PostDoc Interview Baiting


Hi everyone,

I'm almost a post doc pending the submission of my minor corrections. Have a BSc in Humanities and an MRes. In addition to my education, I also have extensive fieldwork experience and I am a very specific methods expert in a very specific part of the world with no publications.

So far, I've applied for two post doc research associate positions and a research and engagement officer position. All three times I've been told post interview that I didn't possess the 'right' experience or education background.

What I don't understand is how on earth an interview could rectify this? I dont appreciate PIs wasting time for RAs they never wanted. I'd rather have been told no from the beginning. I feel it is unfair to raise hopes when I never had a chance from the beginning.

Also feel familar connections with PIs play a big role in successful applications.

Has anyone else experienced this? Or is just me?


The general dilemma with job applications is that they will select the 'best' candidate, which is something you can't plan for. And this could well be someone connected to the PI.

This is a big contrast to a PhD, where you pass or fail on (what you'd hope to be fair) academic judgment. You could be judged completely capable of doing a job, but are simply not the 'best' candidate.

This is coupled with university HR policies that tend to indicate the recruiter should interview a range of candidates, but don't actually do anything to prevent bias, so often 5-6 candidates are called in to interview for a job that will almost inevitably be assigned to the professor's former student. It makes it look more impartial, even though it's not, if they interview a bunch of people then decide on their favoured candidate, than if they discard everyone else at the CV stage.

This might be all doom and gloom, but the big positive is that you're in the candidates getting called for interview, so are appointable. Make sure you claim expenses. In the short term, it's about persistence, since there will also be vacancies without a favoured candidate, and if you're routinely getting to the interview stage it's likely you will, ultimately, get offers.

In the long term to fix this broken system, you'll need to become a professor, and appoint a postdoc yourself. Immediately a PhD student that's worked ridiculously hard for you for 4 years will tell you they're interested. At that point, you'll see the unfortunate other side of this system.


Thank you for your reply. Yes, for academia there is always a degree of relational politics which is expected I suppose. Also, I am not officially a postdoc yet so there is that. Aiming for a major journal publication this year.

Im at a bit of a career impasse, unsure whether to continue into academia or to try to break into industry. I've been continually working multiple jobs and studying for the last 9 years. Exhausted is not the word.


Quite a lot of first postdoc position is obtained via recommendation from the PhD supervisor. Ie PhD supervisor asked their friend to take in their student. Could you try asking you supervisor for help?

Here is my personal thought though. Your area is in humanities. It is quite a challenging field to get grant funding, and even harder to get tenure. Would you consider going into industry for a more secure and better paid job?

You can read up about the challengies for humanities graduate here:
Humanities PhD Graduates: Desperately Seeking Careers?


@tru your right, yes. My phd is actually in PolSci with highly specific methods expertise. I could but their actually different fields and specialisms Im not keen on.

I'm considering reaching out to industry based teams to get some 'other' experience. Possibly R&D, analytics work but they usually require quantitative experience.

I'm a qual only 😭 I knew this would be a massive catch. Still, I'm going to take the leap and continue to publish in the background to keep both doors open. I'll get there eventually 😩. Cut throat world this.

Avatar for rewt

I am in a similar position (submit in January) and starting to apply for postdocs myself. My plan is to email the PIs of the postdoc roles directly and ask for more information/would I be suitable. Some PIs will respond and will take you more seriously because of it.

Quote From DrHopeIsOutThere:
Also feel familar connections with PIs play a big role in successful applications.

That is very true. Though from listening to PIs if they heavily advertise a role it is more likely than not to be an open position. If they already have someone in mind they don't advertise the position as much (i.e.. only on their HR website) because they are only doing it for HR reasons.


@rewt Good luck with your submission. Dont worry about the viva at all, you'll be suprised how much your brain will sing during the voce!

Sounds like a great plan! All the best with it! Can I just say Im so glad I found this forum, great advice from everyone.

My last few projects have focused heavily on sensitive issues, so subject matter is really important beyond what I am trained and educated for.

P.S. If you're a PhD newbie with little experience be sure to apply for your university or colleges research assistant registers! These can help to keep us afloat before postdoc work.

At this point, Id accept any rate so long as its understood as my stepping stone to something bigger.


Quote From DrHopeIsOutThere:

I'm considering reaching out to industry based teams to get some 'other' experience. Possibly R&D, analytics work but they usually require quantitative experience.

If you are intending to jump into industry, you are at the best time. Fresh PhD graduates are always welcomed and have an easier transition from research academia to industry. Postdocs who have been in academia for a few years do face some hurdles to transition, although not impossible.

Perhaps have a think what your options are. Have you checked out the following?
- Highest Paying Jobs for Political Science Majors

- Political Science Careers

It seems like half of those in your field go into government.

Perhaps you can even consider a short internship as an entry into industry or government.

I wish you good luck!


@tru you think? I sure hope so, I just need a chance is all. I will in the meantime try to get a first author journal article accepted. Thank you! All the best yourself :)