This afternoon, we were talking about some crazy interview process, when I was reminded of The Interview in Prof. Shashi Gulhati's The IITs: Slumping or Soaring (my short review is here). He was called for The Interview the second time his name was recommended (the first time he was not called). Here is how Gulhati describes his experience:
I was asked to present myself at the office of the Minister of HRD at some specified time. I did. There were another seven or eight similarly invited. We were asked to wait in the office of the PA which neither had sufficient room nor furniture. We squeezed in. I was appalled to see the then Director of IIT also seated there. Appalled once, because surely they did not need to interview him -- they had seen him functioning as the Director for 5 years. Appalled again, because the Director had actually come for the interview and had not told them to consider him in absentia. And after all that, he was not reappointed.
When my turn came for being interviewed, I went into the Minister's office. I knew some of those who sat there as members of the selection committee and gradually gathered who the others were -- all very illustrious people. The Minister was in the Chair -- a very tolerant expression on his face that remained static throughout -- just graced the occasion with his benign presence.
The interview proceeded as per the book. My background was outlined, some clarifications were sought and given. A discussion proceeded that was totally pedestrian. No one asked me what I thought was amiss in the IIT system or at IIT-D, or how as Director I would take IIT-D to new heights. The discussion reached its abysmal low when someone asked me -- 'how many Ph.D. theses have you guided?' I was stunned. I actually could not remember. I had given up counting a long time ago. This was one of the questions I was asked when, as an assistant professor, I had appeared for the professor's interview. It was relevant then. Surely it was not relevant any more. But I guess it must have been and I probably did not have a high enough number. I was not selected but placed second on the panel. The first on the panel became the next Director.
Gulhati goes on to point out that a IIT Review Committee had recommended, back in 2004, that this procedure be changed to something similar to that followed in IISc: using a search committee. I don't know if this recommendation has been implemented.