Following up on How to find a postdoc, you’ve advertised a postdoc job and your inbox is filled with applications. Now what? As a reminder, I’m discussing the situation where one or two researchers are hiring a postdoc for a specific project, as opposed to independent prize postdocs, which are usually handled by a committee. For the person doing the hiring, this means it can go a lot faster (fewer meetings to arrange!) but possibly with less oversight.

Every institution is different, but here are some general ideas:

  • Understand your institution’s rules. Postdocs are often a special category of employee, or perhaps more like independent contractors than employees. Rules that apply to faculty hiring (a good example is here) may not apply to postdocs, but are worth reading through. And they certainly help in reminding you of what questions you can and can’t ask in an interview.

  • Check your biases. This could mean noting to yourself that you had a bad experience with someone from country X or university Y, but that shouldn’t refelct badly on all applicants from the same place. Or it could be learning about your unconcious biases by taking an implicit association test

  • Think about how you want to use reference letters. As that post explains, I have some reservations about them. It’s your choice how or whether to use them, but I encourage you to read about bias in recommendation letters and read letters critically.

  • Create a rubric. What did you write in your job posting? Which skills are critical and which merely “nice to have”?

  • Interview: in person if possible, by phone or video if not. This is a two-way street: you’re trying to figure out if you can work with this person, and they are too. You need to sell your department or institution (and yourself) as a good opportunity for the candidate. Remote interviews can be especially awkward, so if you are using both remote and in-person interviews, you’ll want to consider this in your ranking.

  • Ask for help. Even if your colleagues will not be directly working with the postdoc, the person you hire could still make a difference to the overall department climate. So I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask them to chat with a visiting candidate, or discuss your shortlist with you. Consider removing identifying information from the application materials and showing them to your colleagues for a second opinion.

  • Make decisions and communicate them in a timely way. Candidates are likely applying to several positions and need to hear back from you about where they stand. Treating them with consideration is more than just professional courtesy, it’s human decency.

Good luck in making your match!