Interviewing Propspective Lab Members
As part of the hiring process for students, postdoc, and staff we bring people in for on-site interviews. On-site interviews give prospective weecologists the best feel for what we are about and what they might expect if they join our group. It also gives us a chance to see if our work/training environment is one that will suit the needs of the potential weecologist.
A typical weecology interview is one day and structured around individual (or small group) meetings with the members of the lab (including remote members). The day starts with a breakfast meeting with Ethan and/or Morgan (depending on who the person will be working most closely with), with the discussion focused on logistical and management aspects of the group. This serves as an orientation. Who are we, how do we manage our people, what is the advisor/supervisor’s role, what flexibility is there in the position, what is the hope/expectation for what the person filling the position will do/experience. The interviewee then meets with the other people in the lab and Ethan and Morgan will provide funds for lab members to take the interviewee to lunch. They will have a second meeting with their primary advisor/supervisor which will focus on the specifics of the position (staff), general research discussion (students), or a combination of the two (postdocs). The day ends with dinner with Ethan and Morgan to allow the interviewee to ask any any additional questions that they have.
This structure serves several purposes. It gives the interviewee repeated access to Ethan and Morgan, which helps develop rapport and a better sense of the applicant. It also provides them with dedicated time to focus on the environment they would be joining and the role they would be playing in that environment. The one-on-ones with lab members allow them to learn about the breadth of research, job goals, and experiences of people in the group to help them figure out if we would provide the type of environment they are looking for. It also allows us (weecology) to see how interviewees interact with people from a range of backgrounds and experience levels.
Lab Member Roles
The role of lab members is to provide information to the interviewee about what life working in weecology is like and provide feedback to Morgan & Ethan about their interactions with, and perceptions of, the interviewees. Here are some things to think about while interacting with interviewees:
- Give them your honest feedback on the pros and cons of the group, working with Ethan and Morgan, Gainesville, UF, etc. Everyone has their own personal tradeoff landscape and we want people to make an informed decision to join us.
- One of the biggest issues we see in hiring at all levels (students, staff, faculty) is people making decisions based on whether they can see themselves hanging out with/being buddies with an interviewee. This is not an appropriate filter (we are hiring colleagues, not friends) and it is one of the primary ways that implicit bias can influence decision making and result in biased hiring.
- That said, how someone will interact professionally is important. We are a collaborative group with diverse interests and career goals. Things to look for:
- Do they seem supportive of diverse career pathways or dismissive of particular career goals?
- Do they listen to you and respond in a professional manner or do they act like talking to you is a waste of time and say dismissive things about your research or other pursuits (not liking your favorite team/hobby is not the same as judging you negatively for having a hobby)?
- Do they seem like they would work well in a collaborative environment - listen and think about different perspectives and engage proactively in discussions with you?
- Do their research interests align well with the group/funding support?
- People who have done well/been happy in our group are often those with more general research interests. For example, someone interested in using rodents to better understand general processes as opposed to someone primarily interested in understanding rodents or understanding the ecology of a particular place (e.g., SE Arizona). General interests help ensure that folks feel like a part of the lab even if no one else is working in their particular area.
- Are they excited about science?
- Are they interested in interdisciplinary research and a mix of field and computational approaches?
- Are they comfortable with/excited about working in an open manner?
- Is there something in your interactions with the individual that makes you think our group is a particularly good fit or that they might do well with us but struggle in other workplaces/lab environments that they are more likely to run into?
Lab Member contributions
In cases where the interviewee is visiting Gainesville for the interview, there are some additional contributions expected from lab members.
- We like student and post doc interviewees to stay with a lab member during their visit, rather than in a hotel. This provides more opportunities for informal interaction with the interviewee. You do not need to have a fancy guest room to host, a couch/air mattress is fine.
- Rides to the airport.
- Lunches/dinners: Anyone (at a relevant stage for the interviewee) that has interacted with the lab in any way (classes, carpentries, visited Portal, etc) is welcome to join meals. They can provide an outside perspective of the lab, or even just what it’s like to be at UF in general.
- Morgan and Ethan will cover all (reasonable) expenses related to hosting the interviewee (dinner/breakfast on travel days)
There are a variety of ways to provide feedback.
- Lab meetings: Often Ethan and Morgan will call an ad hoc lab meeting or use the beginning of regular lab meeting to have discussions about the candidates. They may have some specific questions related to things they have been pondering about the interviewees, but there will also be time for general feedback as well. These events will generally happen once all the interviews have been conducted.
- Written Feedback: If you would rather provide feedback in a written format, DM via slack or email are both good options. Do NOT use one of the open channels to discuss candidates as anyone who joins the group may have access to that. You may either provide feedback after each candidate or once all the candidates have interviewed.
- Via Glenda or other staff member: If you have something you want to convey but for whatever reason do not want us to know who the information is coming from, you may provide feedback to a staff member you feel comfortable with and have them relay your thoughts to us (or slip a note under our door).