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Friday, July 15, 2005

Cautiously optimistic...

Well, wednesday was my job interview daan sarf. It all went pretty well I'd say. For the previous 3 days I worked around the clock "power-napping" when I could - but it was the right decision. I obtained data after an all-nighter on tuesday that finally clinched the argument that I was going to make during my presentation.

I arrived, surprisingly full of energy, an hour early for my 12:30 interview - and was rather surprised to see SWMNBN's only other postdoc awaiting their interview! Somewhat awkward as you could imagine - but let the best person win I say (as long as that's me!).

I gave my presentation to the interviewer and 3 other faculty members, plus the 2 existing postdocs in the lab. My talk had moved on somewhat since my presentation at conference, and all of the PhD student's work was summarised quickly in the first 2 slides. I had rejigged it enough that it felt fresh, as I was conscious of the fact that this was the second time that my principal interviewer had seen it. My last two slides however made him sit up straight and there was a flurry of questions from everyone in the room, which I was able to answer with ease.

Afer the talk, the postdocs excused themselves and we got down to the actually nitty gritty of the interview. It went pretty well. The atmosphere was relaxed, with all of the interviewers friendly and humorous. I managed to get across the handful of "must say" phrases such as "this is the sort of project I am really looking for". When they got on to the topics of science in general, I was able to show my enthusiasm, which I feel went down well. We even had a little philosophical debate! They also seemed pleased that I am flexible and able to start pretty much immediately. Most encouraging was that when the interviewer was describing the project, he stopped mid-sentence and said "mind you - in light of what you have just been talking about, we might have some more ideas". How cool is that?

After the "technical" interview, I was interviewed by Human Resources. I realised within the first 2 minutes that this is at least as important as the technical interview. I had been led to believe that this would be a discussion of practicalities, such as relocation, pensions housing etc. In actuality it was far more in depth. I was peppered with questions about how I resolve conflict, what sort of working environment I prefer as well as being posed various scenarios. All the while the interviewer scribbled notes. In the end, I rather enjoyed it. I realised that was she was doing a psycholgical evaluation of me, but decided just to be honest. She was very pleasant to talk to, and had a good sense of humour so I figured there was no point in trying too hard - it would come across in my body language. I just tried not to swear.

Finally, it was time for a lab tour. The labs are in a pretty old building and it is something of a change from what I am used to (I have been fortunate enough to work in gleaming metal and glass purpose built facilities in recent years), however the labs are well equipped with a reasonable amount of space and it looks like I get a my own designated office space. I was pleasantly surprised to find that despite it being over 30C outside with blazing sunshine, the aircon kept it at a pleasant 20ish.

All in all, it's a good project and I'll learn a lot. The salary range (although obviously not discussed at interview) is fairly generous and the people and equipment are first rate. My sole reservations are that it will require me to commute every day - something that I have never had to do before, and buying a car is a necessity. I hope that I will get offered an interview at the other place I've applied, just to do a compare and contrast - but won't risk losing this job through indecision if it is offered.

Now I just have to eliminate the competition - maybe I'll offer to cook dinner for the other postdoc...



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