The Science of The Job Search, Part III: 61% of “Entry-Level” Jobs Require 3+ Years of Experience

Jr. Marketing Assistant. Perfect for new grads! Requirements: 3 years of digital marketing experience. Compensation: $12/hour.

The job search can feel like one big Catch-22: “How the hell am I supposed to get experience if I can’t get a job to get experience?” In fact, after analyzing a random sample of 95,363 jobs, we discovered that 61% of all full-time “entry-level” jobs require 3+ years of experience.

entry-level-jobs-years-experience
61% of all supposedly “entry-level” jobs require 3+ years of experience. It’s not just you.

What gives? Before we get into that, here are 3 other interesting things we found:

  • Employers are driving “experience inflation”; as a result, the amount of experience required to get a job is increasing by 2.8% every year. That means your younger sister (or brother) will need ~4 years of work experience just to get their first job.
  • That’s bullshit, right? You don’t have to play by their rules. Based on our analysis, you can successfully apply to jobs if you’ve got ±2 years of the required experience.
  • 3, 5 and 8 are your magic numbers. After 5+ years of experience, you (officially) qualify for most mid-level jobs. After 8+ years, you qualify for senior ones.  And 3+ for entry-level, obvs.

Let’s dig in, shall we?

How Much Experience Do You Need?

Employers are a superstitious bunch. How many jobs have you seen asking for 13 years of work experience? They’ll ask for 7, 10 and 15 years (but rarely 11-14). You can see job postings clump up by employers’ “lucky numbers” in the graph above.

But, here’s the rub— this isn’t just a cute gimmick. It lets us pinpoint how much experience you’ll (officially) need to qualify for different levels of jobs:

Level# Years of Experience% Jobs Qualified
Entry-Level~3 years75%
Mid-Level~5 years77%
Senior-Level~8 years72%

Put another way, if you’ve got 3+ years of experience, you’ll qualify for 75% of entry-level jobs. 3 is the magic number here: below 3 years of experience, you don’t (officially) qualify for most entry-level jobs; above 3 years of experience, you do.

(“Officially” is the operative word here. Keep reading.)

Companies Gone Bad

Can You Be Overqualified?

After 8 years of experience, you qualify for most senior-level jobs out there. But even for senior roles, employers rarely ask for more than 10 years experience. (You can see this in the graph above.)

And from our first post in this The Science of The Job Search series: your hireability starts dropping by ~8% every year after age 35. Assuming today’s experienced folks graduated college around age ~23, this is almost exactly 10 years of experience. It’s no coincidence.

after-age-35-hireability-decreases-by-8-percent
After age 35, your hireability decreases by ~8% every year. Ageism is very real.

Age matters. A lot, sadly. Your chances of getting a job at age 20 aren’t great. At 30, they’re OK. After 40, they’re getting bad again. It’s illegal for companies to discriminate based on age, but ageism is very real.

What Gives? “Experience Inflation”

In addition to discriminating against older workers, employers have also been driving “experience inflation,” which is especially dangerous for younger workers. For entry-level jobs, the amount of work experience required to get a job has been steadily increasing at 2.8% per year.

Anecdotally, we all know this is true: 30 years ago, our parents could get an amazing job with just a college degree. These days, we don’t even know if a college degree is worth it and a college degree on its own doesn’t buy you much.

Over the next 5-10 years, recent graduates will start needing ~4 years of work experience just to get their first job. (Yes, I know this doesn’t make sense. Hold on.)

We’ll get into experience inflation in detail in next week’s post, but for now let’s focus on what options you have. This is all very depressing—

What Can You Do?

Honestly, the job search is unfair. (That’s fundamentally why we started TalentWorks, but that’s a different story for later.) So what? Folks still need jobs. Hell, maybe you need a job.

What can you do?

#4: Don’t List Your Graduation Date If You’re 35+

We’ve already briefly touched on fighting ageism. Hiring managers (subconsciously) guess your age based on your graduation date, how much work experience you have, etc. If you don’t list your graduation date or only show your most recent 2-3 jobs, they can’t tell how old you are.

#3: Use Freelance Jobs To Build Your Experience

One way to get past the job-searching Catch-22 is to play a different game. Instead of fighting with everyone else to get that first job, you can instead build up your work experience (and resume and portfolio) by doing freelance jobs on the side.

Not only will you get paid, you’ll also have far higher chances getting your 2nd job (everyone else’s 1st job). In the future, especially when experience inflation means you need 4+ years of experience to get your first job, this might be the only way to break into your job.

#2: Apply for Jobs Within ±2 Years of Your Experience

The #1 lesson: you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. From what we see, if you’re within ±2 years of required experience, hiring managers will often consider you “close enough.”

So, be flexible with what jobs you go after! You never know if something special in your application will catch the hiring manager’s eye. What’s the harm in applying?

#1: Identify (Actual) Entry-Level Jobs Near You

Let’s be honest: looking for jobs is a *[email protected]$* pain in the ass. Of the 95,363 jobs we analyzed, 52% (49,245) were supposedly entry-level (based on what the employer said). Of those, my hypothetical job-searcher — a Marketing Assistant in LA, say — was only interested in 3% (1,286). Of those 1,286 supposedly entry-level Marketing Assistant and other jobs, I found 240 for actual entry-level Marketing Assistants.

In real life, folks need to apply to 150-250 jobs to get a job, so needing to review 1,286 job postings is actually pretty representative. (Afterwards, you’d still have to apply to the final 240 jobs, of course…)

job-search-pain-in-the-ass
Identifying 240 (actually good) entry-level Marketing Assistant jobs meant wasting 94% of my time. I reviewed 1,286 supposedly-good jobs and had to discard 94% as crap. OTOH, I found 168 great jobs out of 95,067 supposed baddies. Doing this was was a *[email protected]$* pain in the ass.

It’s painful work, but someone’s gotta do it. If you’ve got the patience and the time (and stubbornness), rock on! If you don’t, you can pay us $10 to do it (and other stuff) for you.

Summary

Getting a job has always been hard, but it’s getting (quantifiably) harder. These days, you need to have ~3 years of experience (officially) to get the average entry-level job. It’s a full-on Catch-22: “No, you can’t have a job.” “Why?” “Because you don’t have a job.” “…”

With the right insights and tools, you can break the Catch-22 and get the job you deserve. To recap:

  1. Identify (actual) entry-level jobs near you. With a bit of patience (and a lot of stubbornness), you can identify the ~5% of jobs that actually match your needs.
  2. Apply for jobs within ±2 years of your experience. If you’re within ±2 years of required experience, hiring managers will often consider you “close enough.”
  3. Use freelance jobs to build your experience. Go guerrilla. Not only will you get paid, you’ll also have far higher chances getting your second job (everyone else’s first job).
  4. Don’t list your graduation date if you’re 35+. Ageism is real. If you don’t list your graduation date or only show your most recent 2-3 jobs, hiring managers can’t tell how old you are.

We’ve already added a filter for (actually) entry-level jobs in ApplicationAssistant. If you’re looking for an entry-level job, sign up for ApplicationAssistant and set “Entry Level” during setup. We’ll only look for (actual) entry-level jobs near you!

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(88% of recent graduates looking for entry-level jobs got an interview in 60 days or less using ApplicationAssistant — it’s backed by our Interview Guarantee.)


Methodology

First, we randomly sampled 100,000 jobs from our index of 91 million job postings. We extracted the # of years of experience, job level and employment type for each job using TalentWorks-proprietary parsing algorithms. We then used a blended Gaussian-linear kernel to calculate experience densities. Finally, we used an averaged ensemble of multiple independent RANSAC iterations to robustly calculate inflations against outliers. This was done in python with pandas, sklearn and scipy and plotted with bokeh.

Why Are We Doing This?

With ApplicationAssistant right now, we can boost the average job-seeker’s hireability by 5.8x. But, what makes ApplicationAssistant work has been an internal company secret until now. We’re fundamentally a mission-driven company and we believe we can help more people by sharing our learnings. So, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

Creative Commons

We’re not only sharing this but also sharing all of it under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. In other words, as long as you follow a few license terms, this means you can:

  • Share: Copy, redistribute the material in any medium or format.
  • Adapt: Remix, transform, and build upon the material.

 

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10 Questions to Ask Before You Take That Job

Ever start a job and realize it’s not for you? You thought you were hired as a copywriter, but the only writing you’ve done so far is taking notes at meetings. Your coworker turns into a gremlin after lunch and throws peanuts at your head. Your manager, who vehemently denied being a micromanager during your interview, stares over your shoulder while you work and expects hourly check-ins. Oh, and that great office they told you about is actually a cubicle that smells like sweaty feet.

Okay, hopefully your experience wasn’t that bad. Still, you can’t help but feel deceived and resentful when this happens. It seems like they flat out lied to you about this job. In some cases, this might even be true. But maybe you didn’t ask the right questions.

With each interview, I understand more about what I want, what to look out for, and–most importantly–what to ask.

While I’m not an HR professional, I’ve been a job hunter more than a few times in the last decade, due to layoffs, the Great Recession, or just not being satisfied in my current role. A study done by the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that younger baby boomers had an average of 11.7 jobs by the time they turned 48. I suspect that number may be even higher for us Gen X’ers and millennials. In fact, according to LinkedIn, job-hopping has nearly doubled over the last twenty years.   

…according to LinkedIn, job-hopping has nearly doubled over the last twenty years.   

Given those stats, we should all be interview experts, right? I know I’ve had dozens of interviews this year alone—and I won’t even try to count how many I’ve had over the last decade. Every interview matters, thoughWith each interview, I understand more about what I want, what to look out for, and–most importantly–what to ask.

Here are 10 questions I ask in interviews to help me determine if an opportunity is right for me.

What might a typical day look like for me?

This innocuous question can give you a lot of valuable information. In my experience, job descriptions can be difficult to interpret. For example, they list graphic design as one of your main duties and you think—sweet, I get to design ads, brochures, and websites half the day. But their definition of graphic design is asking you to “pretty up” a Word document once a week.

Asking the hiring manager to describe your day will usually encourage them to go into more detail about your actual duties and the working environment. They may say, well, you come in at 8am and you answer emails, at 9am we have our daily catch up meeting, and at 10am you’ll be working on such and such. In which case, you have to ask yourself if such a structured environment will work for you. Or they may say—well, I don’t know. What do you think your day should look like? Then you have to decide if you’re comfortable with minimal or no direction. Either way, you should get a much better picture of what the job actually is and isn’t. If they are being vague or you still find yourself unsure – don’t be afraid to ask for further clarification.

What personality type and/or management style would work well for this role and your team?

I’m a huge fan of this question, because it helps me find out whether or not I’d be a good cultural fit. If they say they want the “life of the party”, for example, I know I probably won’t be a good fit. Feeling a connection with your potential manager and coworkers is a good sign, but it doesn’t mean that your working styles mesh. Make sure you’re considering all factors.

What is your management style and how do you prefer to communicate?

Your relationship with your manager can have a direct impact on your job satisfaction. A Gallup report in 2015 found that half the people they surveyed left their jobs due to their manager. So, it makes sense to find out if your communication styles mesh early on—preferably during the interview. Are you a self-starter who prefers autonomy? Then a manager who says they want daily status reports or involvement in every decision may not be the best fit for you. Likewise, if you love email and hate the phone and your manager hates email and loves the phone, you may be in for a challenge.

What is the culture like?

It’s always good to straight up ask about the culture, especially if you’re interviewing with more than one person. The answer isn’t just in what they say, it’s how they say it. If they say it’s the best culture ever, does their facial expression or tone match that sentiment? Are they avoiding eye contact or looking at each other knowingly? Is there a pattern to the answers? Are people struggling to come up with a description or something positive to say (not a good sign)? Keep your eyes open and trust your gut.

What does success in this role look like after three months? How about after a year?

Afraid they’ll have unrealistic expectations or you won’t be given clear goals? Then these are great questions to ask. When employers decide to hire for a role, they should have a clear need for that role—problems to solve and goals to achieve. Job security, people.

Are they expecting you to still be learning after three months or are they wanting the answer to the meaning of life? Can they articulate where they’d like the company to be after a year and where you’d fit into that? We all have different comfort levels and expectations, but your employer’s goals should mesh with your own career goals, and you should know from the very start what it is you are working to achieve.

What do you really love about working here and what would you like to improve?

This is one of my favorite questions to ask, because I find—more often than not—it catches my interviewers off guard and gets them off-script. You’ll be spending a lot of time with these people. This question takes the focus off you for a moment and allows your interviewers to show who they are and what they see as perks and challenges in their environment. Can you help them improve what isn’t working so well? Do you want to? Do their “loves” match what you love in an environment (you know what they say about great minds)?

This is also a great way to discover any hidden deal breakers. For example, maybe you’ve found you can’t concentrate in loud, hectic environments and you’re looking for a quieter, more low key environment. If one of your interviewers says there are more distractions than they’d like, you may want to ask them to elaborate.

What equipment is provided?

As someone who works in the creative field, a lack of resources has been a common theme. The computers, software, and equipment needed to produce quality videos, for example, doesn’t come cheap. Sometimes you have to work with the bare minimum and be creative and resourceful. Resourcefulness is actually a great skill to learn—it can help you as much as your employer.

But you also want to know if their expectations are realistic. Can you actually do your job with what they can provide and—if not—are they willing to give you what you need? If you’ve only used OSX and they’re a Windows-only office, are they willing to provide you with a Mac? If they’re not willing to work with you, chances are the role isn’t a good fit.

Can I see where I’d be working?

This is actually a really important question—one I didn’t think to ask for a long time. And there have definitely been a couple times where I wish I had! Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a diva. But I also know I don’t work well in small rooms, sitting nearly shoulder-to-shoulder with my coworkers. The constant noises and ongoing conversations distract me, and I start to feel rather claustrophobic. On the other hand, some people thrive in close-knit environments like that. Given you’ll be spending 8-10 hours of your day in this space, it’s important that the space works for you and allows you to be productive. If they aren’t willing to show you where you’d be working, that’s a huge red flag!

Is overtime expected? If so, how much and how often?

Are you looking for more work life balance? Then this is a very important question to ask. Sometimes the topic of overtime never comes up unless I ask about it. If they give a vague answer like “sometimes” or “once in awhile”, ask them what that means. For me, “once in awhile” means a few times a year. To them, it might mean once a week. Try and get an estimate of how many hours they expect per week. Is this a 40 hour per week job, in general, or is the expectation more like 50 hours a week?

Do you see room for growth in this position?

Unless this is your dream role, and you’re looking to do it for the rest of your career or you’re a newbie looking to gain some experience, you probably want the answer to be some form of “yes”. If their eyes seem to be searching the ceiling for an answer or they say something non-committal, like “it’s a possibility”, consider whether or not this is the best move for your career right now and how likely it is you’ll get bored after a year or two. The ideal answer here is one that includes specifics, like we’re planning on this Marketing Specialist role growing into a Marketing Director role within the next year. While nothing is ever set in stone, at least you know they’ve given your role some thought and have a plan for the future.

 

 

 

 

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Ask Sarah: Why Do I Keep Getting Ghosted by Companies?

Sarah—

I don’t expect a response from every job I apply to, but what is up with getting no response after multiple interviews, even after I follow up. Do I suck at interviewing or are employers just that rude?

Feeling Ignored

Dear Feeling Ignored,

Some employers are just that rude. I mean, I can’t say if you suck at interviewing. Maybe you’re showing up in an orange tutu. Maybe you have no idea what the company does and biffed your way out of the classic “What do you know about us?” question. (If you’re not ready for this one, you really need to give one of our wonderful TalentAdvocates a call.)

Although it’s still uncommon to get ghosted after an interview, it’s happening more and more. But, what does happen all the time is getting ghosted after a job application. In fact, it’s pretty much the norm.

Chances are it’s not you. Most of us have the tendency to beat ourselves up about it. “I should’ve worn the blue shirt instead of the black.” “I should’ve smiled more.” “Maybe if I’d asked better questions…” “Oh, God, what if I had a massive booger hanging out of my nose? I knew I should have grabbed that Kleenex!”

We focus on the small, nit-picky things that might have made a difference. It’s easier to do that, because it puts a little control back into our hands. But, here’s the truth: we can follow every bit of advice out there — show up a little early (but not too much), dress up (but not too much), do our research beforehand, give killer answers — and still never hear back. There are so many things that can happen behind the scenes:

  • They already had an internal employee in mind (this happens a lot). Maybe the nephew of some VP needed a job at the last minute.
  • The hiring manager didn’t feel a connection. Personality is a huge part of the equation for a growing number of businesses. You’ll be spending more time with these people than with your own family — finding the right culture fit is just as important for your sanity and health.
  • Another candidate had fancy-schmancy experience. Maybe they worked for big, name-brand companies. Maybe you’ve got years of experience producing videos, but they made feature films.
  • Maybe you applied during the Resume Blackhole. After a job has been posted for more than 10 days or so, it’s almost not even worth applying to it. You’ll get ghosted (almost) every time.
  • They’re simply too busy.

And that last one? That’s the kicker.

Most of the time, it really isn’t you — it’s them. Let’s take a moment to think about it from a hiring manager’s perspective:

  • For every open job, there are often 100+ job applications. You have to review each application and pick 5-10 people to interview.
  • Even if you spend just 15-20 seconds on a resume and 2-3 minutes writing an email, that’s still nearly an hour.
  • The interviews basically take you a full day (assuming 30-60 minutes for an interview, plus notes, plus any other random emails and meetings you had).
  • Making the offer, writing it up, setting them up in payroll, getting them started on their project is probably a full day on its own.

Replying to 100+ job applicants is (realistically) never going to happen. Worse still, replying to every interviewee often falls through the cracks. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

But, honestly, here’s the thing: You’re going to drive yourself crazy with all the whys and what-ifs. Your time is precious — whatever the reason, don’t give them another moment of your time and energy. Instead, focus all of yourself on looking ahead and maximizing your job search.

There’s both an art and a science to the job search, and making sure you open enough (job application) doors is a big part of that science. The only way you can do that is by looking ahead — not at the closed doors behind you.

Look ahead, sister!

ask-sarah

ask-sarah

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