When it Comes To Getting Hired, Only Work Experience Matters

Part 8 of The Case for Inventing a New Form of Work Experience: the Externship
Matt Wilkerson | Co-Founder & CEO of Extern
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In my last article, I explored why microcredentials and online certificates don't actually help job-seekers get hired. Here, I cover why work experience is the only thing recruiters and hiring managers really care about when it comes to assessing talent.

As companies prioritize work experience when making hiring decisions, aspiring professionals must find ways to bridge the divide between education and the workforce in a market driven by the bottom line and risk aversion.

An analysis of 95,363 job postings revealed 61% of full-time "entry-level" positions requiring at least three years of experience. This trend, known as 'experience inflation,' is growing at a rate of 2.8% per year, indicating increasingly higher expectations for future generations entering the workforce.  

Staffing firm Robert Half surveyed hiring managers and asked which factors are most important in evaluating entry-level candidates for tech jobs. The #1 answer: most current work experience.

Why Do Entry-Level Jobs Require Experience?

We can lecture companies that they shouldn’t be asking for experience for an entry level job.  But at the end of the day, companies and managers will always have their wish lists, and the free market will be the free market. 

And that’s the issue.  A lot of proclamations about corporate America’s responsibility in bridging the divide between education and the workforce fail to consider the realities of a free market system.  Nonprofits are working to bridge the skills gap with workforce development programs. However, without major government funding for programs that encourage private sector apprenticeships, there won't be a significant shift in companies' focus from their main goal of increasing revenue and profit.

How We Should Fill Entry-Level Positions

More than 40% of respondents in Wiley’s Closing the Skills Gap report said it takes more time than before to find suitable job candidates, and half of employers surveyed reported that 20% of their open roles went unfilled.  This would suggest that employers should be snapping up candidates who don’t have work experience for entry level roles.  

But this doesn’t mean that companies must fill these roles or face some dire consequence.  Companies will usually make hires if they are perceived as being ROI positive to the business – whether that perception is reality or not.  Otherwise, they will be fine growing at a slower rate, rather than take a risk on a hire that is not perceived to be a short term contributor to growth.  It’s a natural risk mitigation stance that organizations will have in their approach to hiring.  

The bottom line is that companies will prioritize their own needs and mitigate risk. Taking on inexperienced or perceived risky hires will not be a company’s priority. 

And doing so for the broader societal benefit of creating career pathways won’t be a priority unless building a company-specific training program is core to their business. Neither the private sector nor the higher education system can be expected to 100% shoulder the burden of giving students work experience as part of their education.  So what is the solution?

In my next article, I’ll explore how learning-integrated work programs offer the most promising way forward for early-career aspirants.

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