Dear Evil HR Lady,
I just read your article about applying to any and, and how that's, well, crazy. While I would never beat an employer over the head trying to get a job, I would like to know your opinion on applying for the same position, but in different locations within the company. In my case, it is a Visual Merchandising title with the same company at a few different retail stores in and around NYC. I feel that your answer would be the same. But they do have specific postings for each location, so I'm not sure what to do.
One other question: What about a company that has positions you qualify for, but in a variety of different brands that they own. For example, Banana Republic, Gap and Old Navy are all owned by Gap Inc. Same company, similar jobs but different labels... is that still a no-no?
Every company and every recruiter is going to be slightly different. Small stores with multiple locations within one city may have a central hiring system with one group of recruiters covering all stores. Bigger stores may have recruiters on site. It also depends on how you apply -- if it's filling out paper applications, it's doubtful that each location knows you've applied at the others. If it's online, everything is linked.
But what you really want to know is where the boundary lies between a job candidate who applies for every vacant position at a company is thus marked "crazy, do not hire" and one that comes off more like, "hey, this guy really wants to work for us!" If you apply for every job at every store, then you've got the "do not hire stamp" on your forehead. But if you apply for the same job at five different stores (or five very similar jobs) and it's feasible that you could work for any of them, you look like you're very interested in working for this company. (You get the "crazy" label if you're applying for a job in New York City, and one in Rochester, N.Y., and one in Cleveland, unless they state that relocation is part of the package.)
What makes the difference is that managers want to hire someone who wants to do this job, not someone that wants any job. (Although, I will argue that someone who is willing to take any job may well be your hardest worker.) So if you want to be a Visual Merchandiser and you are indeed qualified for such a position, applying for it at five different stores is not bad. But there may be a better way to do it.
If you're filling out applications online or emailing a resume and cover letter, you can mention in your cover letter that you are very interested in this particular position. Say that you've seen it is open at five locations and that you would like to be considered for all of them. If they have centralized hiring, they may well have one recruiter handling all five of these open positions. In fact, if you are a strong candidate and the person is a good recruiter, you should automatically be considered for any of the similar jobs.
I have no idea how Gap, Banana Republic and their competitors hire, but you can always ask if it's one system. Generally, they are wiling to tell you. Of course, the best way to get a job is through networking, so if you have connections at a particular location, it's often best to start there.
Good luck in your job hunt!
Have a workplace dilemma? Send your questions to EvilHRLady@gmail.com.