From the Northeastern Section of the ACS, focusing on career management and development

November 2019
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Interviewing Potpouri
Filed under: Interviewing, Position Searching, Job Offer (Situations), Mentoring, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 7:40 am

A potpourri is a collection of miscellaneous items.
Several interesting situations and resulting questions
are reported from members.

One member received an attractive post-doctoral
offer after a telephone and on-site interviews in
which she met the person she would replace and
many of the staff.

The offer letter indicated it was a one year position,
renewable for up to five years, depending upon
attaining funding and successful completion of
responsibilities.  It curiously had two dates when
the offer letter was to be signed and returned.  One,
clearly a misprint was past, probably the date of

The offer letter indicated a full time position, but
did not indicate anything about formally assisting
the newly minted Ph.D. with working papers.  
Reference to employee handbook covered
insurances, holidays and vacations was provided.
It is important to match how these meet your
family’s needs.

To complicate matters, this scientist received a
telephone interview from her choice institution
on the day the offer letter came.  It was an exciting
conversation involving 2 professionals, arranged
by the admin via email.

What should she do about the offer?  What should
she do about the possible position from her top
choice employer?

1.  Some items were missing in the cover letter.
Some dates were not clear.  Conversation with the
PI covered the critical need that the offering university
would help her obtain H1B visa.  This should be
written into the offer letter.
2.  Although starting and ending date and salary
are in the letter, it would be good to clarify any
items in the handbook about vacations, holidays,
memberships, relocation and critical items for her
family and move. 
3.  A letter of receipt of offer should be sent.  It
should be done both via hard copy and phone and
express thanks and appreciation for an attractive
offer.  It should state offer details as best as you
can represent. 
 - Find out when insurances kick in. 
 - Are you eligible for 403b savings plan? 
 - No restrictions for where you work after this
position are stated or implied.  Nonetheless, it
is not a bad idea to have a legal representative
review what is in the document and what is not. 
(I recommend A. Sklover.)
4.  Evaluate your family’s near term and medium
term needs.  Like short term housing and security
deposits.  Transportation requirements, parking
and public transport options.
5.  Develop a negotiation priority and practice
with a consultant.  Look for win-win options.
Be timely.
6.  Now revert to the second institution.  Consider
contacting the admin and asking for help.  This is
her number one choice where she wishes to work.
Describe briefly the time crunch for making a
decision.  Ask if it is possible to learn if she is
seriously being considered to fill the opening. 
7.  If she is, ask if it is possible to have a follow-up
conference call to describe the situation and ask
for the chance to meet in person.  Be prepared
for a quick decision and need to make flight
8.  Pursue the formal offer as if it is the only
consideration.  Yet, pin down all necessary and
priority details.  Leave nothing to chance and
request a revised offer letter stating things clearly.

A member was invited to participate in a video
telecon interview with a PI and an associate using
Skype.  She did not feel optimistic about her
performance and had some questions regarding
learning from the experience.

Q:  Are you expected to know answers to all
A:  When you are being considered for positions,
it is good to know all about what you will do.  Yet,
is it quite optimistic.  It is not a bad thing not to
know specific details.  You can learn these things.
Being honest and showing interest in learning new
things to make a contribution is probably what you
did.  You could also show your critical thinking skills
by asking questions to understand and clarify.

Q:  My camera displayed me to them, Their camera
did not display them to me.  Should I have turned off
my camera?
A:  I believe it is important to cooperate with the
interviewer, even if it does not seem fair or even. 
Display your confidence and look directly into the
camera, smiling and acting natural, showing interest.
This takes practice.

Q:  Is it common to have an interview where the
interviewer screen is not projected?
A:  No it does not seem to be a common thing.  Could
be a technical glitch.

Q:  They were 20 minutes late on their callShould I
call or email them to tell them I am ready and available?
A:  It is common in business to offer some leeway in
time.  I often wait 15 minutes to indicate I am ready and
reiterate my contact information.  This can sometimes
be incorrectly copied or lost.

Some tips for video telephone interviews are listed
in the comments.

One Response to “Interviewing Potpouri”

  1. site admin Says:

    1. CLOTHING. Choose what you wear carefully. Choose
    solid colors. You never know who will be viewing the video
    and where it will go. Neat, organized, professional set-up
    and appearance are things you would expect to present in
    person. Consider it the same way for a video conference
    like this. Some people dress up from the “waist up”, then
    they stand up without thinking in the process Be careful.
    Also, refrain from wearing very busy patterns for the video
    2. SPEECH. Speak crisply, Have notes in a position where
    you can access them easily. Show that you are prepared.
    Show a smile as in a typical conversation. Consider using
    the telemarketers’ trick of having a mirror in view (right
    behind the camera) to remind yourself to smile and that a
    smile “comes through in your voice.”
    3. FACIAL LANGUAGE. Body language and eye contact
    should reflect uninterrupted attention to the camera. But
    remember not to stare. Also, when a question is posed be
    aware of your facial expressions, slouching, chin in hands
    and other no one is watching habits that may creep in.
    4. POSTURE. Seat position should help you relax but not
    be invisible. Consider sitting on the front edge of the chair
    with enough of your upper torso captured. Be aware of
    what the camera can capture in the environment.
    5. AWARENESS. Avoid culturally insensitive gestures.
    Recently I have learned two things that were a surprise.
    One was the sign for OK with the thumb and pointing
    finger touching is not well received in many countries.
    Thumbs up can be better. Also, Asians I am told are
    made uncomfortable with too much body motion.
    6. TIME MANAGEMENT. Have a clock available to
    help you keep track of time
    7. EQUIPMENT. Test out your video and sound
    equipment before the video interview. Ensure the
    quality and fidelity are good and that they are
    synchronized which might be a function of software
    and hardware. Be mindful of the background in your
    camera view. As with all video capture, be aware of
    lighting and the frame stability tools of your web-cam.
    8. PRACTICE. Practice a Video interview to see how
    you look and improve.
    9. PLANNING. Have a back up plan when you engage
    in this kind of interview. File size, memory sticks,
    sending items over the internet. It can take several
    tries to get it right.

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