^ plus, it may be a strong predictor but it is also a noisy predictor. There are plenty of people who have not published much when they get hired but publish a lot of great material after they get hired. It is possible to read the pipeline and make an educated guess about trajectory.
Profiles of candidates from the No Names thread(34 posts) (2 voices)
what a great bump! thanks for clarifying!
^^ OP was talking about top universities hiring junior faculty. So it is reasonable to assume that these universities care about research rather than teaching.
And if someone publishes after getting one's PhD, not before, well, top universities can very well wait till that person has a decent publication record before hiring him/her.
Oh, and how does one "read the pipeline and make an educated guess about trajectory", again? And how is that more objective than relying on publication record?
The "hire on promise" strategy works well under two conditions:
1) Department has a high tenure bar. Junior faculty is disposable. Some work out, some don't. To make this work, department also has to be attractive enough that high performers want to stay. Harvard, Stanford, a few others can make this work. Advantages: you get the best of the best and you don't have to go after them later in their career after they've already put down roots somewhere else.
2) Department is good at spotting talent early, before the publication record or early in the publication record. Some departments are very good at this, and have built impressive faculties by bringing stars in before they are stars, and then hoping they put down enough roots that they stay in spite of the inevitable offers that come in. Helps to be in a place people want to live. These schools don't have the deep budgets and wouldn't be able to hire the stars once they are stars, so their only way of getting stars is to spot them before anyone else does, and then make them happy enough to stay. Only works if you can read the pipeline. If you screw up, and the tenure bar is also low, you end up with a bunch of duds.