When multiple positions become available with your dream employer, are you better served by focusing all your energy on one really strong application, or will applying to multiple positions give you the best odds of landing a gig?
As it turns out, the answer isn’t very straightforward, and it depends on the seniority of the roles, the company, the industry, and who you ask.
While some recruiters and career experts caution against applying to more than one position at a single company at one time, others suggest that submitting three or four applications might improve your odds of landing a job.
“A lot of people think that by putting their name out there more it makes them more attractive, and it really doesn’t,” said Cheryl Hyatt, the CEO and partner of Hyatt-Fennell Executive Search. “If you’re looking at opportunities within one company, and you’re qualified for more than one position but it’s all going to the same hiring manager, applying for more than one could be detrimental to your chances.”
In situations where applications are sent to multiple hiring managers—such as roles in different departments within the same large company—Hyatt says candidates can get away with applying for multiple positions without it impacting their odds of landing any one. She also believes that in certain industries, and especially among lower-level positions, some employers may expect to see applicants applying to multiple jobs at once.
In most instances, however, she believes that applying to more than one position at a time shows a lack of focus. Instead she believes candidates are better served by submitting a single application for the job they’re most qualified for, including significant detail about why they want to work for that particular company.
“If you aren’t hired for the one that you are most qualified for, but you want to work for that organization, you should pick up the phone,” she said. “Call the hiring manager, explain that you know they’re hiring for multiple positions and you’ve applied for the one you think you most fit, but it’s really the organization that you want to work for.”
Hyatt adds that sending multiple applications to the same employer typically suggests that a candidate is desperate for employment, but providing specific detail about what they love about the employer directly to the hiring manager showcases a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the company’s unique attributes.
Other career experts, however, hesitate to discourage candidates from applying for multiple positions at the same company at once, assuming the roles are distinct and that the applicant is qualified for each.
“You limit your chances of getting your foot in the door if you see multiple jobs and you refrain from applying,” said Monster career expert Vicki Salemi. “I would not only focus on one.”
Salemi explains that candidates typically have little insight into what’s taking place behind the scenes of a job listing. For example, organizations are often required to list positions on job boards even if they have an internal hire in mind.
“You never know what’s going with the candidate pool or why the position was opened,” she said. “Recruiters are going to evaluate you and your resume based on the jobs you’re pursuing, so if you apply for three or four [positions] and you’re not a fit for one, it doesn’t mean you won’t be a fit for the others.”
Salemi does, however, warn candidates against applying for more than three or four positions within one company at one time, and stresses the importance of only applying to jobs they are actually qualified for. She adds that it’s important to tweak each application based on the unique requirements of the role, adding that submitting identical applications won’t reflect well.
“Always think, ‘What am I qualified for?’ ‘What am I interested in?’ and apply accordingly,” she said. “Just make sure it doesn’t come across like you’re just spamming the company with applications.”
Doug Schade, partner and recruiter at Massachusetts-based talent agency WinterWyman, agrees that submitting three or four applications won’t negatively impact a hiring manager’s impression of a candidate in most instances, yet he still discourages it for entirely different reasons.
He agrees that a hiring manager won’t necessarily discredit an applicant for sending multiple applications for jobs they’re qualified for, within reason, but suggests that each additional application takes the applicant’s time and attention away from the one that is most likely to result in an interview.
“I don’t see it necessarily as a bad thing to submit your resume more than once,” he said. “But what’s your best chance of getting into the company? Often that’s not by inundating the employer [with applications], but being more strategic about how you approach them.”
Schade adds that if there is one employer at the top of a candidate’s list, they should make an effort to communicate that to the hiring manager without being too aggressive.
“I don’t see a problem with being proactive if you identify a company that fits well, but you don’t want to inundate a hiring manager with messages,” he said. “You have to consider the best opportunity to get an audience with this company, and that’s typically submitting your resume for positions that are most aligned with your experience, and reaching out strategically rather than more frequently.”