Recruitment for PhD positions in the EU Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie MSCA-COFUND project ARCAID

Number of available PhD positions: 20

Career stage: Early stage researchers (ESR)


Key dates

We already had a several round of applications; (start of recruitment procedure: 1st October 2019, with a first, second, third, fourth and fifth application deadline, respectively the 1st November 2019, 2nd of December 2019, the 31st of January 2020, the 30th of May 2020 and finally the 31st of August).  After these rounds, we filled 19 positions and the 20th is almost settled.


Eligibility criteria and application requirements:

ARCAID is focused on attracting excellent ESR candidates from Europe and beyond.

Applicants need to fully respect three eligibility criteria:

  1. Early-stage researchers (ESR) must, at the date of recruitment by the PI, be in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience, so time spent on any issue different from research experience does not count in these 4 years) of their research careers and have not been awarded a doctoral degree.This is measured from the date when they obtained a master degree which formally entitles them to embark on a doctorate.
  2. Conditions of international mobility of researchers: researchers must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of the recruiting host organization for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the recruitment date. Compulsory national service, short stays such as holidays, and time spent as part of a procedure for obtaining refugee status under the Geneva Convention are not taken into account.
  3. English language:candidates must demonstrate that their ability to understand and express themselves in both written and spoken English is sufficiently high for them to derive the full benefit from the network training. Information about TOEFL can be found here .

Online Recruitment Procedure

All applications proceeded through the online application form that will be made available on this website. Candidates provided all requested information including a detailed CV (preferably using the Europass template), a motivation letter, grades and optionally one or two reference letters. During registration, applicants needed to prove that they are eligible (three aspects: respect ESR definition, mobility criteria, English language proficiency).

Figure 2 gives an overview of the committees involved in the selection process.

selection process chart2

Figure 2.

Eligibility Committee (EBC): The Project manager performs fast and efficient screening of the eligibility criteria of each applicant to the program. The project manager is supported by the human resources management (HRM) experts who have a full understanding of rules, procedures and standards governing the recognition of the qualifications of the candidates and if necessary further explore these rules through all available channels.

Eligibility check: The selection procedure consists of multiple steps. The EBC first performs an eligibility check by assessing and evaluating the academic and professional qualifications of the candidates. Ineligible candidates are informed on their rejection by (electronic) letter stating the insufficient or lacking criteria.

Selection Committee (SC): After the eligibility check by the EBC, recruitment and selection procedures of candidates are coordinated and performed by the SC. The SC composition will be an adequate reflection of the main disciplines involved, taking the gender balance into account. All core members are tenured assistant, associate or full professors, who are experts in their fields and who have ample experience with selecting ESRs. The SC is assisted in the selection process by at least one internationally recognized expert from one of the Partner Organizations, the aforementioned HRM Experts and one 3rd or 4th-year PhD student that is already working within Amsterdam UMC. The SC is chaired by the ARCAID coordinator and administratively supported by a secretary. By closely monitoring the selection procedures, the SC guarantees that all ESRs have started at the beginning of the second year of the program at the latest.

Researchers’ selection workflow: Considering the different research projects available (see short project description on website), candidates are free to choose their project. The project proposals are written by the ARCAIDs Principal Investigators (PIs) and candidates apply for the research project(s) they prefer. Since we offer PhD positions for a wide variety of research projects, we advise the candidates to give a ranking for up to 5 projects they prefer and to motivate their choice. During the application period all incoming files are registered by the project manager. The selection process is depicted in Figure 2.

Long list composition by Selection Committee:

After the eligibility check, the project manager distributes the files of eligible candidates among the appropriate SC members, based on their field of expertise. For each available position at least two members of the SC assess the candidates against the criteria described below.

Evaluation Criteria

Criteria/sub-criteria for the selection of ESRs, scoring and thresholds:

Selection of ESRs conforms to ‘The Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers (2005)’ via central coordination by the SC to ensure open, transparent and internationally comparable selection and recruitment procedures. There will be no discrimination on the basis of gender, age, ethnic, national or social origin. Applications are assessed against criteria addressing the candidate’s research background, the synergy between the candidate’s background, his/her motivation and the research group of interest, and the impact on the candidate’s career advancement.

One of the major purposes of the essay (only part of second selection round) is to gain further insight in their writing skills as well as in motivation, eagerness, English language proficiency and creativity. Each candidate’s merits will be judged quantitatively as well as qualitatively. The qualifications needed for enrolling in ARCAID are high, since the program aims to only select excellent, highly talented young scientists. Scoring and thresholds criteria and the scale interpretation of marks is listed below.

evaluation criteria

All candidates are scored by the SC members based on these criteria, leading to a final ranking of the candidates for each position. To ensure fair treatment of the applications, it is crucial that the various experts interpret the scale of marks and evaluation criteria in the most possible similar way. An interview evaluation form with detailed questions and definitions of the criteria (e.g. creativity) will be prepared.

They each prepare a ranking list of their candidates with a motivation of the ranking. After this first ranking the SC meets and sets up a so-called long list for each available position. The top 3-5 candidates per project on the long list are invited for a screening (Skype) interview. This interview entails a brief review of the candidate’s background and motivation.

Applicants who disqualify are informed on their rejection via an electronic letter in which positive as well as negative aspects are highlighted, with a clear reference to criteria for which performance yet is insufficient. This feedback helps candidates to improve their success in future applications.

Short list composition by Selection Committee:

After the screening interviews, the SC members and experts set up a ranked short list of selected candidates. Per project the top two candidates will be invited for a second selection round (see below). In case of doubt between equal rated candidates, a second screening interview is held with another PI. Candidates that might have a better match with another research project within ARCAID can apply for that position via a second screening interview and are subsequently included in the appropriate ranking list.

Second selection round:

After the SC selection procedure, the top two candidates are invited to prepare a short essay about the potential societal and scientific impact of the specific research project. In addition, the candidates are invited for an in depth interview via Skype, telephone, or in person. If it is feasible for the candidate to visit Amsterdam, an allowance for travel and accommodation is foreseen. For each available position, interviews consist of a formal part and an informal part. The formal part is a discussion with 

an SC member and prospective daily supervisor, and one external expert in the field. Discussion points are: their motivation, drive and ambition, educational and theoretical background, experimental skills, choice of the host research group, overall potential to carry out the project successfully, the essay and their pursued future career. The same criteria, thresholds and weights apply as with the written information. The informal part consists of a Skype session with a member of the prospective research group to talk about the work atmosphere at Amsterdam UMC and the research group.

Offering of positions:

After second selection round, the SC members and experts discuss the ranking of selected candidates per position in a meeting of the SC. This results in a final list consisting of the 20 most suitable candidates for each available position as well as a back-up candidate for each position (if available). They finally award the ESR positions to the candidates. The candidates are informed by (electronic) letter about their status. They are contacted by the HRM department and/or the prospective supervisors to negotiate their contract and plan moving to The Netherlands. This process usually takes ~4 weeks. ESRs are hired based on contracts, ensuring their access to social security.

The rejected candidates receive a (electronic) letter explaining why their application has not been selected. The letter will mention strong and weak points of the candidate, aiming to help the rejected candidates to improve their records to become successful in future applications.

Evaluation of recruitment and selection procedures: The HRM Experts closely monitor the number of applications received, number of candidates invited for interviews and the ESRs hired. Questionnaires for candidates (non-hired and hired) are used to assess how candidates have experienced the recruitment process and how they would change it. If feasible, the recruitment processes is improved already during the program.

Redress procedure:

The candidates are also informed of the possibility to discuss the results of the selection procedure with one of the SC members that have assessed their application together with the possibility of ‘Legal Appeal’. The Amsterdam UMC complies with the NVP Recruitment Code, in which a written complaint can be sent to the Dutch Association for Personnel Management and Organizational Development (NVP), if the candidate has clear evidence to support shortcomings in the evaluation process that may have affected the final decision. This procedure will review how the application has been handled during the entire evaluation process. It is not an automatic re-evaluation and the judgement of appropriately qualified experts is not called into question.

Further information

The EURAXESS website may provide usefull information (e.g., visa). More information about Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions can be found here. For other questions you can contact Dr. Laurian Jongejan (Project Manager).