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Regular version of the site

'We Want Colleagues We Сan Learn from'

In early January, the ASSA Meeting (Allied Social Science Associations), an annual event organized by the American Economic Association (AEA), was held in San Diego. The annual ASSA Meeting lasts three days, during which attendees give talks, attend workshops, and participate in panel discussions. For many emerging researchers, however, the event's main draw is its function as a job interview venue. This year, ICEF Associate Professor Udara Peiris interviewed job candidates there for a faculty position at the ICEF. Professor Peiris discusses which universities are active on the job market, how one can get a job at the ICEF, how HSE University can attract candidates from abroad, and what makes a candidate more competitive on the job market.

'We Want Colleagues We Сan Learn from'

– Do all universities in the world use the ASSA meeting as a recruitment venue? 

In general, all major universities where research and publications attend the ASSA meetings and conduct interviews. This is because many of the people applying for academic positions in economics or finance in the world are present at the meetings, so it is easy to conduct many interviews within a short period of time. There are several other meetings similar to the ASSA where interviews are conducted in Europe like the European Job Market by EEA (European Economic Association) and the RES (Royal Economic Society), for example, but these are on a much smaller scale. In the future, the European Economic Association meeting may grow in importance as a secondary or alternative venue to conduct interviews. The practice of a centralised time and location of interviews is not unique in academia to economics and finance; it reduces both the cost and time required for programmes and departments to find a good match.

– How many times have you attended the ASSA as a representative of the ICEF? How would you describe the ICEF's academic hiring strategy?

I have participated in most of the annual interviews at the ASSA Meeting since I joined the ICEF 7 years ago, though the ICEF has been hiring internationally with the participation and advice of the London School of Economics since 2005 and was one of the first Russian departments to do so. We now have around 20 internationally recruited faculty members, around half of whom are tenured. The ICEF also has formal regular academic visitors from major international universities.

To understand the hiring strategy, I think it is useful to think about the end goal of a research-focused department and university: to be recognised by the profession as a place that produces research that makes significant scholarly contributions to the field. This is measurable mainly by the publications that members of a faculty have in leading international journals, but also by participation in major conferences and the impact that their research has on the private sector, the government sector, central banks, and multinational organisations such as the IMF and the WTO. Therefore we need to make a judgement whether our potential future colleagues can meet these expectations, especially within the period in which their tenure is evaluated.

We decide on the suitability of a candidate by determining whether the candidate is working on important and interesting problems, whether they have the skills and training to be able to progress in making solutions, and whether their solutions will be valued by the profession (that is, whether it will be publishable in a major international journal). To determine this we look at who their advisors were during their PhD, the letters of reference they have, and perhaps most importantly their job market paper.

The job market paper is the major piece of work that graduates of economics and finance PhD programmes produce. It showcases their potential as researchers. Our faculty and our colleagues from the London School of Economics review each application package and job market paper carefully.

Given that a candidate is academically suitable, it is important to understand if they will be a good colleague for us.

As academics, we are intellectually curious and want to have colleagues we can learn from. The ICEF is looking to hire one or two candidates each year, but it is not the situation of a major company hiring employees: it may not be possible for us to find a candidate that both meets our expectations and prefers us to another major international university.

After the interviews at the ASSA, we invite a small number of the most suitable and desirable candidates to visit Moscow and the ICEF, where they get a chance to meet the rest of the faculty, see the university facilities, and city where they may live. During this visit, they present their job market paper to the faculty, after which the entire ICEF faculty meets to discuss the suitability of the candidate. In the end, a very small number of candidates are recommended to the ICEF International Academic Committee (IAC) which decides to make formal offers according to international standards.


The American Economic Association (AEA) is an economics research and education community headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, founded in 1885. The AEA publishes the American Economic Review, one of the most prestigious academic journals in economics. One of the main aims of the association is to maintain independent economic discussion in the scholarly community and foster research.

The AEA is comprised of about 20,000 members from academe, business, government, and consulting groups within diverse disciplines from multi-cultural backgrounds.

The AEA held its first ASSA (Allied Social Science Associations) Meeting in 1950. Nowadays annual meetings provide interaction between young researchers and departments of various universities in major US cities. In 1974, the AEA founded the publication Job Openings for Economists (JOE), which is now distributed to members monthly as a digital journal.

The AEA also annually awards the John Bates Clark Medal to economists under the age of forty who have made a significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge. This award is unofficially called the “Baby Nobel” because many of the medal holders subsequently become Nobel laureates.


– What determines the suitability of a candidate in the academic job market?

Every department would like to have Nobel laureates on their faculty! However, there are very few people that will ever get them and there are many people in the profession who are making important contributions to economic discourse without ever receiving a major prize. Essentially it is a matching problem, the more your department is known for producing great research, the more candidates that are likely to produce great results will want to join.

For a young department and university like the ICEF and HSE, it is a matter of taking a very consistent route of continually improving research outcomes and hiring candidates that would be desirable to other well-known universities. I think it’s very important that the department is ambitious in its targets and communicates this effectively. For example, I believe that the ICEF can become one of Europe's top 10 departments in the next 10 years, and this is what I try to communicate to our candidates. We have an excellent research culture and excellent resources and, most importantly, the ambition to make this happen. Young people are excited to be part of something growing and this enthusiasm will further help the department when they join us.

– How are ICEF interviewers selected to participate in the ASSA?

We invite the entire tenured faculty (Full and Associate Professors) and some junior faculty members (Assistant Professors). The interviewers rotate every year based on contributions in the past and whether their areas of expertise overlap with that of the candidates to be interviewed. We usually have some faculty members presenting their work at the ASSA meetings every year, as well.

At the ICEF we are lucky to benefit from the participation of the London School of Economics, particularly Christian Julliard and Kevin Sheedy this year. Their knowledge and expertise helped us greatly in making decisions. It is very important that this process is driven by research focused people and this is best done through the participation of faculty.

– What was HSE's main domestic competition in recruiting new faculty members from abroad?

As far as I know, the New Economic School was present, as well as two other HSE departments: the Faculty of Economic Sciences (FES) Moscow, and the St Petersburg School of Economics and Management. The ICEF has been conducting their recruitment process independently since 2015. The ICEF and the FES screen initial applicants and conduct interviews separately. However, we coordinate campus visits in cases when both of us would like to invite a particular candidate.

I sincerely hope other Russian universities start this process of international recruitment through the ASSA meetings as I believe they have tremendous potential in attracting quality candidates. The more people in Russia that are part of this international community, the better it is for all of us - faculty, students and the wider Russian community as a whole.

– Tell us a bit about the candidates you interviewed in San Diego. What were they like; what were their areas of interest?

I have been very impressed by the overall group of candidates that applied to the ICEF positions this year. I believe we are attracting stronger candidates and this reflects the growing reputation of the ICEF and HSE and perhaps more importantly, the publications, conference participations and overall reputation of the ICEF faculty.

Our new campus was something that we proudly told the candidates about as well! Most candidates do not have a geographic preference; what matters in their decision-making is whether the ICEF will provide the right research environment to help them succeed in their research.

Of course, we let people know how great Moscow is as a city to live in, but ultimately it is not as important as the research culture at the ICEF and HSE. The final decisions will be made in the next few months, and certainly by May. New faculty members typically arrive in August and participate in our regular activities beginning in September along with everyone else.

– How and when should a student begin to prepare for the academic job market?

Most PhD programmes start to prepare students for the job market and focus on their job market paper beginning in at least their 3rd year of their PhD (which lasts 5 years). The only additional thing I would advise is that the profession is very small insofar as people are very connected and reputation spreads very wide and fast. Being humble and engaging even for students still at an undergraduate level matters, since reputations begin developing at even this early stage.

– What was your own recruitment process at the ICEF like?

The experience I had was very similar to what I experienced at American and European universities. I think the ICEF, together with the LSE support we have, has always maintained a standard structure and process that candidates can easily navigate. I think the most attractive thing for me when deciding to join was the genuine interest of the faculty in my research. That signalled to me that it was a great academic environment in the making.