Your dream company is hiring. Better still, it has a ton of openings—actually, so many, that you could see yourself applying to a few of them. Should you send in multiple applications? After all, won’t the person reviewing them know which position you’re best suited for?
The answer is yes and no. Yes, the hiring manager might think one role seems more obvious based on your application—but no, this isn’t the best way to go. Because instead of coming off like someone who has so much love for the company that you’ll pitch in wherever you can to make the greatest difference—you risk making the impression that you just couldn’t make up your mind. Or worse, you might look kinda qualified for a few jobs, and yet, an obvious pick for no jobs.
I’ve been in this situation (twice!) and each time ended up applying for just one job—and landing the role that was right for me. Here’s how I did it and what I’d recommend to anyone in a similar situation:
1. Think About What You Really Want to Do
I’d just moved to a new town and was desperate to get back into the nonprofit sector. Well, the local contact I met through a mutual friend was leaving her job as a fellowship program manager. Not only that, but the development officer at her organization would be leaving soon too.
My background was in fundraising, so the development role would have been the obvious choice. But as this person described her job, it sounded so much better. Everything she was doing sounded like something I’d really love to do.
So, I applied for the fellowship program manager role—and made it clear that was role I was interested in. Sure, I listed my previous nonprofit experience, but tailored my resume in a way that highlighted transferable skills of communicating a mission, building relationships, and so forth.
Had I sent in multiple applications, I would have distracted the hiring manager from the role I really wanted. So, don’t go into it with the mindset that you’ll apply for the job you want—plus the one you look like a match for, as a backup. Put your best foot forward and keep the focus on why you’re a fit for the role you really want.
2. Be Honest (With Yourself) About Your Qualifications
OK, there’s a caveat. Sometimes the position you’re most excited about isn’t a stretch—it’s completely unrealistic. In that case, you should pick the opening you’re interested in (and actually have a shot of moving forward with).
I once consulted on hiring an executive director, and a senior in college applied for the role. (Spoiler: Her application was passed over.) Sure, we all have those dream jobs that look amazing. But if you’re years away from the experience requirement and haven’t done any of the things the position calls for, you’re basically wasting your time (and the hiring manager’s).
So, if you’re stuck between two, apply for the role that more closely matches your qualifications. It will allow you to build the skills you need to eventually qualify for that dream role.
3. Keep Your Mind Open to Both
But what if you’re equally interested in and equally qualified for multiple roles? When I applied to work at The Muse, there were open positions for a writer and an editor, and they both looked really good to me. It was as close as I’ve come to submitting two applications.
But the thing is: I didn’t want both jobs, I wanted to do all I could to be hired for one (whichever it might be). So, I picked the one I came up with a stronger concept for. I chose the writing position and wrote a Muse-style article outlining my qualifications as my cover letter.
When I made it to the phone screen, the interviewer asked if I’d seen the editor role, and if that would be of interest. So, at this point, I broadened my stance and said I’d love it if she could give me the details of both roles. We had an open dialogue about how much writing and editing I’d like to do; and in the end, I technically landed the editor role—but with a larger writing component than it had originally called for.
So, while I wouldn’t suggest applying to multiple positions out of the gate, don’t shy away from an honest discussion with the hiring manager. If he mentions that you might be more interested in or qualified for another role, that’s your perfect opening to mention that it caught your eye as well.
It’s awesome when the company you’re interested in is hiring. But just because multiple positions catch your eye, doesn’t mean you should put in an application for each one. Use the tips above to see if you can narrow your focus and submit a targeted application.