Tips for interviewing postdocs(4 Posts)
I’m interviewing for my first ever postdoc for a 3-year RCUK-funded project this week and am looking for recruitment tips since my interviewing skills training has just been cancelled..
I’ve sat on interview panels before so am aware of the standard good, searching questions, but am also keen to hear your favourite questions for picking out the most promising candidates (and likewise, for flagging high-risk people).
It’s a multimethodological, technical project, so the presentation asks the candidates to discuss their methodological and analytical approaches they’ve used to date. It also involves working with families and kids, so I may include a role-play in the interview to get an idea of rapport and sensitivity for working with these populations.
One of the risks is that he postdoc might leave before the end of the project. While I'm aware I can’t control, this, I was wondering how to get an indication of commitment, beyond asking about career ambitions and motivations.
I’m keen for the postdoc to take ownership of the project – to see it as their project as well a mine, and relatedly, to get someone proactive rather than reactive.
Your tips and battle stories, please.
I'd be inclined to get someone who is more experienced if your budget allows. Also suggest you'd expect them to be applying for fellowships after a couple of years if you want to have their full term but you can't auto expect this, but get a good relationship and with luck you'll get them to continue whilst they start their next adventure after you - hopefully you'll be getting sufficient funding to keep them
On if you're interested in widening your team!!
What are the "standard good, searching questions"?
For similar posts, I am personally looking for the following qualities which fit my management style and expectations:
- independence of thought and an ability to argue, disagree with me, debate, and use logical thinking - I usually ask them to give me an example from their career/past and then proceed to challenge them on it to see how they respond.
- true enthusiasm for science and not a particular topic (I particularly dislike applicants who have a pet topic and regard the other topics as less interesting). I usually ask a question about their experience of having to drop a topic and pick a new one unexpectedly.
- evidence of leadership and resilience - being able to pick up a team and move forward, and not needing to be babysat
- proof of first-hand technical expertise, as too many people tell us they know about method X, or technique Y, but upon digging, it turns out someone else did it for them, or they were assisted through the process.
- and (more controversially) I look for people who do not count hours. Worklife balance is fine, but when we are in the lab, the clinic or on the field, there is no way we can up and go at 5pm if work is still on. I always ask a scenario question based on the project, illustrating such a situation, and ask them their strategy - I am looking for pragmatic answers and examples of how they've handled this.
The result is good, because whoever I recruit is extremely able, but they are often utter pains in the arse. Still, the work gets done.
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