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Postdoctoral Position Interview - What Questions a Candidate Should Ask an Interviewer?

Updated on October 15, 2013

Should a candidate ask questions during interview?

As you probably know, a postdoctoral job search can be a long, difficult, and sometimes a frustrating process. Constructing perfect resumes/CV, searching suitable openings, applying, and preparing for the possible interview may take a major portion of your time, money, and energy. In some cases, the Principal Investigator (PI) of the lab quickly responds to your application but may ask you to wait months to interview you. The interview may take 30 to 45 minutes, and if you fail, all your hard work is wasted. Therefore, preparing good answers for commonly asked questions and the right questions that you would like to ask an interviewer will reduce interview associated anxiety and stress and leads to success.

Interview for postdoctoral position is usually conducted first through telephone, and if selected, then there will be a face-to-face interview. Nevertheless, it is almost sure that one of the commonly asked questions by an interviewer is ‘Do you have any questions’. Habitually, this question is asked at the end of the interview. Asking appropriate questions by a candidate is equally important as giving good answers. This hub will provide with some helpful tips to answer this commonly asked question, especially for postdoctoral candidates.

Why an interviewer gives you a chance to ask questions?

The interviewer will get an opportunity to evaluate your personality in several ways. For example, your questions may reveal your level of interest; your ability to think independently; your depth of understanding in the field, and to know your enthusiasm for the position. It will also help the interviewer to continue the conversations and to share or elaborate their experience and expertise. Therefore, asking well-thought questions is a powerful interviewing tool for candidates to be successful in an interview.

How to frame questions to be asked during a postdoctoral interview?

Many candidates will not know what questions to ask an interviewer. Some candidates may think that if they ask questions during interview, they may miss the chance of getting the job. In fact, it is important to ask pertinent questions. By asking questions you show that you have been paying attention during interview, and basically, you will express that you are interested and needs this particular job. Learning to pose appropriate questions in your own words help you feel comfortable and confident and will demonstrate that you are a strong and independent individual.

Most of the questions asked by candidates will be a closed probe type or opened one. Avoid asking closed questions, because such kind of questions can be answered in a word or in one sentence. For example, “what is the salary offered for this position?” the answer can be one word x amount. Similarly, “How many papers were published from your lab last year?” “How many postdocs are there in your lab?” “Are you willing to give me medical benefits”. The answer can be a number or ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. These types of straight questions may limit the enthusiasm in the conversation.

Alternately, the open questions will give room to an interviewer to express his or her opinion, feelings and also useful information. The interviewer will be stimulated to explain more than just giving specific answers. For example, you can frame few questions related to their laboratory research work. You can say, I read a recent article in cell journal showing how immune and neuronal cells cross-talk leads to inhibition of tumor growth. I know that your lab is also working in the same line of research, and what you think about this new finding? This question will allow the PI (interviewer) to give some insights about the work, and he/she may also tell your role in their laboratory if hired.

Another example, could you briefly tell me about the work of other postdocs in your lab. This type of soft questions will give you more meaningful and extensive information about the lab environment such as, how many postdocs are working in his/her lab, what type of research they are doing, does it match your interest and so on.

I hope this hub in general and the examples given will help you frame constructive questions and an idea to take control of yourself with ease during an interview.

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