Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mike's Tips for Recruitment Weekend

Thursday and Friday of this week are the department's recruiting weekend.  Having done these as a recruit, as well as the recruiter, I have a couple tips for recruiting:

1. Don't ask where else they are interviewing
This is my pet peeve.  I can understand how this shows interest in a recruit, which one should do, but it comes off as incredibly insecure.

I see the recruiting process as an extended first date.  The recruit and the department are trying to get a sense whether their interests are aligned, and whether they both feel they are of equivalent status.  Both parties are trying to impress each other, while making it look effortless.  And of course, as on many first dates, the recruit is visiting other departments and the department is interviewing other recruits.

So when someone asks, "Where else are you interviewing," I hear, "Are you seeing anyone else?"  Which is a good way to avoid a second date. If you are interested in a recruit's science, and want to get to know more about them, you can ask, "What type of science are you interested in?"  It doesn't matter what other departments they're visiting, because this one is the best.

2. Don't talk about science
I've been doing post-doc interviews lately, and most of the interviews are consumed with science, both mine and the lab I'm visiting.  It can be fun to show off my research, and most people are excited to talk about their own research.  After a few hours, though, it gets tiresome.  At the end of the day, I've been overloaded by new concepts, and I'm getting tired of going over my boilerplate.  Any conversational respite is appreciated.

I can only assume it's even worse for the recruits.  Their interviews are two days long, and instead of interviewing with one lab, they see four.  When they finally get around to talking to grad students at lunch or the after-party, they're usually exhausted.  So when you talk to them, ask them about sports, movies, or short track speed skating.  Anything but science.


  1. I can understand your motivations Mike, but I feel its less what you talk about and more how you talk about it. I think from your research, you must give the recruits about what the lab is like... I think it is more important to describe the story, such as collaborations, how the PI helped (or didn't help) you, etc... rather than how you have changed the field you are working in...

    I agree that where else someone is interviewing is a frivolos question, but many people, both here and at other places, asked me that as a recruit, and you mention the names and move on in the conversation. Its a silly thing to talk about, but not something that might necessarily offend anyone...

    I feel that the more important thing to do is to be excited about the lab and institution you are in and present someone with a wholistic perspective. If you are speaking with a student, it is important to "sell" your lab as a great place to be, as opposed to telling them details on your experiments.

  2. You're certainly right that one should present the outline of their research, and give a good impression of the lab. I actually kinda disagree, though, that you need to be excited and sell the lab. Everyone else will be doing that during the interview, and it can be exhausting to be constantly proselytized. It can also give the impression that everyone is one dimensional, and just does science all the time, which can be intimidating, and many people are not interested in. By playing to the opposite of that, you can give a more well rounded perspective.


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