

Utilize your References

Another terrific option is to leverage your references.  Assuming your interviewer will progress to checking your references (and assuming you provided references during or right after your interview), speak to your references about the blunder. Then encourage them to call out the specific skills and qualities you now know your interviewer is looking for.  For example, if your interviewer asked details about your Phase I Oncology experience, alert your references that this is a hot button, asking them to emphasize your involvement and strengths in this space when they speak to the hiring manager. 

Post Interview Supplement

A third recovery method would be to provide a “post interview supplement” beyond the thank you note which shows you have visualized being in the role. For example, provide a presentation that shows what you hope to accomplish in the first 30 days of the job, the first 60 days…etc.  Going above and beyond will impress the interviewer and while the failure still happened, it is likely you will at least win a second interview. 

How do you learn from the CRA Interview Fail? 

Identify the root cause of your mistake.

Were you prepared?

The first question to ask yourself is if you were prepared.  CRA candidates often underestimate the value of researching the company prior to an interview.  What is their primary product? The company’s mission? Why do you want to work there?  

Additionally, did you ask for a list of people who would be in attendance during the interview? Being able to conduct the research needed to understand the interviewers’ roles in the company is extremely helpful in preparation as you can therefore anticipate some of the CRA interview questions and answers for your upcoming discussion. For example, if one of the interviewers is a CRA Manager, their CRA interview questions will be much different than the HR representative’s questions.  

Were you provided an idea of how long the interview would be? Will you be expected to give a presentation or take an assessment?  Understanding the type of interview as well as the estimated time scheduled will give you some insight as to how detailed the interview will be. 

Perhaps you were overly nervous? Sometimes, even though you prepared and had a good night’s sleep, the interview can still be nerve-wracking and if you are overly nervous, you may appear under-prepared or underqualified. Alternatively, if you overcompensate due to your nerves, you can come across as arrogant. Therefore, if you are someone who experiences nerves when it comes to interviewing, practice (and practice and practice). Using a friend or family member, have them ‘interview’ you with the CRA interview questions and answers you have anticipated and prepared for. As well as the typical CRA interview competency questions, consider these questions too:

  • Why do I want this position?
  • How does this position align with my goals?
  • How will my experience relate to this position? 
  • What value will I add to the company?    

Did you want the job to begin with?

And the last root cause to consider: Did you really want the job to begin with? I get it…you have sent out what seems to be a hundred resumes because you need a new job or position. After all, those mortgages don’t pay themselves. But don’t let your needs direct you; instead, set clear goals so you can create a plan to reach those goals.  We can help with this as well as help coach you through the entire CRA interview process. Feel free to contact us anytime!