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I have recently applied for a postdoc in the USA, and because I am on a different continent any interview that I may be offered will almost certainly be by videoconference. I assume that at postdoc level, nobody is going to offer to pay for an intercontinental visit for a second interview (am I right?).

There is some good advice here on interviewing over Skype, and indeed this is something that I have my own past experience of. Something I've noticed before is that while the formal interview itself can work almost the same way in person or by VC, one misses out on the surrounding interactions - chatter before and after, perhaps walking around the building, and so forth - which helps one to form an impression of the people, the place, and whether one wants to work there.

Are there any ways to get a feel for these intangible aspects of culture and personalities without a visit?

  • Postdocs earn ~50k in the US and a trip to the US would cost somewhere under 10% of that, so it probably isn't economical to fly you over for a year postdoc, but for a longer postdoc, it might be plausible. (It's worth considering that other applicants would expect similar treatment, hence, the total travel costs would be higher.) – user2768 Aug 24 '18 at 9:25
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    Moving on to your question, you could telephone other members of the lab and have informal chats. – user2768 Aug 24 '18 at 9:26
  • Is there an upcoming meeting/conference that you and the PI and or their students will be at? That allows for informal questions, and possibly the second interview as well. – Jon Custer Aug 24 '18 at 20:13
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    @jon cluster sadly not, but it's a good idea. Thanks. – Flyto Aug 25 '18 at 6:05
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I would ask if it is possible for you to talk to other team members via skype, directly after the interview, without the PI present. You might want to ask if this is part of the process ahead of time and whether it can be arranged if it isn't. I arrange for interviewees to spend a few minutes with other team members without me present, even if the interview is via skype.

Some people might think this is a weird thing to ask. But to be honest, if you are interested in team culture, and they count this against you, then you probably didn't want to work there in the first place.

I good thing to ask is about people's hobbies - do people in the group manage to spend time on interesting things outside work. One place I interviews some one joked "I play drums in a band, but I would never let the boss know that". There was no chance I was going to take that position.

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Email people who used to be in the group and ask them for advice.

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Agree with the other posters to contact other lab members and ask about their experience of climate. I particularly suggest asking graduate students, who may be less concerned with politics and therefore more direct with answers, as well as more knowledgeable about how professors treat non-professors.

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