Finding a post-doc for your lab can be extremely competitive! If you are new PI without a huge list of publications, looking for your first Post-Doc can be tough. As more and more PhDs decide to move into industry post-PhD, the pool or potential candidates to fill your position diminishes, especially since more Post-Docs push for top tier Universities to increase their chances of becoming a PI. Therefore increasing your marketing efforts may be required to increase the amount of applications and secure that Post-Doc that will help your lab grow.
Create a video about your lab
The last two years account for 90% of all the photographs ever taken! As we are now in a digital world where people are consuming more content then ever through YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn & Facebook, people's main source of information is now on these platforms.
Creating a video of your lab using the most basic tools of an iPhone and iMovie editor, allow potential candidates a great insight into your facility, the University and what your lab looks like. This allows potential candidates to visualize themselves working in your lab space and achieving some great results!
Taking people on a tour of your lab, followed by a video of your lab meeting and you talking directly to the camera about what the project will involve will be a great piece of content to engage candidates. Pieces of content like this are extremely shareable too on Twitter and will extend your network reach far beyond the typical picture of the proposal that you have!
Create some info-graphics around the project
Most PI's I follow on twitter tweet out they have a post-doc position with a screenshot of the proposal, however, text images on twitter do not perform as well as images of people.
To separate yourself from the crowd why not draw a little schematic about the project and what it might involve? A great tool for this would be the scientific design platform Biorender, here's a quick schematic I did in 5 mins using Biorender to create a pathway for one of our direct glucose uptake assays.
Allowing perspective candidates to see what the project may involve will motivate them and see where they can contribute to the project, it will also increase the amount of clicks that your twitter post will receive.
Have a good lab website
This probably sounds really basic, but your lab is a small company, a place where people will come and work for a few years to develop their careers. And just like every online shopper they will more then likely check out your lab website.
A lab website is a great opportunity showcase your lab, show some pictures of the activities that your lab get's up to and provide some information on the surrounding area. Providing some information on
- Where to live (Rental areas, prices etc)
- Shopping around the campus, people always like to think about nice food
- Transport to your lab
Providing key information above provides a great perspective for candidates, so they can start to think about setting up their lives in a new location.
Here are some examples good lab websites:
- Rutledge Lab - Link to to their publications page
- Dixon Lab - They have a good "Join Us" page that explains their training & facilities
Use more than one social media platform to promote your position
Before jumping into social media I'd suggest creating some Twitter headers using Canva.com to create some great looking banners (There's a free trial period of 14 days).
To create some images of people without backgrounds, use remove.bg (again it's free), together they'll provide you with some great imagery to post onto social.
Nowadays most PI's are on twitter discussing research and liking funny videos or fluorescence gifs, but twitter also provides a great way to market your position for free and reach a wide network of scientists. However, most scientists with limited followings just tweet about the position and hope to reach the audience that they need.
When tweeting about your new position why not use a great image of your lab having fun, provide a link to the job or your lab website or even ask for a DM about the position. Next use some hashtags like #phdlife #postdoc #jobfairy #stem to spread the word. Finally, reach out to other groups that are in your research area, follow their lab members, retweet conferences (using a conference hashtag is a great way of getting some eyes on your position, you don't ever need to be attending :) ), departments in other Universities asking for some help in advertising your position.
Using Conference Hashtags on Twitter to hack the system
Even though you're not in the Barbados at the latest meeting in your area doesn't mean you can't ride the wave of the conference social media chat to advertise your post-doc position. With all eyes on the conference tweets, using #AACR #AAI or #FEBS can provide great exposure to scientists active in your niche. Even smaller conferences may provide even more value! So don't be afraid to use the airwaves when getting the word out there!
LinkedIn provides a great platform for scientists to generate interest in their new position in two great ways:
First off, I'd suggest using LinkedIn Groups to promote your position, you can find a list like these below. Some groups have over 15,000 members and provide a great network to promote your position to a huge audience for free! In addition to niche groups you can also post in University Groups that have alumni of thousands of members.
LinkedIn post's directly from your personal account is a great way promoting the position, but you will need to do the following:
- Use a photo of yourself (make it fun)
- Write a small paragraph on why it's a great opportunity and what you hope to provide the candidate
- Use some hashtags that fit around your area
- Use the names of some agencies/universities/institutes in your area to gain some more attention
- Tell the perspective candidates what you are looking for without sounding like a HR department, but why you are excited to get someone to join the team!
- Publish a picture of the job advert, it won't move on LinkedIn according to their algorithm
- Copy and paste the text, no one will read it
What to look for in perspective Post-Docs as a new PI
As a new PI your first postdoc needs to be someone very technically capable, who requires very little training and can hit the ground running in terms of lab work, while you try to write more grants to keep the money coming in! Hiring criteria should be largely based on - can they do these experiments in this time-frame? Also evidence that they've got a good handle on the techniques, ideally with publications in the area (which shows they can complete projects).
Asking postdocs about their own career aspirations (and warn them about the precariousness of employment) can identify how driven the candidate is and how best to employ the candidate once you have taken them on board. Also, Ideally you also want someone who has decent writing abilities too, who can get data and figures together and help you get papers out and potentially help with grant writing (good experience for them too!).
Final notes - You need to market
As increased options come available for post graduates increased marketing efforts are required to get great candidates to join your lab. Don't forget you are a small business and are require to do some marketing like every other business. Don't be afraid to break the mold and act like a marketer and spread the message with the hope of building your dream lab!