Lean in or get real - apply for the higher or lower job?
June 16, 2014 4:35 AM   Subscribe

An employer I am interested in working for has two jobs open. The jobs are at different levels - one role reports to the other. Should I apply for both jobs or one only?

The higher level job would be considered a promotion from my current role and offers much better salary and conditions and is work that I would be good at and enjoy. The other job is a more direct transition from my current role, but it still offers some unique experience that I will not get where I am and that I would really like to do.

My first instinct was to apply for the lower level role where I would be a strong candidate. Then I remembered "Lean In". I looked up many of their employees on LinkedIn and see I am comparably qualified to many of their employees who hold the higher level roles.

I would like to pitch to get the higher one, but still be considered for the other. What is the best way to manage this or word this in my application/s?
posted by AnnaRat to Work & Money (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It isn't really "leaning in" if you try to send some signal that you would do the lesser job too, because most employers will steer you to the lower paying job simply to hire you for less money, regardless of which job you're better qualified for.

In my experience, if you are well suited for the junior role but apply solely for the senior role, and you aren't what they're looking for for the senior role, the recruiter will independently recommend that you consider the junior role.
posted by telegraph at 4:54 AM on June 16, 2014 [15 favorites]

How big is the prospective employer? If it's a small company, I would be concerned that if you apply for both, they will hire you for the lower position, knowing they can bring you on board that way regardless. If it's a bigger company with separate departments etc, I would apply for both.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:02 AM on June 16, 2014

Only apply for the higher one. Since the lower role reports to the higher one, the same people should be reviewing the entire application pool. If they like you enough to hire you, but don't want to hire you for the higher-level position, they are likely to ask if you would consider the lower-level position too. If they ask, then you can say that you are qualified for the higher-level position because of X, Y, and Z, but you're very interested in the company so you would consider either position.
posted by chickenmagazine at 5:14 AM on June 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

The other job is a more direct transition from my current role,

Apply for the higher position. I say this because when I was job searching, I was applying for jobs which were basically my previous job but sliiiiiightly better, and an interviewer straight-up asked me "you know that this will be a lateral move, right? What makes you want to apply for this position when it's basically the same as your current position?"

It's normal to give yourself a raise/promotion by applying for a higher-ranking job at a new company. In fact, in some industries it's just about the only way you WILL get a raise or promotion.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:16 AM on June 16, 2014 [7 favorites]

Do not apply for both! It's okay to apply for multiple jobs in one organization, but if you want to be taken seriously for the senior role here, you should only apply for that one. If they like you but think you're not ready for it, they'll suggest the other one as an option for you.

But in general, it's a good idea to apply for jobs that are a slight reach. If you have already mastered everything about a job, you're going to get bored sooner than if you come in and are learning and growing in the role. As a hiring manager, I vastly prefer to hire competent people with nearly-but-not-all the skills for any job, because those are the folks who will really dig in and stick around.
posted by spindrifter at 5:39 AM on June 16, 2014

Apply for the higher role only. If you apply for both, you are signaling that you will settle for the lower one if they offer it.

There is no reason for them to pay you for the higher role, if they know they can get you and your skill set at the salary of the lower role.

But, if they don't think you're qualified for the higher role, they may offer you the lower role in any case.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:52 AM on June 16, 2014

Apply for the higher-level job if you want to adopt the "lean in" philosophy.
posted by dfriedman at 6:24 AM on June 16, 2014

Nthing, apply for the higher role. I suppose I should be embarrassed by this, but twice I've applied for something higher, and then they've expressed interest in having me look at something slightly lower. I actually think that's more likely to happen than for them to suggest looking at the higher role, although I suppose it works both ways.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:27 AM on June 16, 2014

Nthing only apply for the higher role. Even if they then direct you to the lower role, you now have given them context for why you will be negotiating for the top of the salary range.
posted by 256 at 6:38 AM on June 16, 2014

I say this as a person (a woman) who is usually not in a position to wait for the ideal job...would you see a man of your age and experience saying he'd be happier with either one?! Do what this hypothetical guy would do.
posted by 8603 at 6:43 AM on June 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I just dealt with this and applied for both. I shouldn't have. I regret my decision to do so. YMMV.
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:02 AM on June 16, 2014

Always, always apply for the higher-paying job. Never even allow this to be a question.
posted by Citrus at 9:22 AM on June 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

Not a lot to add other than I did this! I went for the higher and lower and found it very weird and stressful. I was much worse on the second interview. Got neither job. Good luck.
posted by tanktop at 11:17 AM on June 16, 2014

I'd call the HR dept or hiring manager and say I work in that field and I'd like to discuss which job is a better fit. There is no reason for you to choose which job to apply for before getting as much information as you can.

You do want to work out your reason for not going solely for the upper position. Saying "I'm not sure I'm ready to manage" isn't going to work. Asking about the management culture of the position, e.g. who would be your peers would be and what their backgrounds are, would be better.

I think it's wrong to be afraid HR is playing some bull shit game, and besides, would you want to work for them if you are.
posted by SemiSalt at 1:59 PM on June 16, 2014

I'm going to be the downer here and say that I have absolutely heard hiring managers talk shit about people who apply for jobs the managers believe them to be overqualified for, using such phrases like "wasting my time" and "cannot follow directions." If this is the case it is not likely to endear you to them enough to recommend you for a lower position. The job market is very much an employer's market right now, and in my experience if they can think of any reason to rule you out of contention for a job they will be happy to do so. Yes, the meme says that men are more likely than women to apply for positions that are reaches -- but that's because the men applying for jobs they are overqualified for are being annoying jackasses.
posted by dekathelon at 4:16 PM on June 16, 2014

Apply for the higher level role unless you are far and away clearly unqualified, ie, it asks for 20 years of experience and you have only 5, or you meet absolutely none of the stated requirements. If you meet some but not all of the stated requirements, definitely apply.

Hiring managers talking shit about people is not something you should worry about. I admit that I sometimes roll my eyes at inexperienced candidates that think they deserve super senior roles but that doesn't mean I don't hire them into more junior ones if they are a good match.
posted by ch1x0r at 6:44 PM on June 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all - I've taken your advice and will see how it works out.
posted by AnnaRat at 4:31 PM on June 20, 2014

Response by poster: So, an update. I had been thinking "well that advice didn't pan out so well" as I hadn't heard anything at all since I applied just after posting this question. Today, I got a request for an interview for the higher level role (which was the only one I applied for on the basis of this post). Of course, it remains to be seen as to whether I get the job but getting to interview is half the battle. Cheers!
posted by AnnaRat at 7:03 AM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

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