Industrial postdoc interview

posted
29-Jun-20, 09:38
Avatar for science5647
posted about 1 week ago
As per title, I'm trying to get a postdoc position in industrial setting (not academic). I had a first 30 min interview and am feeling quite positive about it. It was mainly about my motivation and some questions about techniques I used during my PhD. Next step would be on-site presentation and talking with different dept people. I have a few questions about the approach I should take during this process:

1. The position requires protein production, numerous in vitro biophysical characterization skills which I do have, but not all of them (I have only theoretical knowledge). So all in all, my profile matches 80% of the skills required. I have put this on my CV and the fact that I still got through it seems that it's not a deal breaker. However, any suggestions on how one would talk about missing skills during more in-depth interview? I'm certain that I can learn the missing techniques with time, but I guess I just need a "smooth" way to talk about it during the interview... Maybe putting emphasis on good theoretical knowledge of it would be enough to push through?

2. What do you think would be the best approach to make the scientific presentation about the previous research: focusing on results or rather skills and techniques I used? My PhD did not end up being very successful in a sense that not many positive, publication-enabling results were achieved. However, I had a lot of troubleshooting using multiple methods. I guess at the end of the day, showing skills and the way of thinking would matter more than publications if PhD topic was risky from the very beginning. Considering it's industry, their primary goals are never publications anyway.

Thanks for the tips!
posted
29-Jun-20, 14:07
edited about 5 seconds later
by eng77
Avatar for eng77
posted about 1 week ago
Hi. Congratulation for moving into next step.
1st Question. I have felt during my interviews that mastering what you know and what you wrote in CV is more important than brief knowledge of other skills. Try to be confident in talking about your skills and understand what you wrote in CV and try to make them focus on these skills. If they ask a question about another skill, you can simply say I do not know.
2nd Question. You can focus on the methodology and know precisely any shortcoming in using these methodologies. You can "criticise" your work in the presentation admitting the shortcomings because of limited time or lack of resources/data.Or you can expect their questions and criticism and prepare appropriate answers. You could admit that PhD and academic research are not perfect and to achieve better results, other things have to be taken care of (which might be the case somehow in industrial research).
The question why do you want to move to industry is more likely to be asked again in person. So state clearly your goals without exaggerating stating pros and cons for both academia and industry in a fair way.
posted
29-Jun-20, 14:19
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 1 week ago
I would address the experimental "deficiencies" head on.
Specifically, I would tell them directly that I would very quickly pick up any new skills required and show some proof that I've done that in the past. They will be looking for someone they can confidently leave to get the job done, whatever it takes without them baby sitting you. You need to convey that without bullshitting.
You'll know if this is working because you'll see it in their responses.

Being 20% short should not be a problem unless they have a 100% candidate and even then they may simply like you better so focus on building rapport in the interview. Ask lots of detailed technical questions about certain aspects of what they do which genuinely interest you. They'll pick up on that.

Don't be so sure about industrial companies NEVER wanting to publish as a primary goal. Publishing in an area can be done to intimidate away any competitor trying to find patents in the same area. That is very common. It may also be a requirement for them receiving research funding from governments. Don't assume it's always about profits when it comes to industrial research. Their research is simply focussed on things which might be possible products in 20 years time or it could be speculative stuff but it will usually always be focussed in a particular area so it's a lot more restrictive than pure academic research. You want to make sure they see that you understand their role in the scheme of things. Get that wrong and you'll undermine everything. My advice? Read up on them or ask them very early on where they are in the food chain.

Good luck!
posted
29-Jun-20, 17:40
edited about 4 minutes later
Avatar for science5647
posted about 1 week ago
Quote From pm133:
I would address the experimental "deficiencies" head on.
Specifically, I would tell them directly that I would very quickly pick up any new skills required and show some proof that I've done that in the past. They will be looking for someone they can confidently leave to get the job done, whatever it takes without them baby sitting you. You need to convey that without bullshitting.
You'll know if this is working because you'll see it in their responses.


My whole PhD was literally the situation: applied in with 0 knowledge about the main method, and still got hired!

Quote From pm133:


Being 20% short should not be a problem unless they have a 100% candidate and even then they may simply like you better so focus on building rapport in the interview. Ask lots of detailed technical questions about certain aspects of what they do which genuinely interest you. They'll pick up on that.


Indeed, from what I learnt during PhD courses and talking with people is that positive and confident attitude can go a long way, even with some flaws on the technical side.

Quote From eng77:

2nd Question. You can focus on the methodology and know precisely any shortcoming in using these methodologies. You can "criticise" your work in the presentation admitting the shortcomings because of limited time or lack of resources/data.Or you can expect their questions and criticism and prepare appropriate answers. You could admit that PhD and academic research are not perfect and to achieve better results, other things have to be taken care of (which might be the case somehow in industrial research).
The question why do you want to move to industry is more likely to be asked again in person. So state clearly your goals without exaggerating stating pros and cons for both academia and industry in a fair way.


I agree that being aware of the research flaws just shows that you're not just "doer" but also "analyst" which is what postdoc should be.

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