searching for advices/tips for postdoc interview


Dear all,

Days ago I received an invitation of interview for a postdoc position. I was quite surprised that I was shortlisted since I come from a different background. My PhD is in Psychology and this postdoc job is, generally, in the field of economics. The recruiting project is sort of multi-descipline. When applying for the job, I gave an idea of my own thought of how topic in Psychology (especially those that I am interested and have expertise in) can be combined with the specific research question interesting the project leader. So now I am thinking of develop this ideas in more details during the interview presentation.

I don't know whether this is a good format. The presentation should be about 30 minutes. I imagine that for those whose PhD research is highly close to the current one, they can spend the main part of time presenting their work, linking their knowledge/skills/expertise/contact with the recruiting project. As in my own case, what can be expected by the interview panel? For the moment, I am thinking of presenting my PhD work for 15 minutes, and then spending the remaining time focusing on the larger picture of my PhD work and its background, e.g., what I learnt from the PhD research, what I now think of the topic and how I think it's theoretically/practically related to especially the current project, and why I (still) think it's an important topic.

Seems quite important is to be familiar with the research background/topic of the PI. I'm afraid I don't have enough time to be familiar with all the background, so would like to ask for advice on what can be the most important part in this respect!

there'll be a 10-min small presentation before the interview, focusing how/why I can contribute to the research. Any idea/advice on this?

Also, I wonder normally who is the person deciding the shortlist. The PI himself or a group of people in the faculty?

Many thanks!


Hello...congrats on the interview...I recently had a similar situation with an interview for a position in quite a different field (I am an analytical chemist and they wanted an engineer with knowledge of a field I have no experience - I work with water but now I am moving to renewable energy) but as with you the project was very multidisciplinary.

I only had a 10min interview where I had to say what I can contribute to the centre and I focussed on how I can learn the area quickly (evidence from my PhD where it was very multidisciplin. and I had no prior knowledge of many themes) and what new perspectives I can bring to the group which they do not have. What I did not mention (but they then asked in the follow on questions) was how the technical skills I have to date could translate to this 'new' area and what my focus would this case I focussed on my analytical chemistry knowledge (in general and not specific to my PhD as such) and how a knowledge of analytical chemistry can help them understand the chemical basis of the processes they are seeing.

What I did (and I think it might help you) is to not forget your soft skills...In fact my presentation was mainly focused on my experience of networking/project management - your PhD is a project/collaboration etc...which would be useful across the board. I did not have too many technical skills to offer in the direct area and so had to sell my other skills.

.I got the job so it seems I did something right...Good LUCK.


Appreciate this detailed advice ailicec! And happy for you that you got the job!!

Just received another interview request in which a 10-min presentation is required, so I really learnt a lot from your experience to handle the time-wise tight situation.

You mentioned 'soft skills' and emphasised your experience of networking. By this, did you mean to demonstrate that you have valuable contacts that you can bring to the new work team, or something else? And did you focus on this aspect because you find this is something quite advantageous of yourself?

In allocating time, did you expect that they will ask the fit between your skill and the new area, so strategically did not mention it but focus on your ideas/skills they might have overlooked?

I think the presentation needs to be effective so that it shows sale bitch as well as leads to desirable questions. Is this what underlying your presentation too?

Also, can I ask what other questions they asked you?

Thanks very much!


Congrats on the second interview... I focussed on the networking as the job had a big part which involves working with industry and building partnerships...I had no contacts I could bring to the team (it is a different country and a different area...but I moved countries for my PhD so I mentioned how I worked to start out in a new country and why changing countries with no contacts is something I can it is more the skill I bring to the table (I did not have much else :S). Re why I focussed on the soft skills, the main reason was that I was moving to a new area of which I had no prior all I could bring to the table were the soft skills (and I also quite enjoy talking and meeting new people).

Other questions included things such as how do I feel about teaching and how do I plan to get involved in the department.

Good Luck


Hey TerryCH.

I just started my second post-doc a couple of months ago- like you, my PhD was psychology, and like you my new position is in a multidisciplinary team that I don't know much about (technology-oriented)! I was very surprised to get an interview. I didn't have to do a presentation, but they ask me to develop a task/experiment and perform it at the interview with the interview panel as participants (eeek!), and then asked questions about the task, followed by a normal interview. I admit, I had to do quite a lot of background reading to put in a decent performance! Long story short, aside from testing usual background knowledge, they seemed especially interested in:
1) Why I was interested in changing topic to come to this position?
2) my enthusiasm and ideas for the project (if you could develop any technology for people with X condition, what would it be?)
3) they asked about the highlight of my PhD (my new boss later told me that she needed to see someone who could get excited by their work, as she does!)
4) did I think my lack of expertise in technology would be a barrier to me doing well in the job?
5) my thoughts for where I wanted to combine my knowledge and expertise with theirs and take this forwards for new projects
6) my experiences with collaborating with people from various disciplines and across different timezones: how to manage this

So there were quite a few bits around managing input from different disciplines and how my own research background would fit with theirs and where we would want to go from there- definitely do a bit of background research on your interview panel and have a think about it! Hope that helps a little- good luck!



Hi Keenbean,

Thanks so much for this detailed advices and sharing your experience. I did not anticipate that mock experiment would be tested during a postdoc interview; but it's quite to know!

Can I ask what kind of research is it in your new field? are there new professional skills/technology required? and to what extent do you think you were qualified at the interview moment? I just try to gain an idea of how much the employer would expect from an applicant in terms of their skills.

Thanks very much!



Hi Terry!

Don't stress about the experiment- they pre-warned me, so I had a week to prepare what I was going to do, it wasn't just on the spur of the moment! (else I would've crashed and burned!)

My new work is designing, testing & evaluating assistive technology for people with dementia. My background is in dementia research, but absolutely nothing to do with technology whatsoever! But the thing about the multidisciplinary team is that they won't expect you to know everything...that's why they have a range of people. I have psychological input into the work (i.e. communicating with people with dementia, finding out what they would like, working out how we can evaluate the product's success and market it etc), but obviously there are software engineers etc who do the programming and build the prototypes! So even though you're looking at something different, in reality I would think that although you'll need to pick some new stuff up, there will be plenty of other people who will be good on the finance side of things, and they will most likely make use of your psychology background. I have had to go on some courses and do a lot of background work to get up to speed, but this hasn't been a problem really. I've been there for 10 weeks and have written two review papers, which is a good way to get your head around the literature.

I think willingness to learn and enthusiasm go a long way. I was very surprised to get an interview and even more surprised to get the job, but now I'm there, things are falling into place very well and I'm not being left to do things that I have absolutely no clue about!

Best of luck- it's a great way to learn new skills and broaden your experiences, I don't regret doing it now even though I was a little scared about it to start with!

Best, KB


Hi KB & ailicec,

Grateful to your suggestions! A kind of final stage question: did you use ppt when giving your postdoc presentation? I found it not very helpful, in my own case, to demonstrate that I have generic & key research skills that can be adopted in a new area. In fact, it seems to make it even more difficult to make the presentation.



Hey! Well I didn't do a normal presentation, I did this task/experiment thing, so I used handouts for that. I do normally use powerpoint for interview presentations, but if you reckon you can do better without, then do it without! At post-doc level I would think they'll be perfectly happy for you to use your initiative and do whatever works best for you :)

Good luck! KB


I used powerpoint, but I think you can use whatever you are most comfortable with.