A young man dressed casually, looking very deflated at a laptop searching for an entry-level job with his head on his hands.
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Looking for an entry-level job? You’ll need three years’ experience

30 Oct 2018

Shouldn’t you be able to get an entry-level job without any experience?

What came first, the job or the experience? How can you get one without the other?

This is becoming more of a problem all the time. How often have you looked for a so-called ‘entry-level’ job only to find that it requires a few years’ experience to qualify?

For entry-level jobseekers, the options in the waters they are forced to swim in are decreasing every year.

In fact, after analysing a random sample of almost 100,000 jobs, recruitment search group TalentWorks discovered that 61pc of all full-time ‘entry-level’ jobs require more than three years of experience.

Furthermore, it seems employers are driving ‘experience inflation’, which has seen the amount of experience required to get a job increase by 2.8pc every year. This in turn means the younger generation of jobseekers will likely need four years’ experience to get their first job.

TalentWorks data shows that if a person has three years of experience under their belt, they can apply for 75pc of entry-level jobs. But if that person has an extra two years, they are suddenly qualified for 77pc of mid-level jobs.

It seems the hill to climb in order to get an entry-level job is far steeper than the one you have to climb to get a job further up the ladder.

TalentWork’s data even shows that very few employers ask for more than 10 years’ experience for senior-level jobs. While that might seem like a lot of experience and a fair ask of a candidate looking for a senior role, let’s re-examine the entry level requirements.

An entry-level job is normally designed for recent graduates of a given discipline and typically does not require prior experience in the field or profession.

Based on the above data and assuming that the end goal is a senior position requiring 10 years of experience, jobseekers typically need to have almost a third of their ‘experience’ under their belt before entering the workforce.

How does that work exactly? Luckily, it’s not all bad news.

According to TalentWorks, “Below three years of experience, you don’t ‘officially’ qualify for most entry-level jobs. Above three years of experience, you do. ‘Officially’ is the operative word here.”

TalentWorks deduced, based on its analysis, that despite what the job ads say, you can successfully apply to jobs if you’re within two years of the required experience.

Many of us are familiar with the idea of applying for jobs when we have most of the requirements as opposed to all, and it seems the same goes for the number of years’ experience, within reason. If you can prove why you’re the best candidate, a hiring manager is likely to view you as ‘close enough’ in terms of experience required.

It’s also important not to discount anything you don’t deem a full-time job. Any experience that contributed to your professional development, be it internships, freelancing or even volunteering can count towards your experience if it’s relevant.

The number of years you have in one discipline can be as impressive as it is arbitrary. Sure, it shows your experience but if you didn’t change company, move up the ranks or even upskill, you may be a far less impressive candidate than someone who spent less than a year each in a variety of roles.

The main job a candidate has when applying for jobs is to focus on what they have learned and be able to prove this on an application to the best of their abilities.

Meanwhile, employers need to stop advertising ‘entry-level’ jobs that require more than three years of experience.

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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