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how to survive interview and seminars?

PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2006 3:11 pm
by Andy
I am going to give a seminar soon for a post-doc interview. I am terrified about the whole thing. Any thoughts about how to prepare and how to impress the audience would be appreciated.

how to survive interview and seminars?

PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2006 3:57 pm
by Dave Jensen
Hi Andy,

This kind of seminar should be relatively painless. By now, you've presented your work to an audience a number of times, I'm sure. When you analyze the pressure, and those aspects of that day which make you nervous, I'm sure you'd find that it is because you need this job that you are letting it get to you. Sure, there are books you can read about the process of giving a talk to an audience (my favorite is the classic "You Must Be Believed To Be Heard," on Amacom by Bert Decker), but you need to get to the root of the problem. It's the "need" part, in my opinion.

If you treat this day as important, but not quite as critical as it is looming in your mind, you may actually do BETTER than if you went in there nervous as a cat because the talk and the interview are so crucial. Let's face it, it isn't all that crucial. There are a lot of labs where you can find a postdoc, right? Even if this lab were the absolute best place in the world for you to land, you can do better on interview day if you don't assign so much importance to the outcome. Concentrate on having a smile, on enjoying yourself, on learning about the lab and the people there, and make sure that they see the real you . . . the LIKEABLE you. People in general, even those who are very critical scientifically, like to work with people they like.

Of course, just because I suggest to treat the day with a little less reverance doesn't mean you shouldn't go over your slides a dozen times, or practice the talk. Yes, do those things! And also have a few friends or labmates go over it with you to see what questions your audience might ask. Have good answers sorted out in advance.

The WORST talks I've ever given in my life are the ones where I placed so much importance on them that I stressed out (Yale, please forgive me . . . I actually fainted on the sidewalk outside the hall where I spoke ten minutes later. Luckily I made it up to them six months later.). The BEST talks I've ever given have been those where I went in with the attitude of helping others, and that it didn't matter all that much if I was perceived as a "good speaker."

Isn't it funny how that works?

Dave Jensen, Moderator

how to survive interview and seminars?

PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2006 9:41 pm
by Andrew1
I would recommend two things to remember. The first is that they're interviewing you because they're genuinely interested in your work, and hoping that you will work with them. People are not going to try to catch you out or ask trick questions, but to understand your talk. The second, and related, is that the person there who knows most about your work is you ! You are the expert, and you have some knowledge or skills that they want.

With talks like this, it's good to have some thoughts about how your work will relate to the group you'll be joining. A common question is "how does your work fit in with what we're doing here ?". Give it some thought ahead of time, and even have a couple of additional slides you can deploy if needed.

Dave had good points as always - it's as much about them seeing whether you'll fit in and be enjoyable to work with. Groups don't generally throw money around interviewing lots of candidates for postdoc positions, so relax and enjoy showing your research, and finding out about people's interests there.

Links related to Andy's post

PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2006 5:03 am
by Ana2
Hi Andy,

We have already talked about this in the forum, check these links: (short but related)

(probably we have more, this is what I found with the search tool)

Good luck! (and come back to tell us about how it went)


how to survive interview and seminars?

PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2006 1:44 pm
by Andy
thank you all for your great advices and the links guys. I really appreciate it. I am sure I'll be OK if I can follow those advices. I will keep you informed about the outcome.