fail an interview due to poor preparation. Applicants should
know about the research interests of potential future colleagues who they will be meeting. Applicants should be able
to describe their own research on multiple levels from a
simple “elevator pitch” to a highly detailed critical evaluation.
Presentations should be well rehearsed and understandable to
a broad audience. The job talk and chalk talk should clearly
articulate the key ideas at the very beginning to help the committee members appreciate the applicant’s research vision.
Applicants need to convince the committee that there is a
significant and, yes, fundable research program.
When I work with postdocs to hone their presentations,
I often hear the complaint that my prescription sounds a lot
like salesmanship. That’s because it IS salesmanship. Biomedical researchers need a lot of money to start a lab and keep it
running for 3–5 years until grants start coming in. In 2017, an
applicant for a faculty position is literally making a sales pitch
for a startup package between 1–5 million dollars. Let that
number sink in. That’s a lot of money! My point is that if an
applicant is going to ask for 1–5 million dollars, then the applicant should be highly motivated to put in the time preparing for an interview.
5. Remember That the Interview Is for Your Benefit, Too.
Use interviews as opportunities to learn about potential
future colleagues and work environments. While applicants
are clearly focused on getting a job offer, they need to decide whether they and their research can develop and thrive
at an institution. Does the institution make a strong effort
to mentor junior faculty? Are there many shared resources?
Do potential colleagues have the expertise and enthusiasm to
provide constructive feedback on the research? Is there good
administrative support for grants management and teaching?
Does the department have a good track record for helping junior faculty achieve tenure? Does the institution offer daycare,
and if so, how long is the waiting list? And so on.
My final piece of advice is not directly related to interactions with a future employer, but it is about an important relationship—your spouse or significant other and family. Their
support can help an applicant remain positive and enthusiastic
throughout the long and sometimes stressful application process. Be sure to thank them verbally and often. n
Dr. Erik Lee Snapp is the Director of Student and Postdoctoral
Programs at Janelia Research Campus in Ashburn, VA. He grew
up in Oregon, obtained his B.A. (’89)
in Biology from Harvard, and his Ph.D.
in Microbiology from Oregon Health
Sciences University. He did a postdoc
in cell biology at the National Institutes
of Health with Dr. Jennifer Lippincott-
Schwartz and then joined the faculty
of Albert Einstein College of Medicine
from 2004 to 2016.
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