02 May 2018

Increasing transparency in postdoc hiring and on-boarding

A brief summary of the interview process for my postdoc with Titus Brown. Highlights include: collaborative documents for interview questions, salary negotiations, and science communication

This week I started a post-doc working in Titus Brown’s Data Intensive Biology lab. If there is such a thing as a dream job, this is it. I’ve interacted with Titus and his lab members many times through BEACON, the Marine Biological Laboratory, Software Carpentry, and Data Carpentry.

One of the things I appreciate so much about Titus’s style is his transparency. Here are a few of my thoughts about why interview process and the on-boarding have gone so well.

The quick turn around

Titus posted the job announcement on the Software Carpentry discuss list and on hackmd on March 15. During April, I had an interview, received an offer, accepted the offer, and set a May 1 start date. I wish all things in academia could move so fast.

The interview questions

The really cool part about the interview process what Titus posted the interview questions ahead of time here, and I submitted my responses here. This meant I could be more relaxed during the interview because the questions weren’t out of the blue. Titus and his lab mates were able to ask me to delve into the details a little more or say, “cool, let’s move on to the next topic”.

Even before Titus informed me that I would be given the interview questions ahead of time, I knew this was coming because, well, he wrote a blog post with the interview questions used for a postdoc position building pipelines. I hope to see more of this transparency and sharing of interview questions in the future.

The salary

The salary was posted with the job announcement, so I was never in doubt about what my salary would be. Additionally, in May 2016, Titus posted a blog about increasing postdoc pay. In this post, he makes it clear that he pays all his postdocs the same and that he doesn’t negotiate salary. So, when he made me an offer, I didn’t have to waste my energy negotiating salary, which freed up time to talk about other things that were valuable to me.

Code of Conduct

I’ve always liked that Titus has a Code of Conduct on his lab’s website. Back in January of 2017, I was recruiting some undergrads, and I wondered if I should put a Code of Conduct on my personal website (many PIs that are affiliated with The Carpentries have one on their website, but my grad advisor did not). So, I reached out to Titus and asked him what he thought. He gave me some really good advice about how the purpose of the CoC was to convey that “these are my expectations for our behavior, and these are the paths to resolution”.

What I’ve come to realize over the past year is that even though I and many of my colleagues point to CoCs at conferences and workshops, very few of us feel equipped to responding to Code of Conduct incidents. So, I’m excited that this Friday I’ll be participating in a workshop on Training for Code of Conduct Incident Response with some Carpentry Colleagues. I think this is an important step toward increasing diversity in our community.


Right now, were use Slack and GitHub for most of our communication. This means that progress on all projects is visible to the rest of the lab, and most of it is under version control. I really like both of these technologies because they work synchronously or asynchronously and collaboratively on projects and easily keep track of what’s working well or not.


In the last two years, I applied for 13 different postdocs positions or jobs and had 10 interviews, but this is one is my dream job. I super excited about being in an environment with our goal is increase transparency in both our scientific methodology but also with respect to the social aspects of science. Stay tuned for more updates about our progress!

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