Postdoc Interviews: Don't be a Loser

Lately, I've been reflecting on the long process of obtaining my current position at Brilliant University. Only the last step of the process involved the physical interview. I actually wasn't too worried about the interview, because as a graduate student, I had witnessed more than my fair share of idiots interviewing for postdoc positions.

My grad lab usually had 2-3 postdocs at any given time, but it seemed like we were constantly interviewing to fill vacancies. We had really bad luck with the people we interviewed. These candidates would look great on paper, but when they showed up, we were the lucky recipients of lesson after lesson on what NOT to do during a postdoc interview. I thought it would be fun to count down some of the worst offenses I saw during my time as a grad student.

5. Candidate is immobilized by fear and refuses to speak except during his seminar. No one has any idea who the hell this person is, because he is mute.
4. Candidate severely criticizes work done previously and currently in the lab in which he is interviewing.
3. Candidate wears a very nice navy pinstripe suit, complimented by 4-inch gold stilettos, an enormous gold belt that jingles during movement, hoop earrings with a diameter sufficient for small mammals to jump through, and enough perfume to anesthetize everyone in the conference room. Moral of the story: If you're going to dress professionally, go all the way. Buy yourself some tasteful accessories.
2. Candidate seems very concerned about appearing to have accomplished a lot as a graduate student. Candidate gives a very long talk packed with many, many different kinds of data that she says she has collected. One of the group members is particularly interested in Graph #57, because it is very relevant to that group member's work. The group member asks a number of questions to the candidate about the graph. The candidate seems to know nothing about the graph, then admits to stealing the graph from one of her labmates! Moral of the story: Don't engage in academic dishonesty during an interview.
1. Candidate is out to lunch at a nice restaurant with several group members. Candidate is completely obnoxious and laughs uncontrollably. Candidate tells a 'hilarious' story about how he once met a black homosexual in a Cadillac on the way to church, and now he thinks all black people are gay, and he's decided he hates gay people! Moral of the story: Don't be an asshole during your interview, esp. during lunch.

So, after seeing a lot of these crazies parade through my grad lab, I felt fully confident that I could nail my postdoc interview. All I had to do was dress in a professional outfit, be willing to talk to people, avoid insulting the PI, only take credit for the work I've done, and not make any bold statements regarding race, religion, or sexual orientation! The job was mine!