Interview with KTH: “We are proud of how we work with transparency and digitization in our recruitment processes”

KTH (Royal Institute of Technology) is repeatedly ranked as one of the world’s foremost technical universities. At the premises on Brinellvägen, Stockholm, Maria Salling, Katarina Bröms, Helena Lundquist and Margita Nilsson work with the recruitment of both teachers and technical administrative staff.

A prerequisite for Sweden is for it to be a prominent nation of knowledge and research with a well-functioning and sustainable supply of skills. Therefore, the government has a requirement that all higher education institutions in Sweden must work towards increased gender equality and sustainable development.

“Many universities have more men than women in top academic positions. We work consciously to change this and when recruiting professors and associate professors, for example, we work to find potential female applicants. If we have only a few female applicants for a job, we have the opportunity to extend the advertisement,” says Katarina Bröms, at Teaching Recruitment in KTH’s HR department.

“We do solid inventory work to find the right skills for a position,” adds Helena.

The work on gender equality is often complex with many important steps that must be fulfilled.

“We have a government requirement to increase gender equality, and are working on various measures to meet this,” says Helena Lundquist, HR administrator at one of KTH’s five schools.

“We have also had a newly established function for a couple of years now in the form of an Equality Office that works 100% with Gender Equality, Diversity and Equal Treatment at KTH”, adds Katarina Bröms.

As KTH works internationally and is a sought-after university, many candidates apply from other countries, and KTH therefore has a special department that works to make applicants and employees and their possible accompanying partner and family, feel at home and welcome in Sweden.

“Our Relocation department is open to all applicants, where they receive information about needs to be considered before a possible move to Sweden, how to find housing, schools for the children and much more, which is usually much appreciated. Relocation arranges courses in Swedish, but also activities such as swimming, ice skating, information meetings about Sweden and evening activities,” says Katarina.

The importance of system support

Good system support is important to simplify the recruitment process for everyone involved. Since 2014, KTH has been using Varbi’s recruitment tool to handle all of the university’s recruitments.

“We are very pleased that we have been able to digitize the recruitment processes. We have worked a lot lately to review KTH’s employer brand, and the candidate experience is close to my heart. When it comes to the latter, we are on the right path but still have a journey ahead of us, it should feel good for the candidates no matter what role they are looking for,” says Maria Salling, responsible for recruitment and employer branding.

Katarina agrees.

“Everyone who comes here is in some way a customer and marketer for us abroad, it is important that they have gained an understanding and the right impression of KTH.”

“Speaking of the importance of system support and how it has changed our management; previously, applicants had to submit three copies of each application and publication, there was an incredible amount of paperwork. Then a registrar had to stand and scan into our diary. Then experts and committees would review all the documents, which of course became a lot of paperwork. It was not as legally secure”, Katarina continues.

“KTH appoints experts from different parts of the world who assist with their expertise in, for example, recruiting associate professors and professors. It adds a lot to our process. In this context, Varbi facilitates as it is easy for us to give experts access to data for assessment. Experts appointed by KTH also participate in KTH’s recruitment committees and meet candidates at the interview, which is where we differ from many other Swedish higher education institutions” adds Katarina.

Competence-based recruitment and equal treatment

An important cornerstone in the recruitment work is to work competence-based.

“We have had a special initiative for about 1.5 years where we worked with Varbi’s module in competence-based recruitment, which is based on Dr. Malin Lindelöw’s research in the field, for doctoral positions, among other things. We train both HR and recruiting managers in the administration as well as the members of the committees for teacher employment in structured interview technology and the basics of competence-based recruitment. It is good and quite fun because it further strengthens our process. If you connect competence-based recruitment and the module in Varbi, our recruitment processes become more structured, inclusive and everyone receives as equal treatment as possible. It is important for us to work actively with gender equality, diversity, inclusion and equal treatment” says Maria.

KTH consists of five different schools that have historically worked in slightly different ways when it comes to the different parts of the recruitment process.

“We have started an internal network within recruitment to together create a clear common recruitment process and to capture best practice and share experiences with each other,” says Margita Nilsson, administrator at the recruitment function.