I have been invited to interview for a postdoc position at a good university. They asked me a different question to most of my other interviews. For the presentation they want me make a 5 minute (maximum) PowerPoint presentation on the following topic "How does your previous experience in vascular biology equip you to fulfill this post?".

How do I go about answering their question? I assume it would be: one very brief slide showing an overview of my career, then techniques so histology and why that’s useful to them. Do I show any of my own data?

6 Answers 6


With only 5 min maximum, keep it to the point and interesting to them. They made clear what matters to them in their question

How does your previous experience in vascular biology equip you to fulfil this post?

Find out about the post as much as you can and also the department (what do they specialize in). Find out what and who they want. Understand what your role will be, what their goals for this position are, in what direction to head. For example, research topics, but maybe also teaching duties etc.

Then use the presentation to show them why you are the perfect candidate for the post. Tailor it to their needs, no unnecessary information (you only have 5 min). This really depends on the requirements, but could be experience with relevant methods, openness to learn and use new methods / technologies (examples?), tutoring students etc. All the relevant experience for this post.


Typically a postdoc interview presentation is for giving the members of the group you are interviewing with an idea about:

  • who you are
  • what you know (education)
  • what have you done before, in terms research experience
  • how you work
  • etc

I have had presentations varying from 45 min lunch seminars that went over an hour with questions, down to 20 min presentation followed by 1-on-1s with the group members.

I have never heard of a 5 min presentation for an interview and I would generally say it's way too short to be meaningful. But that's besides the point...

I wouldn't worry much about showing any data, or complicated figures that will take too long to explain. It really does take longer than you'd imagine. Keep it to a maximum of 7-8 slides, and keep them very roomy... Don't cram too much into the slides, and don't try to say too many things. Any details they might be interested in will come afterwards in terms of questions. Oh and I would recommend starting with a meta-statement, saying something like "For this presentation, I have skipped all hard data and complex figures, due to time restrictions. But I would be happy to answer your questions about the nitty-gritty details afterwards"

A 5 min presentation will ultimately be more like an elevator pitch than a scientific presentation. A verbal cover letter, if you will. Focus on the reasons that made you apply for this position, and the parallels between your previous research and this position. What gave you the impression/confidence that you can do what they will ask you to do. If you can answer that question in 5 minutes I think you have done a good job.

Best of luck in any case :)


This kind of 5 minutes presentations are completely unfit to challenge the scientific background of the candidate but are perfect to evaluate other skills. Depending on your actual background, I would advise you to try to learn more about the team you intend to work with. Then use these 5 minutes to show how your scientific skills, personality and knowledge complete the ones of the team and how both the team and the project could actually be improved with you.

Note that if they specifically mentioned the slides, you have to choose before following the order and showing respect to rules or dropping the slides and showing your ability at taking initiatives.


If you have only five minutes don't use Powerpoint unless you absolutely must display some visual aid. If you put up images on a screen they will look at those images. But you want them (or ought to want them) to focus on YOU. Concentrate on what you are going to SAY as @posdef has helpfully suggested.

If you feel it necessary to put up PP images, whatever you do do not look at them, turning your back on the interview panel. The temptation to do so with PP is almost irresistible. That's why I say avoid it if you possibly can.


Whether they intended it or not, they've posed you with an "elevator pitch" problem, namely, that you are supposed to explain something within a time limit that is wildly unreasonable. (Like "pitching" something in an elevator to someone, between floors...)

Figuring out how to do this is a challenge in itself, and not necessarily strongly connected to actually doing other things.

But it is a plausible-sounding filter to impose, if they figure that they'll have waaaay more otherwise-qualified applicants than they need... so they can impose further, if irrelevant, requirements to reduce the number of viable candidates.

I'd use at most one or two PPT slides, with no walls-of-text, and be absolutely sure that you get to the punchline, which is your qualification for and interest in the position. It is absolutely essential to get to that punchline, whether or not you feel you've "adequately covered" your personal history, publications, this-and-that. :)


This sounds very much like lightning talks that are becoming popular at some conferences. You might look around for some examples in your field and see if these kinds of talks are becoming a thing in your field and try to follow the trend and fit your talk to what the conferences are offering and what the group has asked you to cover. Hit the latter part exactly (no more, no less).

I can't imagine that a 5-minute talk would be all that useful to me as an interviewer for a postdoc position, but if that's what they want, give them your best 5 minutes that meet the brief they've outlined. Practice it until you can nail the time and content without your slides (if you even elect to have slides).

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