Interview questions for Postdoctoral Fellow

We analyzed 904 interview reviews for Postdoctoral Fellow from various job sites, social network groups and forums.

Here are the most frequent job interview questions asked by HR managers during initial phone or onsite interviews. This list does not include technical or factual questions.

10 frequent non-technical questions for Postdoctoral Fellow:

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
What are your current professional goals?
What are your long-term goals?
What is your greatest weakness?
Tell me about yourself
Tell me about your greatest professional accomplishment
Why did you leave your last job?
What experience do you have in this field?
What are your salary requirements?
Describe a time when you resolved a conflict with a colleague in your past role

According to our research, hiring managers looking to fill Postdoctoral Fellow role ask soft skills interview questions 6% less frequently than for other roles:

Postdoctoral Fellow interview question statistics

1. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?top question

How to answer

This question belongs to a family of behavioral, or even more precisely, reflective questions.

The interviewer wants to see whether you are reflective about yourself, whether you are ambitious and strive to grow as a professional, whether you like to learn and develop your skills.

They are also looking for your ambitions to fit the career path opportunities related to the position you are applying for.

  1. About Yourself

    Presumably, you are interested to grow professionally.

    Think about the possibilities that may lie ahead for you: take a personality test (I recommend 16Personalities which is based on Myers-Briggs test), research the internet on what career paths are possible with your skills and current job.

    What challenges do you like overcoming?

    For example, if you are applying for a software tester position, you may find it fascinating to master automated testing in full and eventually become a software engineer, or you may be a natural trainer and love coaching other people which may lead you to become a QA team or department lead, or you may be more interested in understanding business aspects of requirements which may logically lead you into a Business Analyst position.

    However, if you are happy just where you are and want to further your current skills, that is also fine as long as there is a growth path for you that can be imagined and described.

  2. About The Company

    Research the company to learn what career opportunities may be available in the department you are applying to, and what the trends are in the company in general.

    • Is the business expanding, are they opening new locations, or starting new projects?
    • Or are they heavily automating and cutting staff?

    Let’s say you are applying for a UX designer position for a brand-new product.

    In the future, if the product becomes a success - which is what the company hopes for - the company will hire more designers and you may become a lead designer, or you may become a product manager.

    On a side note: If you train your mind to be open to opportunities you will be amazed at how much this world has to offer to you!

  3. About The Fit

    And, of course, try to see where the perfect fit lies between your own potential and aspirations, and the company’s trends and hopes.

    However, beware of the risk of showing too much excitement for future opportunities compared to your attitude towards the current position.

    If you aren’t really excited about the position you are applying for and you demonstrate this lack of enthusiasm, the interviewer may conclude that you are not a good fit for the current position.

    Try to find a source of excitement in the current position as well, otherwise, you may be doing yourself a disservice by applying to a position you will find boring in 2-3 months.

Pro Tip

This question gives you a good opportunity to showcase your Key Selling Points (e.g. “As I am very good at delegating tasks, I can easily see myself leading a team of software testers in the future…”), and end your statement by asking about current initiatives and goals at the company.

It is generally NOT a good idea to say something like:

“Oh, I cannot imagine what happens to me tomorrow, let alone in 5 years”.

This will show you as a person who is unimaginative and not forward-thinking enough to grow with and be a good fit for the company.

2. What are your current professional goals?

How to answer

This question is your chance to show yourself as a focused and results-oriented person (and this is exactly who you are, aren’t you?)

  1. About Yourself

    Define up to 3 goals. Think about each goal:

    • Why is it important to you?
    • What are you doing to achieve it?

    Imagine a company where you would like to work, ideally. How can working in that company help you achieve your goal? And what about the opposite - how can the company benefit from your reaching your goal?

  2. About The Company

    Based on the research you did on the company, what are their current goals and initiatives? How would its goals and initiatives help lead you to achieve your goals?

  3. About The Fit

    From your list of goals choose the one with the most synergy between yourself and the company. Explain how your professional passions will help the company achieve its success.

    Craft your story around these 4 points:

    • The Why: Why is this goal important to you, what makes it so exciting?
    • The What: What steps are you taking to reach your goal?
    • What’s in it for you? How can this company and job role help you reach your goal?
    • What’s in it for them? How can the company benefit?

Pro Tip

Try to validate your assumptions by asking the interviewer what they think.

For example, you can end your answer with this question: “And do you know what current goals the company/department is trying to achieve?”

It can help you learn more about the company and the job, turn the "interrogation" into a conversation and will allow you to relax some tension.

3. What are your long-term goals?

How to answer

Even in this age of the so-called Gig Economy, employers are always looking for people who can become their strong and loyal “soldiers,” a part of their “army” to help them conquer their market share against their competitors.

So, even if at this moment this job may be a temporary contract, you never know what opportunities may present themselves to you in this company.

Trust me, your hiring manager doesn’t know either!

So, be open to opportunities and use this question to emphasize how your personal goals correspond with those of the company.

  1. About Yourself

    Start with honestly assessing yourself. (At this moment, you are not sharing these thoughts with anyone, so be as open as you can).

    Imagine that you have all the resources in the world and that all roads are open for you.

    • How would you use them?
    • Which road(s) would you choose?
    • What do you see on the horizon in that direction?

    Be audacious and don’t limit yourself. There is no longer a perspective than “long-term,” so be as futuristic as you possibly can.

    List a few “road” options that you would be enthusiastic about going down.

    For example, this list may be as broad as the following:

    • writer
    • choir director
    • software engineer and architect
    • CEO of a unicorn startup company,
    • entrepreneur.

    As William Shakespeare once said, “We know what we are, but we know not what we may be.”

  2. About The Company

    Now, look at the company.

    • What is the industry they operate in?
    • What is the position you are applying for, and what are potential career growth possibilities within the department, company, and industry?
  3. About The Fit

    Which of your “road” options correspond best with the opportunities presented by this company?

    Highlight this option and focus on it. Imagine, in as much detail as you can, going down this road.

    What would be the major milestones for you, in order to move towards your goal?

    Describe the chosen option by focusing on the first 1-2 milestones, and by presenting it in light of company goals and current initiatives.

    For example, if you are applying for a project manager position in a corporation engaged in the education industry, and your “road” option is “CEO,” your next career step may be a program manager, or an innovations and research manager.

    Explain why you are enthusiastic about reaching these goals, and what makes you think you have the necessary traits and skills to reach them.

    How can the company benefit from these traits and skills of yours already today, in the current role you are applying for?

Pro Tip

Framing your answer in the same terms used by the company will help ensure the interviewer can easily understand your language and help both of you to be “on the same page.”

The easier you make it for the interviewer, the better are your chances they will “vote” for you over other candidates.

4. What is your greatest weakness?

How to answer

This question ranks as the most challenging for many people. Fortunately, Mr. Simon is here to help!

Interviewers ask this question to gauge your level of self-awareness, your honesty and openness, and your capability for self-improvement.

  1. About Yourself

    No one is perfect and your interviewer doesn't expect you to be perfect either.

    While it is good to be honest and open, it will not help you to put yourself down.

    What's important is to find a weakness that you have overcome or something that is not related to the position for which you are applying.

    For example, one of our clients admitted that he is not very good at public speaking and that he has recently become a member of Toastmasters International to improve. What a respectful answer and approach, in my view!

  2. About The Company

    Research the company (website, social media, etc) to learn about the company culture.

    What personal and professional qualities do they value?

  3. About The Fit

    It is important that the weakness you decide to talk about is not one that will prevent you from performing the job for which you're applying.

    For example, if you're applying for a front-end developer position, do not talk about how you are struggling to understand HTML code.

Pro Tip

Use this question to sell yourself!

It's important to show how well you've overcome a weakness by motivating yourself and learning a new skill to grow professionally.

5. Tell me about yourself

How to answer

This question may sound vague, but it actually requires a matter of fact, concise and relevant answer. Here’s how you can approach it.

  1. About Yourself

    What is your current occupation? Define yourself professionally in one statement.

    Pick 3 key skills that make you great at your work (your Key Selling Points). How have you applied these skills?

    Try to give some numbers to support your statement.

  2. About The Company

    Research the company.

    Based on what you know about the company and the job description, why are you interested in the position you are applying for?

  3. About The Fit

    • Based on your Key Selling Points and your knowledge about the company, why do you think you are a good fit for this position?
    • Can you support your statement with relevant examples from your past experiences?

    Try to be concise and stay within 1-2 minutes.

Pro Tip

You can also end with a question like:

Do you know what the current needs in the company/department are, where my skills and experience can help?"

That can help you learn more about the company and the job, turn the "interrogation" into a conversation and will allow you to relax some tension.

Read our blog post to learn more about how to answer this question.

Take a quiz

Take a quick quiz and check if you’re ready to answer this question at your next job interview:

Pick the best answer:

My name is Andrew Franklin, I am 28 years old, and I am looking for a job that pays well.

Hello, my name is Natalie Price. I have two children and I love playing billiards and travelling. I am 33 years old.

Hi Mr. Simon, my name is Stanley Clark and I am a certified Project Management professional known for completing projects on time and on budget. I am passionate about building agile work culture and delivering results.

Hi Mr. Simon, my name is Dorothy Hanson. I have previously worked as an accountant in retail, but currently I am trying to transition into the field of healthcare.

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6. Tell me about your greatest professional accomplishment

How to answer

Of all your accomplishments (and I am sure you’ve had a great many of them!), you should choose the one most relevant to this job position.

  1. About Yourself

    Write down your Key Selling Points - your top 3-5 skills that make you a strong professional.

    Write down a list of your top 3-5 professional accomplishments that you are most proud of. No need for lengthy descriptions, just 1-2 words for each one to help you recall each situation.

    Make sure you have developed the story behind each accomplishment and have a strong command of the details of what happened so that you can tell the story clearly and distinctly.

    Along with each accomplishment, mark which of your Key Selling Points they showcase. How exactly?

  2. About The Company

    Based on your research of the company, what are their current needs?

    • What are the major projects going on?
    • What are the expectations for the position you are applying for?
  3. About The Fit

    Try to imagine yourself being an employee of the company you are applying to, say, at your 6th month into the job.

    • Which of your Key Selling Points and accomplishments would be most relevant to the company?
    • What “have you accomplished at your new job?”

    Choose the most relevant accomplishment from your list and then practice telling your story.

Pro Tip

Most enterprises are now going through major transformations, often called Digital Transformation.

Do your research on what it means and what is often involved, to get a better idea of the current goals and environments in companies. But one thing that definitely characterizes this transformation is striving for agility.

In particular, for startups (if you are applying to a startup or a small business), agility is their middle name, in order for them to survive among bigger sharks in the market.

So, demonstrating qualities like agility and adaptability should generally be helpful and quite a safe choice in most circumstances today.

7. Why did you leave your last job?

How to answer

This question may be a little touchy for some people, but it's a question asked by interviewers, to find out why you left, in order to better understand how you may or may not make a good fit with their company.

Remember, never speak ill of your old company (this will not go over well).

  1. About Yourself

    Most likely, there are three possible reasons you left or are leaving your last job:

    • You are looking for a career change
    • You are unhappy with your current employment
    • You were let go.

    Whatever the reason, it's best to always speak in a positive light.

  2. About The Company

    Based on your research about the company and the position, what do you like most about the company?

  3. About The Fit

    If you are looking for career advancement or a career change, you can be very upfront and honest. Be as enthusiastic as you can about the position.

    If you were unhappy with your previous job, focus on the positives. Talk about the ways that you will best fit in with the company, in the role for which you're applying.

    If you were let go, focus on the positive. Share your accomplishments at your previous employment.

Pro Tip

Whatever the reason you are looking for a new opportunity, always turn things around to show how you are the perfect fit for the job for which you are interviewing!

8. What experience do you have in this field?

How to answer

This question may help you convince the interviewer how smoothly you would fit into the position to which you are applying. It's your chance to WOW them! Be sure to focus on the experience that is relevant to the company and position.

  1. About Yourself

    Start with defining your Key Selling Points you want to emphasize for this position.

    • What job experiences brought you to those points?
    • What were the job titles and the most relevant responsibilities?
  2. About The Company

    Do your research of the company and the requirements for the position.

    • What is the company looking for in terms of experiences and qualifications?
    • What problems are they trying to solve with this position?

    Highlight 3-5 key required experiences or skills from the job description.

  3. About The Fit

    Which of your Key Selling Points match with the required experiences or skills? Can you think of an example story showcasing this match?

    Nowadays, every hiring manager wants results, so think in terms of specific achievements and try to structure your example accordingly.

Pro Tip

When telling your story, remember to talk about your STARs!
S - What was the Situation?
T - What was your Task?
A - What Action did you take?
R - Talk about the Results.

9. What are your salary requirements?

How to answer

This question seems factual, but it gauges how well you value yourself and how well you know your industry.

This is your opportunity to present yourself as a qualified professional and get a proper salary!

Read on to learn how you can answer this question with confidence, using an analytical approach. The answer may be given as a range or as a single target number.

  1. About Yourself

    The first thing to research is the salary range for your role in the market. What is the industry standard?

    Next, think of your qualifications for the role. Weigh in your traits, skills, education, and experience. Try this exercise, draw a line on a piece of paper where on the left side sits a complete beginner, and on the right side - the best professional in the world the company may try to invite for the role. Where do you position yourself?

    Now, remember that once you start in your new role, your qualifications will be growing fast, due to all the new experience you will be gaining - consequently, your value will rise as well. Your salary, on the other hand, will not increase as quickly. So, try to imagine where your qualifications will bring you, on that scale, in about a year into the new job.

    Map the scale against the industry range. Now you should be able to come up with an objective figure, as opposed to pure speculation.

    This is not real math, however, so your number cannot be very precise, of course. Define a range, which starts with the minimum that will keep you satisfied a few months into the job, and the maximum which, a year into the job, will give you the lifestyle you would ideally like to have at that time.

    Make sure the range stays within 40%-60% between extremes. Remember, the higher the position up the ladder, the wider the range can be. What is the number in the middle? Will you feel comfortable with this number?

  2. About The Company

    Research the company and find out what they are paying. The best places to find this information are Glassdoor, LinkedIn, PayScale and other similar websites.

  3. About The Fit

    Based on your research, does the company fit your desired salary range?

    Now, whether you should be giving a range, or a single target number is a matter of debate. I personally think that a single number, given in a suggestive manner, is better than the range, because when given a range, they may logically gravitate towards the lower end, especially since you’ve said that the lower number is acceptable.

    One example of how to structure your answer of a single target number is this:

    I have done my research and based on the average for the industry, location, and my level of expertise, something like XXX seems reasonable to me. What do you think?

    Besides giving the factual answer that the interviewer is asking for, such an answer will also show you to be someone who takes the initiative, who goes the extra mile, and someone with data-driven and analytical mindset.

Pro Tip

Firstly try asking the interviewer to give you their intended range as budgeted for this role, which is a regular practice in most companies. However, don’t be too evasive and if you see they are not inclined to give you their number, name yours.

10. Describe a time when you resolved a conflict with a colleague in your past role

How to answer

Wherever you go, you will always have to work with people. This means that there is a greater chance for conflict to happen. This question helps the interviewer determine how well you would fit within the organization.

  1. About Yourself

    Think of the times you had to deal with conflict.

    • What were the different ways you were able to address the situation?
    • If you were the cause of the conflict, how did the other person talk you down from the conflict?
    • What were the key lessons you learned through your experience?
  2. About The Company

    Research the company and its culture.

    • What do they value?
    • Is there anything that you can find about how they deal with conflict resolution?

    Reading comments to their social media posts often prove helpful to see how they react to customers' complaints.

  3. About The Fit

    • What have you found out about the company’s culture and job description?
    • Are they looking for someone who can take charge and resolve conflict?

    Tell a story of how you addressed conflict and how it turned a negative into a positive.

    Try to conclude with your lessons learned or methodology for approaching conflicts - this will show the interviewer that you would be able to apply your methodology to future situations.

    Use the STAR method to frame your story.

Pro Tip

A key to addressing conflict is listening, communication and emotional intelligence. Highlight these skills.

If you're able to, turn the question around and ask the interviewer if they have experienced the same thing. This will start a conversation, which is the goal of an interview.


This page has been updated on August 13, 2020.

You can practice answering this question, as well as over 160 other common job interview questions for Postdoctoral Fellow by engaging in a mock interview with Mr. Simon. As an artificial being, his undeniable benefits include:

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