May 15, 2023

Rewriting the Requirements: Making Entry-level Jobs Truly Entry-level

For first-time job seekers, the first step in trailblazing their professional career is finding entry-level jobs: positions that require little to no higher education or past work experience. Key to upward mobility, these jobs provide connections and equip young people with the knowledge and skills necessary to work their way up. They open doors to more specialized, higher paying job opportunities. However, increasingly, entry-level jobs are hardly entry-level.

In 2020, 79% of entry-level jobs in the United States required a Bachelor’s degree.

According to a 2021 analysis of more than 3.8 million job postings on LinkedIn, 38% of entry-level postings on the platform require a minimum of three years of relevant work experience.

The five industries with the highest percentage of entry-level postings requiring 3+ years of experience are:

  1. Software and information technology (60%)
  2. Manufacturing (50%)
  3. Design (47%)
  4. Education (45%)
  5. Finance (44%)

Job seekers are feeling the effects of requirement inflation. To narrow down the applicant pool, employers are beginning by ruling out applicants with no college degree or prior experience altogether. But, in the process, they are turning down a generation of creative, passionate and technologically savvy job seekers who have so much to offer to the workforce, and need these entry-level jobs to kickstart their careers.

What Young People Have To Offer

As millennials navigate their 30s and early 40s, Generation Z is officially the new class of first-time workers. Members of Gen Z are more racially and ethnically diverse than any previous generation, and they are on track to become the best educated generation, dropping out of high school at lower rates and attending college at higher rates. The Top Employers Institute notes that Gen Z holds essential skills like multitasking, adaptability, self-reliance and comfort with technology that today’s employers need in order to facilitate innovation and advancement. Enter your description

How Employers Are Responding

Despite the unique advantages Gen Z has to offer, in their race to fill positions, employers have made entry-level jobs more difficult for Gen Z to attain. A 2017 research study published by Harvard Business School found that historically, employers did not hold completion of college as a prerequisite for hiring. However, the Great Recession marked a change. As the workforce has grown more talented and competitive, companies have raised their requirements as an easy fix for the difficulty of choosing just a few candidates from an overabundance of applicants. While many employers value the soft skills that entry-level workers possess, they are abstract and difficult for employers to test during the application and interview processes. Understandably, employers default to concrete factors like education and experience to ensure qualification.

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But as companies strive for maximum productivity, they overemphasize education and experience while devaluing skills. This requirement inflation is demotivating for first-time job seekers who are still working to complete their higher education, and these not so entry-level job listings make it increasingly difficult for young people to enter the workforce and make progress toward their future careers.

The Issue With Inflation

Requirement inflation unnecessarily exaggerates the amount and level of skills that companies actually need in an employee. Research conducted by Robert Half of more than 300 human resources managers and 2,800 employees found that 84% of surveyed companies were willing to hire and train candidates who did not meet all required skills, and 62% of surveyed employees were hired for a job without meeting all of the listing’s requirements.

First-time job seekers are discouraged from applying for positions they possess the skills to succeed in. Companies that are willing to train inexperienced candidates owe it to seekers to cut their education and experience requirements and utilize skills-based hiring. Thankfully for young job seekers, many major companies are.

Success Through Skills-based Hiring

Facebook, Google and Walmart have all relaxed their Bachelor’s degree requirements in recent years as efforts to diversify their talent pools. For entry-level workers in the tech industry who are suffering the brunt of experience requirements, skills-based hiring may offer a sense of relief. Talent shortages in tech have prompted many companies to employ skills-based hiring, and have opened up opportunities for young workers who previously would have been undermined. Only 26% of Accenture postings and 29% of IBM postings have a degree requirement, and IBM Chief Human Resources Officer Nickle LaMoreaux said 50% of IBM job openings nationwide have no degree requirements. As articulated by Accenture North America CEO Jimmy Etheredge, “A person’s educational credentials are not the only indicators of success.” Since 2016, 80% of the entry-level employees Accenture has hired did not hold a college degree.

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Across the board from industry to industry, people have continually proved that education and experience alone do not define capability. Ellen DeGeneres, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Mary Kay Ash and Bill Gates are all examples of incredibly respected individuals who never earned college degrees, but undoubtedly had the talent, skill and ambition to be revolutionary. It’s up to employers to recognize this and make entry-level jobs truly entry-level.

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