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When a committee is evaluating applicants for a permanent academic position (such as a Lecturer or Assistant Prof. position), do they select the best candidate in the absolute, or do they relativize with the corresponding experience?

Consider for instance two applicants, one who just graduated from her PhD, and the other with 10 years of postdoc experience (for the sake of the example, let's assume that both are "regular" applicants, i.e., none of them is a exceptionally good or bad). Clearly, in general, the second applicant will have many more publications, grants, etc, than the first one. In that case, will the committee judge them by relativizing the CV of the second one by stating like only the number of publications per year counts, not the total one, or say that the second one has a better CV in the absolute, and therefore is better?

1 Answer 1

I don't think there's a single answer to this question. Ultimately, departments look for the candidate who will be the best fit for a given position, and for the department as a whole. If you also subscribe to the view that the department would rather choose a candidate who is more likely to accept a given position, then that also changes the decision calculus.

For the most part, however, I don't think hiring committees are doing "hard" comparisons of citations; that would just be foolish. Grant-winning experience also does matter, obviously, but that's also something that can be learned and developed over time.

So, ultimately, hiring tends to be a subjective process—you can view the data in whatever "objective" light helps you get to the conclusion you want.