What level interview was this?

Discuss what to expect in job and course interviews, what topics might be covered, how to manage anxiety, and how to get the desired result!
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What level interview was this?

Post by strawbz » Wed Feb 10, 2016 3:18 pm

Hi all,

I just had an RA interview that would have involved me working on a project conducting systematic reviews. I found myself unable to answer a large number of questions, some were OK but some I just had no clue! I just wanted some feedback as to whether the questions were at undergraduate/masters level or higher. I am wondering whether this interview had perhaps set the bar higher than what the level of candidates at undergraduate/masters level would be taught to or if I need to go away and do a lot of training and reading!

I was asked about my understanding and to explain in details about:

-Risk ratios and odds ratios
-The problems associated with finding a significant effect when your sample size is very small and how to overcome this
- How to find out whether you should trust a significant result found even with a large sample size
-Confidence intervals
- Confounders
- Moderators and mediators
- Effect size
-Quality assessments
-Problems with observational studies

There's probably more but I have forgot!

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Re: What level interview was this?

Post by MarkM » Wed Feb 10, 2016 4:01 pm

Hmm. I think some things go further than undergraduate but most of these are should be covered during a psychology undergraduate degree. My degree covered moderators and mediators, confounders, generaliseability and sample sizes (and critiques of small/large samples). We did a small observational study ourselves and critiqued it, too (fun!). Effect sizes and confidence intervals were touched upon briefly, I think. We didn't do anything on quality assessments, risk/odds ratios, though.

Anyway, they probably aren't expecting everyone to know everything about all of the concepts. I'd imagine that they are more interested in your critical thinking processes. Particularly in terms of sample sizes and so on. Anyway, I'd say for many research positions an understanding of many of these concepts would be required...

For interviews like that I'd recommend reading examples of what you would have been working on (e.g. some systematic reviews) and looking into it. If you discover any gaps in your knowledge, you could then do focused extra reading around those issues that are new to you to help with your preparation.

Good luck!
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Re: What level interview was this?

Post by Randomswirls » Wed Feb 10, 2016 10:04 pm

Having been reading up for selection tests there are some of those i don't recognise but an awful lot that I do. That said if I wasn't reading up for selection tests I would be totally clueless having forgotten my undergrad stuff!

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Re: What level interview was this?

Post by miriam » Wed Feb 10, 2016 10:52 pm

If it is a research post, conducting systematic reviews, those don't seem to be unreasonable things to ask about. You'd need to ask that kind of stuff to differentiate candidates levels of research knowledge.

I'd expect a psychology graduate to have an understanding of the power relationship between effect size, sample size and significance, and how to judge whether the results were meaningful in reality and could be generalised. Likewise the pros and cons of different research designs, and the questions to which they would be applicable. Risk ratios and odds ratios are particularly relevant to systematic reviews, I think, so I don't generally ask about them.

But, that said, you are not alone in not knowing it all. I've found at least half of psychology graduates I interview to have a pretty poor understanding of research and statistics, even when faced with simpler and more applied questions. It's a great shame, as the unique position of a CP is that we have both clinical/applied and academic/research knowledge. It's one of the things I love most about the profession, and would most want to cultivate in others.

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Re: What level interview was this?

Post by sarahg » Wed Feb 10, 2016 11:47 pm

Having completed Psychology UG, a research masters, and now teaching UG stats/rm and doing a PhD - I would not expect any of my undergraduates to confidently answer most of those questions based on UG Psychology degree content. I personally obtained the majority of that information during my masters (some in UG, but I chose to complete an additional statistics module).

Depending on the answer they are looking for, I disagree a little with Miriam - the relationship between effect size, sample size and significance can be quite complicated, and depends on many many factors, including the statistical test of choice, and the estimator, to name a few.

Whilst RA posts were historically aimed at those who had complicated UG's, they are now often filled by those with PhD's or masters. Therefore this may explain why some of the questions you were asked were targeted at those with a higher level of education (or those interested in statistics generally). Please do not be put off, the fact you got an interview is fantastic, and I am sure you did great!

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