Much of the Ivy League eschews interviews when filling posts, says Amanda Goodall, and UK universities keen to hire the best should follow suit. But Richard J. Evans, appointed to a chair at Cambridge without any face-to-face contact, begs to differ
Academics pride themselves on being objective. Yet when it comes to job interviews, objectivity frequently goes out the window. The interview process fosters prejudice and irrational assessments of candidates that can lead to the best not being hired. Institutions in the UK often lose sight of the fact that it is they who need the candidate, not the other way round. Interview panels behave as if they are doing the candidate a big favour.
Should we now be following the trend in the US, particularly in the Ivy League and at many research-intensive universities, and getting rid of interviews for academic hiring? I think so.
Even with the most fair-minded interview panel, choosing the right people is difficult. Academics are hired to do research, to teach and to administer; these are skills that are arguably impossible to assess in an interview.
I have spoken to a number of senior professors who collectively have spent numerous hours on hiring panels. Their criticisms of hiring committees focus on the arbitrary yet personal nature of comments, the lack of knowledge that panellists have about candidates’ work – some don’t read it before interviews take place – and the tendency for those on committees to want to hire people who are like themselves.
“In my experience, the great majority of academics on hiring committees have not even looked at the papers before the candidates arrive in the room,” says one of the academics I spoke to (all of whom asked to remain anonymous because they still sit on interview panels).
“This is one reason why they tend to be so influenced by personal things and by the candidate’s performance on the day. In academia, the information that comes through an interview is of marginal importance to the actual job they will be doing. Most information is gleaned from a CV, by reading an individual’s work or by attending a seminar where presentation and communication skills can be observed.”
Read full story. I’m not a big fan of interviews, although I’ve learnt to deal with them… but there must be better ways, e.g.a friend of mine takes in the CVs, then brings in the candidates for a day’s paid work (obviously not all at once), and goes from there. She wants to find someone that she can work with, but who is also capable of doing the job… which is essentially what most people are looking for, but are sidetracked by tick-box exercises!