Are Experience Requirements for Entry-Level Roles Too High?

Are Experience Requirements for Entry-Level Roles Too High?

Even with talent in short supply, many US employers are seeking applicants for entry-level professional roles with several years of relevant work experience, disqualifying most fresh graduates, SHRM’s Roy Maurer reports:

A recent analysis of over 95,000 job postings by job-matching software firm TalentWorks revealed how difficult it can be for newly minted grads to find an entry-level job within their experience level. The research found that 61 percent of all full-time jobs seeking entry-level employees required at least three years or more of experience. Similarly, when labor market analytics company Burning Glass Technologies analyzed 25 million entry-level job postings from 2010 to 2016, it found an increase in the number of soft and hard skills being demanded. …

“We saw some employers increase experience requirements during the recession and decrease them during the recovery,” [Alicia Modestino, associate professor at Northeastern University School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs] said. “But another set of employers increased their requirements during the recession and have maintained them since then.” The organizations with those “sticky requirements” tend to be hiring for high-skilled occupations, which also require higher education and advanced degrees, she said.

Executives at recruiting and staffing firms tell Maurer that these experience requirements are often excessive and cause employers to discount candidates who would be successful in these roles. Skills learned at one job are not always immediately transferable to a new job, even in the same field, so the benefit employers gain from being able to train experienced recruits more quickly may not make up for them missing out on qualified entry-level talent without that experience. Besides, if every entry-level role required experience, where would newly-minted graduates work?

Experience requirements are just one way employers are being choosy about entry-level hiring: A college degree is also a must-have qualification. Candidates with bachelor’s degrees have taken the vast majority of new jobs created since the recession, while low-skill jobs that don’t require a college education have been dying out. Meanwhile, the college wage premium (the difference in earnings between high school and college graduates) hit a record high last year. While the number of Americans who hold BAs is higher than it has ever been, many do not, and some employers have been rethinking degree requirements, particularly for tech roles, where demand is sky-high and talent is scarce. This typically means embracing vocational training as a credential for these jobs in lieu of college.

These questions of experience and education requirements for entry-level jobs illustrate the debate over the precise nature of the skills gap in the US. If employers are having difficulty finding qualified recruits in today’s labor market, this might be because their hiring standards are higher than necessary. For example, in data science, machine learning, and other emerging tech roles, employers looking for experts with advanced degrees or many years of experience are limiting their talent pools in ways that may be leaving a lot of perfectly suitable candidates out.

Instead of looking for candidates already equipped with all the skills they need, some organizations are opting to develop these skills internally, such as Airbnb’s “data university,” in which employees can undertake a full course of study in data science, from the basics of data-driven decision making to advanced courses on machine learning and programming languages like Python.