How to prepare for an interview in the lab – tips and tricks for scientists

How to prepare for an interview in the lab – tips and tricks for scientists


Before an interview applicants should do
their homework, and that includes reading the publications of the lab that
they’re applying to, but also a little bit more general – what is the institution
doing? What are the neighboring labs and how could you maybe not only work with
one PI but with several of them? What kind of interdisciplinary skills could
you gain in such an environment? So I think at any level we will ask what did
you do before? Where do you come from? What is it that you did during your
master thesis / during your bachelor thesis / during your PhD. And the other
question that we always ask also is why is it that you want to join this lab? I think really preparing for those kinds of questions is crucial. At the end of
their talk there are also going to be questions about their research, and I
think it’s also good to think about where are the weak spots
of my previous research, and how could I have addressed them, or am I still addressing them? Which kind of experiments am I doing? There are different strategies to really understand the environment that you’re going into. I think online, of course the webpage is a source of information, but I
think you should use your contacts and you should use your network to really
gain an understanding of what is the social environment in that place. How is
it to live in this city? Because these are very important factors in making
your decision – you need to be prepared. What we look for in future lab members is
really somebody we can communicate with, but also somebody who can get the
concepts quickly. So if the group leader or any of the other lab members are
presenting you their work, applicants should definitely come with some ideas
for the lab. I think this is very different between masters
students, PhD students and postdocs. So I think postdocs should definitely come up
with some ideas of what they would want to do in the lab or the techniques that
they would like to learn. At the level of PhD students and masters students I
think showing interest in the methods and also showing interest in the
projects that they’re running is much more important, and in that sense they
should definitely ask questions about the things that they don’t
understand, and about how the previous expertise that they might have could
help or not those particular projects. I think one thing that we all do wrong
when we get nervous is we get asked a question and we try to answer it
immediately, and it’s actually much better to think and give a concise, exact,
precise answer. If you don’t know an answer to a question
don’t try and invent the answer. Just try to reason how would you figure it out
and be clear about the things that you know and the things that you don’t know. At the end of an interview you should
definitely try and get a feeling about how it went from the other side, also by
discussing it with the people in the lab, not only the group leader, and getting a
little bit of an impression of where things are. And if you don’t hear back
maybe write an email to ask how are things going, has any decision been made.
The situation will be different in the case that there is already funding and
you’re applying for a position that already exists, or the situation where
you’re going to be applying for funding with that group leader. So I think in the
case that the group leader has invited you to apply for funding then you have
your answer.

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