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A lab chief’s information to hiring a postdoc


Caroline Hill looking down a microscope in the lab

Caroline Hill (proper) is a cell and developmental biologist on the Francis Crick Institute in London.Credit score: Janie Airey

I need to rent people who find themselves actually pushed: love doing analysis, love the science, are revolutionary, formidable and motivated. Above all, people who find themselves excited by the work that we do and need to be part of it.


When I’ve a selected emptiness, I are inclined to promote it on FindAPostDoc, Nature Careers, LinkedIn and Twitter. Social media has grow to be a very good place to seek out candidates. On Twitter, potential postdocs can see what papers are popping out of the laboratories that they’re excited about. It’s a great way of figuring out what’s happening. One other factor I’ve discovered that works effectively is utilizing field-specific web sites. As an example, for a present opening in my lab on the Francis Crick Institute in London — the place we work on zebrafish (Danio rerio), a developmental organism — I’ve been promoting on the Zebrafish Data Community (ZFIN), a web-based neighborhood useful resource for researchers with an curiosity in zebrafish. I additionally promote on the Node, a worldwide neighborhood web site for developmental and stem-cell biologists.

I ahead job adverts on to colleagues in my explicit area of research. I did that lately for one in all our positions and it labored brilliantly. Somebody wrote again rapidly and stated that they had the right candidate.

It was widespread for folks searching for a postdoc place to easily write to a gaggle chief and categorical an curiosity in becoming a member of their lab. Some group leaders nonetheless say that this their principal route for recruiting postdocs, relatively than promoting vacancies.

The issue is that a whole lot of potential postdocs won’t understand that writing in is an possibility, and may lose out. I don’t suppose it’s a good mechanism as a result of it selects for a sure kind of particular person. Additionally, this route of making use of is relatively inefficient as a result of a candidate who is great may write to you at a degree whenever you haven’t received the funding; or, when you’ve got the funding and a place, no one appropriate may apply.

The interview course of

Postdoc researchers coming in for an interview ought to put together by studying revealed papers from the lab. It’s wonderful what number of don’t.

I had one one that got here in for an interview who had a folder with all our current papers. She had learn all of them and highlighted issues, and he or she had questions — which was spectacular. The extra {that a} potential postdoc can persuade a gaggle chief that they actually need to work in a lab, and have an lively purpose for wanting to take action, the higher.

A part of the interview course of is getting folks to return to the lab for a complete day. The candidate provides a chat so we will actually see what their analysis is like, after which I often have a very good hour or so with them to inform them in regards to the lab and our tasks, and to see how they reply.

Then they’ve a chance to talk to everybody within the lab and that’s when our colleagues can gauge how the candidate is in becoming a member of. We need to see if they may ask probing questions and decide how effectively they may work together with the staff.

In addition to getting candidates to return in for an interview, in addition they have a 30 minute chat with one other group chief who has no vested curiosity and could be extra goal. That may be useful.

Discovering the precise particular person

In my expertise, it’s value ready for the precise particular person. Having anyone that isn’t that within the venture, or simply not a very good match, doesn’t profit anybody.

A number of occasions, I’ve forged my internet out and interviewed folks, however none of them was the precise match. In these instances it’s best to attend. It may be that not sufficient folks utilized, or the advert went up at barely the incorrect time of 12 months, or simply dangerous luck.

I’ve additionally learnt that you could’t educate ambition or motivation, however you’ll be able to educate abilities. I’ve typically been involved about hiring folks with a selected talent set and typically that’s completely essential. Nonetheless, you might need folks within the lab who can simply practice the particular person, and getting anyone from a barely totally different area could be vastly advantageous.

It’s additionally vital that potential postdocs take into consideration the type of setting that may swimsuit them greatest. There are variations between universities and institutes. With universities, as a postdoc, there are most likely extra alternatives to coach college students and to show, on high of doing analysis.


It’s vital to do not forget that searching for a postdoc to hitch your lab goes past analysis. We’re coaching future leaders. On the Francis Crick Institute, for instance, we’ve a postdoc coaching programme that features alternatives for postdocs to interview and rent college students who then work with them for ten weeks. It offers precious expertise for postdocs to hone their abilities in hiring and supervision.

Lastly, for a postdoc trying to transfer place, they need to take into consideration what kind of location they need to be in. My lab is in London. For me you will need to guarantee that folks actually need to stay in an enormous metropolis. Some folks love this life-style, however others need to stay someplace the place they are often near the lab, perhaps in a smaller city.

That is an article from the Nature Careers Neighborhood, a spot for Nature readers to share their skilled experiences and recommendation. Visitor posts are inspired.

Competing Pursuits

The writer declares no competing pursuits.



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