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Your One and Only Job

Q. In a recent interview I was asked, "Is this the only position you applied for at this institution?". I told the truth -- that I did apply for two other jobs there. My question is: what do you think was, or would be, the impression of the interviewer if they knew that I applied for more than one position in their institution? I know it's not illegal to do so, and I am tempted to do it again to increase my chances of getting a job, knowing that I have the skills, experience and attitude to do what the job/s require.

A. Telling the truth in interviews is a step in the right direction. And you need to take it a step further. There are many questions that interviewers will ask which need more than an answer -- they need an explanation which eliminates a concern, or enhances an asset. With a question like this, your job is to figure out what the concern behind the question may be, and how to address it, so that you move your candidacy forward.

In the hiring process, managers and human resources staff like to believe their role and their company is the only job and organization you ever wanted to join in your career. If you applied for many jobs, they will ask what it is you really want to do. If they imagine that you are easily attracted by other roles, and/or organizations, and their opportunity is something to tide you over until you get the job you really want, they will turn the other way. They want to know if you are interested in the benefits, the short commute, or something else that has nothing to do with the actual work the organization does. The fear they have is that you will be off to another position as soon as you can, and they will be starting the recruiting process all over again.

Since on line applications make it so easy for people to apply for jobs, hiring managers are aggravated by the need to review resumes from people who have few qualifications for the responsibilities in the role. Multiple applications to the same organization aren’t illegal, but they won't necessarily increase your chances of being hired. When anyone says, or acts as if, "I need a job -- any job ", hiring managers are turned off. And in an interview, or by applying to multiple jobs within one organization, you can imply that you interest is only in having, “a job – any job”.

To reassure them that you aren’t spamming their applicant tracking system, your answer might be “Yes, I noticed that there are two other jobs looking for the skills and experience I have -- both called for X years of experience, a demonstrated ability to X, and quantitative and project management skills. Because I possess all of these traits and experience, I have submitted my resume”. Your job search activity needs to make sense to the hiring manager, and a good explanation will help showcase the strengths you bring.

Hiring managers, HR people, and recruiters want to see a track record of the skills and accomplishments needed to be successful in the role they are offering. They also want to be reassured that the job they have is the one and only job you want.


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