We all know that having five years of experience for an entry level job is literally impossible. It doesn’t matter if you are looking to change up your career path or are job searching after college. Chances are you have found yourself wondering why it is so difficult to get hired with no experience.
So, why do these jobs have such strict requirements… and how can you overcome this hurdle?
Put yourself in HR’s shoes
Job hunting is competitive. Any given listing may receive hundreds of applications. So how does a HR manager sift through the pile and narrow it down for the hiring manager? The most common way to narrow down the field is to put a few filters on the position requirements. 5-10 years of experience is pretty standard for entry level jobs (which, I know, makes no sense…).
And what about the hiring manager’s perspective?
For the hiring manager, lofty minimum experience requirements suggest that most shortlisted candidates have already done the job before, meaning they don’t need to be trained—less work for the busy manager. Remember—if a team is hiring, it means they are swamped and need help!
Unfortunately, this system means that great candidates often get overlooked…so what’s the solution?
1. Put in the work – for FREE
Benefits – gain valuable work experience relative to the position you want to apply for
You have more experience than you think. If not, you can start racking up experience right now. Internships and volunteer experience are great ways to boost your resume as well as to get your foot in the door into a company. For example, you could offer to manage a local nonprofit’s social media channels for free.
The benefit to working for free is you get the unique opportunity to work alongside of employees currently working at that company. Build up strong relationships with these folks, and grow your network from within. Show them you are a pleasure to work with and above all else, work your butt off. Your work ethic when you aren’t being paid speaks volumes to those around you. They will remember your work ethic, whether good or bad.
Classroom experience can be highly valuable as well. Often Junior and Senior level classes include real-world client projects that can (and should) be a part of your resume or portfolio. Even your personal side-hustle can count too—you just need to be able to show how it’s relevant work experience.
HR managers often list minimum experience requirements that are well beyond the true “market rate.” As we discussed before, it’s simply an easy way to narrow down the field. This means that if you talk to a Director level employee at a given company, they may only have 5 years of experience, when the job listing calls for 8-10 years, so don’t be afraid to count your experience outside of full-time employment.
So check that “1-2 years of experience” box. Explain how your internships, extracurriculars, and classes have prepared you for the job. Get past that first hurdle and get that interview!
2. Develop relationships with professional connections
Benefits – the quickest way to get hired without experience is through referrals
If you’re still getting radio silence, take matters into your own hands. Bypass the application process by networking your way into an interview. It’s a lot easier to sell your non-traditional experience in an in-person conversation where you can add anecdotes, provide examples, and answer questions. If you can impress a new networking contact, they aren’t going to care how many years of experience you have. After all, some of the best workers are the least experienced. Mark Zuckerberg clearly didn’t have the typical 20+ years of experience when he led Facebook to billions in profits as CEO, but he surely impressed some networking contacts early in his journey.
3. Create a personal website
Benefits – sending a url to a recruiter is a guaranteed win over a resume pdf
Aside from networking, building a personal website is the best thing you can do for yourself as you look for a career. An interactive portfolio of past work and achievements will give recruiters a visual representation of your resume. Personal websites give recruiters an in-depth look into who you are as an individual, not just a list of past work on a resume. They can put a name with a face and your hobbies and interests will leave you in their mind as they mull over potential candidates.
I use wix.com for my personal website. Having the ability to use pre-made templates and using their drag and drop page editor has saved me the hassle of learning how to code or worse yet, hiring someone to code a site for me. Another added benefit is being able to send my website links to recruiters to show off my past work and real life examples of the work I’ve done in college to prepare me for my career.
So you got the interview…now what?
Here’s an insider tip—the hiring manager probably made your job listing weeks, months, or even years before your interview. They probably don’t remember a lot of the details…including the required years of experience. If you are interviewing with other (usually less senior) members of the team, they may not have even seen the job listing at all!
Interviewers expect that you are a strong candidate if you have gotten to that stage of the process. When they ask you to tell them about your experience, don’t feel the need to stress the number of months or years. They want to know what you have done in the past that would make you a good candidate for the job. Have a strong pitch ready, be confident, and knock their socks off!
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