Even the most well-funded laboratory, with state-of-the art instrumentation will not be productive without the right team of people in place. Just as a business will have an owner, manager, assistant manager and various staff, a lab requires leadership and well-trained staff to conduct high quality research. Hiring is especially challenging for new laboratories, due in part to limited start-up funding and visibility. While there is no single solution, a few considerations can make the process much easier.
The first step is to have a clear understanding of specific staff needs as well as budget. As a new laboratory, it is essential to begin generating data for publication and grant applications. When hiring, one of the biggest challenges is balancing these immediate needs with anticipated needs. In some cases, it may be possible to recruit a few graduate and undergraduate students and run experiments to generate preliminary data. In larger laboratories with numerous undergraduate and graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and even principal investigators, a skilled lab manager to keep operations running smoothly may be the best hire. In addition to coordinating projects, assisting with data collection, training new students and lab members and providing technical expertise, a lab manager can handle numerous administrative tasks. Ultimately, it is important to envision the growth of your laboratory and hire for positions that will support that growth.
Once you have determined your staffing requirements, compile written job descriptions for each role. These documents can help you determine which qualifications are necessary for the position and help candidates identify positions for which they wish to apply. As a new laboratory, it is essential to increase your visibility. If you are teaching undergraduate courses and are hoping to take on new graduate students, mentioning your research focus and the fact that you are accepting new graduate students may spark some interest. It is also important to attend seminars, lectures, and graduate networking events to increase your visibility. Offering laboratory rotations will also give students an opportunity to learn about your research first hand.
Formal advertisements for post-doctoral researchers, technicians and lab managers can be placed in scientific journals, or on your website. Reaching out to your colleagues and network is also valuable, as they may be able to notify qualified applicants of open positions.
Hiring qualified candidates to form a productive team, and developing a positive laboratory culture are essential for a successful research program. Ensuring you have a clear understanding of your staffing needs and budget, as well as increasing your laboratory’s visibility and reaching out to your network can eliminate some of the stress associated with the process and help you find the best fit for your team.