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SULF guidelines for a fair recruitment process

Jobs as researchers and teachers in the academic world must be offered to the applicants who are best suited for these positions. This is a given.

In a report entitled Ett spel för galleriet? Om anställningsprocesserna i akademin (Playing to the gallery? On recruitment processes in the academic world, only in Swedish), SULF has demonstrated how appointments as teachers and researchers are seldom given to applicants who are not already active at the same university; that advertised positions are in many cases applied for by extremely few people; and that many appointments are made before the last application date or within a very short period of time thereafter. The shortcomings of universities’ processes not only affect their ability to reach and recruit the best, this situation is also a violation of the constitution.

SULF has put together some simple guidelines for good recruitment processes.

Checklist for a fair recruitment process:

Transparency, openness and predictability. The process of recruitment must be easy to follow and understand at every point. Positions are to be widely advertised via both national and international channels. The employer must provide a description of working conditions, benefits and rights, including the number of positions to be appointed and current regulations governing career development. Applicants must be informed about the recruitment process no later than when the expert recruitment advisers are appointed.

Broad profile. There must be an inclusive description of the tasks and skills sought.  Requirements that are too specific limit the number of possible applicants.

Clearly-stated eligibility requirements. Eligibility requirements must be taken from the university’s employment regulations and must be made known in connection with the advertisement of the position. Eligibility requirements may not be unique for each position.

Realistic call deadline. A short-period ad in combination with limited advertising excludes all but internal applicants. And the university thus risks losing out on the most suitable teacher or researcher.

In areas with few potential candidates, the call period should be extended to enable international recruitment.

Expert recruitment advisers with broad expertise. It is easy for personal, subject or other preferences and interests to affect the different parts of the recruitment process. Assessments and choices must be influenced by reasonable arguments only. It is an advantage if the expert recruiters represent different orientations within the subject. Their joint assessment will then be more about the applicant’s competence than the experts’ sympathies for their own focus in the subject.

Definitions for the expert recruiters. The experts must be notified of how the university defines scientific and pedagogical competence so that they know by which criteria they are to measure the candidates. These definitions may not be unique to each position.

Objective selection. The selection of candidates to be based on actual qualifications and expert opinions. This increases the opportunities for an equal and objective assessment of applicants who will then be short-listed for interview.

Clear instructions prior to interview and possible test lecture. Use the same interview questions for all interviewees to make them comparable. If a test lecture is used, clarify the purpose of the lecture and ensure that internal and external candidates have the same understanding of the lecture’s prerequisites. Clarify the criteria on which the lecture will be evaluated.

Appointment decision. Appointments must be objective and based on professional grounds. Several types of criteria must be used, both qualitative and quantitative, and appointments are to be based on an overall assessment and not only on the number of publications. Bibliometric qualifications to be balanced against other qualifications such as teaching, independence, creativity, supervision and collaboration with the rest of society.