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I came across some job advertisements for faculty positions that stated

Strictly No Agencies

This implies that some agencies apply on behalf of the applicants. Is it common? Is it possible at all? I mean do open positions without the above statement accept applications sent by agencies rather than the applicant?

I know that the recruitment for senior industry positions is outsourced and handled by agencies, but this should be a different case.

  • Shouldn't the applicant write a cover letter explaining how his/her experiences/skills fit the job description? – Googlebot Sep 26 '17 at 22:08
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    It's more likely that universities without the above statement simply haven't been harassed by unsolicited agencies enough to post such a statement. – Peteris Sep 27 '17 at 12:37
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I have never, ever, encountered a faculty search - or indeed a postdoc search - handled by an agency.

Nor have I ever been contacted by an agency looking to handle recruitments as a potential candidate, despite getting ads on sites like LinkedIn that suggest I've been accurately categorized as faculty.

In the vast universe of possibilities, I'm sure there are exceptions, but my best guess is that this is boiler-plate language that goes in all job ads from that institution.

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    "Nor have I ever been contacted by an agency looking to handle recruitments as a potential candidate" - and until academic institutions start paying fees to agencies, you never will be. Recruiters don't do what they do for the benefit of either applicants or the organizations they apply do. The only reason they do it is to get richer. – alephzero Sep 27 '17 at 5:01
  • @alephzero The “why” (while correct) is less relevant than that it’s never happened – Fomite Sep 27 '17 at 5:02
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    @Fomite It's hard (essentially impossible) to prove a negative in this case. There isn't really evidence that it's "never happened". On the other hand, providing a reason why it shouldn't logically happen is far more relevant and less anecdotal. – JMac Sep 27 '17 at 11:04
  • Actually, I have heard that some Universities use headhunter agency for new chair/full professor positions. – dsfgsho Sep 27 '17 at 11:53
  • @dsfgsho I've seen them used for very high level positions like university president, but that seemed sufficiently edge-casey that I went with probably boiler plate. – Fomite Sep 27 '17 at 17:47
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This implies that some agencies apply on behalf of the applicants.

Not necessarily. Another possibility is that agencies make unsolicited offers to recruit a candidate on the institution’s behalf. While I don’t think that universities are likely to make use of such a service, I can expect that such offers can be annoying and even rejecting them wastes a considerable amount of time.

Also, the recruiting process is not limited to applications. There may be agencies who make enquiries because they think that the job may be a good fit for a client – though it clearly isn’t and the client would never apply.

I am regularly contacted by recruiting agencies (and even companies) who could have seen with a short glance at my CV that I do not match their job offer at all. In some cases, this process was at least semi-automatised as I received the same offer twice via different channels. It thus wouldn’t surprise me at all if such agencies blindly offer their services to anybody posting a job ad (matching some automatisable criteria) on certain sites.

Of course, it is debatable if agencies that do not even notice that a job offer is academic will notice the warning in question, but adding the warning in question to a university’s general boilerplate costs almost nothing.

[…] do open positions without the above statement accept applications sent by agencies rather than the applicant?

I strongly doubt this; they just haven’t annoyed by recruiters to the extent that they created this boilerplate warning.

Note that in my (admittedly limited) experience, the existence of such a warning depends on the country. I have never seen such a warning for positions in Germany, but almost every job ad from the Netherlands and Belgium had one. This may be due to different attitudes towards and of said agencies in those countries.

  • One possible advantage to consider: having that boilerplate allows you to blacklist agency emails outright at a much lower cost to the institutional conscience. And if they happen to complain, you just point to the boilerplate and you're mostly done. Kinda like when this happened - adding rules not so you'll use them (which you're already doing) but to simplify the handling of complaints against them. – E.P. Sep 27 '17 at 15:27
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In private industry, when a company wants to recruit people it will often hire a recruiting agency. They will come to an agreement that if a recruiting agency can successfully place a candidate and the candidate stays for a minimal period (e.g., 6 months) then company will pay the recruiting agency a specified percentage of the candidate's salary.

When everything is on the up and up, both parties (the company and the recruiter) will be in full awareness and agreement. They may choose to formalize this agreement by signing a contract. The company could save money by "rejecting" a candidate and secretly encouraging him/her to reapply outside the recruiting agency, but this would be unethical and legally actionable.

Obviously no company wants to be in the position of having to pay out money to a recruiting agency that it never wanted to work with in the first place. Ideally if no agreement is reached, then the recruiting agency should not be owed any fee.

However, proactive, clear messaging can solve problems before they even happen. When we say "Strictly No Agencies" we mean we are not going to pay you for your unsolicited services.

  • This hardly addresses the question, if at all. Moreover, I find it unlikely that any professional recruiting agencies work without contract. – Wrzlprmft Sep 27 '17 at 12:30
  • @Wrzlprmft how much does it cost the university to add the boilerplate language to a posting? almost nothing. It makes sense to pay $0.00 to solve an unlikely problem. – emory Sep 27 '17 at 12:32
  • Sure, but being tricked into paying money is not the problem here. – Wrzlprmft Sep 27 '17 at 12:35
  • I think you are saying the real problem is being flooded with a large number of inappropriate applications. The kind of recruitment agencies that would overlook "Strictly No Agencies" are going to produce applications that are easily and quickly identifiable as trash. – emory Sep 27 '17 at 12:43

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