Interview with Dr Sébastien Fernandez and Alberto Casciano on the mutual benefits of a cross-fertilization research partnership between EHL professor and external research student.
The six-month collaboration between Dr Sébastien Fernandez, (Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at EHL) and Alberto Casciano (PhD candidate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology at Trento University, Italy), has been the first of its kind and has set the wheels in motion for similar future academic research partnerships at EHL. This association between an EHL research professor and an external PhD student - which came about tentatively and provisionally - has proven to be extremely fruitful, both personally and professionally.
Their work has resulted in a breakthrough training program for an effective, valid and fair selection process based on use of the LinkedIn platform. To date, preliminary data support the usefulness of this training, as the active participation via surveys improves the accuracy scores of raters’ assessments. The fruits of this research work will benefit recruiters and hiring managers in assessing candidates in a more structured and fairer manner through the information conveyed on their LinkedIn profile.
Q: How did this research partnership come about?
Alberto Casciano: Encouraged by the fact that the university of Trento supports collaborations with external academic institutions, I decided to contact Dr Fernandez in July 2022 after realizing that I was constantly referencing his work and citing his research findings. My main area of study is work psychology, talent acquisition methods and how the hiring process is driven by candidates’ CVs and use of LinkedIn. Sébastien’s recent research contributed to generating new knowledge in the relation between LinkedIn cues and personality assessment. Since I was also doing research on the topic, I suspected there were exciting breakthroughs to be made if we pooled our enthusiasm and insights into the subject with a view to conducting scientific research together.
Dr Sébastien Fernandez: I’d never been contacted by a PhD student from another country asking to collaborate, but I immediately saw the potential outcomes of working together. From the offset, we identified a lot of shared evidences and common ground that we wanted to develop: Using LinkedIn as a valid hiring instrument; improving accuracy of recruiters; and using samples on real workers. We quickly reached the conclusion that our joint efforts in data collection and surveys could result in an innovative, research-based training program to help steer better hiring decisions.
Q: Was this temporary partnership easy to set up?
Alberto Casciano: From my side, I was fortunate to have the University of Trento, (specifically the department of Psychology and Cognitive Science), encourage my time spent collaborating with a renowned researcher from another university. Additional funds were made available to sponsor this research experience abroad for a six-month period, knowing that these opportunities are unique in helping the research candidate grow and expand their knowledge pool.
Sébastien Fernandez: Since this experience has been a first at EHL, there was some new admin involved in setting up the process of receiving an external visiting researcher. Making Alberto part of the organization whilst not being an official employee with a contract meant creating a new type of status and position, but we managed to find a way to set up the right legal and logistical structure to make it workable for both sides. In the future, we would like to develop and facilitate the possibilities to receive visiting PhD students more regularly, since it is such a rich experience for both parties. It not only showcases the brilliant professors that we have here at EHL, but also shows the potential of such collaborations with other institutions, increasing the credibility of EHL as an institution that carries out great research – as well as teaching.
Q: What have been the professional and personal gains to come out of this collaboration?
Alberto Casciano: This six-month research mandate with EHL has allowed me to:
Spend time in a new university, country and culture;
Experiment new research practices and fine-tune my skills in general;
Be mentored by a professor whose work I have much admired, followed and referenced;
Grow as a researcher thanks to working alongside a seasoned professional;
Learn how to go from abstract ideas to creating concrete new processes.
Dr Sébastien Fernandez: Having Alberto as a research partner has given me the opportunity to:
Develop a mentoring relationship with an external research student;
Introduce someone from another country and culture to EHL;
Highlight the fact that EHL is not only a teaching hub, but also a center of impactful research;
Have a regular interlocutor with whom to exchange on insightful deep thinking and breakthroughs;
Share enthusiasm for the same research topics;
Also grow as a researcher and mentor.
I’d like to encourage this opportunity for EHL to invite visiting researchers to spend time working and elaborating ideas on our campus. It’s a relatively low-cost investment with a very beneficial long-term return. - Dr Sébastien Fernandez