According to the literature, women researchers are sometimes at a disadvantage in academic recruitment due to insufficient network ties and subtle gender biases among evaluators. But how exactly do highly formal recruitment procedures allow space for mobilizing informal, potentially gendered, network ties? Focusing on the preliminary stages of recruitment, this study covers an underexposed aspect of women’s underrepresentation in academia. By combining recruitment statistics and interviews with department heads at a Danish university, it identifies a discrepancy between the institutionalized beliefs among managers in the meritocracy and the de facto functioning of the recruitment procedures. Of the vacancies for associate- and full professorships, 40% have one applicant, and 19% are announced under closed procedures with clear implications for gender stratification. The interviews reveal a myriad of factors explaining these patterns showing how department heads sometimes exploit decoupling processes to reduce external constraints on management function and ensure organizational certainty.