For years, employers have struggled with a mismatch between the skills they’re looking for in prospective employees, and the skills that job seekers are bringing to the table. This “skills gap” hasn’t budged and is only exacerbated by relatively low unemployment. According to the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), there are now more jobs available (6.7 million) than there are unemployed Americans (6.3 million). This makes finding the perfect employee with the right set of skills even more challenging.
Any company would prefer to hire skilled, experienced employees who are already comfortable and confident in the working world. But that shouldn’t be required, or expected, when you’re hiring for an entry-level role. Recruiters and hiring managers who systematically toss lighter resumes in the “no” pile are missing out on bright, open-minded employees who are trainable, affordable, and loyal.
In this blog post, we’ll define entry-level jobs and dig deeper into how lightening up the qualifications for these positions can actually improve your chances of finding the right employee for the job.
Entry-Level Jobs Should Almost Always Be Exactly That
While there are many factors contributing to the skills gap mismatch, one of the main causes is clear: employers often expect entry-level applicants to have far more than entry-level work experience. This isn’t just anecdotal; one study analyzed a random sampling of nearly 100,000 jobs to find that 61% of entry-level jobs were requiring three or more years of experience!
If your company lists certain positions as entry-level yet requires applicants to boast years of relevant experience, it might be a good idea to revisit exactly what an entry-level job is. By definition, these positions are starting-off points for those with little to no real employment history or those who have switched career paths and have little to no related work experience.
According to the University of Virginia, an entry or junior-level job should typically require zero to two years of experience and a Bachelor’s degree. Knowledge requirements are simple: applicants should understand the basic “concepts, practices and procedures” of the company’s industry. Entry-level roles typically involve detailed, assigned tasks under relative supervision, with generally fixed schedules.
Of course, all of this can vary. Entry-level legal positions will require more education, whereas entry-level positions in other industries may only require a high school diploma. But the key theme is clear: entry-level jobs are where careers begin.
Creating Impossible Requirements for Entry-Level Jobs Usually Hurts Businesses
If you’re a hiring manager, take a long, hard look at the lists of requirements you attach to entry-level job listings. Ask yourself: why are these qualifications truly necessary for the job duties this employee would perform?
Many of these so-called requirements can actually be trained on the job relatively quickly. Many smart hires can figure out new software intuitively or be trained by a manager or colleague. There are also many free and inexpensive online tutorials and courses entry-level hires can take to get up to speed on business basics like Outlook, Excel, QuickBooks, or other industry-specific tools.
Because they’re new to the workforce, many first-time employees will have the advantage of eagerness and enthusiasm, making it easier for them to pick up new skills quickly. Plus, with the right team of colleagues and managers, your new hire will likely learn project management and communication skills rapidly. Many employers find that the key to great entry-level hiring is not selecting overly-experienced candidates but rather designing an effective and supportive orientation and onboarding process for new employees.
Choose the Right Entry-Level Employee Without Shrinking Your Applicant Pool
Requiring five-plus years of experience for an entry-level job is frustrating for applicants who want to devote years of their lives to your company. And all of those exclusionary prerequisites don’t guarantee a better hire, either. After all, experience is not always the best predictor of success.
When interviewing for entry-level positions, ask potential employees about how skills acquired through their education, hobbies and interests could be repurposed to serve them in this new job. If they’ve had summer employment or internships, gauge how willing they were to solve problems and learn new things. Many of these skills are “transferable,” meaning that they can easily apply to a role even if they weren’t picked up in a setting that is immediately relevant.
Look for candidates who communicate well throughout the interview process, but don’t expect every good hire to have a stand-out interview. Interviews are great for affable extroverts and charming personalities, but there’s a huge pool of smart, energetic job candidates who just so happen to be shy – especially those who are new to the interviewing process!
Pre-employment testing can also help you zero in on candidates who have the skill sets required to perform well not only at an entry-level position but also in more challenging roles down the line. For example, cognitive aptitude tests are useful for predicting how trainable a job candidate will be. In fact, cognitive aptitude is three times as predictive of job success than work experience, suggesting that relying on work experience alone may cause you to screen out some really high-potential candidates.
Lowering the required years of experience will also get you more applicants. With companies struggling to source and attract talent in a tight labor market, this is a huge plus. And it may even help you attract a more diverse set of applicants. Research indicates that high work experience requirements may unintentionally discourage women from applying – women are less likely than men to apply for a job if they don’t satisfy 100% of the qualifications. And while it may seem time-consuming to sort through a larger applicant pool, you can incorporate more predictive screening tools to help you identify the candidates with the highest potential, including structured interviews and pre-employment tests.
The right employees are out there, eager and willing. You just need to open the door to let them in.