It has been a long week of conducting interviews to select research students. During the last weekend, nearly 200 candidates were interviewed in two days by 4 to 5 committees in the nanoscience center. Throughout the last week, nearly 90 candidates were interviewed in the chemical engineering department. In the department, we have a two stage interview. A screening committee, of which I am a member, interviews the candidate for 15-20 minutes on mathematics and general chemical engineering principles. We select roughly 25% of the candidates and send them to another committee, which interviews them for around a hour per candidate. The selection rate of this committee is roughly 50%. This translates to a ratio of 1:8, which is also the average in the institute.
However, these interviews always leave me pondering with a question. Suppose you interview a candidate who has scored very high (> 90%) in X and XII standard, has a very high AIEEE score, went on to join a good NIT, topped in most of the semesters there, got a GATE rank within the all India rank 10 and the performance of the candidate in the interview is very poor. Would you select him/her? This year (as in past years), we did not select two candidates who fit the above background. Despite a very sub-par performance in the screening interview, we selected them to go to the final interview but they did not make it to the final shortlist. The question is how well would they have performed in courses and research, if they were selected based purely on academic record without any interview.
My view is that we should always select candidates for the master's degree with a consistent academic record irrespective of the performance in the interview. Because there is no strict restriction on the number of seats available, a candidate who does not have a great academic record but performs very well in the interview can also be selected. But that is just my view and opinion and it is something for me to think about as I travel out of Bangalore on Saturday.