grad skool rulz – finding a research assistant
Viewer mail! With her permission, Valerie from New Hampshire wrote the following:
I’m a reader of orgtheory and I enjoy the grad school rulz stuff from your blog (I love professional development type things). I have a question to pose for a next edition– how do you find and hire good research assistants? I’m particularly interested in non-PhD student RAs, but I assume there are similar principles. Basically, if you have a resume, writing sample, and time to interview, how would identify people who are bright, hard working, can finish tasks in a timely manner, have a good nose for research, etc? I’m finding myself at a loss, since you can’t exactly get much out of asking, “So… are you hard working?”
Good question. Here is what I wrote back:
For undergrads, I use the following rules: They need to have taken a course from me and get a B or higher, or they need a reference from another prof and a 3.0 GPA or higher.
The thresholds vary. Then, I usually assess the student. I give them some simple task to do. If they do it well, they move on to more ambitious things. Otherwise, I phase them out by giving them very easy tasks.
I find people by talking about RA’ships in my courses. I have lectures, so many potential recruits. The undergrad coordinator also knows I need people. That brings 2-4 people a semester.
Another tactic: I look for students who have done “nitty gritty” work of some type, like working in a biology lab. They know profs are looking for hard working people who need boring work done. If they are willing to do it again, they’re probably good workers.
Write your own tips in the comments and don’t forget to check out the Grad Skool Rulz book (it’s cheap).