22 December 2021

New process ensures diversity in recruitments


A dedicated effort has transformed the recruitment process of group leaders at CPR. Diversity is now an integral part of the process in both candidate shortlisting, interviews and assessments to eliminate unconscious biases.

Anja Groth with members of her group during scientific discussions at a 2021 retreat.
Anja Groth with members of her group during scientific discussions at a 2021 retreat. Photo: Robert Attermann, Red Star.

Even though diversity and equality is a priority at Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research (CPR), the center has had difficulties attracting female group leaders. That is why CPR in 2019 joined the University of Copenhagen project Equality and diversity in recruitment, retention and attraction of scientific personnel to get the tools and knowledge to systematically work with diversity in recruitment and eliminate unconscious biases.

Executive Director Jiri Lukas says:

”When we heard about the UCPH project, I had no doubt that CPR should join - it perfectly suited our needs. To support a successful process we established a diverse working group with broad representation from the center.”

The working group included Research Directors Anja Groth and Guillermo Montoya along with four members from other staff groups.

Professor and Research Director for the Protein Memory Program Anja Groth highlights the advantages diversity brings to research:

“When you need to find new solutions and creative ideas to solve complex problems, it is an advantage to have a diverse group of people both with respect to scientific background, culture and gender as they bring different ways of thinking. It is also important to have diverse role models in a center like ours', says Anja Groth.

How has the process changed?

Before CPR joined the UCPH project, the center did write inclusive job adverts in a gender-neutral tone and advertised them broadly, but they needed tools for making diversity an integrated part of the entire recruitment process; especially as the process tended to change with every recruitment. The center needed a set procedure that applied to group leader recruitments across the center, which is what they have established now:

  • Written procedure
    During the two most recent group leader recruitment processes, CPR has established a clear structure for recruitment. They have developed a written procedure that all future recruitments will follow.

  • Broad announcement
    To make sure job adverts reach a lot of people, the center focuses on using various networks around the world and the social media to announce jobs.

  • Gender balance among candidates
    CPR has also introduced concrete initiatives when it comes to the candidates. The candidates shortlisted and interviewed for the positions included an equal number of men and women. The idea is to avoid having one candidate deviate from the rest.

  • Set programme for panel interviews
    In addition, CPR developed a set programme for interviews used with all candidates. It consists of generic questions, which were known to all members of the panel, and which they knew they had to touch on. Similarly, job interviews had to be conducted as panel interviews. This was to avoid unintentional bias in questions posed to the different candidates. 

  • Evaluation criteria
    When assessing candidates, the panel didn’t just focus on impact factor of the publication list. Other factors were also important to evaluate: How innovative is their research programme? How does it fit with the center's research and teaching activities? Will the candidate be able to interact with the other researchers in the center and the Danish research environment in general? Does he or she have good management skills and an interest in research management?

  • Evaluation form
    An evaluation form was provided to the committee to make an assessment before the decisive meeting. It gave the individual panel members time to evaluate the candidates in private before discussing them with the other members. This was to achieve a positive group dynamic and to avoid conformity – that is, where the individual adopts the opinions of others if his or her opinion is in a minority.

The new process ensures that CPR can vouch for its group leader recruitment process. With the hands-on manual applied to all future recruitments, the center knows that diversity has been taken into consideration regardless of who gets the job.

Anja Groth also stresses: “We have not compromised on quality in any way. Diversity is not the deciding factor. Diversity comes into play when you have a group of candidates who are comparable across key academic parameters”.