Effective job adverts

Hiring Your First Postdoc? Read This First.

3 min read · Advice & Insights / Effective job adverts · Published 4 years ago

Hiring your first postdoc is an important step for your growth as a new PI. A talented postdoc can help you drive your research agenda forward and generate publications. But postdoc applicants are often advised to look for positions in established labs with strong placement records rather than take a chance on a new PI. It’s probably advice you heard yourself not too long ago. However, as you also probably know, there are several advantages to being a postdoc in a newly-established lab that are highly appealing to certain candidates. One major thing you can do to up your chances of attracting stellar postdoc candidates is to play up these advantages in your advertising.  

Think like a startup

A job ad is crucial in shaping a potential candidate’s first impression of you, especially when you don’t yet have the name recognition that more senior faculty have. Here’s where you can borrow a technique from industry to help sell candidates on the opportunity to do a postdoc in your newly-established research group. If you read job ads from startups, they don’t shy away from the fact that candidates will be part of a very small team, expected to wear multiple hats, and work on projects of varying sizes. They include requirements like, “an independent work ethic and a willingness to roll up your sleeves and get dirty” or a “no-task-is-too-small attitude.” At the same time, startup job ads also stress the fact that candidates will “be given significant responsibility and autonomy” or “benefit from short internal decision making.” These very requirements and opportunities often make startups very appealing to job seekers. You can use the same technique to sniff out postdocs who understand what you’re looking for and will be excited by the opportunity to be supervised by a new PI

So what does this look like in practice?

Most postdoc ads follow a pretty standard template, describing the project, necessary qualifications, selection process, employment terms (sometimes called something like “our offer”), and required application materials. The project description, qualifications, and employment terms sections are the ones you can use to really sell yourself and the opportunity to be one of the founding members of your lab. 

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Here are some examples of the types of phrases you can include in your job ad that will get potential postdocs interested in applying. Feel free to riff on them and make them your own–or just copy/paste them.

  • Our new research group currently has [number] members and plans to hire [number, position] by the end of the year. As a postdoc, you will have the opportunity to help with the hiring process. 
  • As a postdoc in my new group, you will have the chance to establish your own systems and have a major impact in shaping the lab’s culture. You will influence the lab’s approach to science for the coming years. 
  • We are an ambitious new group where challenges are there for the taking. As a postdoc, you will be given significant autonomy and will help develop future research areas. 
  • As a more senior member of a new and growing research group, you will be expected to take on a bigger leadership role while also benefiting from more facetime with your supervisor. 

These are short sentences, but they can go a long way in shaping the way potential postdocs view your job ad. You’re not going to appeal to everyone, but at this crucial stage of your career, you want to choose your hires carefully. Your first postdoc should be excited about working for you and helping put your lab on the map. By being explicit in your job ad about the opportunities you can offer them, you can increase the number of relevant applications you get. 

Wait, there’s more 

Looking for a bit more advice about how to write your first postdoc ad? Download our postdoc advertising toolkit. It guides you through the job ad section by section so you don’t forget anything important. Plus it includes some tips for promoting your vacancy on social media so you increase your ad’s visibility. 

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Download your free postdoc advert toolkit

Get your free postdoc advert toolkit with our top tips for writing and sharing a postdoc advert that will make candidates excited to apply.

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