Hiring Your Own Grads

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Not sure if this is the right forum for this, but the job fora seem to be mostly about seeking and not hiring.

I'm looking for thoughts about departments that hire their own PhD graduates for TT positions. I'm on a search committee (at a mid-level RI) that won't start ranking candidates until January, but I know that one of our grads who has been unable to find a TT position elsewhere has applied for the position. My own inclination is that it is not a good idea to hire our own for a number of reasons: incestuousness; difficulty for new hire to be seen as equal colleague when the faculty has seen her/him as a student for many years; creates resentment and/or expectations among other PhD students; we have taught this student most of what s/he knows so there is little opportunity, etc. The university where I was previously had an explicit ban on hiring its own PhDs unless they had worked elsewhere for a number of years (ten-ish?)

But this past weekend I was speaking with a colleague at another RI (frankly, a better one) in a different discipline. She said that they often hire their own students because they see themselves as the best program in the country, so only their students can live up to their lofty standards. After I told her to get over herself, I wondered how common this thinking is.

Any thoughts on the pros/cons of hiring one's own?

It's a terrible idea to hire one's own Ph.D.s  I am ambivalent about hiring one's own BAs--they could add something special to the undergraduate experience and, in fact, at my undergrad institution, there were several BAs from the college who took Ph.D.s elsewhere (obviously; it was an undergrad college!) and were hired to teach on the tenure-track (and earned tenure, BTW).

Hiring one's own Ph.D.s creates, IMHO, too much of a groupthink.  I happen to chair a department that has a number of people from the same masters' and/or Ph.D. program (not us; we only do undergrad in my dept.) and this produces a uniformity of perspective that I think is damaging to the students.  If everyone teaching agrees on outlook the students will not be served well.

The other dynamics you mention are powerful as well, particularly if the program's Ph.D. is a youngish person who hasn't done anything else of note (worked at another career, etc.).  It can be hard to stop being Professor Big Deal's student and start being "Big's" colleague with whom you feel free to disagree.

I'd advise against it, personally.

I understand the position against hiring one's own PhD grads, but I would point out that the mission of the search committee should be to hire the best person available.

The points about raising expectations for current PhD students or creating a pathologically limited intellectual gene pool are understandable concerns. However, large PhD departments tend to have a variety of faculty research interests, philosophies and areas of specialization. Is it really so stultifying to hire a product of your own department? If so, what does that say about the quality of the program?

Also, does the constitution of the department really have that much effect on how the grad will behave and once brought into the fold? Does the argument hold that graduating from XYZ University controls the degree of teaching innovations, research direction and work ethic of the candidate? I would hope not. If the PhD means anything, should it not mean that the recipient is an active, critical thinker with a reasonable degree of initiative and intellectual curiosity?

I can understand why there should be limits placed on hiring your own. Perhaps a restriction on percentage of home-grown faculty, coupled with a requirement that they teach elsewhere for X number of years before consideration would be effective. However, to place a hard and fast rule against it seems to be unnecessarily self-limiting, especially in fields that are in high demand and/or have few doctoral-granting institutions.

I think it's one thing to hire a grad who went off elsewhere and was successful.  It's another thing to hire a grad who can't get a TT job anywhere else or hasn't worked at another institution.  One of the biggest problems for grad students is figuring out that the whole field doesn't work like their PhD program.  I mean really knowing it -- everyone knows it intellectually.

Hire the best candidate, and if the best is your own grad who couldn't land another job, start over again next year.


I dont agree with velvet Elvis. How would a department know if they 'can't get a job elsewhere"?

I am a grad of a top program that has this silly rule about not hiring their own grads. The program has dozens of phd students who are working with individual profs. The diversity of the program and the professoriate means that there is no such thing as groupthink. Yet the administration has this hard and fast rule (that they have broken several times!) about not hiringtheir own grads until they spent time "in purgatory" in another institution.

What makes things worse for the grads of my alma mater is that there are several other institutions in the same field that almost always only hire their own grads. So there is a definite skewing of hires all around.

As others have said, each candidate should be treated as an individual case. May the best candidate get the job, without any rules that prevent this.


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