Post-doc Job applications


Hi Folks

I've been looking at post-doc job advertisements in the field of biological sciences, mostly in the neurosciences/physiology area. Trouble is, i've yet to find any jobs for which I tick every box on the job advertisement, in most cases I manage about half to three quarters of their requirements, in some cases I manage all ofthe essential requirements but not the desirable ones.

I would like to know if this is entirely normal, and to those who have recently suceeded in getting a post-doc job, how one would work around this, or even make a relative lack of experience seem like an advantage. At present I've got no papers to speak of, and am about to start 4th year, (funding ends at end of 3rd year). If everything goes brilliantly from now on, I may manage to be on 4-5 publications with one first author from my time as a PhD student, but am not counting on more than one paper published by the time I have my Viva.

All advice/opinions are welcome


I can't help, but just wanted to say hello as I am in the same position, and in the same sort of area (my undergrad was in neuroscience, PhD is more cell biology). I seem to find several positions however never fit many of the criteria! :(

I'm not applying for jobs yet as I've barely started writing up (oops). Just thought I'd say hello though! All the best for the job search :)


Hi, I am also in the same position but not the same field. I am about to start my 4th year, have no publications and starting to write up. My funding runs out as well. I haven't started to look for post-docs, not sure where to start. I am looking to see what is out there but mostly looking at Research Assistant type posts where some ask for a PhD as desirable. Are post-docs clearly marked as post-docs, what is the difference in applying for a post-doc and a RA type post? Sorry for really basic question and good luck with your search. Personally I would go for the post-docs where I can fulfill most of the essential criteria, you may have something else you can offer which is transferable to other essential requirements.


Quote From bulbs:

Are post-docs clearly marked as post-docs, what is the difference in applying for a post-doc and a RA type post?

Hi Bulbs

Yes, post-docs are clearly advertised as post-docs. I've been looking around a bit at post-docs too, and it seems that while the pay is not dissimilar to an RA position, the status is. RA positions can go to decent researchers, and you don't need a PhD. Of course, you do for post-docs. Post-docs are highly competitve and prestigious. The ones I've looked at provide a contract for three or so years on a major research project. RA work can be more mundane - I also work as an RA, and it's pretty basic stuff. A post-doc would be much more challenging I think.

Would love to hear from post-docs in the social sciences field about their experiences/tips on getting one!


Hi Sue, many thanks for your reply. I also used to work as an RA and I understand what you say about the post-doc.


Hi Folks

Thanks for your responses so far, and good to know there are others out there like me. On the research assistant front, does anybody know if taking a research assistant post after PhD for a few years, then moving onto a post-doc placement is considered the done thing?, or is this frowned upon?

Can't help thinking with the competitiveness of the jobs market at present this may not be a bad way to go, but will this harm my academic career prospects long-term?



I am also in the same boat- funding about to run out as I'm about to enter my 4th year. I'm finishing off a few last experiments and starting to write up at the same time. I'm hoping to get a full first draft done by the end of the year, so I've started to have a bit of a look at various job websites to see what sorts of post-doc positions are available (not sure if this is a bit early, but I guess it can't hurt to see what's out there). I have had the same experience of everything seeming to want more skills/experience than I have, however, I've been told that I shouldn't be put off just because I don't tick all the boxes. If you don't have a skill that is listed as essential, then applying is probably a waste of time, but if you have the essentials covered just not some of the desirable skills, then it shouldn't put you off applying. All the other people who apply may also only tick the essentials boxes, not the desirable ones meaning you are in the same boat as the other applicants and not at a disadvantage.

If you're really not sure if you have enough of their requirements, then consider sending an informal email to the person advertising the job. If you give them a brief rundown of your skills and experience they can decide if they think it's worth you applying without having all the requirements they listed in the advertisment.

One of the PhD students from our lab who finished a few months ago has recently got a post doc position and she didn't have everything that was listed in the advertisement. She had the most important skills and said she was willing to learn anything else that was needed.

When I get to the stage of actually applying, rather than just browsing through the job advertisments, I don't think I will be put off if I don't have a few desirable skills- I'll pitch it to them that I'm a quick learner and as long as I have the main important skills I have as good a chance of getting the job as anyone else (hopefully! :$ )

Good luck!


> Trouble is, i've yet to find any jobs for which I tick every box on the job advertisement

This is entirely normal. You cannot expect to be able to fulfil all the job requirements and often prospective employer will not be able to find the "perfect" postdoc either so they will have to compromise.

Beware of "inside jobs" though. Sometimes you see adverts with impossibly detailed job specs which no one, other than someone already in the group and is being lined up for the post, can fulfil.


I'm definitely finding this problem and I am also in neuroscience. Unfortunately, I have to stay at my institution and can't move. The only way I can get a postdoc here is to write the grant myself with a principal investigator. I need a couple of good papers to do that - so that's what I'm working on now (had viva in July). It means a year of unpaid work bar some dept teaching but I don't see any other way that I can 'tick all the boxes' for a position unless I create for myself.

If I could move, I might look into RA positions that provide experience in specific skills/techniques (such as fMRI or in person assessment for example).


Also, "network" as much as possible, if there are any conferences or meetings, start doing the rounds and put the word around that you need a job. it works.


Quote From cakeman:

On the research assistant front, does anybody know if taking a research assistant post after PhD for a few years, then moving onto a post-doc placement is considered the done thing?, or is this frowned upon?

This is perfectly fine - but then I'm in Australia, and there's a lag between finishing the PhD and a becoming a Dr and being able to apply for post-docs. Since it's not unusual to have to wait up to 9 months between submitting and graduating, people have to do something in this hiatus! And a lot of post-docs are open to people who have received their doctorate within a certain time frame - like the last 5 years, and so people would be teaching, doing RA work in that time. But could be different in the UK and in science.

And I think getting a post-doc would be harder than getting a job, even in a recession - don't see it as an easier option at all!!


I had huge difficulty in finding a post doc when I had finished my PhD a while back. Its fairly normal to get knocked back.
(even though I had several first authorships and had the desirable skills for many).

What was helpful for me was to big up my transferable skills (matlab, computer languages) which is something that had been overlooked but necessary. Even though not central to my job description it was a bonus that my PI recognised would make life easier. Perhaps you may have similar skills to set you apart from other applicants?

Also who your PhD supervisor is friendly/unfriendly with could have a bearing. I was flat out rejected for at least 2 two job apps (that I know about), that I should have at least been shortlisted for because my supervisor had animosity with those teams. The converse is true as I have seen several weaker candidates get picked up for post docs because their supervisor put in good words, or called in favours.

Also some places will have higher competition. London has lots of projects (not as many now due to the credit crunch but still) but even more people wanting to live there. If you are mobile and are willing to move, it will make everything much easier.

Although many people get post docs before they submit, the longer it takes to do your PhD does have a bearing on how you are percieved and also how you are paid. If you end up doing post doc work that slows your submission down you could be on a lower salary for a longer time. It may be better to wait 6months, submit and start at a higher spine point rather than start now and spend 2 years or so on a lower salary.


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I'm sure that it totally is.

Do postdocs count as "youth"? :p


You're as young as the man you're feeling.