I'm a PI at an R1 medical school and I've been interviewing people for a postdoctoral position. I interviewed a candidate yesterday that I was initially excited about, but was very disappointed in her interview performance. Recent candidates, including her, are making many of the same mistakes interviewing with me and my colleagues. For forum readers currently looking for positions, here are some suggestions:
1. Do not drone on-and-on about how bad the job market is. You have my time and attention in order to sell yourself to me and convince me why I should hire you - do not waste the opportunity with downbeat nonspecific chatter.
2. Read the lab's papers and website and have some specific questions prepared about the lab's research and be able to explain why you are specifically interested in the position. Do not just give a high school level answer of "I want to work in cancer research."
3. Be timely. For phone interviews in which I call you, be ready to answer your phone, or promptly reschedule if you cannot. Do not call/come by my office 30' minutes after the scheduled time and insist on interviewing.
4. Practice explaining your future goals/ambitions before talking to me. And please use positive language. Tell me that you want to pursue a teaching career because you enjoy some aspect of teaching rather than droning on about how you do not want to write grants (bear in mind, I expect my postdocs to write fellowship grants).
5. Prepare questions about more than work hours or pay. For example, ask about potential collaborations, access to speciality equipment, or opportunities for career development. Use this to show evidence of initiative.
6. Do not tell me or my labbies about personal problems. We do not need to know about your bad divorce or your crazy father. This shows that you do not understand boundaries. If there are pressing personal matters driving your job search, like relocation due to a spouse's employment, tell me, but keep it matter-of-fact, and quickly pivot back to the goal of the interview (selling yourself).
7. Write a follow up thank you note within 1-5 days expressing interest in the position and thanking me for my time if you would like to be hired. And please explain to me why you think you would be a good fit in my research program - a few sentences will do. If you don't hear from me for a few weeks, get back in touch and politely express your continued interest.
More often then not, you are your own worst enemy during interviews. Proper preparation and a professional demeanor go a long way.