I have been invited to interview for a postdoc position, and as part of the interview I've been asked to give a 30 min presentation of my relevant previous research.

This particular position would be a change in direction from my PhD in terms of skills and subject area. However, I have had some relevant experience from previous positions - which I explained in my cover letter for the application.

My question is, for this presentation what would be the best approach:

  1. Talk at more of an overview level about bits and pieces of relevant work from various positions - most of which were years ago.

  2. Pick one or two relevant research stories from my previous experience, and present more like a traditional research talk.

  3. Highlight the relevant parts from my more recent research, i.e. my PhD.

  4. Other?


A synthesis of (1) and (3), directed towards the goal of joining the project.

It's an interview, not a seminar or research talk, so my recommendation is to explicitly argue why you are the best person for the job. You want to put all of your relevant skills on the table, regardless of how you acquired them, and show that the present application is part of a coherent strategy.

You don't have to claim that you are following a fixed trajectory from the beginning. But it will help a lot if you can demonstrate an ability to form a synthesis of your previous experience that builds towards your current interests. Having a vision, even if the committee members don't individually agree with it, is better than being perceived as a passive weathervane that follows all winds.

In the end, the committee will be judging primarily whether you will materially contribute to the project, meaning that you bring skills that are useful, and that you and they can agree to walk in the same direction during your time there. This is the overriding consideration.

Questions of whether your career choices are good ones, or whether you will be happy in your work, are secondary considerations. You might expect questions from the committee regarding your changes in subject, but it is enough to have a mature answer.

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