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The following question is not a general question about applying to many academic positions at different institutions, but rather about applying to several positions within the same institution (regardless of applying to multiple other institutions as well).

Starting questions are, as follows. What are the potential effects, following such strategy? Mostly negative, mostly positive, or neutral? A situation often occurs, such that an institution advertises several positions that I believe I would fit, however, among those, only one (usually) is the best fit (my preference), but others are also suitable (decent fit).

Therefore, my main question is twofold: 1) is it a good strategy to apply to all suitable positions within an institution; 2) if Yes, should I mention my preference, for example, in an application letter (if No, I assume that the optimal choice is to apply to the position with the best fit)?

  • How are these positions different? Are they in different departments? Or different sub-disciplines within the same department? Are they for positions of different ranks? – Kimball May 12 '15 at 11:07
  • @Kimball: It varies from one institution to another - mostly, those positions are within the same department (usually, of a business school), but within different groups. Ranks vary to a larger extent: from lecturer (visiting faculty) to assistant professor (non-tenure-track or tenure-track - I don't care much about that aspect at this point). – Aleksandr Blekh May 12 '15 at 11:14
  • @Kimball: I meant "might be within different groups", not necessarily. – Aleksandr Blekh May 12 '15 at 11:27
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I advise against applying to all open positions at once. Not only are you likely not to match the criteria for many of them, but you are also not interested in accepting the majority. By doing so, you just add to the workload of the hiring committee. Furthermore, you decrease in a way the value of your applications, as you should be striving to emphasize how you are the best fit for that particular position and that gets very hard when trying to apply to many different positions. You'll likely end up with mediocre applications everywhere or worse with the same application everywhere.

Typically, there is one position (as you say) which you would like to get and are probably best suited for (depending on your qualifications). So I suggest you narrow down the open positions to at most 2-3 where you would most enjoy working, if you insist on having a safe option, and try to write strong applications for all of them.

Finally, I don't see how a "preference statement" would help you. If you get your desired position, then it is not due to your preference, but because you had a stronger application than other applicants. If you, however, fail your best option, other options might see it as a negative thing, if you stated that you'd prefer to work at some other position and only failing there, apply to them. So, the idea is to apply everywhere with the same zeal. That's also why you have to narrow down your options, so you can accept any outcome, if needed. If you are not comfortable with that, it means that the options aside your primary are not attractive to you and I would refrain from applying to them (assuming of course you are not in a position that you have to accept any job). In the case you get accepted on more than one position, you are of course free to choose.

  • I appreciate your insightful answer (+1, acceptance is TBD). Just to clarify: I specifically emphasized all suitable positions, which in practice results in no more than 2-3 (and even that is for very few institutions). – Aleksandr Blekh May 12 '15 at 11:07

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