Tough Interview Question - Do you enjoy doing independent research?

Do you enjoy doing independent research?

Similar interview questions:
What is your approach to problem solving?
How do you learn about something needed for your work?
Do you work better in a collaborative or individual contributor work environment?
Do you contribute to open source sites?

Why the interviewer is asking this question:
The interviewer wants to know your approach to learning and development (also known as L&D in corporate HR). Some employers are set up to provide employees with all they need to know for the role, while other employers require the employee to figure things out on their own, down to literally googling an answer.

The best approach to answering this question:
The reason this is a tough interview question is because of the context of the question. Some jobs require a lot of independent research. Some jobs require virtually no independent research. Most jobs are a mix. Knowing the job requirements and company culture will help you to better understand the approach to take. If you’re not sure, default with a hybrid answer.

An example of how to best answer this question for experienced candidates:
"I do enjoy independent research, yet I also want to be productive in doing my research. For example, a recent project required that we make some changes according to the new accounting rules being proposed by the IRS. I did the initial research on my own to find out what the changes were and when they would go into effect. But I also met with our Director of Internal Audit to make sure that the proposed changes would not have a negative impact on the systems of other departments…"

An example of how to best answer this question for entry level candidates:
"I do enjoy independent research, yet I also value the input from others with more experience. For example, in my recent internship, I had to come up with an innovative way to solve an indexing problem we were encountering. I found an example posted at StackOverflow that seemed to work well in a different environment. When I consulted with my mentor, she showed me a way to adapt that example to our technical environment to make it work…"

An example of how you should not answer this question:
"I’ve pretty much spent my entire college career doing independent research. Nothing you do in college is with others, you have to go it alone. I can spend hours or even days researching a problem online. Then, of course, you get distracted with Facebook and Instagram, but I always do my best to come back to the original problem I was researching. Which reminds me, do you allow your employees to access Facebook during work hours?"


Remember to answer each interview question behaviorally, whether it is a behavioral question or not. The easiest way to do this is to use an example from your background and experience. Then use the S-T-A-R approach to make the answer a STAR: talk about a Situation or Task (S-T), the Action you took (A) and the Results achieved (R). This is what makes your interview answer uniquely yours and will make your answer a star!


Further review: know the answers to these Fifty Standard Interview Questions to be fully prepared for your interview!

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