Should I go for a post-doc interview?

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Should I go for a post-doc interview?

Postby Bo » Tue Oct 11, 2005 12:20 pm

Just had a talk on telephone with a PI I contacted regarding a post-doc position. He would like me to come over for an interview but he would not cover the cost. Furthermore, I am required to prepare a proposal/research plan. Although it is a well-known institution, and I am interested in their research direction, I still hesitate if I should go for the interview. The reason is not because of the cost, but because that they may invite many candidates (since it costs them nothing but they can get free research idea) so the chance to get the position is relatively low. Is it common in the States that the student should pay their own money for an interview and should give out thier reseach idea to someone who may be not so seriously interested in him? Any advice would be highly appreciated.

Should I go for a post-doc interview?

Postby MPB » Tue Oct 11, 2005 12:25 pm

Short answer: No.

Use the forum search tool, this topic comes up a lot.

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Should I go for a post-doc interview?

Postby mel » Tue Oct 11, 2005 1:46 pm

I just finished my postdoc interviews. All 5 of them paid for my traveling expenses (some of which were over $1000, so could get quite expensive). Not only that, but the labs "wined and dined" postdoc candidates, taking me out to multiple dinners and lunches.

Maybe my perspective is off--but the way a lab treats the postdoc applicants could reflect upon funding (or lack of).

Should I go for a post-doc interview?

Postby Bo » Tue Oct 11, 2005 4:40 pm

Thanks a lot mpb and mel. I agree that the way they treat candidants may reflect their financial situation, or at least how much they are interested in the student. Could you advice me how to answer the question like "do you have any idea about your future research?" Should I tell them some ideas or not? If not, what is the proper way to say no? I guess something like "I do not have any idea" or "I have some ideas but I would not like to tell at this moment" are improper. Thanks again.

Should I go for a post-doc interview?

Postby Elisa » Tue Oct 11, 2005 5:41 pm

"Could you advice me how to answer the question like "do you have any idea about your future research?" Should I tell them some ideas or not? If not, what is the proper way to say no?"

The PI is not wanting to steal your ideas (believe me, they don't need them - they have plenty of ideas as to where to take their work). They are testing you - trying to find out if you have any ideas, any career direction, any goals. A "No" answer would be very bad - it would make you look excedingly stupid. After all, why are you contacting this person, and considering doing training in their lab? What do you want to get out of the experience, scientifically? What kinds of science things are you interested in? What questions would you like to answer? If you don't know why you are interested in this lab, how is the PI to know why they should be interested in you?

This is a two-way relationship; you need to act like it.

Don't go to a lab that won't pay for your interview. This means that they either have no funding, or are not interested enough in you to spend money on you - both very bad things.

Should I go for a post-doc interview?

Postby NC » Wed Oct 12, 2005 10:23 am

I agree with the others that you shouldn't waste your time interviewing there. Any respectable lab will pay for your travel, accomodations, meals, etc. You shouldn't have to spend a dime on your interview trip.

As for the research proposal, I went on my interviews with a blank slate. I interviewed in labs that had good PIs and did interesting work with no real preconceptions of what I would be doing. Nobody asked me for a proposal, and the one lab that asked me directly what I wanted to do, I just gave them a vague answer regarding research paradigms. I got offers everywhere I interviewed. I think it's understood that your postdoc is where you can start from scratch if you wish and all that's expected is you be productive and further the broad research goals of the lab. You're not expected to be an expert before you set foot in the lab, so a research proposal is probably not a realistic expectation for a postdoc candidate.

However, if there is a lab that you REALLY want to work in and they ask for a proposal, I'd do it.
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Should I go for a post-doc interview?

Postby Bo » Wed Oct 12, 2005 12:44 pm

Thanks everybody. I am currently in Europe but I want a post-doc position in USA. I will attend a congress in USA next month, and they invited me for an interview after that. They even do not want to cover the costs within USA. They said it is not common now in USA to pay interview by the PIs. I am required to send them a proposal before that. How about I send them a proposal but tell them I won't come unless the travel and accommodation are paid?

Another thing, I stated very clearly in my application that I am pursuing a post-doc position, but they only talked about a "research fellow" position. Is there any difference? Maybe research fellow is lower paid?

Should I go for a post-doc interview?

Postby Maria » Wed Oct 12, 2005 1:06 pm

Hi Bo,

I'm from Europe as well and I got a postdoc position in USA 1.5 years ago. This is how it worked for me: I contacted by email about 10 PIs whose work I really liked. 7 of them replied (and only 1 of them had advertised for a position!). 6 of them were attending this big conference in the USA the following month, so I went there (I paid myself obviously) and interviewed with all of them in person. Mind you it was a brief interview and I think they mostly wanted to see that I was real and could speak decent english. 5 of them were interested in hiring me, but it turned out that only 4 had already funded grants for the position. I especially liked 2 labs/PI and I told them up front (mine is a small field, they collaborate and work in the same city!). They decided that in order to get a feeling of where to go I should visit the labs and talk to the people there. They let me go back to Europe and arranged for a 1 week visit (3 days in 1 lab, 3 days in the other). I had to pay upfront for the flight (not the hotel or meals) but by the end of the week I had already received a check for reimbursement.

I recognize that I was probably lucky, but you should not pay for travelling to interviews, even now, even with the current funding situation. If they cannot spare 600$ to fly you in, how will they deal with unexpected expenses during your research? (not to mention salary!)

Best of luck
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Should I go for a post-doc interview?

Postby MPB » Wed Oct 12, 2005 2:00 pm

This person is either clueless or lying to you. It is certainly common practice, and nearly uniform practice, to pay for post-doc candidates to come to an interview from within the US, and it also not unusual to pay for people to come from outside the US. I worked in a lab where we were interested in a post-doc candidate from England and another who I think was in Sweden, and we flew them both in for interviews. I and others here had numerous post-doc interviews and never paid for one myself.

To summarize, there are 3 reasons for not paying for a candidate to come to an interview.

1. Ego. "I'm the guy who put [insert pathway that 5 people have heard of] on the map. I don't need to pay for candidates to come interview in my lab, I get plenty of applicants as it is."

2. Lack of interest in the candidate. "Well, I'm not really interested in this guy, but if he's willing to pay his own way, I guess it won't hurt me to talk to him."

3. Lack of funding.

All of these reasons spell trouble for a prospective post-doc.

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Should I go for a post-doc interview?

Postby Kelly » Wed Oct 12, 2005 2:33 pm

I agree with everything everyone has written about paying your own way for a post-doc interview: it doesn't bode well. If you can schedule an on-site interview at a meeting that you are already attending, maaayyybeee but paying for someone to interview is a relatively small investment compared to salary for 3-5 years.

About ideas: just because they might have their own ideas doesn't mean yours are better and doesn't mean they have already thought about them. Don't sell yourself short. As I have said before; apply free milk and cow principles.

What I would say in these circumstances is:

1. I haven't really used method X that your lab does so well or I haven't really worked with Y model system.
2. I was hoping we might identify a project for me to start with from your current experimental line-up.
3. then we could start to think about experiments that dovetail from this.

I rarely tell others the directions of my thinking or what I have lined up experimentally. My only exception to this is if I see a poster or talk at a meeting in a very preliminary stage and I already have the work done and am ready to submit/have submitted. this gives them a heads up so they can build on to their study for something new. Otherwise, a poor post-doc is grinding away only to find themselves with a duplicate study.
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