How competitive are postdoc or research jobs nowadays? Tips on application?


I have applied to quite a few postdoc/research positions but no luck so far. I have two first-authored papers, one published and the other submitted for publication. There aren't a lot of opportunities in my direct field (life sciences), so I have been applying to jobs in related fields that I can meet at least 50% of the requirements. Does anyone have a clue on how competitive it is out there? I am starting to wonder if it is me who isn't competent enough. People who have succeeded in getting a postdoc/research job, can you share your application tips?

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From my limited experience (still a PhD student), the post-doc market is very competitive unless you have a connection to the PI. I am sorry to say it but more PhD students graduate every year than post-doc jobs and unless you have an inside connection it will be always be competitive

On a side note my second supervisor hired a post-doc entirely because he knew one method. She never met him before the interview and he knew very little about the field except how to do a very specific polymerisation method that was crucial to the project. My supervisors attitude was she can teach him everything else and he could teach her the polymerisation method. I know it is hard to know what is important beforehand but you should be thinking what can you bring to the role/project. So instead of being generic about what you know, what makes you special?


My PhD was in a very new area, I applied for 15 postdocs and got 5 interviews. The postdoc I accepted was in a slightly different field but as it was a big lab they were willing to train me up in the other 50% of techniques I didn't know. What won me the interview was they liked my personality and work ethic.


Most of my former PhD colleagues went on to do postdocs in substantially different fields. I guess it depends on the number of applicants a supervisor receives. If you aim your applications at well known institutions and world leading PIs you'll always face difficulties because of the numbers involved. There are plenty of perfectly good PIs who receive only a small number of applicants.