Further Questions: Should Candidates Apply for More Than One Job at the Same Organization?

Can a candidate apply for two different positions in your organization without seeming desperate?  Are there any specific steps s/he should take in this situation?  Have you ever hired someone who has done this?

Laurie PhillipsWell they can, but I don’t know if I would recommend it. We’ve had people in this area who apply for every job we have open. We have a good reputation so people who are local are very interested in working here. Obviously, every position we have is not well-suited for the candidate so it does look desperate. We also share information among searches and we are small enough that we know when someone has over-applied. If a person is particularly suited for one of the jobs, we will not dismiss them from consideration. We hired someone who did this once and it turned out to be a mistake because ultimately the person did not fit well within the organization, but I don’t know if I would allow that to color my thinking in the future.  If you do this kind of thing, you must absolutely write an excellent cover letter that explains how you fit the qualifications. Sell it.

- Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

Emilie Smart

Since our City’s HR department provides us with a list of qualified candidates for each position we have open, we can’t assume candidates who turn up on multiple lists are actually “desperate” for a job.  Candidates often appear on multiple lists in our system,  and I think that’s a good thing.  The more we interview someone we don’t know, the better idea we have of their qualifications and fit.    I have often hired someone who has interviewed three times in a month for three different jobs in our system.
As far as interviewing for multiple jobs in the same system goes… as in any other interview situation, the candidate should be prepared for each separate interview, ready to highlight the skills they bring to the specific job.  Don’t prepare a generic interview designed to cover all the bases.  You’ll bore the interviewers and show yourself as unprepared.
- Emilie Smart, Division Coordinator of Reference Services & Computer Services at East Baton Rouge Parish Library

We have only had this situation once – that is where there were two professional positions open at the same time. In that case it was Public Services and Extension Services and we did have two candidates apply for both.

Desperate? Aren’t most job seekers these days? I looked at it as someone who really wanted to work in a library. It is easy to say during the interview  – “You applied for more than one position. Which one are you most interested in? Qualified for?”

The job seeker should address the situation in the cover letter. I’ll be frank, I really, really, look at a cover letter far more than a resume. And I judge on just how “canned/generic” it is. Two jobs would be an opportunity to speak specifically about goals and skills in each letter and really impress me!

Now if it were Childrens Services and Cataloging – I might want a really good answer!

But, this is really no different than someone already in your organization applying for an opening for a different position within the organization…and being hired.

And, interestingly enough, I hired the two candidates I mentioned above – one for each job.

- Dusty Snipes Grès, Director, Ohoopee Regional Library System
With client organisations I’ve recruited for, ranging from corporates like law firms & banks to public sector like academics and government, there seems to a universal caution over someone applying for more than one role in the organisation.  This applies whether the two applications are simultaneous, or even (if they are for different types/levels of role) at different times.  It is usually fine to re-apply for a similar role at a later time with the same organisation, unless the advert specifies “previous applicants need not reapply”.
If someone is applying for different types or levels of position, it can give the impression that they have poor self-awareness of their own skills or ability level, or poor understanding of the job requirements, or an over-inflated sense of their own capabilities.
If someone is applying for multiple jobs all of the same type or level, then it can give the impression of desperation.  Many organisations will automatically consider applicants for all the relevant vacancies of the right type/level, if they have more than one open at one time, without the need for submitting multiple applications.
If someone genuinely feels that they have a wide enough skill set, with enough depth in each set of skills, that they can credibly apply for two jobs of a different type, then they would need to submit two different CVs, in which the two different skill sets were emphasised, along with cover letters explaining the reason for the duplicate application.
I think it’s very unlikely that someone could put together a credible story to justify applying for two different jobs at different levels (team member and manager, for example).  If someone really felt they were prepared to work at either level, then it would probably be best to apply for the different levels of job with different organisations.
I have never put someone forward for two different jobs at the same time at a client organisation, as I feel it’s better to have a focused application where I can credibly promote that person for that vacancy to my client.
- Nicola Franklin, Director, The Library Career Centre Ltd.

Marge Loch-WoutersAbsolutely. We feel that most of our jobs can perfectly fit many skill sets. We can train in specializations if we think the candidate has the people skills and library skills to excel. And often people are in our top tier of candidates and we would love to have them work with us but have offered the job to someone else (by the time we finish our vetting process, we have crème de la crème and always wish we had five jobs to fill!

We don’t expect anything special steps. If the candidate is comfortable, a brief mention in the cover letter for the second position (often supervised by a different manager) that they are really interested in this library and have applied before is fine but not necessary.

And yes, we have happily hired candidates in this situation and feel it is win-win!

- Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library

Petra MauerhoffI have to admit, I would be suspicious of someone applying for two different positions in our organization. If candidates are considering doing this, then they should have two completely different cover letters, each one carefully tailored to the specific position for which they are applying.
If the letters expressed the qualifications for each position clearly, and I perceived these qualifications to be legitimate (versus just an attempt to make general experience sound like it fits a specific position), I would be able to understand why they applied for more than one position.
I have not personally dealt with this situation, mostly because the organizations in which I have been involved in the hiring process were relatively small and usually only have one position posted at a time.
- Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library System
The only two positions I have are Reference Librarian and Library Assistant. If the person is interviewing for both, I would probably not hire them for either, because it would send the signal that they are not clear what they are qualified for. If someone unqualified were to apply for the Reference Librarian position, I might offer them the Library Assistant position, if that position was open and I thought they would fit into our Library.
- Jaye Lapachet, Manager of Library Services, Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass LLP
Terry Ann LawlerI have mixed feelings about this question.  As a candidate, I have personally had this happen.  I decided not to apply for a promotional position because I was applying for another one in the same system.  I was thinking very optimistically and didn’t want to be in a position where I was offered both jobs and had to turn one down.  I therefore, applied and interviewed only for the job I really wanted (I didn’t get it, but I am still happy with my choice).  A colleague of mine, applied and interviewed for both.  Obviously this did not conflict her.  I never heard it mentioned by others that this was untoward.
As a hiring manager, I frequently see people apply for circulation, page, library assistant and librarian positions all at once.  Their hope is just to get into the system anywhere.  I do not see this as an issue and have hired people with an MLS for a page position, knowing full well that they would be leaving as soon as a librarian position opened up.  I hire for our library system and for it’s future, not just for my branch.  Good people and great candidates are just that, no matter the original position and I love to see people moving up and onward.
On the other hand, if you are applying for several positions in a large library system, you may find yourself being called for interviews for all of them at once.  In this case, I think you should let the interview panels know that you are interviewing for several positions and what those positions are.  Honesty never hurt anyone and it may just get you a better position in the end.
- Terry Lawler, Assistant Manager and Children’s Librarian, Palo Verde Branch, Phoenix Public Library
We have several projects underway at any given time, and interest may be expressed in more than one.  Yes, we have hired folk for both distance cataloguing and online indexing.
- J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging
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One response to “Further Questions: Should Candidates Apply for More Than One Job at the Same Organization?

  1. Pingback: Further Questions Questions | Hiring Librarians

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