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Please go through the following story and then answer.


My friend (Mr. F) came to know from an advertisement published at some institution's notice board that a professor (Prof. P) is looking for a student to work in a project at his laboratory. So he sent curriculum vita to apply. Next morning he got a mobile phone call from Prof. P asking if he was really interested to work and he agreed. His home town is 2000 km (1243 miles) away form the institution. Prof P told Mr. F to arrange a railway ticket for this trip. Also Prof. P asked Mr. F not to send any mail. All arrangements (railway ticket, money etc) were completed and informed to Prof. P who told him that a letter will be sent for an interview in his department. Date of the interview will be fixed according to the date of his reaching which is already informed by Mr. F.

Seven days has gone. Prof. P did not sent any mail. Once Mr. F asked him by phone and inquired for this interview latter. Prof P told that "Interview letter is not a matter, just come, you shall not face any problem, actually I am very busy."

All the talks has done via telephone, no mail, so there is no proof that Prof P invited Mr. F or told him for travel arrangement.

Question :

  1. This is a problem of my friend's. However, your answers will also be helpful for me. Should Mr. F go without a printed document? What should he do now? He has no documentary proof. Shall he cancel all travel arrangements?

  2. This is my question, and will be helpful for my friend for his next application. Should I remove telephone number from my curriculum vita next when I shall apply for such a post?

Edits after a few responces:

Prof. P and Mr.F lives in different ends of India. Prof. P is a professor of a top Indian institution. Mr. F has completed M.Sc. degree from some another institution and is currently unemployed.

The Indian government has several funding agencies like DRDO, CSIR, DST, MHRD, NBHM, UGC, BNRS etc. They give research fund to some professors of different institutions and universities. They can employ research fellows at their laboratory whose salary (generally Rs. 16000/ month) comes from this fund. The student may get a PhD degree if he can be able to join the PhD programme of the university or institution. But joining in a project work and joining in PhD programme are independent events. For joining a project he does not need to join in any programme on the institution, but he usually enjoys all the facilities like a PhD scholar. He may or may not get a travel salary for interview. In our case Mr.F may not get it as it is not mentioned in the advertisement.

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The story doesn't (yet) make much sense to me. Some questions: (i) What country is this taking place in? (ii) Is Mr. F an undergraduate, graduate student,...? (iii) If he is a student, doesn't he need to transfer into some kind of program at Prof P's university rather than just work in a lab? (iv) Is the travel being paid for? (If not, that is a good reason not to go.) (v) "Also Prof. P asked Mr. F not to send any mail." That's really weird. Is it possible that this is some kind of a hoax being played on Mr. F?? –  Pete L. Clark Feb 13 at 4:01
I could go on, but I'll just ask one more. (vi) What is this job, that one needs to import a student from more than 1000 miles away rather than just recruit someone who already works at the university? Is it a full time job? Does it pay enough to allow the student to move to a new city and live there? –  Pete L. Clark Feb 13 at 4:03
I have edited the post. It will make the picture more clear. –  Dutta Feb 13 at 5:27
Thanks for adding the information. The story is clearer now: and it is clearly outside of my experience, I'm afraid. –  Pete L. Clark Feb 13 at 5:54
If the job was that faraway from your friend's home why did your friend applied for it? When you apply for a job you go to the interview IF you want the job. Your friend does not need to go if he is not interested anymore. But if he is, he must go (no one pays costs for travelling to interviews where I come from) but that does not guarantee that he will get the job. That is always a risk with all job interviews. –  Alexandros Feb 13 at 9:37
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3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Speaking as an Indian, albeit one with little experience with respect to Indian academia, I would advise your friend against travelling thousands of kilometers with zero proof that there is anything waiting for him at the other end.

I'd suggest that he tell the professor in question that he cannot turn up at his institution on the basis of zero commitment. I imagine travelling such a distance cannot be cheap. It isn't really practical to spend that kind of money for a job interview. He could ask the professor to at least cover travel expenses. If the professor doesn't feel he knows enough about the student to commit to that extent, he could have a telephone interview with him, ask for further information, etc. I don't see the problem with that.

To summarize, the proposed course of action - travel across India on the basis of an unclear verbal understanding - does not strike me as a good idea.

NOTE: For international readers following along, note that the proposed salary is quite pitiful by Western standards. Rs. 16,000 per month, assuming a long-term conversion of Rs 50 to the U.S dollar, is $ 320 per month. (Recently the exchange rate has been in the low 60s.) This certainly goes further in India than in the U.S., but not that much further. India is not exactly cheap even by Western standards, particularly in big cities.

It would help to put things in perspective if the poster would tell us the approximate cost of a round trip railway journey (I'm assuming it is by rail) from his friend's current location to the institution in question.

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Thank you for your interest. I shall ask him to cancel the ticket just before the journey. He has already collected tickets of cost Rs. 685 for the trip from his hometown to the institution. –  Dutta Feb 13 at 10:33
A disclaimer, and an additional comment. Note first that advice from random strangers on the net is worth what you pay for it. Second, I don't understand what you mean by "ask him to cancel the ticket just before the journey". I hope that your friend does not make decisions on the advice of random strangers. My opinion is that the terms of his travel are not good, and my opinion is that he should try to negotiate for a (slightly) better deal. Is Rs. 685 a round-trip fare, is this a rail fare, and if so is that first class or second class? –  Faheem Mitha Feb 13 at 11:36
Mr.F has collected a second sleeper class ticket. This is not round-trip fare. He has no return ticket, as he is very much confirmed about this job. –  Dutta Feb 13 at 13:33
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I must be confused because of the language barrier. Your friend Mr. F made travel arrangements without having an interview date set? That is generally not a wise move. You need to provide more information, such as which country this is happening in, or what level your friend is in (is he an undergraduate student? PhD?)

There are generally no formal letters arranging an interview, but your friend could email Prof. P to tell him that the travel arrangements are made, and that he would like a concrete date and time for the interview.

I personally doubt that Prof. P means anything bad. If someone made you a job offer over the phone and never followed up, that is a bad sign, since an offer letter is legally binding. But it's just an interview. It doesn't sound like Prof. P has anything to gain from lying to your friend.

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Thank you for your interest. I have added the question which will make it more transperent. For a long distance journey by train in India, sometimes it is difficult to get a confirm barth. So Prof. P suggested him to collect the ticket first. When this arrangement will be completed he will provide the date of interview. The arrangement is completed and informed him. Every talks is done by telephone, so he has no proof. –  Dutta Feb 13 at 5:34
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So, really the question boils down to "Should someone be willing to put at risk their own money to travel quite far for a chance at an interview at a great school which pays poorly ($260/month) when the hiring prof wants to avoid all written communication?"

First, there is just too much up to the person's situation. How much money do they have saved? What are their other living expenses? How valuable is this job in a non-monetary sense? What are the values of Mr. F?

If I really wanted the job, and I was financially able to do so, I might take the trip but unless I was open to turning the trip into a purely site-seeing trip I would verify that I was indeed communicating with the hiring prof. Call him at his school, call the school and verify that you have his correct mobile phone number, etc. There is a red-flag that there is to be nothing mailed TO the prof.

In my life (in industry and academia) I have interviewed several times and I have traveled for interviews and sometimes I have paid my own way. However, I never invested anything significant because I was never desperate. I would ALWAYS make sure someone was not tricking me (for fun or in a dangerous way) before making any time or money commitments. Assuming people are who they say they are and Mr. F can afford it, I don't see anything wrong with taking a trip for an interview, even if he has to pay his own way.

Seems small risk (little money, Mr. F has free time) and potential moderate reward (although not great monetarily).

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Talking directly to the school administration does indeed seem like a good idea, to make sure you are talking to who you think you are talking to. –  Faheem Mitha Feb 13 at 12:01
Thank you for your interest. Indian context is different. School administrators are also besy. There is no help center or school's repersentative. Secondly $260/month is not much bad in India. It is Rs. 16000/month. So one may save at least 6000/month. –  Dutta Feb 13 at 13:39
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