I've recently seen a company post two job listings, one for a "Senior"-level role and one for an "Intermediate"-level role. There are some differences (and it's more than just "years experience") between the two in terms of required qualifications, and the listed responsibilities.

Personally, I'd like to get the senior role (based on the listed responsibilities). My problem is that while I think I have a pretty good chance at being considered qualified enough for it, I think I'd have an excellent chance at getting the intermediate role.

I'm not sure how to apply, or to which one:

  • I could apply to both, but that just seems weird to me.
  • I could apply to the intermediate role, which is not my first choice, but I'm pretty sure I could get.
  • I could apply to the senior role, which I think I could get, but with a lower probability of success than the intermediate role.

So I'm wondering:

  • Is it a common practice to apply to two roles like this? Would the company view this negatively?
  • Is it common practice to refer a candidate to a similar, less-senior position if that position is open and they qualify, or just disregard them if they only apply for the senior position?
  • Is it common to "upgrade" someone's application to a Senior position if they qualify, even if they applied for the intermediate position?

I'm not sure what strategy to use to apply, and I'm hoping someone with more experience with hiring practices can help answer me.

  • 5
    You've answered your own question - most companies will consider you for the less senior position if you're not quite there for the senior one. In my experience, upgrading an application is much less likely.
    – Michael
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 14:47
  • @Michael: Really? I've never been in such a situation before (here, I don't think we've ever hired for a Senior and Intermediate at the same time so I've never seen it), so I just wasn't sure, which is why I asked. Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 14:51
  • Ok - I said most, maybe it's just mine but we frequently advertise for a range of positions and fit the candidates to the positions regardless of what they apply for.
    – Michael
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 14:52
  • @Michael I've seen that happen but as a candidate it's very annoying to apply for a senior role only to be offered the intermediate role when you're confident you're qualified for the senior role & had no feedback to suggest otherwise. The properly weird part was that when I turned the offer down on that basis the HR department became argumentative about it with me. I'm sure your employer doesn't do the latter bit at least, but from the point of view of an applicant, I'd say it was a very bad experience that means I won't do business with them at all now, & in my mind, a bullet well dodged.
    – Rob Moir
    Commented Dec 24, 2013 at 9:20

6 Answers 6


There are a few possibilities to keep in mind here:

  1. If the positions are on different teams and the company has an HR department, then you may have a bit of a catch-22. The different teams is to imply that the hiring managers would be different and thus it may be better to apply for both jobs in this situation.

  2. If the positions are on the same team, then you may better off applying for the Senior role and ask to be considered for the Intermediate as a back-up choice.

  3. If the positions are at different companies since the posting is from a recruiting company, then you could likely be applied to both and see how it goes. This may not be the case, but even big tech companies like HP can contract for outsourced positions and thus may require candidates of different skill levels on different teams that may be outside of the general HR flow here is where I'm going with this case. I have had cases where I applied for a job and it was through a recruiting firm, through a tech company to a client site that is a few companies deep.

I have had experiences where a company had multiple openings that I was being considered and thus the application and interview as to see if there was a fit. Generally this isn't the case but if a company is expanding quickly then this would happen a bit.

If the teams are the same, then you could be considered for the other in the one application but this is an assumption I'd check with wherever you're sending your resume.

There are a couple of times I've seen upgrades. One was when I started at a company and got more than a few raises in one year as the company reviewed things a few times and kept bumping me up. The other was when a company put in the junior, intermediate, senior levels and someone went from "Web Developer" to "Senior Web Developer" that was seen as a bit of an upgrade.

I'd contact the company and see what they suggest as if it is the same team, then it is possible that they may discard your application as this could be seen as double dipping. The idea here being that people wouldn't normally be allowed to submit 2 applications for a spot on the team. However, if it is different teams then it is likely better to apply twice.

  • As far as #3, the postings come directly from the employer, not a recruiting company. As for #1 and #2, those are good points. The descriptions don't reveal much as to whether or not they are the same or different teams. It sounds like the best thing to do is probably to contact them and ask them first. Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 14:54
  • This sounds kind of like a card you'd play to keep salary low.
    – user1084
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 12:51
  • @djechlin, could you elaborate on this please?
    – JB King
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 17:10
  • @JBKing I did in my answer.
    – user1084
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 17:14
  • @JBKing basically if you're a star dev and say you're okay with an intermediate position, you've just said you'll accept a low salary. Set, and match.
    – user1084
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 17:16

Is it a common practice to apply to two roles like this? Would the company view this negatively?

I think it would be overkill. It's not unusual to apply to multiple roles, particularly where they are clearly quite different and likely to be in different groups. Many forms permit this. But in a case where the role is essentially "Senior job title, working in area A" and "Intermediate job title, working in area A" - I don't recommend bothering. The chances of confusing HR are more likely than making it clear that you're up for either.

Would they view it negatively? Doubtful. I think the worst case is causing confusion.

Is it common practice to refer a candidate to a similar, less-senior position if that position is open and they qualify, or just disregard them if they only apply for the senior position?

It really depends. As a hiring manager, if I think a candidate is a good fit, open to the possibility and just came in on the wrong open posting, I'll usually suggest it and I've had success making hires this way.

But if I get a sense that a candidate is stuck on wanting to be the higher grade, or has made a very inaccurate assessment of their own skills, I may just advise "no". The sticking point is that I have to trust, once the candidate is hired, that if they say "I can do that", they really can. The job application is my first experience with the candidate, if they are wildly misinterpreting the requirements, then I worry about listening and comprehension skills.

I often joke "it's not arrogance if you're right". But it's true. If supreme self-confidence is justified with skills and talent, it's not arrogance.

Is it common to "upgrade" someone's application to a Senior position if they qualify, even if they applied for the intermediate position?

If you really feel you can make a valid case for the senior position, apply to the senior position, not the intermediate. Be prepared to justify yourself, and be open to a downgrade, but let them make the case to downgrade you.

In my experience, an upgrade to senior is far less likely than a downgrade. The hiring company isn't looking for reasons to promote candidates, they are looking to find skilled people at the most advantageous rate.


My thumb rule is, if the senior role has at least an 80% match of skills in your head and you know you can pick up the rest of the skills quickly on the job, it is best to apply for the senior position.

If you are not found to be a match, you will most likely be informed that there is a more suiting opportunity available. Although it is not necessary for them to let you know of the intermediate role, but in all the interviews I have conducted/attended, this has been common practice. Not only for roles but also job locations etc.


One important rule: never sell yourself short. One effect of their double posting is to get you to talk about why you're not as sure for the senior role as you are for the intermediate, and even by acknowledging the intermediate they will assume you have acquiesced senior-level pay. This could be just a ruse, but even if it's for some other genuine reason, the "ruse" effect is still in play.

It's their job to figure out why you're a weak candidate. Don't do their work for them.


If you're not starving, don't ever apply for the job you don't really want. There's no point in applying to the intermediate role and the senior role because nobody who was confident of getting a senior role would do that, pretty much disqualifying you for the senior role.

So go for the senior role. Odds are good that if they like you but find your knowledge-base a little lacking for what they had in mind that they'll ask you to consider the intermediate role. I'd be surprised given your answers on stack that you were desperate for work or that you'll make a fool of yourself at a senior level interview. The only way you might get consideration for both if you're not a good fit for one is to aim high.


Apply for both.

The 'Senior' position is far more likely to be a pressure cooker, so you should be prepared to handle late night calls, weekend work, travel, and vendor interface. In short, you're signing up for the front lines. Wear your flak jacket.

The 'Intermediate' position is likely to be more 'rote work' - "get this report to work by tomorrow". You'll be getting more direction, get more narrowly focused projects, and relatively boring work. You'll also be going home at 5:00 PM, and spending weekends camping. In applying for the position, present less ambitious expectations.

  • 2
    The difference between "Senior" and "Intermediate" varies widely between organizations. Where I currently am, the biggest differences are pay grade, and sometimes more leadership roles on small-medium teams. But that's not a guarantee. As for the roles I'm looking at, the Senior role looks similar to the Intermediate role, but I'm guessing the person in the Senior role will be the team lead and mentor to those who are in Intermediate/Junior roles. Nothing indicates that it's a front-line, "wear your flak jacket" type of role. And I've seen Intermediate roles like that too, so who knows? Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 17:36
  • 1
    Generally 'senior' means more responsibility. In some shops this is a minor issue, particularly if development and user support are distinct operational areas. It is probably safe to say that in a senior position one expected to keep more or all of a system's context in one's head, and be in a better position to respond if an application suffers some kind of crisis. Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 18:53

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