If you are interviewing for grad school/postdoc

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If you are interviewing for grad school/postdoc

Postby SDA » Fri Feb 13, 2015 6:46 pm

Lately, I have been on the other side of the fence and interviewed a few candidates. I thought I would share a piece of advice/suggestion. If you are applying for graduate programs, you will likely get a list of 3-5 faculty that either you chose and/or were assigned to talk to you based on your interests.

Please google and read what these people work on. Usually they have websites with some information.

Pubmed search them and read an abstract or two.

See if they have grants funded..try Project Reporter

If you are able to show some initiative and be proactive about knowing their work, this will help distinguish you from other good candidates. Also, provides good fodder for conversation during lunch/dinners with the admissions committee.

While this sounds like a no-brainer (I forget if Dave might have a similar article or column about company interviews), I am surprised at how many candidates do not do this and how many interviewers have actually noted that as a minus on their feedback forms.
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Re: If you are interviewing for grad school/postdoc

Postby M.A. » Mon Feb 16, 2015 1:49 pm

Yes, absolutely! I think when we discuss these issues among the faculty, it usually comes down to "perhaps these applicants have not been given appropriate guidance/advice on how to prepare for an interview" but in any case not doing their homework is not going to help the applicant leave a good impression.
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Re: If you are interviewing for grad school/postdoc

Postby Ana » Tue Feb 17, 2015 3:48 am

Very good advice, SDA. Not only it will make conversations much easier, but it also shows proactivity and curiosity, two very good traits in a scientist.
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Re: If you are interviewing for grad school/postdoc

Postby WG » Tue Feb 17, 2015 6:25 pm

Can you speak to how to respond when asked "what ideas do you have that would contribute to the project(s) in the group?".I find this to be a tricky question especially if the project is something where the skills you have are transferable but also new territory e.g. new research area. I guess this is more of an issue at postdoc level.

Advice for grad school applications
Remember that the interview is a two way street. Ask questions that will help you determine whether the advisor/group is a good fit. Some of the things that are good to know are:
(1)The managerial style of the P.I.,some people are more hands off, others can be micro-managers.Also to be included here, is how accessible is the P.I?
(2)Is there enough funding to see you through your program?
(3)The lab environment(do people get along?). If the environment is toxic, this can be harder to discern but sometimes when talking to group members someone might drop subtle cues
(4)How long do people take to graduate?
(5)Where are lab alumni now? After reading posts on this forum I suppose this is worth knowing: some advisors are very unsupportive of people who want to go into industry or non-academic careers
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