While looking for a new university position in Germany, I was contacted by a recruiting agency ("headhunter") for a position that is also advertised on the university internet page directly. It is a senior physician/researcher staff position, may translate as consultant.

What are the advantages/disadvantages of applying via a recruiting agency vs. applying directly? How does this affect the picture the university gets of such a candidate?

Another thought is: does the university have to pay a higher fee if they hire someone via the agency vs. directly, i.e. success-related payment vs. payment for service? Is this relevant at all, compared to the picture of the candidate"?

  • The headhunter has an incentive to sell your 'head' as quickly as possible. However, if there are better candidates, then you'll probably lose because the university will more likely listen to the headhunter. The question would be more interesting if you know someone on the hiring committee. Then it's a fight between asking that someone to champion for you or the headhunter. Jan 28, 2021 at 1:24
  • Thanks - just to clarify: you think that the headhunter may do better to "sell" me than if I apply on myself, but I may loose in case there are more headhunter candidates against I may loose in case the headhunter has a worse picture of me thanthe university itself? (I do not know someone in the hiring committee)
    – Martin
    Jan 28, 2021 at 1:32
  • There are too many possibilities. It's possible that when you apply directly, they may direct you to apply via the headhunter given that they've been paid to hunt. Jan 28, 2021 at 1:40
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    Which country is this in? In places I’m familiar with, headhunters are not used for anything below the level of a dean. I suggest you schedule a call with the headhunter and ask them to convince you that they have a successful track record and can help boost your application. Even then, apply healthy skepticism.
    – Dan Romik
    Jan 28, 2021 at 1:57
  • Some times universities (or any organizations) outsource this part of the HR job to an external company. It may cost a small fortune, but they save on hiring one or more permanent staff, which they cannot easily made redundant say during a pandemic. Jan 28, 2021 at 2:00

1 Answer 1


Many times a headhunter will get you to the head of the stack of applicants. The reason being is they put forth a quality person rather than anyone just applying for the position. The uni may pay a fee to get said job filled with their referral however this is all a part of doing business and they will likely not think any more or less of someone being referred this way. They however may look at your application quicker and with more interest because the headhunter has weeded out the less qualified people already by reaching out to only those who meet the grade of person the school may be looking for. Good luck in your search.

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