Columns @IndiaBioscience

Hiring the Best: Interviewing Institutional Representatives at YIM 2023

Ankita Rathore

During the 15th YIM (2023) in Gujarat, we had the opportunity to ask representatives from a diverse range of institutions in India some quick questions about faculty hiring. Let’s take a look at their responses.

Interviewing Institutional Representatives at YIM 2023
Interviewing Institutional Representatives at YIM 2023 

At YIM 2023, our discussion centred around the qualities that research institutes seek in candidates during faculty recruitment. We had the opportunity to interview representatives from a diverse range of institutions in India, including Ashoka University in Sonipat represented by Kasturi Mitra, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda represented by Pushpa Robin, the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru represented by Usha Vijayraghavan, and from Manipal Academy of Higher Education represented by Satish Rao and Naveen Salins. These institutions encompassed private university, private deemed university, and public universities with a focus on research and teaching.

Let’s take a look at their responses.

1) What do you look for in a CV when hiring a faculty at your research institute?

Mitra: We seek candidates who demonstrate out-of-the-box thinking and who push frontiers with cutting-edge ideas and tools. We also value good publication quality, but we do not solely rely on metrics like impact factor. Instead, we evaluate the content of the major papers in the candidate’s CV, as well as their training and research proposal. We seek candidates who have a clear grasp of English and strong communication skills, which are important for obtaining funding.

Salins: When reviewing a CV, I always look for the first three lines, which should tell me who the candidate is, what they do, and what they want to do. The CV should highlight the candidate’s academic qualifications, publications, and key areas of work, as well as their future aspirations and plans. These are the core factors we consider when selecting candidates.

When reviewing a CV, I always look for the first three lines, which should tell me who the candidate is, what they do, and what they want to do.

Robin: We prioritise a candidate’s qualifications and publication, both in terms of quality and impact.

Vijayraghavan: We look for excellent and consistent academic track record. And clarity in their research statement, that articulates short- and longer-term goals, building on their accomplishments while addressing contemporary questions. We also look for a teaching statement that captures their personal take on this important role for a faculty member.

2) What are two factors that influence the selection of a candidate during the interview process?

Mitra: Well, firstly, we seek candidates who are independent and demonstrate strong leadership qualities. We want candidates who can drive their own research program. And secondly, during the interview, we evaluate their communication skills, including the depth and clarity of their presentation.

Robin: When evaluating a candidate’s experience, we look for individuals who have relevant expertise and post-doctoral experience. And as the institute has a heavy emphasis on teaching, we look for candidates who are comfortable and enthusiastic about teaching.

Rao and Salins: The first would be the independence and depth in their approach to research. During the interview, we evaluate their ability to handle questions, the clarity of their presentation, and their vision for their independent career. And secondly, we evaluate a candidate’s credibility through their training and the quality of their peer-reviewed publications. We do not place as much emphasis on talks or conference attendance, as these are not peer-reviewed.

Vijayraghavan: We take a multi-layered and multi-level approach to candidate selection. First, we consider their CV and evaluate the salient points, strengths, and how their research can contribute to the field. Second, we invite them for a research seminar where they are given time to present their work and field questions from students. We evaluate their ability to think on their feet and handle questions. 

We evaluate their ability to think on the feet and handle questions.

3) How do you judge a person’s communication skills?

Mitra: In my opinion, a CV is not a reflection of a person’s communication skills. Instead, we prefer to evaluate their proposal writing abilities. The clarity, seriousness, innovation, thought process, and depth reflected in the proposal are excellent indicators of a person’s communication skills.

Salins: When I’m interviewing a candidate, I focus on their ability to articulate their current area of expertise. I believe that a person’s communication skills can be judged by how well they can convey their ideas and knowledge during the interview.

Robin: We typically evaluate a person’s communication skills through a talk that they give as part of the interview process. This helps me to assess their ability to communicate effectively, engage the audience, and convey their thoughts clearly.

Vijayraghavan: As part of interview process, we do a chalk talk where the candidate outlines their immediate and long-term goals, as well as the grants they are considering, without using any pre-prepared slides. This exercise helps us to assess their ability to handle questions and communicate their vision effectively.