Impression formation of PhD supervisors during student-led selection: An examination of UK business schools with a focus on staff profiles

Ben Marder*, Sebastian Oliver, Amy Yau, Laura Lavertu, Claire Perier, Mats Frank, Kirsten Cowan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

PhD students are allocated to supervisors in several ways. In Business Schools, the most dominant allocation method is student-led selection. In many cases, this requires students to approach and petition potential supervisors before having had any previous communications with them. Though, given that supervisors possess similar credentials, what evaluation process do students undertake when considering them? To date, research to understand this process is absent. Through the theoretical frame of impression management and the use of in-depth interviews (n = 19), we address this gap. Specifically, we examine how warmth and competence perceptions (i.e. The Big Two impressions) shape supervisor selection. Further, we provide understanding of the role academic staff profiles play in this process. We contribute first, a hierarchy of determinants for supervisor choice in ascending order of importance; gatekeeping attributes, competence, and warmth. Second, we provide a typology of stereotypical supervisors (The Guru, The Friend, The Machine, The Dud) based on informational cues from their profiles (i.e. high competence supervisors as colder, and high warmth staff as less competent). Third, we present a critical understanding of the opportunities and challenges of self-presentation through staff profiles. Finally, we offer specific advice for mobilising impression management tactics in these profiles to best appeal to PhD applicants.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100453
JournalInternational Journal of Management Education
Issue number1
Early online date22 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • competence
  • doctoral supervision
  • impression management
  • student-supervisor relationships
  • supervisor selection
  • warmth


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