As a new junior faculty member in life sciences, I would like to recruit a PhD lab manager/technician. The duties would include some basic administration (such as ordering reagents) but mostly carrying performing experiments and training students. I am open to the possibility of this person having their own research project. The position will be long-term, as one of the goals it to have a permanent senior lab member that can pass on experimental knowledge that we have accumulated. This means it is a critical position in the lab which requires good candidates.

I am considering how to attract strong candidates for this position. The problem is that the salary is set by the university and it is quite low compared to industry or tenure-track faculty.

My question is what kind of incentives could one offer for such a position?

The two main incentives that come to mind are the ability to do interesting research and relatively flexible hours. What are some other possibilities?

  • 5
    A pleasant working environment with colleagues who are respectful to one another. – ff524 Nov 12 '15 at 16:44
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    10% free time where they are free to work on their own projects. (Google is actually 20% but they are a multibillion company). – RoboKaren Nov 12 '15 at 17:56
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    Evidence you can provide long term employment. – Anonymous Physicist Nov 12 '15 at 22:12
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    I think their are a many PHDs that are looking for jobs and can not get a tenure track position. However, I think your largest issue will be keeping the good person. – user-2147482637 Nov 13 '15 at 4:40

I've actually worked in a lot of places with paid staff scientists in permanent/semi-pemanent positions like the ones you're describing. Below are a list of things they've mentioned about their jobs that they like, or things that made me consider exactly those types of positions:

  • Some academic freedom. Of course they are being paid by you, so they need to work on funded projects primarily. But some ability to be working on side projects, "There's an interesting direction I'd like to take this in..." etc. are extremely valuable. This also applies to research output - being able to author the occasional paper, take some credit for things they've worked on with authorships, etc.
  • Respect. This is a big one, and one of the major perks that can be offered. Treat your staff like trash, and it's just another job. On the other hand, if you treat your staff like highly-trained professionals who have expertise, don't accept hot-shot new grad students acting like they're "just" technicians, etc. that goes a long way.
  • Job security. Hard to do as a new faculty member, but most of the more established faculty I know treated their staff as essential employees. If funding started to get hit, staff salaries were the last thing on the list to get cut before you hit "Turn off the lights and go home" stages. Make it clear to them you consider this to be true.
  • Support if they want to do something else. This one seems a little counter-intuitive, but supporting the professional aspirations of staff has been helpful in my experience. It means they're not looking for an escape hatch under the radar (and thus leaving with little warning), they talk to other people who are interested in replacing them, students of yours see that working for your longer term wouldn't be a career dead end, etc.
  • Flexible hours, the ability to work from home, etc. Essentially some of the same things that make academics value their positions over industry jobs.
  • Insulation from some of the petty nonsense of academia. Basically, make sure you're the shield between your staff and the things that make an academic's life hard. That includes things like not having grant writing duties fall squarely on their shoulders to keeping them out of most departmental politics.
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    Very useful answer. As I'm considering to apply for one of those types of positions (as opposed to a postdoc) this was extremely helpful. +1. – boscovich Nov 13 '15 at 7:31

The prospect of enriching his or her publication list is what will make it most enticing. Being on the author list of some of the papers that come out of your lab would help, as would having some as first author (with your mentorship, if desired).

In other words, I'm imagining a hybrid position between a hired grunt and a postdoc.

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