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I have a postdoc interview, I found a video that talks about the most common postdoc questions where the person says "the general rule of thumb is that all your answers should start and stop within 30 seconds", he also suggested to summarize your answers to 3-5 sentences. He insisted on this especially for the "tell me about yourself" question, is this really the "general rule of thumb" of postdoc answers? Because I have tried this for the first question and I found myself talking for 1 minute or so.

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For the sake of clarity, how long should your answer be for the "Tell me about yourself" question? If I am supposed to summarize my answer to 5 sentences, I feel that I will leave out a lot of details !

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Try to behave as you always should try to behave: In a socially sensible and sensitive way.

Try to see if people want to ask another question, or whether they are happy with you to continue. Ask whether/offer that you can add more details, state that you will be happy to discuss X further ("I have also worked for a while on X, I will be happy to provide more details if you are interested"), and so on. Maybe make a short break/take a breath, and see if someone jumps with another question they have been waiting to ask since 30 seconds, or if they are waiting for you to continue. Attaching this to times seems silly.

Generally, it is better to err on the side of being a bit too talkative, as long as you watch out for (non-verbal) signals (i.e. people trying to find a point to interrupt, etc.): If you read the signals, you can easily stop. On the other hand, having people in interviews who wouldn't say a word about themselves and just answer questions with "yes" and "no" is a pain, and also most likely not the profile of someone you want to hire (after all, postdocs should actively collaborate, supervise students, etc.).

Just keep in mind: People have (hopefully) read your CV. If they say "tell us about yourself", they want to know things beyond what is in the CV, or at least get some hooks where to start asking questions about things which go beyond the CV.

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  • to give aspies a chance, when you are interviewing someone - please give clear signs and don't rely on these so called "non-verbal cues"... just interrupt, create a short moment of mutual confusion, and ask/say whatever it is you want to say/ask ;)
    – Mark
    Jan 10, 2021 at 1:54
  • @Mark Sure, but this is not what the question is about.
    – user151413
    Jan 10, 2021 at 1:58
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    true - not criticizing the answer or expecting it to be added. But it felt relevant enough to mention so a potential interviewer (who might read/answer here as well) understands that non-verbal signals aren't understood by all of us
    – Mark
    Jan 10, 2021 at 2:10
  • I'd say if non-verbal signals don't work, most interviewers will eventually interrupt. But adding it certainly doesn't hurt.
    – user151413
    Jan 10, 2021 at 2:18

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