I started an interview process (software) with large corporation and I told the recruiter that I am primarily interested in leadership positions. He said great, but the interview panel will consider you for other roles. In order to get the onsite scheduled, the recruiter was very specific that I fill out a job application for a basic software engineer. Even after I told him that I already filled an application for the leadership position that I am interested in. The recruiter claims this is part of an internal process, but I wonder if this seems like a bait and switch where they will try to rail road me into regular developer position. Has this kind of process ever happened to anyone? In the past, whenever I am asked to fill out a job application prior to on site, it was always for the exact position (including title) that I am interested in.
Normally, you would not be formally "baited and switched", but a few word-of-mouth catches are not so rare AFAIK.
Either way, you can refuse whatever proposal you receive that you dislike and I wouldn't think it's a waste of time to go through the process even if you are not interested in the job. I would strongly suggest to give the same desired salary in both applications.
Recruiters are mindful not to give you shitty offers (i.e. much lower salary than your current/expected compensation) since they look bad when a candidate refuses an offer.
However, some companies have processes where at least three candidates need to be appointed by a recruiter/prospective manager and the list sent to upper management for approval. The recruiter might be asking you to apply for a position you don't want just because he needs to complete the list. If it is a very long hiring process with group dynamics or whatever and you can't waste that much time, you may consider asking the recruiter if that's the case before you need to take days off your current job for a useless interview. Even then, consider that the recruiter might be in a tough spot to find applicants and may remember you in the future if you help him out and keep it cool.
Consider as well: Why do you want a leadership role? Is it just because of the higher salary? Do you have experience in leadership positions? It is not uncommon to avoid hiring people directly into management (and leadership may not necessarily be management) positions, especially if the candidate has no true experience in such a role. Then, after a trial period, the candidate may be promoted. Could you wait 1-2 years before being given your desired leadership role?
I wonder if this seems like a bait and switch where they will try to rail road me into regular developer position.
They can't "railroad" you into anything. If they don't offer you an interview for the position you desire than don't interview with them. You're in control of which types of positions you interview for. If it seems like a bait-and-switch then simply walk away from it.
This would be my answer:
I'm sorry. I can't fill out this second application.
I've been interviewed for the wrong position before.
It wasn't a good feeling.
I understand if this hurts my chances of being considered for the leadership position.
Whatever you decide. I wish you well.
I'm not expecting many people to agree with this answer, but honestly, this is what I would respond.
The missing piece of this question is your actual experience in an actual leadership role, and how comparable that experience is to what you want.
I'm going to answer both ways - you have and haven't been a leader.
If you've never been in a leadership role before, it's important to understand that "leadership" isn't the next step after "really good at what the people I want to lead are going to be doing." It just isn't. It's an entirely different and orthogonal skill. There are also differences in personal leadership style (hands on, delegation, "trust the people", etc.) and corporate leadership style. All of that means you have to have this whole "leadership thing" and you didn't mention you have any experience, or why think you do.
If you've BEEN in a leadership role before, surely you understand that as a leader, you have to be able to relate to your people. You didn't mention the company, but they may expect their leaders to be technically competent in the areas they are leading. It really may just be their thing. But if you've been a leader, you also understand that "I wanna be a leader because I wanna be a leader" is a great reason NOT to put someone in a leadership role.