Postdoc interview questions can be intimidating because your interviewer will be expected eloquent, in-depth, and insightful answers. You’ll need to show why you are the best candidate for a postdoc position and what you can contribute. There may be quite a few queries you’ll recognize from graduate school interview questions, but a postdoc interview will tend to be more focused and specific to the position or type of research required of the role. You can expect questions about your PhD studies, your research history and work history, as well as some common interview questions you’ve seen before. You may also be asked to prepare a postdoc interview presentation. In this blog, we’ll look at some common postdoc interview questions and sample answers, what the postdoc interview is and how to prepare for it.

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Common postdoc interview questions What is the postdoc interview? How to prepare for a postdoc interview Types of postdoc interview questions Additional postdoc interview questions FAQs

Common postdoc interview questions

1. Why did you choose to apply for this postdoc position?

Your work with [research project] in 2018, which was published in [academic journal] is what drew me to this position. I was fascinated reading about your discoveries, and I enjoyed the opportunity to gain a more nuanced understanding of your topic. I applied for this position because I believe I am well-suited to the role, and I am intrigued about being a part of your upcoming projects.

2. What are you hoping to gain from this position?

I applied for this position because your lab is well-known for being at the top of its field, and I wanted to learn from the best. I am eager to expand my knowledge in the field and gain a more nuanced view, and I am confident that this position will allow me to, in learning from the top researchers in this field, to further my knowledge and professional goals.

3. Do you have any experience supervising graduate students?

During my PhD studies I did have an occasion to mentor and supervise graduate students in a biological sciences master’s program. I assisted my professor, [Dr. Y], who allowed me to independently supervise the students for multiple labs. I enjoyed the opportunity to pass on advice I had learned as a graduate student and provide assistance.

4. How will this postdoc position help you attain your career goals?

This position will grant me a solid foundation in my chosen field, allowing me to learn directly from the field’s recognized experts and observe them. It is my goal to focus my career on this discipline, so to me it is the clear choice to begin by gaining experience and learning from the ground up.

5. What skills and experience would you bring to this position?

As you can see from my CV, I worked with [Dr. X] in the [Lab Name] for 2 years. Their lab undertook similar work to this position, though not as specialized. I am very familiar with the methods and protocols used in your lab, and I am eager to broaden my understanding in this field through your current projects.

6. How would you find funding for your work?

Finding funding is always a challenge, and I do have some experience with grant writing and fundraising in my last position with [research project]. Securing funding is competitive but I learned that writing clear and persuasive grants and proposals do help to draw some attention to your project. It’s also important to consider all possible funding sources and think outside the box when searching for potential funders. I like to consider any and all potential avenues without ruling anything out.

7. What did you most enjoy about graduate research?

My graduate research experiences included my first lab experiences as well as my first publications, both of which were immensely satisfying and fulfilling. It was a great opportunity for me to experience lab work, as well as stay with an important project throughout its life cycle all the way to publication. My graduate research has solidified for me my career trajectory and overall has been full of positive and engaging experiences.

8. Have you collaborated with other postdoc researchers?

Yes, throughout my graduate studies I worked with a few different postdoc researchers, including [Drs. A and Z] at [University]. Working with them was an excellent chance for mentorship and networking. [Dr. A] is the one who recommended that I apply for this position as it was a good skills match.

9. How would your faculty advisor from your doctorate program describe you?

My faculty advisor at [University] would most likely use the words tenacious, dedicated and creative to describe me. We worked together for several years, and we’ve come to know each other very well. My advisor, in their feedback, often mentioned that I don’t give up easily and I always look for another way, which is quite true. They did me the honor of writing me a letter of recommendation, as you can see in my file.

10. What do you think is most important to make collaborations a success?

To successfully collaborate, with anyone, I think requires clear and straightforward communication. With this there is less likely to be misunderstanding or friction down the road. I believe setting clear expectations and shared goals contributes to putting everyone in sync and on the same page. 

What is the postdoc interview?

The postdoc interview is essentially the job interview you’ll attend when applying for a research, lab, teaching or fellowship position after completing your graduate studies. There are many different types of postdoc positions you can interview for, but essentially the postdoc interview allows your interviewer, the principal investigator, to determine whether you are a good fit for a research project, lab position or research fellowship. If you’re wondering how to find a job after grad school or how to find a postdoc, the postdoc interview is important to prepare for, as it can secure you the position you want.

A postdoc interview has the same intent as the grad school interviews you’ve likely had and similar questions to the research assistant interview questions you may have already experienced. A postdoc interview is used to get to know you as a candidate, learn more about your background and experience, and determine if you have the qualities they are looking for. Always aim, when answering interview questions, to showcase the skills and experience you have that fit the position, demonstrate an eagerness to learn and collaborate, as well as name what you stand to gain from the position. Lastly, be sure to come prepared with a list of postdoc interview questions to ask your interviewer afterwards!

Don't have a research resume ready? Here's a guide to writing one.

How to prepare for a postdoc interview

PhD consultants or your grad school advisor can be good places to look for help with preparing for the postdoc interview. Sometimes, consultants can set up mock interviews for you to help you prepare your answers and practice your interview performance. Mock interviews are close facsimiles of the real interview, so this is one the best preparation methods. Mock interviews also allow your mock interviewer to provide real-time feedback and advice on your delivery and postdoc interview answers. Your advisor or a consultant can also help you with writing your research resume or research interest statement if you’re applying for postdoc research positions, too!

Your aim in preparing for postdoc interviews is to be well prepared and confident, but don’t over-rehearse your answers. Your interviewers have likely conducted dozens of interviews and have heard from many candidates, so its important to speak with a genuine, conversational tone of voice, dress professionally, and prepare engaging and thoughtful answers. It’s also an excellent idea to research the lab, institution or fellowship where you’ll be interviewing, so you know what their research interests are and what to expect. And as always, sending a thank you note to the principal investigator after the interview is a nice touch.

Types of postdoc interview questions

There are many different types of postdoc interview questions, and they range from the more personal questions about your career goals and motivations to the more specific questions where an interviewer will ask you to describe a situation or example. If you’re applying to a research fellowship, your questions may be more focused on a specific type of research. For example, a medical fellowship interview questions and answers will be geared towards medical research and expertise. You can also expect some questions related to your past research, similar to thesis defense questions, so be sure to refresh your memory of your most notable research projects if you need to.

Next, we’ll cover a few of the different types of postdoc interview questions you can expect and what topics commonly come up in a postdoc interview.

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Additional postdoc interview questions

11. Tell us about yourself

12. What are your career goals? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

13. Tell us about your research background to date, including publications and experience.

14. If you are successful, what would your proposed research direction be?

15. What are some examples of your strengths and weaknesses?

16. Can you give us an example of when you have shown initiative?

17. What kind of work environment do you prefer to work in?

18. What areas of research most interest you and why?

19. Describe a situation where you encountered difficulties and how you overcame them.

20. What are the main findings of your PhD?

21. What is your greatest accomplishment?

22. What interests you most about this postdoc position?

23. What is most important to you in a postdoc position?

24. Can you tell us more about your work history?

25. Have you ever had a leadership or management position in a research setting?

26. What are your postdoc research goals?

27. What research methods are you most familiar with?

28. Do you have any experience with grant writing?

29. How did you hear about this postdoc position?

30. Do you have any questions about this postdoc position?


1. How do I prepare for a postdoc interview?

The best way to prepare for a postdoc interview is to use mock interviews. Mock interviews essentially simulate the interview process, allowing you to prepare answers to common questions ahead of time and practice your interview performance beforehand.

2. What types of questions are asked in a postdoc interview?

Postdoc interview questions will typically fall into one of several categories: personal or background questions, questions about your experience and work history, questions about your skills and attributes or questions related to your expectations and the role you’re applying for.

3. How do you answer tell us about yourself in a postdoc interview?

Answering tell us about yourself can be tricky. Aim for 2 to 3 key points you want to address and keep it focused on who you are and why you’re interviewing for that position.

4. How should I dress for a postdoc interview?

In general, you should dress formally in clean, business attire. Professional clothing is best for a postdoc interview.

5. How do you ace the postdoc interview?

Acing the postdoc interview is about demonstrating what you will bring to the position you’re applying for and what you will gain from it personally and professionally. Prepare answers to common postdoc interview questions ahead of time and practice your delivery with some mock interviews.

6. Do I prepare a presentation for a postdoc interview?

Some postdoc interviews will ask candidates to prepare a presentation, but not all. If you do need to prepare a presentation, it should focus on you’re a brief explanation of your background, research history and a summary of your PhD studies.

7. How long does a postdoc interview last?

Postdoc interviews usually last around 30 minutes, but may take longer depending on the position and the interviewer.

8. What should be included in a postdoc interview presentation?

In a postdoc interview presentation, you will typically introduce yourself, your experience and summarize your graduate studies.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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