Transcript for Academic Hiring Rituals: Hiring in Sweden

Thank you for joining us for our inaugural season of Hiring Rituals, a new long-form informational podcast about hiring in Anthropology. In it, we offer an ethnographic lens on how anthropologists with higher degrees get hired internationally or in other units beyond traditional disciplinary departments.

Chapter One: Introduction

We want to illuminate what goes on behind the scenes when institutions and departments are making hiring decisions. Every country and institution has different hiring rituals. As an example: in some countries, committees are composed entirely of external reviewers from other institutions; in other countries, department members decide job seekers’ fate. One goal of this podcast is to discuss such mechanisms, as well as the historical and structural conditions that shape Hiring Committees’ work.

Another goal of the Hiring Rituals mini-series is to help applicants as they navigate a most challenging job market. Currently, basic information on how hiring at particular institutions functions is circulated informally, disadvantaging applicants who aren’t in the appropriate networks. Moreover, wealthier, private institutions in the U.S. are increasingly providing extensive academic job market information sessions that institutions with fewer resources have trouble replicating to the same extent. We hope to make information about hiring more widely accessible for recent Ph.D.’s and even for people looking to change jobs a bit later in their career.

Hiring Rituals is supported by the Association for Political and Legal Anthropology (APLA) at the American Anthropological Association. 

Chapter Two: The Job Ad

In this episode, we chat with Helena Wulff and Johan Lindquist about hiring processes in Sweden.

Anna: We asked our contributors how their departments get approved to do a job search, and what goes into writing the job advertisement.

Johan: The hiring structure in Sweden has historically been centered on a sort of professorial chair, perhaps quite comparable to a kind of German system. So, you really had the Head of Department—not in administrative terms, but in academic terms—but during the last decade or two, that has sort of transitioned into a kind of American-style system in which you have a flatter hierarchy, and a kind of promotion system in which you apply to be promoted to Full Professor from Senior Lecturer, for instance, and there’s been an attempt to create a kind of Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Full Professor system. But the most common types of hires we have are actually kind of tenured, Senior Lecturer/Associate Professor positions.

And actually, we had our deadline for two positions just yesterday, so I’m right in the midst of thinking about this. So, we basically had two open tenured Senior Lecturer/Associate Professor positions, which are 70% teaching and admin and 30% research time, and we had 50 applicants for those two positions. And those applicants come from around the world: from the United States, UK, Europe, and from within Sweden and Scandinavia, as well.

So, the system in Sweden is quite different from other countries. In order to get these two positions, I had to convince the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences that we need these two positions. And in this case, we’re actually replacing scholars—previous staff who have retired, we also had one of our staff tragically pass away last year. So, we’re basically replacing these two positions.

At the current moment, we have a budget deficit. And that becomes a problem when it comes to hiring. But our Dean has been actually very supportive, and despite this deficit is offering these replacement positions. Now with this in mind, another difference with the U.S. system is that adjuncts and permanent staff, the salary differential between the two are actually not that great. So, it could be 10–20% difference between permanent staff and an adjunct, temporary staffing position. The difference in cost is not so great in having permanent staff. So, there’s an incentive also to hire permanent staff because of this.

So basically, then what happens is that the Dean says, “Okay,” and it goes to the faculty board and the faculty board says, “Okay, you can hire two people,” and then we decide if it’s going to be a focused position, are we going to hire someone who does the Anthropology of Migration for instance, or is it going to be an open position? Generally, we have to have a very strong long argument to have one of these focused positions, we have a particular kind of program, and we have to have certain kinds of teaching expertise. Most of our positions are generally open to anyone any field of interest, which these two positions were, as well.

So, the Assistant Professor positions: you can apply for up to seven years after your Ph.D. with possible extensions for parental leave or related issues, and that is a fixed-term position for four years, and then you can apply to become a Senior Lecturer internally once you’ve gotten that position. And these positions are higher, stronger on research, then there’s more research time in them than there are for the Senior Lecturer positions. So, you’ll have, say, 50% research and 50% teaching. And then once you reach the end of the four years, then you can apply for a promotion. And it’s not at all as stressful as it would be in the U.S. context. I mean, you have to put together a tenure file. But if you’ve followed sort of a reasonable trajectory, I would say that in terms of teaching and research, that tenure is pretty much guaranteed. And the whole tenure-track system actually has been quite difficult to create in Sweden because of the strong labor laws here. Because once you’ve had a job for two years, you have to be offered permanent employment if you stay on. So, the question of permanent employment and evaluation, once you’re in that job, is sort of politically and legally problematic within the Swedish system.

Of course, the tenure track system is really important, because if you don’t have it, the demographics of the faculty in the department will be very skewed. Because I mean, if you’re after the Senior Lecturer position, you have to have a book, maybe two, to get the job. And those are generally going to be people who are maybe in their 40s, or even 50s applying for these jobs and getting them. So you know, in order to get in younger faculty—which is, of course, really important, not least with regard to the student body—we really need the system. So it seems to be developing quite well all the same.

The difficult part of that tenure-track job, the Assistant Professor job, is actually getting the job. And rather than getting tenure, I would say, once you have that job and you do your work, you generally will get tenure. So that’s another kind of position that we’re offering. We have a couple of Assistant Professors in the department, but now we’re hiring Senior Lecturers, Assistant Professors are actually more expensive, in a sense, because we have to give them more research time. So that’s also one reason we need teaching support now. So that’s why we’re hiring Senior Lecturers.

Helena: We’re quite dependent on external research funding for our departmental budget. When those things are going well, when we get lots of that, then we can also advertise jobs. So the department does not have a lot of say in how an ad is designed, it’s actually rather set by the university. Quite often, they are advertised in the spring, like in March, and then maybe, you know, often this timeline is quite close. So it can be a month or so, but we do try to distribute widely in the networks for people who are likely to apply.

Chapter Three: The Application

Anna: And once you find a job you want to apply for, what is actually involved in the application? And what makes the candidate’s initial application sink or swim?

Helena: Now it’s all electronic, as you probably know, so you send in a CV, you have to submit 10 of your publications for those two people to read online. So it can be books, and it can be articles. And then you have to write this letter when you argue for why you want this job and why you would be the best to get it, and also about yourself.

You have to describe your research and teaching background, and also importantly, your plan for new research. And another point we haven’t talked about at all is that it is regarded as very positive if you have been able to get external research funding. And this is also something that candidates then would be expected to say in this research plan, that I’m planning to apply for research funding about this or that to do this. So that Research Council, and preferably then also maybe in collaboration with other people we have in Europe, you know, the European Research Council, which is the European Union Research Council in Brussels. Since it’s online, I can say that I…You’re not allowed to say that you’re on this Committee, but since it’s now on the web, I can say that I’ve been on that Committee a number of times, and it’s very interesting to see what’s going on in Europe. And that’s a place where also, by the way, Americans can apply, and they can get lots and lots of money. It’s very competitive, but I mean, it’s an interesting process. And then of course, in Sweden, for big research grants, you know, the department needs more money. And external research funding is regarded as highly prestigious as well, to get these big grants, fellowships from the EU, or from one of the research councils in Sweden that has programs you can apply.

Then of course, when it comes to the evaluation that these two people do of the publications, if those publications are coauthored or coedited, you have to specify very carefully the percentage that you contributed. So for instance, if you coauthor an introduction, you have to say I did 50%, or I did 75%. And you know, with my last name, I’m always last. If I collaborate with Veradamit Pillai, Helena Wulff, Donna Haryan, I was last there. I know some people who collaborate a lot, they switch the order for fairness even though they do as much, but then there’re always problems with that. If you don’t follow the alphabetical order, people get turned around in bibliographies. So, it doesn’t always work. So there is this elaborate system where you have to qualify exactly, “I did 50% of this,” or it’s 75% or 90%. And then you’d better check with your coauthor that this is okay.

There is no Search Committee as such, there is an Evaluation Committee that does the evaluation. And it consists of two people, external people, they’re not supposed to be in the department, because that would be a conflict of interest—but I mean, it can still be conflict of interest. So what happens is, if I keep getting these requests and then get the list of applicants, then you are supposed to say whether there is some kind of conflict of interest. There’re rather rigid rules, because you’re not supposed to have worked together during the last five years or collaborated during the last five years with an applicant—that will be a conflict of interest.

So, there are two people for a Lectureship or an Associate Professorship or an Assistant, external evaluators who have to do the reading and they have to write separate reports according to certain rules according to the criteria in the ad, which have to do with these emphasis issues. And they also are the ones that create the shortlist, these two people. For instance, they will divide the applicants in four groups: one is, “does not meet essential criteria,” and the next one is “qualifying candidates.” And then we have “qualifying but not leading candidates” and then “leading candidates,” and the leading candidates would be the shortlist of about 60. They will be called, and of course, before the pandemic they will be invited in-person. Now we’ve done it quite a lot on Zoom.

For assessment criteria, we have we asked for a special emphasis on research skills, strong emphasis on teaching proficiency, and strong emphasis on research plan, covering what kind of research this person wants to do. And then a strong emphasis is also placed on documented ability to cooperate well with colleagues and fellow research collaborators.

When they finished the reports, and now that these people are selected, they are suggested by the Head of Department who has to have the agreement of the Departmental Board. And this is also then moved up one level to the Social Science Faculty. And if they agree, these two people are asked if they can do it. And then the system is quite heavy, it’s a quite heavy task to do this, because you have to write—I mean, I have one here actually printed up just for fun—I think you have to write about 10 pages, you have to write about three pages single spaced about every shortlisted candidate. And you have to mention everyone, even if it’s just two lines, why this person does not meet essential criteria, because you know, she has a Ph.D. in psychology, which doesn’t work for us or whatever, you know, so everyone has to be mentioned, but it’s really the shortlist of people that you have to spend time on. And then normally you would have to read 10 of their publications, and then you have to write about every piece, and you have to write about the other criteria when it comes to these people who are listed.

So it’s research, it’s publications, and of course, you know, we go for top publishers in Europe and the U.S., obviously they are ranked highest, and then also teaching and you have to have had quite a lot of teaching experience. And also, you would need some kind of letters of recommendation from your past Head of Department about your teaching performance, and maybe also evaluations from students, you know, Rate Your Professors. And then we have a third category at Swedish Universities, we are required to do research and to teach and also outreach.

The other thing is that we do get international applicants—which we are encouraged to do not only in the department, but also the university—it’s also spelled out in the ad, it says like this: “proficiency in Swedish is not a requirement for the position, but the applicant has to be ready to take on administrative and pedagogical tasks that demand an understanding and usage of Sweden, after two years of employment.” Now, I should tell you, I’ve never seen this. I think people come and they don’t- I mean, what happens is people who apply know some Swedish and at least has experienced this. Swedish is the university’s language. But we do I have to say that in our department, we teach mostly in English nowadays. And this started when we set up all those exchange programs where the students from other countries who came to us, and we had this European Masters with five other Anthropology departments in Europe, and you know, there have been other exchange programs. So, when that started, we started teaching classes in English. Now, I mean, almost everything is actually de facto in English. And what happens is also that we have Ph.D. students who don’t speak Swedish, for instance. And then what we do is we have seminars in Swedish. And we have certain some meetings in Swedish also.

Chapter Four: Determining the Long List and Shortlist

Anna: We also asked what the process of assessing these applications looks like from the inside…

Helena: Since our jobs are advertised online, we get lots and lots of applicants, we get 80 applicants for one job, for instance, and quite a few would not be qualified. You do need a Ph.D. in Anthropology or as it’s called equivalent disciplines, which can mean a lot of room for interpretation. But the safest bet is if you have a Ph.D. in Anthropology of any kind, cultural or social. We don’t do physical Anthropology in Europe, it’s just social or cultural in Europe.

Then of course, there’s also the other thing: gender considerations. Sweden is boasting its gender equality, I’m quoting now from an ad, “the faculty of social sciences strives for a gender balance. Men are therefore encouraged to apply for this position,” because most of the women with Lectureships or Associate Lectureships at the time of this ad were women.

Johan: So what happens after that? Okay, so we’ve had this position out for maybe six weeks, two months, we get 50 candidates—in this case for two positions, which is I’d say is sort of average for what we would get for positions—and then we look through the lists. And we suggest the external evaluators, one man and one woman, and they can’t have a conflict of interest with any of the candidates. We have to go through and look through if they’ve written something together, if there’s a particular advisor who we can’t use, and then we contact these evaluators and ask them if they’re interested. And they say maybe yes, maybe no, but once we get two, we suggest their names to the faculty. So the faculty has to okay these two external examiners, and each candidate has submitted up to 10 publications, so these are quite substantive files that have to be looked through. And it’s quite a bit of work. But you know, of course, a bunch of them—maybe 25%—don’t have Ph.D.’s in Anthropology and don’t really fit right away. So you can sort of pass over those quite pretty quickly. But then there’s a lot of work reading through and really doing these kinds of written evaluations, which will then be made public, actually. So a lot of effort goes into that.

But what’s interesting about this process then is that, after we’ve suggested the evaluators, the department is not supposed to be in contact with them and it’s supposed to be a completely independent kind of process. And after two or three months or however long it takes, the evaluators will then offer a shortlist of maybe five candidates, which will be brought in to be interviewed, and they’ll be interviewed by the Committee on the faculty level. I’ll be allowed to be in the room and can make my voice heard, but in the end, it is the Faculty Committee that makes the final decision on who is hired rather than the department.

Anna: So who are the external evaluators? And what did they look at?

Johan: They would be well-established anthropologists, at least at the Associate Professor level, preferably on the Full Professor level. So, they would be well-known anthropologists, perhaps one from Sweden, or a Scandinavian country who can read Swedish, if that’s necessary. And then ideally, you know, at least one from Europe or the United States. There are quite strict rules that say you have to pay particular attention to this, this, and this, and they should be evaluating teaching qualifications, teaching portfolio, administrative work, leadership qualities, written work of course, as well as external research grants. You look at publications, teaching, research grants, and the like. We can’t really steer the hiring process or what is valued in the hiring process.

On the departmental level, this is structured from the top down, so to speak, which is quite different than from many other countries. It creates some problems for international candidates, and I would say it’s a bit skewed towards the European market, because we have a lot of strong candidates who come from the United States, for instance, but depending on what university you’re at, you’re not generally chasing external grants in the same way that you’re doing in Europe. So, this can be a problem for some U.S. candidates, for instance, if they don’t have this kind of experience. Another example would be that maybe there’s someone who has a position already and just teaches Masters and Ph.D. students, but in the Swedish system, you’re supposed to have a great deal of experience teaching on the undergraduate level also. So this becomes a sort of problem. And because the Head of Department or the department cannot really steer the process, it creates a kind of sort of a structure that can create problems for certain kinds of candidates who don’t have this or that experience.

So it’s not just about having written an article in that particular journal, or published a book at that particular press or having a Ph.D. from that kind of that particular university that’s valued, I’d say it’s a more comprehensive kind of evaluation system to have strong publications in good journals. I would say in Sweden, it doesn’t have to necessarily be in the “right journals.” So, you can have a really strong chapter in a book that could be valued highly in comparison to a peer-reviewed journal article, for instance. So you don’t have to stay away from you know, book chapters, but getting that article out there doesn’t hurt, of course. So in that sense, the written work is important, but then you have to have a balanced portfolio. If you’re applying for a Senior Lecturer position, you have to have the teaching, preferably grants, and so on. But you know, you never know who else is applying. So I think just applying for anything is the way to go.

The written evaluation by the externals is really important. I think one could see it also that they’re sort of checking that the process is being done in the correct way, they’re not going to be working with any of these candidates. So there’s this kind of idea that they’re independent, right, and that they’re not affected by some of the kinds of politics that might affect departments and hiring, for better or for worse—maybe more for worse, I would say. But I think it’s interesting to think about this in a sort of historical, sociological way, because Sweden is a very small country. And I think this process basically developed because one wanted to avoid the sort of intense conflicts of interests that develop in these kinds of very restricted academic environments. I mean, it’s restricted enough as it is in the United States. But here there’s only 10 million people and four or five departments and everyone knows everyone. So that’s one of the reasons that it works this way. And often, you know, there’s no rule either that you can’t hire your own Ph.D. students, which is sort of the informal rule in the U.S., maybe in the UK to a degree, but in in continental Europe and Scandinavia, that’s generally not the case. You can easily hire your own if you if you want them.

So, what’s interesting about it, and a bit disconcerting, is that external evaluation is a public document. So each and every candidate will receive the written document, which can be you know, 30, 40, 50 pages in which each candidate is offered an evaluation. So we have quite a few people who are applying as early-career candidates, they’re generally not so competitive, so maybe there’ll be four or five rows describing their qualities briefly but also saying that they’re not quite competitive enough. For the shortlist, you’re going to see at least two pages per candidate describing their qualities. And in this process, the written evaluation is creating a kind of distinction between candidates and the kind of hierarchy and the ranking lists. A big problem in this process is also the evaluations can take time. I mean, the evaluators might not deliver on time, and it could take six months rather than three months. And it’s also it’s a lot of work to do these kinds of external evaluations. So it’s not always that they’re delivered on time. But I can also give you another example. It’s possible that there’s a split, there’s no decision to be made by the Faculty Committee, because the evaluations are not clear. I mean, they move in different directions, maybe one will rank one candidate and other will rank another, which is not unusual. And the Committee themselves don’t feel that they’re competent enough to make a decision. So in those cases, sometimes they ask for third evaluator to be brought in, but then the third evaluator will not have to read all of the applications, but just the candidates that they can’t decide between, their two files, and offer sort of a third evaluation. That’s quite unusual, but it has happened, and that pushes the process back several more months, actually.

Helena: So, they have their reports, and they are sent to a Committee at the university and the Social Science Faculty. I actually also worked on that Committee for a number of years for other departments, since you’re not allowed to do it for your own department. And that Committee, that’s where the interesting thing happens, because that’s where the candidates are invited to do the interview and also to do a short lecture for that audience. Those people are from other departments in the Social Science Faculty, and the Head of Department from our department and the Deputy Head are also allowed to be there. However, the thing is that we are not allowed to be part of the decision. We can comment on the performance of the candidates. So you can sort of tip it if you like. You could be successful, but I’ve had successes, and I’ve had failures. And, you know, normally the Head of Department and the Deputy Head would have sort of planned out, we’re going to argue for this for that candidate. Normally they would listen to us, but there’s no guarantee they can make it, we have to leave the room or the Zoom when the Committee makes the decision. And then sometimes the Committee also gets in touch with those other two people who did the evaluation reports, they may talk on the phone.

So when the decision is made, and there’s a ranking, then the person who is first on the list would obviously be offered the job. However, the second or the third person may feel that they have been overlooked, so there is a possibility to appeal. This happens quite often, and I’ve had- This a number of years ago now, but I did have a colleague who appealed. I was not involved in the evaluation process at all in those days, but still, a colleague appealed and he won, so he got a Lectureship in the Department. But I should say, in this case—now, I’m getting to a story—in this case, the Head of Department and the Ombudsperson, it wasn’t a good situation for this person, who eventually left. It’s good if you’re Head of Department, like Johan. I also think for people who are interested in jobs in our department, like in any department, there’s nothing wrong with getting in touch with the Head of Department and saying, “I’m interested in this job. Do you have any advice?” Because that’s also a way to sort of prepare the Head of Department for this. But then of course, the Dead of Department and other people in the department with an informal say or formal say may actually encourage colleagues.

One case that comes to mind happened when I was at Bordeaux. This was two years ago now, and the evaluators had actually not shortlisted this woman. And the evaluators pointed at the fact that she had been on maternity leave, which you’re allowed to do in Sweden, and that seemed- Because the thing is that for Assistant Professorships in Sweden, it must have been more than seven years since your Ph.D. degree finished. And this woman, for her, it was longer because she had been on maternity leave. So she appealed by pointing out this, and she was right. So, she was put on the shortlist and she got the job, and we’re very grateful for her, by the way. So if she hears this, she’s very good and I’m very glad that she appealed.

Chapter Five: The Job Talk and Interview

Anna: Let’s say you’re selected for an interview…What does that entail, exactly?

Johan: Basically, the candidate will generally present their work briefly, maybe in 10 to 15 minutes. And then the Committee will ask some questions, and the Head of Department will be in the room at the same time and may or may not say something. Then generally, pre-pandemic, it depends if you have an external candidate who is from, I’m not really sure what it was like before. I think, ideally, people will come to campus and meet one on one. And that has been the case before. But of course, during the pandemic, it’s been via Zoom, and that may well continue. I’m not sure what’s going to happen now. But I wouldn’t say that there’s funding to fly in a candidate from, say, the United States to do a campus visit. On the other hand, if you’re offered the job, that would happen. So you would come and visit and then decide, “do I want this job?” And you would meet the department to maybe do a presentation at the department.

So I would say this comes after a hiring decision or an offer has been made, actually, rather than before. Generally the evaluator will not be in the room, the evaluator is not part of the interview process. So it’s the Faculty Committee, which has received the written evaluations from the external evaluators, which forms the basis for the discussion. I think it will be just some basic follow-up questions about the work and what kinds of teaching experience they have, and how the written file relates to what they’re saying in this more intimate situation—because it is quite intimate, there’s probably only going to be five or six people in the room. There is no trial lecture beyond that 10-minute presentation.

Helena: Sometimes it’s very interesting to see somebody come up from quite a low ranking and do very well. I mean, it has happened, I’ve seen in those Committees where the shortlist is ranked, and then somebody from the third position comes up to the first position during the interview, after this interview and little lecture they do. I think if you are a good speaker—which also means that you’re a good teacher, which we want very badly—and that you can you’re good at presenting papers at conferences. So I think it helps with a bit of charisma and personality. And I also think that it’s good in any interview that you be yourself. Be yourself and try to have fun, try to enjoy it.

And I also think another point that actually makes an impression on Committees like this is if you have sort of read up on the department and ask questions about the department, because you know, the obvious question in an interview is why would you be good at this job? Why would we hire you for this particular job here in Stockholm? And would you move to Stockholm? And then you might ask about family. Some people say, “Oh, my family lives in Berlin, but I will commute,” which probably won’t happen. So when it comes to Ph.D. positions, we also interview people for our Ph.D. positions, then the stock requirement is that they have to move to Stockholm. The interest and curiosity, you know, I think that’s really what it’s about. And also, during the interview and the lecture that you can do an engaging presentation. I also think, like in any kind of presentation, it is good if there is some kind of something to remember. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, but it can be an unusual combination of wording in the title or something like that, which makes the audience remember you—something, in other words, that the Committee can accept that may be part of their decision.

Chapter Six: The Decision

Anna: After you’ve had candidates give their job talk and interview with you, tell us about the deliberations.

Johan: After the interview, the process is pretty quick. If it’s a clear-cut case, we’ll find out pretty quickly. And often, it might be clear even before once you see the written evaluations, you’ll see who the top-ranked candidates are. So even before the interviews, it might be clear that this looks like the strongest candidate or candidates. After that, the Committee offers its recommendation, which has to go through the faculty board. Once that is done, I as Head of Department can contact the individual or individuals who have been highly ranked or have been in the top positions and basically offer them a job and negotiate salaries and talk more about the job or invite them to come in if they haven’t been there before, give them time to think and for them to consider. Many of course have other jobs and have to consider if they’re going to accept or not. So it’s quite a long process. And then when people actually do accept, there’s a negotiation about when they’ll begin. So you know, we have this too, the jobs we have now were announced in March, and I’m hoping August next year, and maybe they will be able to start in January if I’m lucky. So it’s a very long, long process depending on where they are, if they have other duties to finish. And it’s a big problem, because we lose a lot of strong candidates because of that, because they’re offered other jobs. This is something that I’ve been pushing for on the faculty level, to quicken this process, but there are regulations that don’t allow for these quicker hiring processes, unfortunately.

Chapter Seven: Negotiating the Job Offer

Anna: If you receive an offer, what is possible to negotiate?

Johan: The salary structure is quite flat in Sweden. We don’t really have faculty housing, which is a problem in Stockholm because housing is expensive, and the rental market is quite difficult. So that’s one thing which is a problem for Stockholm. More generally, it’s difficult to access or to buy housing, or expensive to buy housing, and difficult to rent because there are very few rentals available as well. So I’d say housing is a significant problem. But we can’t really help out with that. We can try, there’s some kind of housing available, but only short-term, a year or so. Otherwise, there is not so much to be negotiated. Actually, the teaching/research relationship is fixed. Of course, if you have a grant that you’re bringing in that can be negotiated. And maybe you can buy out of teaching a bit for a while. Sweden doesn’t have a sabbatical system, so in order to get more research time, scholars are highly dependent on getting external research grants, which helps them buy out of teaching and focus on research for a period of, say, three years or so.

Helena: What can they negotiate? They can negotiate about the salary, not if it’s a Lectureship to an Associate Professorship, they cannot negotiate about how many hours of teaching they do unless they have research funding, then you can buy yourself out of some teaching in order to do the research, or if you have other kinds of reports or other admin tasks, which means that your teaching load will be reduced. Or if you do things like, if you’re a journal editor, or if you do some other kind of major admin job, then you can also get some reduction there. I don’t know if you know, but the European Association of Social Anthropologists has almost 2,000 members, we have biannual conferences, and we had that conference in Stockholm in 2018, and I was the organizer, that was a huge job for me. And then my Head cut some of my teaching load because of that, so I was very grateful for that, for instance, you can do that in that way.

Also—and I think this is something that differs from many other countries—is that we teach in modules five weeks at a time, which means that if you have a class that you taught many times and know very well, you can actually teach two modules at the same time. If you’re skillful with the schedule, that will leave you the next month free to do research or travel. So we’re free to go to conferences, and so on. I often hear from my colleagues in the UK that, “no, I can’t go to the AAA because I’m teaching” or I hear from colleagues in the U.S., “no, I’m teaching that Friday, I can’t go to the AAA,” or “I’ve been able to swap with a colleague in order to fly to the AAA very briefly,” you know, we don’t have that problem. We can move, we’re much more flexible to move things the way we want to if we do enough hours.

We don’t have to pay for health insurance, all those things. Healthcare is free in Sweden, so that’s very different from the U.S., and those are also part of your salaries. So that’s the big thing, there are lots of things that are free. We do pay very high taxes, but we do get a lot of things for free, that you don’t in the U.S., so that’s also different. I mean, I think my salary is fine, of course I know that colleagues in the U.S. have much higher, but they also have more things to pay for.

Johan: If you’re thinking of having a family, for instance, you get extensive parental leave, paid parental leave up to a year, and there’s no problem at all to take that. The salaries are lower, but you have very inexpensive childcare. There’s a strong sort of social support social security system in place, which you have to think about when you look at salary levels. For instance, what are you not paying for in Sweden, for instance, that you would be paying for in London or the U.S.? So those things are worth thinking about, also the pension plan, which may or may not be better than in other places.

Helena: If you have a good reason you can start next year. Also, I don’t know if it’s like this in the U.S., but we have actually hired women who have been highly pregnant because it would be illegal otherwise. So she gets a job and she cannot start until next year, because she’s going to have a baby and is going to be on some maternity leave. So if somebody who is pregnant, very pregnant, applies for a job and is ranked in first place and gets the offer, we have to offer to her. And then she isn’t coming until next year, so we have to get somebody else in the meantime.

Anna: Do you have any final tips for job seekers interested in applying for positions in Sweden?

Johan: One thing that one could think about, if you feel like you want to make your way to Europe, you can actually apply for external grants through national funding councils or European funding councils and ask them to be placed in departments where you want to be, which can be sort of an entry point. And I mean, if you get an ERC grant, for instance—which are difficult to get—that can also be a way of negotiating a position at a university in the long run if you bring that money with you. So at the Swedish Research Council, they have generally three years for your grants to cover 80% research, and if someone approached me and said, “I have this idea, this is my proposal,” and if it looks good, then I would support it, and it would be submitted. If that was funded, then we could offer that person teaching, along with that 75% research for a three or four-year period. And even if that’s a fixed term research fellowship, it certainly offers opportunities that are not quite available in the United States in the same way.

Helena: Get in touch with the Head of Department and establish some kind of relationship and talk to this person about that, say that you’re interested. I think also for the interview and the lecture, be yourself, and also show an interest in the Swedish context. You don’t have to know a lot about it but show that you have an interest and curiosity.

Anna: Thanks for listening to this episode of Hiring Rituals. Till next time…