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I am applying for a graduate role with a financial firm, and the application form allows you to choose two divisions to apply to, in order of preference.

I want to maximise my chances of being hired, and also feel that both divisions are genuinely interesting; I would be happy working for either. Later on the form asks about motivations for joining the division, with a word limit. I assume both divisions will see the same application.

Given this goal and restriction: should I split the answer and write two separate responses for each division, or focus on my first-choice division, or take a hitherto unknown option?

  • Is there a recruiter you've been talking with, or is this just a form you found on your own? – David K Oct 14 '16 at 12:48
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    Being one of only 3 (!!!) questions on The Workplace that uses the word "hitherto", this question probably deserves extra points just for that ;) – A.S Oct 14 '16 at 13:32
  • Also, you say there is a word limit. How many words? There's a difference between limiting to 100 words and limiting to 1000 words. – David K Oct 14 '16 at 13:43
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Definitely put two divisions down. In your application reference both divisions in order, 1st division first. So your answer is something like:

First line - why the company is so brilliant and a perfect fit for you

Second line - why the first division is so exciting

Third line - why the second division is great too

Fourth line - be proud to join the company and would consider any position

You put two divisions because they might want to employ you but have better candidates for division 1, it fills up, where are they going to put you?

Your job is to impress the HR division first on paper and actually get an interview. That is the first and primary hurdle that most people will fail on. They allow you to apply for two divisions for a reason, it is not superfluous.

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The potential trade-off here might be focus for breadth.

The advantage of focus on one division is the presumed preference by the hiring manager of someone who appears to be a better fir for their particular division over someone who is an equal (but relatively lesser) fit for either.

The advantage of breadth is not putting all eggs in one basket, and demonstrating a more flexible/transferrable skillset which could be applicable to more than one area.

I would argue that as a new hire, it is more appropriate to demonstrate flexibility than specialization, and that presenting oneself as a fit for more than one specific area will not be perceived as a disadvantage.

Therefore, I would split the answer and provide a brief and to-the-point (1 sentence) response for each division, for a total of 2 sentences. Space them out, and clearly delineate each (e.g. "Division X:..."). Good luck!

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