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Should You Apply To More Than One Job At A Company? (& 3 Other Tough Job Search Questions Answered)

“Isaiah, I applied to ThermoFisher two weeks ago and a hiring manager got in touch with me and I had my first interview….

But then a second hiring manager reached out to me about another job I applied to there. 

I started talking to this second manager and they asked if I applied to any other positions there. 

I couldn’t lie so I told them about the other job and the other hiring manager. 

Now, neither of the hiring managers will get back to me. 

What should I do?” 

This is what a PhD told me over the phone last week. 

I hear stories like this all the time and it’s a bummer every time. 

I heard a similar story from another PhD last month who applied to 5 jobs at Intel and after two different hiring managers found out about the competing roles, they both ghosted the PhD. 

This is why I highly recommend only applying to one job posting at a company at a time. 

Always choose the best fit job and apply to it. 

Unless, of course, you’re talking to a hiring manager directly or someone at the company and they give you inside information that this company wants you to apply to multiple jobs. Or, a hiring manager at the company directly approves you to apply to multiple positions because they’ll be looking out for your resumes now that they’re in contact with you. 

Applying to one job at a time at a company shows a clear and focused interest in a specific role. 

It tells the hiring manager that you’ve done your homework, understand where you can contribute most effectively, and are genuinely interested in that particular position. 

This can set you apart from candidates who appear to be indiscriminately applying to multiple roles, which can come off as lacking direction or genuine interest. It can also help you get hired faster in a competitive job market where others are shotgunning resumes and applying to everything they find online. 

In larger organizations, different departments or teams may handle hiring independently. If you apply to multiple jobs simultaneously, and hiring managers from different departments express interest, discovering that another team is also considering the same candidate can lead to confusion. 

This might prompt both parties to step back, concerned about internal competition or the impression that the candidate is not genuinely interested in their specific role but just any job. 

This scenario can abruptly end what might have been promising conversations in both directions. 

But how are you supposed to know that if you’re applying to your first industry job or your first job in a long time? 

And, what else should you know about applying? Let’s dig in…

What If You Lack Skills On A Job Posting? Should You Apply?

“But Isaiah, what if I don’t have all the skills on the job posting.” 

I’m asked this by a lot of PhDs. 

It’s a touchy subject, to say the least. 

Many PhDs dread the idea of an employer asking them about a skill they don’t have. 

Many imagine an employer will see their resume after it magically gets through today’s AI resume filters, invite them to an interview, and start the interview with…

“I saw this skill on your resume and you said you have the ability to learn that skill, but that means you don’t have it – why would you apply? Why are you here?” 


“You didn’t list this skill we asked for – why? Why are you here?” 

This isn’t how it works, of course. Job postings are wish lists and no one has all the skills. 

Besides, the most skilled person isn’t the one who’s hired, it’s the person who makes the best case for their candidacy. It’s the most convincing person. 

Most job descriptions list an ideal set of qualifications and experiences, but hiring managers understand that finding a candidate who meets all these requirements is unlikely. 

They’re looking for someone who can grow into the role, bring fresh perspectives, and contribute to the company’s culture and goals. 

This is where your ability as a PhD to learn and adapt quickly becomes a significant asset. 

Employers are increasingly valuing a growth mindset—the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed through dedication and hard work. Candidates who demonstrate a willingness to learn and face challenges head-on are often seen as more valuable than those who boast perfect technical or niche skills but are less adaptable. 

When you’re applying for a position without having all the skills, your resume should be more than a list of experiences; it should tell a story of your learning journey. 

For instance, you can include examples of times you’ve successfully learned a new skill or adapted to a new role. This could be through formal education, self-directed learning, or on-the-job training. 

Make sure to detail what you learned, how you applied it, and the outcomes. 

Employers value candidates who can think on their feet and overcome challenges. Include instances where you identified a problem, took the initiative to find a solution, and successfully implemented it, especially if you had to learn something new in the process. 

During the interview process, employers often assess not just your current skills but also your potential to grow. Be prepared to discuss how you approach learning, give examples of how you’ve adapted to new situations, and show your enthusiasm for professional development. 

Hiring decisions are rarely based solely on technical or niche skills. Employers are looking for candidates who fit the company culture, show potential for growth, and can contribute to the team in meaningful ways. 

The ability to sell yourself, to demonstrate your potential and how you can add value to the company, often outweighs not having a specific skill. 

Okay, so you should apply even if you don’t have the skills. 

But what should you do after applying? 

What Should You Do Right After You Apply For A Job Online?

A lot of PhDs don’t know this, but today’s AI resume filters will automatically scan your LinkedIn profile when you upload your resume. 

In fact, many company AI and ATS systems are connected to LinkedIn Talent Solutions and other LinkedIn tools through their APIs and can see your score on LinkedIn. As in, they can see how you stack up as a job seeker quantitatively. 

So, the first thing to do after applying (if you haven’t already) is to get your LinkedIn profile updated to have continuity with your resume. 

The best way to do this is to make sure that your LinkedIn Headline reflects the job title you applied to and your About section has your resume’s Professional Summary in it. 

Your next action step is to identify and reach out to the hiring manager or the person responsible for the role. 

This can seem daunting, but it’s about showing initiative. Use LinkedIn or the company website to find out who’s in charge of hiring for the position. If you can’t find specific names, a department head or team leader can be a good start. 

Send a brief, polite email expressing your genuine interest in the role and why you believe you’re a good fit. Mention something specific about the company or role that excites you, demonstrating that you’ve done your homework. 

Acknowledge that they’re likely busy and express appreciation for any time or advice they can share. Make it clear you’re not expecting immediate attention but would value any insights they can offer. 

Next, start connecting with those in the same role you want to get hired into at the company.

Reaching out to people who currently hold the job you’re applying for, or similar roles within the company, can provide you with invaluable insights and even potential allies. Start by looking for alumni from your school on LinkedIn, shared previous employers, or mutual connections. This can make your outreach more welcome. 

Frame your message around seeking advice on how to succeed in their field or what they love about working at the company. People are generally more willing to share advice than to feel like they’re being asked to help someone get a job. Genuine curiosity and respect for their expertise will make your outreach more effective than any generic networking attempt. 

If you’ve made a positive impression, the person you’re networking with may offer to refer you without being asked. If not, after establishing a connection, you could ask if they’d feel comfortable referring you for the role you’re interested in. 

Let’s say you do get a referral. What comes next? 

Here’s What It Means To Get A Referral & What To Do After Someone Agrees To Provide One

First, let’s get this out of the way–a referral code or referral link is essentially useless in today’s job market. 

These links and codes are tools for brushing off someone asking for a real referral. 

A real referral is someone emailing your resume directly to a hiring manager, or better, walking into their office and handing it to them. 

It’s someone calling a hiring manager on your behalf, or walking into their direct supervisor’s office and telling them about you – it’s them advocating for you, not just once, but over and over again. 

Why would they do this? 

Well, first, the average employee referral bonus in the U.S. is $3,000-$5,000 for highly skilled roles. But that only goes so far. The rest of the distance has to be prodded by you. 

You need to add value to your contact, nudge them, follow up and follow up again to keep this advocacy going. A direct referral is like having an internal advocate who vouches for your skills and fit for the company culture. 

Unlike referral codes and referral links, direct referrals completely bypass the initial screening processes (AI and ATS), ensuring your resume lands on the right desk—the hiring manager’s. Hiring managers are more likely to pay immediate attention to candidates recommended by trusted colleagues, increasing your chances of being considered for the role. 

So, what can you do to ensure you get a direct referral? When someone agrees to refer you, clarify what this means. 

Politely ask if they would be comfortable passing your resume directly to the hiring manager or relevant contact within the company. Be transparent about why you believe a direct referral would be more impactful. 

Make it as easy as possible for your referrer to advocate on your behalf directly too. Provide a concise, compelling cover letter tailored to the role, a resume highlighting relevant experience and achievements, and any other materials that could support your application (like a portfolio). 

As mentioned, following up is crucial, but it’s equally important to respect the referrer’s time and boundaries. If they’ve agreed to refer you, send a thank-you note expressing your appreciation. Then, gently inquire about the status of the referral after a reasonable amount of time has passed. Keep your follow-ups polite and concise. But, keep following up, even if you don’t hear back. Not all referrals are created equal, and the mere act of someone agreeing to refer you does not ensure they will follow through. 

In conclusion, navigating the complexities of job applications, particularly when considering multiple positions within the same company, requires strategic thinking and a nuanced understanding of hiring processes. The experiences shared by professionals in the article highlight the potential pitfalls of applying indiscriminately, emphasizing the importance of a focused approach. By applying to a single, well-suited role, candidates can demonstrate their specific interest and alignment with the company’s needs, setting themselves apart from those casting a wider net. Additionally, the discussion around the value of direct referrals over generic links or codes underscores the significance of personal advocacy and the human element in the job search process. Ultimately, success in securing a desired position relies on a combination of strategic application choices, the ability to showcase adaptability and a growth mindset, and the cultivation of meaningful professional relationships that can lead to impactful referrals.

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Dr. Isaiah Hankel is the Founder and CEO of Cheeky Scientist. His articles, podcasts and trainings are consumed annually by millions of PhDs and other professionals in hundreds of different countries. He has helped PhDs transition into top companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, Intel, Dow Chemical, BASF, Merck, Genentech, Home Depot, Nestle, Hilton, SpaceX, Tesla, Syngenta, the CDC, UN and Ford Foundation.

Dr. Hankel has published 3X bestselling books and his latest book, The Power of a PhD, debuted on the Barnes & Noble bestseller list. His methods for getting PhDs hired have been featured in the Harvard Business Review, Nature, Forbes, The Guardian, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine and Success Magazine.

Isaiah Hankel, PhD

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