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Excellence Everywhere - National University of Ireland, Galway

Excellence Everywhere - National University of Ireland, Galway

n Convey your commitment

n Convey your commitment to training.Let potential staff know if they will be workingdirectly with you and that you have an interest inhelping them in their careers.n Offer flexibility where you can. Flexibility,especially about assignments or researchdirections, is attractive to most job applicants.n Provide a realistic level of reassuranceregarding the stability of your funding.Potential staff members are likely to be aware thatthe money to pay their salaries may be comingfrom your research grants, or other sources thatmay increase or decline over time.In Sierra Leone and more so in Papua NewGuinea, members of your extended familybelieve they are entitled to large parts ofyour time and attention. This is an enormouschallenge for every working person in SierraLeone. You are likely to face requests foremployment. My advice is that you avoidseeing extended family members at your workplaceand ensure hiring is a very transparentprocess that is handled only by the appropriatestaff in the administration section.”Moses Bockarie, Papua New GuineaWhat They Are Looking ForLab Technicians. Technicians may be attractedto a beginning laboratory because they are eagerfor the opportunity to work closely with the headof the lab and are interested in learning newtechniques and being included on papers. Goodsalaries and status (related to publishing papers)may be of prime importance to more experiencedlab technicians. Inexperienced technicians mayplace more value on the opportunity to gain experience,especially experience that will help themdecide whether to continue with their studies.Students. Students may want to work in your labbecause they want to pursue a career in science,or perhaps they are curious about research andwant to find out whether they should considera career in this area. On the other hand, theymay be looking for academic credit, funding,or recommendations for further training. Try toselect students who are motivated to contributeto the productivity of your lab. Students areoften attracted to new labs because, like labtechnicians, they are eager for the opportunityto work directly with the person who is directingthe research. Educating these students in how towork in the lab can be time-consuming, especiallyfor the first few months. Therefore, you maywant to sign up your first student when your labis running well and you have time to work witheach student properly. At a university, thoughtfullyworking with students early in your career willhelp you develop a positive reputation and willincrease your ability to attract other students. Onthe other hand, if your first students have negativeexperiences in your lab, they will quickly share thiswith their peers, and your ability to recruit goodstudents will suffer greatly.Scientists Training in your Lab. It may taketwo to three years for you to recruit a scientist,for example a postdoctoral fellow, who wantsto train in your lab before establishing his or herown lab. Most scientists in training are attractedto more established labs because they are usuallybetter launching pads for their careers—the bossis more famous and the publications may comefaster. Nevertheless, some might be attracted byyour research area, your concern for furtheringtheir careers, or your institution’s reputation andgeographical location. If you have a good reputationfrom your own work, you may be able torecruit highly qualified individuals right away.I would encourage policies to hire realpostdocs, i.e. people who really want to doa postdoc in your lab and not people who forfamily reasons or else could not go abroadand seek your lab as a second option.”Alberto Kornblihtt, Argentina36 excellence everywhere

Screening ApplicantsWhen you review résumés, check skills againstqualifications and look for transferable skills.Always review résumés carefully—some applicantsmay inflate their experience. Gaps in employmentor job-hopping may be signs of problems, or maysimply reflect the job situation in your region. Ifthe degree of job-changing seems unusual, besure to ask careful questions and check references,if you are able to.For an applicant to a degreed scientific position,consider publication quality—not just quantity—and the applicant’s contribution. Although it maynot be realistic for someone who has just startedrunning his or her lab, try to find a scientist witha record of accomplishment—usually at least twofirst-author papers—that indicates he or she willbe able to see a project through and perhaps will becompetitive for obtaining his or her own funding.If a technician has contributed to publications,you should evaluate the candidate to determinewhether he or she has the ability to contributeintellectually as well as technically to the lab.Q u e s t i o nWhat’s in a Name?answerq&aThroughout this book, a “postdoc” refers toa researcher with a relatively recent doctoraldegree and intentions to move on from yourlaboratory to a more independent positionafter working with and learning from you. A“student” refers to a trainee who is enrolledfor an undergraduate or graduate degreeand is working with increasing autonomy inyour lab. A “trainee” refers to a student orpostdoc—someone who is both working foryou and being educated by you so that he orshe may advance into another position.The résumés of less-experienced lab techniciansmay not show a record of contributions to publishedpapers or other indicators of productivity.Carefully check references to find out about theircapabilities.For a student, speak informally with other peoplewho have worked with the student, including thosewho may know how the student has performed ina laboratory course. Talk to the student at lengthto see how articulate, bright, and energized he orshe is. Remember, a smart but shy person maybe tongue-tied in a conversation with you—youare an important person, after all! Try to talk longenough to draw them out and put them at easeso that you can really get a sense of their capacity.When selecting students, remember that highgrades are no guarantee of success in your lab.Check References DirectlyFor a variety of reasons, people rarely write negativeletters of recommendation. Therefore, if possible,you should directly contact the applicants’references, preferably by telephone, or by email.Checking references is an important part of theselection process. It will help to verify impressionsgained during the interview and expose potentialproblems that may not have been evident in eitherthe interview or CV.What to Ask a Reference. When discussingan applicant with someone who has provided areference:n Describe the job and the work atmosphere youwant to create.n Ask short, open-ended questions, and avoid askingquestions to which the desired response is obvious.n You might want to ask: Why is this person leaving?Is he or she reliable? What are this person’sstrengths and weaknesses? What are you mostdisappointed in with respect to this person?Also, “Would you rehire this person?” is a veryimportant question to ask.n Probe for further information, and ask for examples.Do not settle for yes or no answers.GETTING STARTED: Equipping Your Lab and Hiring People37

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