RAND Interview Questions & Reviews
Getting an Interview
- Popular Job Titles:
- Research Assistant (3)
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- Administrative Assistant (2)
- Project Associate (2)
- Associate Political Scientist (1)
- Sociologist (1)
- Associate Policy Researcher (1)
- Associate Physical Scientist (1)
- Proposal Position - Santa Monica (1)
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- Applications/Systems Analyst (1)
- Associate Economist (1)
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- Analyst (1)
Very Difficult Interview
Proposal Position - Santa Monica Interview (Negative Experience; Very Difficult Interview)
I applied online and the process took a day - interviewed at RAND in July 2009.
Interview Details – This is a review for a position from several years ago - approximately 2009. I received a phone interview for a proposal position for which I fit hand in glove. Not only did I have the proposal experience, I had education in science and political science (graduate degree), and experience in medicine - all which were related to the types of proposals I would be working. The head of the proposal department called and obviously had only briefly scanned my resume. When he asked if I had any experience in anything other than MS Word and any desktop publishing or graphics experience, I said I did. He clearly expected a "no" and was taken aback then stated I didn't need such experience. (?) I stated he just asked me and the job description also required it. He then began to actually read my resume and I could tell that he was going to do whatever to block me from working at RAND. He was seeking someone lesser than what the position description actually required. Clearly, he was one of those people who ensure no one too skilled is in his line of subordinates. To guarantee I didn't walk through the door for an interview where someone may have said "hire this person," he ended the conversation swiftly by selecting the least skilled item in my resume (desktop publishing) and stated that is who I really was and - get this - stated that made me unqualified for the position. When I pointed out that my resume did not reflect that, he began screeching at me to end it right there.
Associate Policy Researcher Interview (Positive Experience; Difficult Interview)
I applied online and the process took 8 weeks - interviewed at RAND in March 2014.
Interview Details – RAND impressed me by actually reading their online applications. They read my materials (papers), resume, cover letter, and recommendation letters and felt that my work was a good fit with their current need. Throughout the process, I felt that idiosyncractic fit -- the folks hiring me liked my work and found it interesting and relevant to their work and that made all the difference. If I'd been similarly skilled but hadn't done work of this type, I doubt any part of the process would've been as smooth.
First round interview was via phone with someone who found my work interesting. Partially the interview tried to sell me on the job. But in terms of hard questions, they asked me to detail my research work that I had submitted (papers). First, to describe each succintly and it's contribution and policy-relevance. Second, to describe my thought process and steps in doing the work and collaborating with partners, to ensure both that it was my own thinking/work and to show that I had been really independent in how I initiated and completed the project.
Second round of interviews was full day interviews - individual 30 min meetings with potential peers and 1 job talk. Because they are an unstructured group I found their individual interviews fairly disorganized and unpredictable. Each person interviewed you largely independently. So some people like you and want to answer your question about the job. Others are more critical and want to test your abilities to independently come up with research ideas. Others want to assess whether youd' be willing to chip in on projects outside of your area of interest but where there is funding.
RAND is a place where you need to be very independent at pursuing funding and research opportunities. The whole place is a loose network of researchers so it's all about first being independent enough to find and create projects with them, and second be able in the long run to build a niche of grant-generation for yourself and your type of projects. Methods matter but ideas and independence matter too. And the desire to spend alot of time pursuing opportunities and to branch out into whatever topic areas might have more funding at any given time.
Interview Question – If you could research any topic at all - no limitations - what would the study look like? This kind of question is far easier to prep intelligently in advance. Answer Question
Negotiation Details – I researched salary. Timing was poor for negotiation and I was content with my initial offer. It slightly exceeded my demanded salary they required me to provide earlier in the process, but I had a decent sense of what was typical.
You could negotiate salary, but also various details related to how supported you would be in terms of material and compensation for trips, etc... as an employee.
Project Manager Interview (Positive Experience; Difficult Interview)
I applied through a recruiter and the process took 4+ weeks - interviewed at RAND in December 2013.
Interview Details – Wow, they are interviewing like mad, and hiring great people. The interviews are intense. All day affairs, typically 7 to 9 interviews with lots of people at all levels of the organization. Top level manners get engaged in the process.
Interview Question – I think the most difficult aspect is the number of interviewers and they cover everything about a candidate, from technical, to behavior, to cultural fit. You really are asked a lot of questions from a lot of perspectives, but super professional. Answer Question
Negotiation Details – Simple. They made a fair offer. I didn't feel a need to negotiate and they wanted me to start right away.
Associate Political Scientist Interview (Positive Experience; Difficult Interview)
I applied through an employee referral and the process took a day - interviewed at RAND in September 2008.
Interview Details – Had interviews with HR, several peers, some senior associates and the hiring manager who is a part-time manager-part time researcher. Also gave a 1 hr presentation on my research to anyone at any RAND office who wished to attend. Fielded questions from the audience--mostly about methods.
Everyone who interviews you or attends your presentation can write a review of you and make a hiring recommendation. The hiring manager pools all of these reviews and tries to see whether people who have funded projects might need someone with your expertise in the coming year. These people have to commit to using you for the first year.
Interview Question – Most of the difficult questions were methods questions about my presentation--so those are easy to prepare answers. Some of the harder questions were challenges from the presentation audience on my findings because they found something different to be true. View Answer
Negotiation Details – I was offered the position and didn't really negotiate because I thought it was my dream job and I was assured my salary would quickly become commensurate with others'. It did. I got several salary increases just because an assessment had been done and mine was too low about 6 months into my time there.
Administrative Assistant Interview (Positive Experience; Difficult Interview)
I applied online and the process took 2 days - interviewed at RAND in July 2009.
Interview Details – I applied online in December 2008 and got a call from RAND in the spring of 2009. I was interviewed over the phone, then had to pass a computer-based test on my skills in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, typing, proofreading, etc. I passed and got a second call to come in for an interview. Three researchers interviewed me, each separately; all three of them were very enthusiastic and cordial. A few days later I got an offer which I couldn't refuse. RAND offers great benefits (health insurance, 15 vacation days a year, retirement plan) and has a very friendly work environment.
Interview Question – How do you keep up with current events/politics? Answer Question
Web Producer Interview (Neutral Experience; Difficult Interview)
The process took a day - interviewed at RAND in December 2010.
Interview Details – I applied for the RAND Web Producer position by answering an online ad. Over a month later, I was contacted by their HR manager to schedule an in-person interview. She was very personable and helpful in letting me know where the office was and what I needed to do to get signed in and registered.
I wore business formal (suit) to the interview, which was appropriate for this interview. The employees were dressed in "nice" casual and informal business casual. The HR manager got me prepared in the conference room and gave me a packet about their benefits, and then we went through the interview process. It took about two hours. I had several conference calls with managers in Santa Monica (corporate headquarters), as well as a panel interview, 1:1 interviews, and a chat with the HR person in California.
Most of the interview questions were easy. However, there were several I found difficult to answer. They kept asking why I voluntarily changed duties at my current job, and seemed concerned that I was at a higher management level than the position required. The man who interviewed me also chose to ask many questions that were more fitting of a stress interview. He seemed to also feel the position was a bit low-level for me. He questioned several times whether I was able to work independently, since I was so used to being a manager.
The job didn't sound appealing in the end. It had a strict 8:30-5:30 or 9-6 schedule, with an hour for lunch. The duties were also not in my area of interest. I was in a creative position at that time, and the described job duties were very heavy on analytics gathering and reporting, which don't interest me. I also didn't appreciate the inflexibility of the role, or how quiet and sterile the office environment seemed. There wasn't a lot of room for growth or upward mobility, and the youngest employee there was around 35. (This may be a Pittsburgh thing more than a RAND thing, though.)
For the last interview, which was a private conference call with the HR lady in Santa Monica, they left me alone in the room. I could see my college apartment from the conference room window, and halfway through our call, I realized I was straying far from my major and from my career goals in taking this job. At this point I realized the job was not for me, but I finished out the interview to be polite. No one remembered I was in there, so I had to come out and find people to conclude the interview and show me out.
I wrote a series of thank-you notes the next day, in which I announced I was withdrawing my application. A month later, they sent me a rejection form letter by e-mail.
Interview Question – Describe a conflict you had with a co-worker and how you solved it. Please be specific. Answer Question
Research Interview (Neutral Experience; Average Interview)
The process took a day - interviewed at RAND in January 2009.
Interview Details – I was contacted by the department head and interviewed by two within the department
Interview Question – Why I wanted to move to that specific city View Answer
Research Assistant Interview (Negative Experience; Average Interview)
I applied online and the process took a day - interviewed at RAND in January 2010.
Interview Details – Seemed pro forma and that they were required to post the position but already had someone they wanted to hire. Totally uninterested , box checking, no response to topics/questions/attempt at any convo. Came away with the impression that job was posted strictly for CYA purposes. Clubby.
Research Assistant Interview (Positive Experience; Average Interview)
I applied online and the process took 2 months - interviewed at RAND in April 2014.
Interview Details – The hiring process was very straightforward. I applied online, was contacted within three weeks about coming to DC for an interview, and interviewed the next month for the position. The interview was conducted over the course of one day, with 8 30-minute one-on-one interviews with research directors, as well as a lunch with individuals who had the position for which I applied. I was very impressed by everyone who interviewed me and found the process smooth and enjoyable.
Interview Question – I was asked by several interviews to name specific projects/reports published by RAND and analyze their content, as well as provide my own opinion on the research. Answer Question
Negotiation Details – There wasn't really room for negotiation, but the offer was very fair.
Researcher Interview (Positive Experience; Average Interview)
I applied through a recruiter and the process took a day - interviewed at RAND in December 2009.
Interview Details – Professional acquaintance called and pitched the position to me, invited me to send a resume and writing sample. I did so. I was invited to fly out for day-long interview (standard in my field) with seminar and several interviews including a lunch interview. Just a minor complaint: for a coast-to-coast flyout they should have offered to take me to dinner too but did not.
Unique to this organization is participation in teleconferences with offices in other locations. Teleconference equipment was state of the art and very effective, almost like being there.
All the travel arrangements and logistics were smooth and professional.
Interviewees should mainly do their homework on the organization and the position, like with any job.
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