You’re applying for a job in a research lab in the industry?

Find some great advice here. And below are some additional, and hopefully concrete questions you might want to find answers to during your round of interviews:

Projects

  • How many projects are going on currently in the team and when will the next round of projects be decided? When next can you influence/start a new project?
  • How are projects proposed and selected? Top-down: top level managers decide on the projects. Bottom-up: everybody has a chance to make a proposal. Who decide and how?
  • Could you work on your project ideas/research interests?
  • How many interns are available to the team/researcher, and under what conditions? How are they recruited and from where?
  • Is there funding for subcontracting work? How much, for what type of work, under what conditions?
  • Where does the project funding come from, for what and what are the criteria? Often there are different types of funding for different types projects.
  • Can you work on smaller, personal projects?
  • Can you buy hardware/software/books/licenses? How much/how often/what are the conditions?
  • How are collaborations with universities/professors funded? How can you start or continue a collaboration. With what universities do the lab/team collaborate with?
  • Do you have support/help to market/present your work externally (e.g. high quality videos, slides)? Is it encouraged/required/optional?
  • How many persons/managers do you report to? For what, how often, and what is their profile?

Lab

  • How are projects documented? How are project documents shared internally? Do you have access to all the code/documentation/data of the research and/or non research projects done in the company/lab/team?
  • How many projects are highly visible externally/open-source?
  • How many persons do you know personally or know the work of?
  • How many people blog externally, on what, and what do they say?
  • Are there regular internal/external presentations organized? Paper reviews? How much interaction is there between all the researchers?
  • Do researchers have a mentor?
  • Can you collaborate across teams/labs, under what conditions?

Conferences, Travel

  • How much do researchers travel to conferences, and under what conditions? Only if a paper is presented. Is there a type or list of conferences one can attend?
  • Can you submit papers to any conference you want? Is there a process to review the paper before you can submit it? What are the conditions to submit your work?
  • Can you be on conference PCs and are the travel and expenses reimbursed?
  • In what conferences have you seen researchers from that company? What kind of work did they present?
  • How is the authorship decided for publications? Are you managers always authors/co-authors on the publications?

Evaluation

  • What are the objectives given to researchers/teams/projects? In numbers: publications/articles submitted/accepted, patents submitted/filed, technology/algorithms transferred to products,  demos/presentations given internally, … In qualitative terms: review by peer/team/manager/360 assessment.
  • How is the quality of the work evaluated? Based on numbers (as above)? Who evaluates, and what is the profile of the person(s) who evaluate your work.
  • What does bad/good/great evaluation mean? Compensation/advancement/rewards/other?

Money

  • What are the types of compensations, and what are the criteria? Base salary, bonus,  expenses, publication/patent bonus
  • What are the compensation/rewards for publications/patents/presentations? How much and what are the conditions?
  • How are salary augmentations negotiated? Based on what criterias?
  • Do you have a company credit card?
  • How quickly are your expenses reimbursed?

Organization

  • What type of researchers are they looking for? Researchers with Phd that publish a lot and have a good external visibility ; researchers+entrepreneurs that can think of business models and sell a project internally and externally ; researchers+engineers who can think of big ideas and implement them ;
  • Do managers have a technical role or a management role?
  • What and when were the last changes in the research organization?
  • What are the lab’s current strategy/targets? Create new technology/patents/services? Support current products? Explore new areas? How often do they change?
  • How many technologies/projects have transferred to business units/products? When, how long did it take, what did it take? How does the research lab impact/influence products? Ask for concrete examples.

Work life balance

  • Can you work from home? How often?
  • What’s the average age of the researchers? Life-style?
  • Do you have compensations for commuting/public transport/company shuttles?
  • Do you have a private/shared office?

Side activities

  • What are the policies related to working for yourself, your personal websites/projects, a startup, open source projects? (better to alert the company of any current/future involvement you may have with other companies/organization)
  • How easy is it to have side activities? How many people in the lab have their own startup on the side? Is it encouraged/frowned upon?