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Face-to-Face Interview Tips for a Postdoctoral Position

Updated on July 9, 2015

Interview for postdoctoral position involves two main faces: (1) telephone interview (2) personal or face-to-face interview. Usually if you do well in telephone interview you will be invited for personal interview. You can read my hub “Telephone Interview for Postdoctoral Position” to get some useful suggestions. The personal interview is a daylong where you will be meeting the Principal Investigator, faculty and lab members. In addition you will be asked to present your work. In a nutshell it is quite stressful for the candidate. However, if you plan and prepare ahead you can relax and be successful. This hub will provide you with some useful tips to face a face-to-face interview.

It is common in university scenario that an administrative person from the institute will contact you ahead to give you specific instructions and itinerary about the interview process. The interviews will run around one full day (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.). It starts first meeting with your future supervisor or (PI). You can call it as breakfast interviews, because some PI would like to pick you up from your lodging and will arrange for a breakfast before bringing you to their Institute. Otherwise, they may ask you to come directly to their office. In either case, you will have your first interview with your future boss.

Next you have to give a presentation followed by lunch with lab members, meeting faculty affiliates, laboratory tour and close-up meeting. All these processes will be an in person interview. This hub gives you some suggestions and important tips to prepare for the face-to-face interview.

Breakfast interview

Usually the Principal Investigator (PI) will join you for the breakfast. This will be your first conversation with your supervisor or PI and may last for an hour. First impression is the best impression. So prepare well for this discussion. In this first meeting, you may expect both general/personal and specific questions.

The general questions may be about your flight/travel, place where you live, your current and previous laboratory activities, concerning your decision to leave your current job, your interest to join their lab, and few personal questions such as marital status.

The specific questions will be concerning your research work. For example, when you are completing your current project or Ph.D. thesis work, what techniques you have adopted for your research work, & regarding your publications.

Additionally, the PI will briefly explain about their lab work and why they are looking for someone of your calibers to hire. Try to be attentive and if possible ask few questions about their projects work. Make yourself aware of their research work by reading some of their publications. Attempt to be positive about their research work.

Giving a presentation

After the first round of the interview, you will be asked to give a talk about your research work. The seminar time will be for an hour. This will be the most important and toughest part of your interview. Typically, it will be an open seminar attended by students, laboratory personals and faculty.

Your seminar will demonstrate your presentational, technical and analytical skills. How you receive the questions from audience & the way you answer it. Work out on your slides, including contents, figures and tables which all counts. These scientific attributes are essential to be a successful researcher. So give more emphasis to prepare for your presentation.

Lunch with laboratory members

After the seminar, you will be invited to join the lab members for lunch. Here you will have an informal chat. Don’t neglect this part of your interview. You may face questions about your background, the reason for leaving your current job, about your presentation and your future career plans.

It seems that the lab members are asking the same set of questions as asked by selection committee/PI. However, later the lab members will be asked to give their feed back about your performance in the seminar and the discussions they had with you. So be prepared and show enthusiasm while you talk with lab members.

Laboratory tour and meetings with lab members

Either PI or someone in the lab will take you for the laboratory tour. They will explain you about the facilities and trainings available for research purpose. If you are looking for any kind of training or technique to conduct your research, you can discuss at this time of your interview.

Later, you will be provided an opportunity to talk with everyone in the lab/department, including faculty members. Now, it is your turn to ask questions about the on-going projects in their lab, and any related activities. You can ask the lab members about their background, are they happy with their work, from how long they are working, the projects they are involved, and their technical expertise. This part of your interview will give you the chance to understand the lab environment. Based on lab member’s opinion you can judge whether this lab will be suitable for you to achieve your research goals.

Meeting with faculty members of the department/lab will be cool. Just you have to be a good listener. Usually, they explain their lab activities in brief. They may ask you couple of same questions such as your decision to join their Institute. Before going to the interview you can go through each faculty members web page to find out their research activities, and if it is of your interest you can prepare for a couple of questions to ask them. This will give them some good impression about your interest in joining their lab.

Close-up interview (meeting with PI)

In the last part of the interview, again, you will meet your direct supervisor/PI. You can anticipate questions about your salary expectation, benefits and the date you are available to join the lab. Finally; you will get a chance to ask him/her questions. Be free to ask relevant questions, for example, your interest to learn any new technique or about the prospect of your career growth by joining their lab. At the end, thank them all.

Good Luck! With your interview.

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Below hubs may be useful for postdocs

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