Please hire me for X, Y, and Z positions
August 20, 2014 5:01 AM   Subscribe

After a month and a half of unsuccessful job seeking, I'm running into the problem of applying to multiple jobs at the same institutions. Is this okay? Are there any problems I should be aware of?

This is in a major U.S. city, and the institutions are non-profits, universities, and museum/archives. The positions are sometimes similar but often in different departments, since my work experience is applicable to several fields. I always edit my cover letter, but the main chunk of it and the phrasing is almost always the same in every iteration. These are all institutions with central Human Resource Departments and computerized application systems, so I do not know who is reading my cover letter or whether applying to 2 or 3 jobs is a red flag of some sort. Any advice is appreciated, thank you.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you are applying to multiple jobs at the same place, make your cover letters as specific to that job as possible. This is doubly true if you're applying to multiple jobs in the same unit. If it's a large institution and wildly different departments, nobody will probably notice, but still good to take the extra step of writing why your skills are applicable to this particular department.

Also: (this is big) Do not apply to jobs in the same unit with wildly differing experience/educational requirements. We had a candidate who shot themself in the foot by applying to both a part-time bachelors' level technologist position and a PhD level scientist position - those two jobs should draw from completely different applicant pools. Applying to both calls both your reading comprehension skills and your sanity into question. We still called the candidate for a phone interview, but there was definitely a side-eye wtf is UP with this person? vibe when we were discussing their resume.
posted by telepanda at 6:22 AM on August 20, 2014

I work at a large university, applying for multiple jobs here is accepted and expected.
posted by sunslice at 6:47 AM on August 20, 2014

I work in admin in the research arm of a large university hospital. Nobody here would ever know if you applied to multiple jobs at the institution but in different departments. (Departments choose their own hires and then forward the process to HR, rather than HR hiring for all departments. Not sure if this is the norm, but it seems to be.)

If you were applying for multiple jobs in the same department, you might want to be more careful.
posted by snorkmaiden at 7:27 AM on August 20, 2014

Single data point: At my employer, if you apply for multiple jobs within the organization, you will be immediately disqualified for all of them. This includes, for instance, applying for a job with one specific brand and another with our shared services groups (IT, payroll, etc etc.)

We are a nationally known, publicly traded retailer with brands primarily dealing with apparel and home accessories. We also have a bit of a weird streak.
posted by SpiffyRob at 7:28 AM on August 20, 2014

Another single data point: At my employer, the jobs website has you click on the job you're applying for, then enter all your data (info, resume, "cover letter", etc) into the system. Then it asks you to click all the other jobs that you'd also like to apply for. I did this, and was hired for a job posting I had ignored as irrelevant; but turned out that hiring manager searched the general applicant database for some of my keywords, so voila - interview.

Conclusion: every place is different.
posted by aimedwander at 8:21 AM on August 20, 2014

Since getting a job is crucial, and an interview is worth a pouch of gold, it's easy to put too much weight on the details. It's true that HR's biggest problem is to turn a large pile of resumes into a few candidates to interview, but they are generally realistic about the candidate's situation.

I bet the co mentioned above who rejected applicants for more one position did so to eliminate people who just check all the boxes at Monster or the like.

I don't see any reason not to call HR and ask if there is some way to get enough info to decide which spot would be best for you. Of course, they might not be responsive.
posted by SemiSalt at 10:09 AM on August 20, 2014

Single data point: I work at a large, nationwide company. If you live in the US and have a pulse, you've heard of it.

There are two systems:

System 1 -- Resumes go into a central pool. If my boss files a job requisition, he'll get a bunch of resumes from HR -- some people who already work at the company and are looking to transfer to another position or location, but mostly people from outside the company. I believe applicants here can indicate which specific jobs they are interested in, although their resume is kept for consideration for any job that's a fit.

System 2 is specific to the division I work, and it's for resumes that come in from job fairs. I applied for my current job through this system (as I spoke with someone at a job fair). After I was interviewed and got the position, I was requested to file an application in System 1 as if no one had spoken to me yet - then they could mark me as hired and start the onboarding, drug test scheduling, and all that stuff.

It's highly possible that other divisions have their own versions of System 2.

So, it's definitely possible for a candidate to apply to multiple jobs at my employer and no one would bat an eye.

Another single data point:

My first job. Medium sized employer. After I interviewed for a position and received a postcard in the mail saying that company had no positions available for me, I was called back for interviews for four different positions in two other locations; I got all of them and picked the one I wanted. (I had the "this company has no positions for you, so screw off" postcard tacked to my cubicle wall for the entire time I worked there; I'm not sure if any HR person ever saw it.)

Reading other responses, I suppose it depends on the company.
posted by tckma at 1:06 PM on August 20, 2014

As another data point: I'm a supervisor at a large non-profit, just finished a huge round of hiring and here multiple applications are a red flag. Unfortunately, it is really easy to apply for multiple positions because you just click a box on the web application. HR helps screen and supports us, but really the bulk of the application review and candidate selection is done by the department who is hiring, in order to best select people with specific skill sets.

When I log in to our system to review a candidate, every job that person applied for in the institution is listed right at the top. If they applied for more than two, I question if they 1) actually read the job description 2)have an accurate sense of their own skill-sets 3)even meet the minimum requirements.

Now when the jobs are very similar, I tend to give them a pass. However, we usually receive 100-200 applications per position, 50% of who are qualified, and it can be a very minor detail that gets someone eliminated in the first round. It's good you are writing cover letters directed at each position, but I would do as much as you can to make them unique from each other. Cover letters should not repeat your resume in narrative form, they should point out how your skills match the specific job requirements. I'm assuming you are doing this but I just want to clarify how important that is.

We're a non-profit and our pay isn't great, people who work here tend to do so because they feel passionate about their jobs. If you are applying for my position and then another position in another department which is really in a completely different field, well I start questioning what kind of position you really want, and how long you'll stick around in the position I'm hiring for.

To second what telepanda said, applying to jobs at multiple levels/experience requirements within the same department looks really bad. Also, don't apply for security, part-time cashier and VP of development. That sadly happens all the time and your application will be ignored.

This of course is how it works here, but other answers imply completely different practices so it would be a good idea to do some networking to find out how a particular institution handles hiring.
posted by Maude_the_destroyer at 10:43 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mod note: From the OP:
Thank you all for your responses. I promise I am not just clicking boxes to apply! But I have been applying to jobs from part-time to 3-4 years of experience (which I have) because I thought it made it more likely to get any job...oh well. I've withdrawn one of those part-time applications in favor of applying to a slightly higher level position in the same department which wasn't open before, which I hope is the right call. This is a new city far from my old network and experiences, but this has been very good to know.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:51 AM on August 22, 2014

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