Even ‘entry-level’ jobs are requiring three years experience (and what you can do about it)

A recent analysis of thousands of job descriptions posted online has uncovered some potentially distressing news for people just beginning their careers. The majority (61 percent) of advertised full-time “entry-level” opportunities require 3+ years of experience.

This research was conducted by the team at TalentWorks who studied the content from 100,000 job ads. You can read the details of the study and its methodology here.

“Credential Creep” is part of the problem. This is where employers gradually ask for more and more qualifications for roles that may or may not actually require those skills and certifications. (Read more about credential creep.)

Talentworks also notes the phenomena of “Experience Inflation.” This trend of the amount of experience required to land a job steadily increases each year. They estimate it at roughly 2.8 percent per year – meaning that while currently, it requires an average of three years of experience to land an ‘entry-level’ job, that number will be four years in the near future.

It’s a fine line, however. Right now with 5+ years of experience, you officially qualify for the majority of mid-level jobs. After 8+ years, you qualify for most senior roles.

So, what can actual entry-level candidates do about credential creep and experience inflation?

The keys to landing a job that requires experience (when you have no experience):

Demonstrate the skills and accomplishments you do have

Take a look at everything you’ve done so far, whether on the job, at school, or in your personal life. List the accomplishments that you have made – those times you went the extra mile or stood out from the crowd – and see if you can tailor them to the jobs that you are after.

Think about your skills that can apply to most jobs, such as project management and scheduling, written and spoken communications, research and computer skills, and relationship-building. Are you an effective writer or public speaker? Social media savvy tech guru? Have you led a successful team or taken a project from planning to completion? Can you manage a budget or schedule multiple tasks for a team of people? Employers routinely say that these skills are in short supply and sought-after across industries.

Get some more experience

If you really don’t have enough skills and accomplishments to land an interview, then you’re going to have to go out and get some. Look for internship opportunities, volunteer work, or short-term contacts where you can pitch in on complex projects, develop your skills (especially the transferable ones mentioned above) and accomplish demonstrable success. You can also use these opportunities to increase your personal network. One of your most valuable career assets is that group of people who speak highly of your work ethic and abilities.

Take any job, and show what you can do

If you’re offered any role at all – even if it’s not what you really want to do – take it. It’s easier to prove your value and work your way up from the inside. Also, most early experiences that people have isn’t directly related to their ultimate career goals. Come in early, stay late. Take any opportunity to help other people, show initiative, network internally, and learn as much as possible on the job. Hard work, enthusiasm and a positive attitude go a long way.

Bottom line: Don’t apply for jobs that you do not actually have the ability to do, but also don’t be discouraged by a lengthy list of job requirements. Read job descriptions carefully. Find entry-level positions that you know you could succeed at. Then write an application that demonstrates how and why you know this. List the skills and accomplishments that you do have, highlighting how these will benefit the employer.

Recent studies have found that you only need 50 percent of job requirements in order to land an interview.

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