Thursday, June 28, 2007


So. The interview. I think it went quite well. But what do I know? I've never had to do these sorts of interviews before. This one had two parts: the first is your normal "Why do you want to work here?" "What are your strengths?" "Where do you see yourself in two years?" sort of thing; the second was another "editorial exercise" bit, kinda like what I'd been asked to do before.

I think I did okay on the first part. I mean, I tried not to make a fool of myself, I tried to answer their questions in complete sentences and tried to sell myself to them, basically. I got to learn more about the job, and it sounds really good. I wouldn't just be reviewing papers the whole time. They encourage you to do interviews, ask for commissioned pieces from the science world, and set up special issues if you have any specific interests and such.

The second part I kicked ass on. They gave me a couple of "typical" papers that get submitted to the journal. I had half an hour to read them and give my opinion on their suitability for publication, comments on the science, other info that may be needed to make a decision, whether I would send them out for review, etc. Stuff that I would be spending most of my time doing on the actual job, basically. Both papers were in the biology area, which is not my specialty (more about that later). I read them and told the interviewers that I'd decided that neither were suitable for publication, and gave my reasons. Then they said, Well, we have sent these papers out for review. And I thought, Oh crap, messed that one up.

But then they gave me the reviewers' comments, and here's the kick-ass part: the reviewers totally agreed with me! In fact, for one paper, the reviews could have been written by me- they basically said exactly the same things as I'd said a few minutes before. They raised the same issues and had the same problems with the paper I did, and didn't recommend publication either. In the second paper, I'd missed a couple of experimental problems, but the consensus from the reviewers was the same: they didn't recommend publication. So my decisions and reasoning were totally vindicated.

Now, about that biology bit. I specialized in chemistry and physical chemistry. Other than a couple of classes in college, I did no biology at all. This journal specializes in materials science, in which I have a vast and broad background.

Except for the bio bits.

But...the journal is looking to replace their bio person.

So you can see we have a bit of a problem. In their job ad, they did say they were particularly interested in those with a biomaterials background, but that they would consider other well-qualified people. During the interview, they kept asking if I was comfortable taking charge of an area outside of my field of expertise, and what new talent or experience I could bring to their team, and how I felt about having to learn about a whole new field. Basically, they really want a bio person. It's fair enough, the rest of their team leans heavily towards the physics and chemistry side already, so I wouldn't be adding anything new for them.

Mind you, I think I did well on the exercises with the bio papers, especially considering I had no background in the papers' subject matter. But it is very hard to judge if a paper is new and interesting, and it's even harder when you don't know what the state of the art in that particular research area is.

So I think there's a good chance they won't hire me. But if they don't, it wouldn't be through any fault of mine. It would solely be because they need to build a well-rounded team. That's what I'm telling myself, anyway. I'm supposed to hear in a week or so.


rednib said...

In my opinion, you're such an excellent reviewer that they should snap you up while you're available. They can always find a bio person later. Do you think you would learn some bio if you took the job?

jacqueline said...

I agree with this rednib person. They should get you for your raw talent, and worry about balancing the team expertise later.

or change the focus of their publication to match your field. take the bio out.