4

I recently finished my PhD. I am going to have a Zoom interview for a postdoc position (in life sciences). My postdoc goal is to get a better experience in Research and become independent in R&D -project management. Mostly, after postdoctoral training, I would move to the industry.

I love this lab research project, mostly similar to my PhD project. So I will easily get adapt to the methods and I am happy to learn new techniques. However I want to know their lab culture, importantly how supportive this PI for career development.

During Ph.D. I had to be in a toxic environment, I felt almost trapped, where no support was given, mentally abused. So, I don’t want my next move going to be in the same environment.

What kind of polite, professional questions I can ask this Professor during the interview?

My main concern is how much he supportive of career development and giving opportunities?

Also, what are other questions I should be ready to answer and ask him during the interview?

8
  • 1
    The questions you should ask are dependent on what you personally want to know about the position, professor, lab culture, university, city etc. We can't tell you what's important for you personally to find out.
    – astronat
    Dec 10 '20 at 12:19
  • 1
    If you want an industry job, you should get one now and not get a postdoc. Postdoc pay is usually low. Dec 10 '20 at 12:57
  • 2
    "become independent in R&D -project management." If that is what you want, start a company. The postdoc's supervisor normally does the project management. Dec 10 '20 at 13:05
  • 1
    You can always ask to talk to another member in PIs group, such as a post-doc, and have a peer-to-peer conversation. Then you can ask this member questions more openly and get more honest answers... Also the post-doc member would know how much the PI is supporting them better than the PI themselves...
    – user132356
    Dec 10 '20 at 13:30
  • 3
    FYI, If you want an industry job, you should get one now and not get a postdoc. Postdoc pay is usually low, depending upon the field, sometimes industries do have postdoc position (e.g., Pfizer). Dec 10 '20 at 14:17
2

During my own post doc interviews (and PhD interviews), I asked what the situation would be like. I've included examples for your questions:

What kind of polite, professional questions I can ask this Professor during the interview?

My main concern is how much he supportive of career development and giving opportunities?

Also, what are other questions I should be ready to answer and ask him during the interview?

Ask the Professor how they run their research group. Specific question might include:

  • How many people are in your group including post-docs, grad students, undergrads, and technical staff?
  • How do meet with your research group? One-on-one regular meetings? Weekly meetings?
  • What is your management style? Are you hands-off? Hands-on?

Ask how the professor has mentored previous post-docs.

  • What do they view the goal of a post-doc to be? Do they view it as mentorship role? Do you they view you as a labor source?
  • Where do their previous post-docs end up?
  • Do post-docs get the freedom to ask their own questions? Are you only limited to the PI's question?

Ask what the professor wants from you.

  • For example, do they expect X publications per year?
  • Ask what they expect from their post docs on weekly basis. Do people work 40-hr weeks? 80-hr weeks? Are they expected to be in the lab on weekends?

For more ideas, I suggest checking out the Ask the Headhunter newsletter. He offers good tips for interviewing.

Last, reach out to current post-docs in the lab and ask them if they would be willing to have a call about what it is like to work for the professor. Other answers on this page such as this one describe what you ask the previous and current lab members.

1
  • 1
    Thank you very much @Richard :)
    – Dendrobium
    Dec 13 '20 at 3:09
-1

The interview is not a time for the job applicant to directly gather information. You can do that after you get a job offer.

When you get the opportunity to ask questions:

  • Do not ask questions that you could have found the answer to with Google.
  • Do ask questions that show you have researched the employer. This shows you are motivated.
  • Ask easy questions. You might have studied up before the interview, but the person interviewing you did not. Do not embarrass them.
  • Ask questions that will give you an opportunity talk about why you should be hired (don't be too blatant).

After you get an offer, you can ask the supervisor the real, tough questions, whatever they might be. Also ask people who have left the group; not all supervisors are honest.

6
  • 7
    I would disagree - the interview is a perfect time to ask what the outline of the first 1, 3, or 6 months will be. As somebody who hires postdocs I don't wait for them to ask usually, I tell them what the overall plan is and how we will position them for successful job interviews within 12-18 months based solely on their work with us. Interviews are two-way streets, and since the job of a postdoc is to find a job, how the place will enable that is obvious and fair game.
    – Jon Custer
    Dec 10 '20 at 14:47
  • 4
    "The interview is not a time for the job applicant to directly gather information." I'm gonna disagree with that. The best way to show that you have done your homework is to ask good questions. "How will this postdoc support me in achieving my career goals, which are A and B?" is not a bad question to ask in my opinion.
    – xLeitix
    Dec 10 '20 at 16:30
  • 2
    That said, OP will receive better information by asking previous postdocs than the interviewer.
    – xLeitix
    Dec 10 '20 at 16:30
  • @xLeitix I'm not sure we disagree. Your question could be an easy question and it could be a question that presents an opportunity to talk about why you should be hired. Dec 10 '20 at 21:30
  • 1
    I think that people believing this sort of answer is the right answer is behind a lot of the people who end up in bad situations here. When you interview, you need to interview the "job" just as much as the "job" interviews you. Don't wait for an offer to do that. If the PI/hiring manager can't take those kinds of questions you absolutely do not want to work for them. Yes, do your homework, but work culture isn't on the lab web page or list of publications.
    – Bryan Krause
    Dec 11 '20 at 15:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.