There is a certain permanent position recently advertised at a lab that I'm interested in. The application consists of submitting a number of documents (CV, project, etc.) online, which will be reviewed eventually, and they might pick some applicants for interviews, and so on.

I wonder if it makes sense to contact people working in the lab (it's in my city), to discuss briefly with them, about science and maybe a bit about how the lab works.

For context, I am in Europe, specifically in France (I presume there could be different "etiquettes" to follow in different countries). But I have heard it's good to contact people, so they get to know you (and your work) a bit even before reviewing the application. But I'm not really sure what's the appropriate behavior to follow.

  • 1
    Why would it not be ok? It is good to do your due diligence about an institution, group, and particular opening.
    – Jon Custer
    Mar 5 at 13:35
  • @JonCuster Whatever is considered "ok" in a situation depends on the typical expectations people have traditionally developed. So that's why I'm asking. To me, it sounds okay to try to contact people if I'm curious, but I don't want to waste anyone's time, and I'm not sure what is the expectation of others.
    – a06e
    Mar 5 at 23:07

1 Answer 1


This answer isn't specific to any particular place and there might be exceptions, though I doubt they would be in Europe.

Yes, you can contact and even visit a lab and speak with its PI and probably some of its members, assuming permission of the PI.

Getting information about the lab and its work and being more able to make an informed decision about how it fits your plan is a good thing. Showing interest in their work, assuming it is genuine, is a good thing. That would be true even if you ultimately go elsewhere.

Whether this gives you an "edge" in an application is debatable and would depend on many things. For that reason, talking to the PI first might save you some grief, if they think it improper. Hopefully, however, people are smart enough to do their job properly.

  • Please note that this is for a permanent researcher position. There is no single PI, rather there are many other researchers that work at this lab, with whom I may or may not attempt a first contact.
    – a06e
    Mar 5 at 21:02
  • I assume someone is director or something similar for the lab. PI was just a shorthand. If everyone is independent, then no worries.
    – Buffy
    Mar 5 at 21:12
  • Alright, is just in this case I think contacting directly the director is a bit too much (and probably will not reply). The researchers are more or less independent, yes.
    – a06e
    Mar 5 at 23:05

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