When you are applying for a job online, you may see multiple roles at the same company that interest you and for which you are qualified. But don’t take that as permission to apply to all of them, career experts warn.
Job seekers may do this to show that they really want to work at the company. “Candidates apply to multiple open roles because they really admire the company and want to get a foot in the door,” said Sarah Johnston, former corporate recruiter and founder of Briefcase Coach.
But there’s a line between expressing impassioned interest and seeming desperate, and applying for multiple roles can end up making a job candidate look unqualified.
“You don’t want to seem like, ‘Oh I’ll do anything.’ You don’t want to give that message of desperation,” said Ashley Watkins, a job search coach and former corporate recruiter. She added, “Applying for 15 different jobs does not send a message that you’re committed to the cause. It just says that you don’t know what you want, and you want us to figure it out for you.”
Diluting your message
When Johnston was a recruiter for a large hospital, she said she regularly saw early-career nurses make this mistake.
“They applied to every open nursing role in the hospital. I’m not exaggerating when I say that they applied to 50 open [job requisitions],” she said. “What this did was it diluted their messaging, because their résumés were not targeted and showed they lacked focus. What would have made more sense would be to apply to all open roles within a job family, like all intensive care unit roles or homecare.”
Watkins said applying for many different roles across departments can send negative signals about how you will approach a job. “If you’re all over the place before you get to the company, what are you going to do when you get in the role? Are you going to be all over the place and not have a focus, not be able to commit to just one project?” she said.
If you are having trouble deciding which job you would be best for, decide what you want long-term for your career and use that to compare the roles, Watkins said, citing an example of someone who prioritizes career growth.
“If it’s a position below where you are, if it’s a position that is right where you are, there is no point in applying to those positions if growth is what you desire,” she said.
In some scenarios, it’s OK to apply to more than one job.
Johnston said it is absolutely alright to apply to multiple open roles if you know “a department is expanding or they have multiple open positions that are similar in scope and responsibilities.”
“If you are going to do multiple roles, make sure that they’re very similar and you really can’t pick either/or,” Watkins said. She gave an example of someone applying for both a specialist and a coordinator role in a marketing department. “That would be frowned upon a little bit less. However, in those types of situations, I would urge people to apply for the position that most closely fits what they need,” she said.
When in doubt about a job opening, talk to a human about it.
If you have questions about a role or want to get noticed, don’t use applying to multiple roles as your way to express interest for a company. Talk to a human at the company who can give you insider information and, perhaps, vouch for you.
“Just because you have to follow a system and apply online, it does not prevent you from still building these relationships because people still hire people who they know, like, and trust. They cannot build that rapport with you if you’re just a piece of paper,” Watkins said.
Networking can also help you communicate why you are making a career pivot and are applying for jobs in a way that documents cannot. “If you’re applying through a system, you’re a résumé, you’re a piece of paper. There is no human connection,” Watkins said. “Nothing is like your individual voice talking to another human, explaining what your goals and aspirations are.”