Postdoc interview

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Postdoc interview

Postby Dana » Sat Jun 03, 2006 5:51 pm


I recently finished my Ph.D. in molecular biology. I am expecting a postdoc interview soon. What type of questions should I expect besides the tell me about your research? Any help with questions and answers is appreciated. Also how much in detail should I go about my research when asked the first time say on phone or even face to face interview.

Also I have already finished Ph.D. and right now not working in any laboratory. So there is a gap of few months between finishing Ph.D. and going for postdoc interview. The straightforward answer is that I didn't find any position (I did get one offer but didn't like it - disorgnised lab, not exciting research, remote location). But I am not sure if I should say this. Any advice on how to answer the question about this gap would be helpful.

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Postdoc interview

Postby Baoloa » Sat Jun 03, 2006 6:53 pm

I wouldn't worry too much about the gap between finishing your PhD and getting a postdoc for the time being -- though, obviously, you wouldn't want it to last for too long. Basically, don't mention it; it is not relevant to the postdoc position you are applying for (they invited you for an interview, so they clearly are not overly worried about it).

However -- it could be seen as a lesson in career planning...

The best thing you can do to prepare for an interview is to have a mock interview. I suggest that you ask faculty members where you took you PhD if they would like to to be part of a mock panel -- it might surprise you how many are willing. Everyone loves a person who cares and is serious about what they are doing.
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Postdoc interview

Postby Dave Jensen » Sat Jun 03, 2006 7:21 pm

Hi Dana,

Baoloa gave you some great advice. I'd like to chirp in on one area . . . it sounds like you are at a bit of a career crossroads here, because you could easily get offered a postdoc position at this interview and you will have accepted a postdoc without exploring ANY other options.

Because Postdocs are relatively easy to land (in the great scheme of job searches, we wish they were all this easy) it wouldn't hurt you to spend an intense couple of weeks of networking and writing good labs in various areas that interest you. Turn up a couple of additional leads before you get "caught" needing to make a decision.

Good luck!

“There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.”- Alain de Botton
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Postdoc interview

Postby Kelly » Sat Jun 03, 2006 8:56 pm

Dave is right; spend some time exploring additional options. You can explore multiple options at once. Most people are considering 3-5 post-doc options at a time. There is nothing unsavory about that.

If you get asked about the gap, just indicate what you did here: yes, you have planned to do a post-doc but you wanted to find the right post-doc. Be prepared to discuss what would make the position for which you are interviewing the "right" post-doc for you (emphasizing the aspects of the lab you learned that made you apply so rely on your homework) and what you can contribute to the current lab.

Remember this is a two-way street: why it is good for you and why it would be good for them.
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Postdoc interview

Postby Andrew1 » Sun Jun 04, 2006 10:07 pm

About interview questions, I would say the main thing is just to be familiar with your own work, and have some awareness of any holes in it, and how it relates to other work in the field. People aren't trying to catch you out, but several times I've interviewed postdoc candidates who looked terrific on paper, but then couldn't answer fairly straightforward questions about it (e.g. they've applied some new computational technique to a problem, but then you ask whether they evaluated the statistical significance of their results, and they have no answer, or idea how they might do it). You don't need a detailed answer to every possible question, just show you know your work and have an idea about issues around it.

Showing that you know what's going on where you're applying, and having some thoughts about how your experience will fit in is also a positive (not just for postdoc positions of course).
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