Technical research assistants aren’t mindless protocol droids repeating experiments for you. They’re highly motivated and intellectually curious. This is at least what we aim for in our hires. This is especially true in the academic or non-profit research sectors. Those who join these areas are motivated by personal development.

When we get a scientifically motivated and intellectually curious technical research associate, our projects move fast. They can save us time, money and stress. Who wouldn’t want that?

The nature of team oriented research requires intellectual troubleshooting, emotional intelligence, and a thirst for knowledge. So in order to find a suitable candidate that can carry out these complicated experiments AND work well with others AND genuinely like the process of learning, you need to have a thorough hiring process.

 Here are 3 key strategies that will get you closer to finding that amazing candidate:

1. Prepare your questions BEFORE you meet the candidate.

In order to avoid gut feeling biases, like “I liked the way the candidate interacted with me.”, have a pre-outline scripted questionnaire. This will keep you on track with asking relevant questions that pertain to the job requirements. Ask the same questions with ALL of the candidates.

2. Have them cite specific case scenarios. 

Behavioral interviewing has proven to be more effective than the traditional interviewing styles. Get specific instances from their past that can be applied to current job requirements. Dig deeper into their answers. For example, “So you provided assistance on this published data. What specific experiments did you do and what specific challenges did you have?”

3. Repeat this process with ALL references.

Don’t just accept an email letter. Call the reference up. Call all of them. You should ask for 3 or 4 people who can speak about their past performances (the more, the merrier).  Repeat  steps 1 and 2 with each of the references. “So, John told me that he did these specific experiments in your last publication. Can you tell me what challenges did he have?”


A great hire can avert much wastes in money, time, and sleepless nights. So, create a rock solid hiring process and you will increase your chances of running a successful lab practice.

What kind of hiring challenges have you had? Do you have a specific hiring technique that has worked for you? I’d like to hear it about them. Leave a comment below.