excellence and ability to work effectively with others.
Mistakes: Not being
prepared to intelligently discuss with the interviewer the full
range of implications of the work of both the interviewee and the
skills are important but not as important as a wide ranging understanding
of the issues in the field and the approaches that can be used to
Dr. Robert Langer
Criteria: That they
be brilliant, motivated, hard working and get along with others.
Advice: Building skills
first before networking and substance is what counts. "A lot
of times somebody will tell you that your idea, or your invention,
can't be done. I think that's very rarely true. If you believe in
yourself and if you really work hard and stick to it, I believe
there is very little that is impossible."
Irwin Fridovich PhD
oxygen free radicals
Criteria: The most
important thing to examine is past productivity.
Mistakes: A serious
mistake that a candidate can make is to exaggerate past accomplishments.
Advice: Do not exaggerate
past accomplishments, because as soon as that is perceived it casts
doubt on everything the candidate has or will say.
Charles M Vest, PhD
Former president of MIT
taste in selecting problems and areas of inquiry, demonstrated scientific
talent, intellectual independence, passion and persistence.
Mistakes: Not communicating
clearly what they have done, how they have done it, and why it is
important. Implying a greater contribution to team efforts than
may be the case.
clearly and concisely. Demonstrate scientific insight and curiosity,
and an appropriate understanding of how you could contribute to
the mission of the organization to which you are applying.
Cold Spring Harbor
Bruce Stillman, PhD
President and CEO
individuals who have a vision of what they want to accomplish and
know how they will go about achieving their goals. Broad thinkers
with interests outside their own work.
to appreciate the existing science at Cold Spring Harbor and inability
to define how they will fit in with potential colleagues.
Advice: One has to
have a passion for the area on which you chose to work. Carefully
think about your choice for postdoctoral research as it will impact
your early career and choose to solve a problem that will have broad
impact in many fields.
Emanuel F. Petricoin
FDA-NCI Clinical Proteomics
Criteria: 1. track
record of creative thinking 2. publication track record 3. demonstration
in team collaborations/ability to get along with others
Mistakes: 1. Self-engrandizement
2. Inability to communicate vision forward
Advice: Come in to
an interview with a vision of where you see yourself in 1, 3 and
5 years. Don't feel that you have to blow your own horn, but clearly
communicate what your special attributes are and how you fell that
you can blossom in the new position.
Thomas J. Kindt, PhD,
Director of the Division of
National Institute of Allergy
and Infectious Diseases.
Criteria: Good training
and high productivity in previous positions. A reasonable fit of
the individual's skills and accomplishments to our needs is assumed,
but if one has been successful in previous positions, that usually
signals that they will be good for the new job.
Mistakes: A big mistake
is making judgmental statements about a program before they have
complete information about it. For example, indicating that the
system is broken and they would make major changes to fix it is
not well received. Not having done their homework to learn about
the organization can also lead to statements that are offputting
to the interviewer. Lastly do not make a list of things you would
never do - if you don't want the job don't accept it but never try
to limit the scope of the position by saying something like "I
will never touch a dangerous pathogen or never work with animals."
Advice: In your application
present your abilities and successes clearly and succinctly, do
a review of the organization and the key players in it and comment
positively about this if the opportunity arises. At the interview
listen carefully to the questions and answer them honestly. Indicate
willingness to stretch your efforts to include mission-related tasks
and point out how your background does meet the need of the organization.
Wolfgang Ketterle PhD
Nobel Prize in Physics 2001
persistence, skills, team working skills
Advice: Publication is the best preparation
for any job in science. Wherever you go, focus on accomplishment.
Hold yourself to a high standard and do quality work.
9. National Cancer
Joost J. Oppenheim MD
Chief of Immunoregulation
Criteria: 1. Recommendations
and discussion with previous mentors. 2. Ability to present cogent
and clear summary of their work. 3. Evidence of broad interests,
knowledge and honesty. 4. Demonstrate sense of humor, perspective
Mistakes: 1. Undue
interest in pay scale and job conditions. 2. Expressed interest
in a subsequent career in industry rather than focus on scientific
goals. 3. Failure to respond to interviewer with questions.
Advice: 1. To realize
that although a mentor and his lab can provide a good research environment,
their success is largely dependent on their own ingenuity, resourcefulness
and independence. 2. They need to work well with their colleagues
because scientific interactions will increase their productivity.
3. Studies should be hypothesis driven and experiments with appropriate
controls should be planned and performed to challenge that hypothesis.
4. Be flexible and change the hypothesis in response to unexpected
results. Take advantage of serendipitous observations, but be realistic
and attack problems that can be solved with the available tools
in order to achieve publishable results.
University of Texas
Southwestern Medical Center
Michael S. Brown, MD
Nobel Prize in Physiology
or Medicine 1985
Criteria & Advice:
Criteria for hiring postdocs:1) demonstrated ability to solve scientific
problems and bring difficult studies to completion; 2) positive
attitude toward accepting challenging assignments without premature
defeatism; 3) a strong ego that reinforces willingness to work openly
with others, knowing that success will bring plenty of credit to
share.With regard to hiring indpendent scientists just out of postdoctoral
fellowships I would use the above three criteria plus one more:
a focussed plan of future work that does not duplicate the work
of his or her mentor. With regard to working in academia vs industry
I use an illustration. To some extent science in both settings is
a gamble. It's like playing pocket billiards. You pick up the cue
and fire away at the balls, hoping to sink one. The only difference
is that in industry you have to call your pocket in advance. In
academia we can take credit for any ball that falls into any pocket.
In this regard we academicians have a tremendous advantage.
David de Kretser
Director of the Monash Institute of Reproduction and Development
Executive Chair Director and the Associate Dean of the university's
Faculty of Medicine
Criteria: In hiring
scientists I look very critically at their curriculum vitae to look
at the range of experience that they have had in relationship to
the job that is available. I look at the publications that they
have generated and also particularly at the places they have worked.
Clearly if I know that the come from a reputable laboratory with
which I am familiar, it adds to the possibilities of their employment.
I do look at the nature of the science that they have worked in
whether that would have influence of their publication record. I
look also for some indication as to what their career path is and
what their vision is for their employment future so that I can see
whether it fits with the position that we have.
Mistakes: In regard
to interviews, often candidates do not listen to the question that
is asked and formulate their answers appropriately. I will often
ask their view of why they have applied for this job and what particular
skills they think can be brought to the position that they applying
for. Sometimes questions might be directed to explore their understanding
of the technologies necessary for the position unless of course,
these are relatively new and have been developed by our own laboratories.
Often questions are phrased to give the prospective applicant some
opportunity to outline their vision for the future and how they
see this position interfacing with that vision
Advice: If they are
really serious about an application they should go through a trial
interview with friends or colleagues who are likely to be able to
phrase questions that might be asked by the interviewing panel.
The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Australia
Sir Gustav Nossal
Criteria: My most
important criterion for hiring a scientist is clearly scientific
ability and reputation. Above all, in this game it is the "superstars"
who will make or break an organization. There is obviously a role
for minor players, but it is very much a supportive one. The "superstars"
tend to identify themselves - either because of a king hit"
that they have already scored or because of a shining intelligence
and creativity that comes through an interview, or in presentations
at meetings or just informal discussion. All other criteria are
secondary to this one of scientific ability. That being said, a
good, collegial, interactive personality certainly helps and if
one can detect an element of generosity of spirit in the scientist
concerned this is a definite plus. Some scientists are quite open
in talking about their latest discoveries; they are not frightened
that someone or another will pinch their brilliant thoughts! This
tends to be more the tradition in the United Kingdom than in the
United States, and Australia has in this respect followed the United
Mistakes: Among the
mistakes that scientists have made are to reveal ambition for themselves
rather than a true scholar's desire to learn. Ambition is not a
bad thing but it must be subjugated to the pure flame of seeking
after the truth. Another mistake is to emphasize too heavily excellence
of results at examinations or other indications of academic performance.
Good results may reflect analytical intelligence but say nothing
about creativity, imagination or the capacity for lateral thinking.
Finally, a very few scientists reveal an interview their desire
for the comfortable, sheltered lifestyle of a university academic.
Yes, there is a self -indulgent element within academia, hopefully
a minority one! Such people certainly have no place in an institution
like the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.
Advice: The key advice
that I would give is to be utterly and transparently yourself. A
new job will work best if the interests of the employer and the
employee are aligned. This is less likely to be the case if the
interviewee "guilds the lily". There is no point pretending
to have interests and abilities which you really do not have. Secondly,
the curriculum vitae should be carefully and meticulously prepared.
It does not have to be long and wordy. It should convey the most
important prior achievements and highlight the most imaginative
future plans. Thirdly, a reasonable amount of background work on
the interests of the employer and /or the employing institution
is well worthwhile. One is certainly more warmly inclined towards
a person who displays a genuine interest in the ongoing work and
who leaves the impression that he/she can contribute to that march
13. University Emeritus
of Ghent, Belgium
Dr. Walter Fiers
Expert in cytokines
a- Quality of publications; especially what the contribution of
the candidate was relative to that of the other authors. b- Personal,
confidential letters of recommendation
Mistakes: Believe that they can obscure
shortcomings by an avalanche of words or by name dropping
Advice: Choose a laboratry in accordance
with your credentials.
Dept. of Biochemistry
from good "stable"
talk too much
show both hands-on (group activities) an theoretical capabilities
Directors, or Scientists
Nancy J Rothwell, PhD
Professor of University
Criteria: 1) Enthusiasm,
2) passion, 3) people need to work well together (ask everyone in
the lab for their thoughts), and 4) Advice from trusted colleagues.
Mistakes: 1) Missing the key issues,
2) Many focus on detail and forget the bigger issues, 3) Lack of
enthusiasm, Under (or less frequently over) selling themselves,
4) Failure to answer the question (usually they answer a question
you didn't ask), and 5) often they even look at you!
Advice: 1) Show them you are passionate
and will overcome the hurdles, 2) Don't be afraid to be human (e.g.
the reason you are moving is because your spouse had to or the break
in your publications is when you had a baby etc).
curiosity, self-motivated, enthusiastic about research with a hard
working attitude. Be independent with a prepared mind for unexpected
observations and think a lot. The background is less important.
Mistakes: Some people
are too shy; they should be more assertive, active and interactive.
Advice: Tell the potential
employers what you want to do, what you know, what you want to learn
and at the same time be modest.
University of Sydney,
Associate Director of Scripps
for hiring were based first on information present in cover letter
and CV. A well presented cover letter and CV without spelling and
grammatical errors is important. You can almost predict a person
by the appearance and content of their cover letter and CV. Satisfying
job description requirements is very important. This is the point
for excluding most of the applicants who lack the required experience
or skills. Good letters of reference.
Mistakes: For the
job interview, presentation is important. I like interviewees who
show confidence and are curious about the position-that is ask questions.
The interview is no place to be shy; however, it is also bad to
be cocky or too flamboyant. They need to fit in group otherwise
I will exclude them.
Advice: 1) Never let
good opportunity go, 2) work hard and try to publish good work that
people take notice of and hopefully the opportunities arise, 3)
to know people and them know and respect you through your good publication.
4. Trudeau Institute, NY
Dyana Dalton, PhD
Criteria: 1) Prior
evidence of productivity is essential. 2) recommendation from supervisors
Mistakes: Does the
applicant communicate effectively? They should be able to give a
seminar on their work clearly explaining what question(s) they were
trying to answer, how the data addressed the question(s), and what
is the general importance of their work.
Advice: I would be
enthusiastic about an applicant that was trained by someone I know
or by someone whose work I admire. But the post doc will also need
the appropriate skills and evidence of productivity to get a job
University of Pittsburgh
School of Medicine
Assistant Professor of Pathology
Criteria: Are they
studying interesting questions? Do they evaluate their own research
critically? Do they like to share ideas? Do they have a sense of
humor? Are they passionate about what they do?
Mistakes: I've seen
candidate that are so nervous they forget to ask about their interviewee's
work. Be sure to do your homework and ask questions about each person's
Advice: Identify your
passions, and find a job that allows you to be passionate about
your work. Identify a place doing what you want to do, and contact
them. Don't just use job postings.
Howard A. Young PhD
Criteria: 1. Clear
understanding of their previous work both from the theoretical and
"bench" aspect. 2. Ability to think on their feet (e.g.
can they handle questions during their seminar) 3. Desire to learn.
Mistakes: 1. Poor
slide preparation for their seminars. 2. Talking about work that
they didn't perform but were done by lab members. A corollary of
this is being vague in their seminars about which aspects of the
projects they actually performed. 3. Claiming expertise they don't
really have. 4. Showing lack of any interest in the overall program
Advice: 1. Be honest
about what you can really do. 2. Be enthusiastic about learning
new technology and exploring new areas of research 3. Have at least
a reasonable idea about your long term goals. 4. Be willing to participate
in the lab as a true team player.
Tufts University School
Naomi Rosenberg, Ph.D.
Dean, Sackler School
Professor of Pathology
vision, Strong research track record, Ability to articulate a program
that is both exciting and likely to be fundable, Mentoring abilities.
to demonstrate an understanding of the "big picture" and
fit their own work into a larger context. Inability to articulate
the steps required to advance the field over the next 5 years.Advce:
Strong communication skills - written and oral are almost as critical
for success as strong bench skills.
Harvard Medical School
Benjamin Neel, MD, PhD
Department of Immunology
Criteria: For postdocs:
Interest in and dedication to becoming independent PI in academia
or group leader in industry. Knowledge of the work we do and specific
questions about it. Some indication that they have a set of concrete
goals for their post-doc training and a plan for accomplishing it--and
some indication that they have thought about why training in our
lab will help them accomplish this. For scientists: A clear research
plan, both short and long term. Indication that they will become
national and international leader in their field. Indication that
they will be good departmental citizens and colleagues. Interactive,
interested in others' research, collaborative. Complementary training/interests
to others in department
to have investigated the lab before coming. Lack of specific career
Advice: See above
Jordan Pober MD
Criteria: For a junior
faculty recruit (i.e. new Assistant Professsor), one-on one interviews
are generally less helpful and less important than seminars and,
in our experience, second visit chalk talks, the latter focused
on plans for the first several years as a lab head. We seek faculty
who we believe will run a lab that will make a difference. We look
for candidates with novel ideas and/or approaches. Good candidates
often come from good labs, and a key issue is to separate the contributions
of the junior person from their mentor. This comes across best in
the way a seminar is organized or in a description of what they
plan to do once they are on their own. The key issue from one on-one
interviews seems to be to convince the interviewer that having this
person at Yale would be good for the institution and could catalyze
new collaborative research efforts.
a lack of interest in the interviewer's work.
Advice: To do some
homework on other members of the department or program so that the
interview can be used to effectively demonstrate the possibilities
of potential interactions.
Dr Thomas D Gilmore
Chair and Professor of Biology
Criteria: I look for
a person who has been successful either as a grad student and/or
post-doc, generally in terms of publication numbers and quality.
I also rely heavliy on letters of recommendation, looking for letters
that indicate the person is a hard worker, interacts well with peers,
is insightful and interactive, and takes initiative.
Mistakes: Acting disinterested
in the position. Giving excuses why they might not be able to do
certain things, even before being offered the position. Poor interpersonal
Advice: Do your homework
before going on the job hunt: know the publications of the people
you are going to meet with (i.e., read some of their papers), know
the names of people you will meet with, give a practiced, polished
and accessible seminar. Don't get bogged down in money. A position
that is productive and lower paying is worth a lot more than a position
you dread but pays a lot of money.
Kawai, DDS, Ph.D
Assistant Member of the Staff
Department of Immunology
for research, previous research productivity, originality, novel
may be attributed to efforts in searching for a "work hard"
researcher rather than a "work fast and precise" researcher.
Advice: It seems to
be important to establish a good relationship with a trustworthy
researcher who has integrity and passion to research. The scientist
referenced by such a researcher could be the first candidate for
the consideration of recruitment. Choose to work in an area that
you have passion and excitement for. Pay is not necessarily the
most important criteria in the research field of academia.
Professor of Immunology
of their work, future and plans.
Mistakes: Not gibing
a lear account of their future directions.
Advice: Pay close
attention to 1 and 2 above.
Thomas N.Seyfried, PhD
Professor of Biology
Fields of Interest
interactions in epilepsy
and brain cancer
Criteria: At Boston
College, a top teaching and research institution, it is most important
that job applicants have published many first authored papers and
have excellent oral communication skills. This predicts the establishment
of an independent research program and good teaching skills. It
also helps if the job candidate already has extramural funding.
Mistakes: A common
mistake is that the job candidates are not familiar with the departmental
research programs or faculty research areas. In other words, the
candidates have not done their background reading or homework about
the position or the academic environment.
Advice: It is important
for the candidate to know how their research and teaching interests
would fit with the research interests and teaching requirements
of the position. New hires are often viewed as potential research
collaborators. It helps if the scientist has a clear idea how their
research program will complement or interact with those already
in the department. It is also necessary to be flexible with teaching
requirements. If the position requires some teaching, know what
this involves in advance of the interview so you can present your
ideas about this during the visit with faculty. It is important
for the scientist to remember, that the decision to hire is often
based on faculty consensus so every faculty interviewer has some
decision on the position whether or not this faculty member was
a member of the search committee.
Yaw-Ching Yang, PhD
Director, Microarray Core
Criteria: For BS or
MS degree positions, I usually look for people who are hard working,
team player, and good at record keeping. For more senior positions,
creativity, hard working, team player and communication skills are
important to me.
ran too long and not organized. Try to cover subjects that they
don't know much. Inconsistent in answering questions
Advice: Be prepared
and practice for interview, don't just show up. Be yourself, be
honest and be excited for the possible new position. Work hard,
be a team player, adjust to new change and learn new things everyday.
School of Medicine
Peter B. O'Connor PhD
Department of Biochemistry
Criteria: My most
important criteria are twofold. First, the scientist should be fun
and easygoing because I'm going to have to work with them and I
prefer a low stress work environment. Second, publications are critical
- first author publications show the ability to complete a project,
middle author publications show the ability to work with colleagues.
But overall, number and quality of publications is the biggest issue.
Mistakes: The biggest
mistake is not showing 100% focus on the science. I don't care about
anything else, I want people to be truly focused on the science.
Advice: The only advice
I can offer is to be willing to take risks. Write grants with crazy
ideas, but be ready to defend them. Don't be a "me too"
scientist that just follows the current fashion. Use the fashion,
but don't be consumed by it.