Career Advice

Employer Expectations vs Reality: the Alarming New Trend in Job Ads

John Smith

Why an ‘entry-level’ job can seem out of reach when you’re just entering the workforce, and what you can do about it.

If you’re close to graduating from university, you’ve probably already started looking at job boards.

There’s the usual checklist of checklists: company description, job description, responsibilities, role requirements and, if you’re lucky, salary package.

Now, say you come across what could be a real winner. The industry is ideal, the company has a solid reputation, their values align with yours, and the role description perfectly matches the qualifications you’ve worked so hard to acquire.

But then you see “this is an entry-level graduate job requiring a minimum of 2 years’ experience.”

Whoa – hold it… How does that work?

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

Welcome to what has become an increasing trend in recruitment, where there can be a jarring dissonance between employer expectations and reality. An oxymoron, if you will.

(Wikipedia again: “An oxymoron is a figure of speech that juxtaposes concepts with opposing meanings within a word or phrase that creates an ostensible self-contradiction.” But you knew that…)

This is alarming news for any recent graduate trying to land that first, entry-level job: they’ve all but disappeared.

How bad is it getting? A recent review of nearly 4 million jobs posted on LinkedIn since late 2017, found that 35% of listings for ‘entry-level’ positions called for years of previous work experience.

The worst? Entry-level IT jobs and software jobs, with over 60% requiring three or more years of experience. Entry-level tech jobs, it would seem, are not really for those just entering the workforce.

What’s behind this move in job listings?

On appearances, it can seem like employers are looking to get the skills of a senior employee for the salary of an intern. But at the core of the problem is the sheer scale of competition.

Where once HR could review and assess individual applications, they’re now swamped by those who use a scatter gun approach to job-seeking, trawling through job sites and hitting the ‘easy apply’ button 60 times an hour. By feeding a ‘two-years experience’ stipulation into their algorithms employers hope to weed out the time-wasters from the tidal wave of hit and hope applicants.

In the meantime, what chance have you got of scaling the corporate ladder when you can’t even get your foot on the bottom rung?

And that first job matters – a graduate’s starting role can establish the path of their whole career.

“The most important time in your career is the first three years.” says Alan Seals, an associate professor of economics at Auburn University, US “So, how do you get that first job?”

You can’t blame employers for wanting the best they can get, but you also can’t help wondering if they had more realistic expectations, they could open themselves up to people just starting out but with great potential (like you?).

How you can be considered for a job without experience

For a start, a significant proportion of ‘must haves’ are really ‘nice to haves’ – a wish list. And, in fairness, some job ads will say exactly that.

But if you can tick off, say, 80% of the ‘requirements’ you can probably ignore the other 20% – including experience – and apply anyway. You’ve got the relevant qualifications they’re looking for, you’ve got the personality traits that will wow them, you have unique abilities that would perfectly complement their needs. If a hiring manager picks up on your genuine passion and knowledge, they may overlook the shortfall in years and call you in.

And, as for relevant experience, you may already have more transferable skills than you realise – as we describe in this blog.

To improve your chances of getting considered, don’t simply send a generic resume and cover letter. The more you can customise to the company you’re approaching, the better – show them you mean business. Read our 10 top tips on how to write a CV with no previous work experience in this blog.

In the end, the stated time period is an arbitrary guideline – it’s the full package you offer that’s going to sway the decision to take your application further.

In almost any job, there is a perceived expectation that you should know exactly what you’re doing the moment you walk in the door. Whereas the reality is you generally figure it out as you go. It’s all about that foot in the door.

FDM has your ‘entry-level’ covered

Despite LinkedIn’s gloomy statistic about IT job ads, the tech industry has the world’s highest demand and fastest growing job market. And, at FDM, we know that graduates from any degree background have the potential for a successful career in tech.

If you’re ambitious, with a tech mindset, the FDM Graduate Career Programme can equip you with all the industry-leading skills you need to be job ready in just 6-14 weeks. You’ll then be placed as an FDM Consultant with one or more of our blue-chip, international clients for 2 years.

Two years of relevant work experience in a top-tier company? You could find yourself one of the world’s most employable people.