Unfortunate luxury

Over the past couple of weeks, my boss and I have assessed a long list of candidates for our open PhD position. Considering that we had > 50 applicants, this turns into a serious task. We had the unfortunate luxury that there were quite a few excellent candidates. Having excellent candidates to apply for a job is quite a luxury in general, and (apparently) not a given. It is of course unfortunate that some of the applicants have excellent cv’s, but may not have been the best fit to our PhD position. A small selection – which we deemed the best fit – have been interviewed now, and I like these interviews a lot. It is quite interesting to see what part of their cv and/or skill set the different candidates present and highlight. We generally ask people to present a piece of past work of their choice. This is already fun, because it reveals whether the candidates were passionate about the work that they did, for instance for a master thesis. It is often also quite evident to what extent people had their own input in the projects. We have seen a nice variety of topics, ranging from above-belowground interactions, to biocontrol, to the effects of forest management on biodiversity, to name a few. Interestingly, our applicants came from all over the globe, and only a very small handful of people came from Germany. It seems that Germans don’t want to do a PhD in Germany… I’m happy to see people from around the globe apply for these type of funded PhD positions. However, I was a bit worried that I would soon be supervising a third Colombian candidate, and that people would forever accuse me of bias. ‘Fortunately,’ there were no Colombian candidates this time, so I will be spared this type of accusation. In any case, I was very happy that we were able to invite suitable candidates from different parts of the world.

I think we will soon have to make some hard decisions…

It is going to be a difficult choice. All candidates are evidently very nice people, and all seem very passionate and motivated. Some were conceptually very strong along a wide breadth of topics. Others were the type that will take something they have never done before, and turn it to gold. Some had lots of research experience in different areas of biology. Others had very focused experience, but managed to unravel many small mysteries around their study systems. Before the interviews, I had a quite strong ‘order of preference’ based on motivation letters, cv’s and written work. After having done several interviews now, I am not so sure if I have that order of preference any longer. People are full of surprises. (In this case – all in a good way)

All interviewees are perfectly capable of doing a PhD. I have no doubt about this. But who will be the right candidate for our position? What should weigh heavier, experience, focus, drive, passion, or knowledge?

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

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