When you leave college or university, you will be keen to kick-start your career. However, landing an entry-level job when you have no previous work experience can be tricky. The same goes for those who are looking to make a career change after a few years of working in one business sector and wanting to switch to a completely different one. Whether you are taking your first steps on your career path or looking to change direction, there are certain tips and methods to use to help you get started by landing an entry-level job!
What Does Entry Level Mean?
Entry-level is a tag used by employers to denote jobs that require minimal work experience and skills. The employer is generally looking for a young professional with a few years of internship or freelance experience, but not necessarily someone who had full-time experience in a specific role or industry.
The Challenge: Why Do Entry-Level Jobs Require Experience?
When you start to check out entry-level job postings, you will wonder why so many of them expect candidates to have up to two years of relevant work experience.
This makes no sense. How are you going to have a decent amount of work experience if you are a recent graduate or have been working in a completely different industry for several years?
It’s frustrating to see a job ad from a company you really want to work for, but only to realize that they want “experienced” candidates for entry-level positions. Hold that thought. You may actually just dodged a bullet by not applying to such an employer.
It turns out that “two years of experience” for an entry-level job is the codename for lower pay.
Zippia recently analyzed 3 million job postings and found some interesting correlations. The analysis suggests that entry-level jobs requiring 2+ years of experience pay 20% less than jobs without the “entry-level” title.
SHRM also argues that requiring “years of experience” from job candidates is also a dubious hiring practice, hurting both the talent market and the employers. The strategy where a ton of candidates get filtered out by “experience” criteria often means that the employer deliberately barres a cohort of high-performing, talented entry-level candidates with strong soft skills and theoretical knowledge.
On the other hand, we may soon see more jobs with no experience (truly). Prof. Alicia Modestino from Northeastern University School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, says that inflated experience requirements often correlate with the economic cycles. “We saw some employers increase experience requirements during the recession and decrease them during the recovery,” she notes.
Given that we are slowly, but imminently heading toward economic recovery, the job market is going to bounce back too.
So Is It Worth Applying For An Entry-Level Job That Requires Experience?
The choice is yours. If you don’t mind a compromise in terms of pay, definitely go for it! If not, keep networking via LinkedIn and browse other jobs.
Let’s say you are determined to get yourself that interview. How do you avoid being screened out based on the 2-years criteria?
Here are some tips:
- Try using a functional resume format
- Focus on transferable skills
- Highlight your personal projects and schoolwork
- Place your digital literacy in the limelight
- Mention your internships
Your goal is to format your application in a way that draws the readers’ attention towards your core competencies and skills, rather than the number of formal years of experience.
How to Find Entry Level Jobs and Get One: 4 Essential Tips
Even though the job looks like a perfect fit for you – other than the requirement for experience – it is still worth applying for. Don’t worry! It won’t be a futile effort on your part.
Following these tips will help you to reframe the request for work experience in a way that makes sense to you!
1. Prioritize Niche Job Boards for Entry-Level Candidates
The best entry-level jobs are often outside of the general public’s purview. Why?
Because most entry-level workers usually go straight to the biggest job boards such as Indeed or Monster. Respectively, the competition gets tough. Recruiters, overwhelmed with a bunch of submissions, may then choose to use ATS software to screen out candidates based on experience levels. That’s a scenario you’d want to avoid.
So instead, head straight to niche job boards curating entry-level jobs. Some of the good options are:
- College Recruiter — full-time and part-time jobs, internships.
- Handshake — a platform connecting college students with employers.
- WayUp — another match-making platform for recent grads and employers.
- One Day One Job — job board for college students and recent graduates
- LinkUp — a job search engine, aggregating posting from all major websites.
2. Interpret The Job Description Differently
Consider the job description a wish-list written by the company’s HR department, rather than taking it at face value. In most cases, what you see written here are the desired skills the employer wants from the person in that position. Whether or not you possess them when you join their team or you go on to develop them over time while working in the role, the end result is the same.
Thus, reframe most of what you read in the job description concerning previous experience along the lines of the employer saying ‘it would be nice for you to have these skills’ rather than ‘you must have all of these skills’ to apply.
3. If You Meet Most Of The Job Requirements, Apply Anyway!
You have nothing to lose by applying for the job if you meet nearly all of the requirements. Try not to overthink your decision. Go for it!
Stack the deck in your favor by being positive in your approach and your application. Never apologize for the skills you lack that the company is asking for. As already mentioned above, you need to believe that the employer has a “wish-list” in place for their candidates, but not necessarily a “have-to-have” list.
After all, you are applying for an entry-level job where most candidates will not have 2 years of work experience in the field. Anyone with this level of experience most certainly will be looking to climb the career ladder – not stay exactly where they are or take a step backward.
4. Prepare a Strong Entry-Level Resume
No matter what entry-level job you want to apply for, it all starts with your resume. To get your resume into the ‘read again’ pile, you need to know how to structure your resume to make it easy to read and apply the correct layout that promotes your strengths.
There is no big secret around why some entry-level resumes are more effective than others – in most cases, the job candidate simply picked the right resume format.
Why Does Resume Format Matter for Entry-Level Job Applications
If you were to pick a chronological resume format that a more seasoned and experienced worker would use, you may end up burying your competitive strengths and transferable skills.
In most cases a more traditional resume layout will use a chronological layout to show an employer your years of work experience and impressive achievements, positions held, and list the companies you worked for. However, as a recent college leaver without any notable work experience, you will need to structure your resume differently.
As mentioned already, a functional resume format — one focusing on your skills — can work better for you. You can also try a combination resume, which has a greater emphasis on skills, but still layouts some of your work and school experience chronologically.
In either case, be sure to:
- Open with a strong resume summary, showcasing your main skills
- Use simple, easy-to-read resume fonts
- Add plenty of white space to make your doc look professional
- Spell out your accomplishments, rather than duties
- Write a complimentary cover letter, further explaining your motivation
- Spell check everything!
Need more context? Check these two resources next:
- Detailed resume example for a first job.
- Sample resume for freshers.
- Compelling entry-level cover letter example.
- How to write a resume: the ultimate guide.
And remember: an entry-level resume is more of an introductory piece rather than a potted history of your career so far.
Entry-Level Resume Templates
Freesumes has a beautiful range of well-designed basic resume templates that are perfect for you to use when applying for an entry-level position.
Don’t go out of your way to create a fancy-looking resume to impress your prospective new employer. If you try too hard to cover up your lack of work experience with a fancy resume, the employer will see right through you. ‘Keep it simple’ is the message here!
Here are several cool suggestions:
- The New Candidate: Ideal for an entry-level job application for a recent college leaver!
- Ready for the World: An attractive functional resume template.
- Sweet & Simple: A professionally-designed two column resume template.
Final Tip: Edit and Revise Your Resume Often
A lot of job seekers make the mistake of preparing a single generic resume and using it sending it out to every employer. Big mistake!
Keep your resume in Word format so that you can return to it over again to tailor it to fit each new job you apply for. You can also add new skills learned, qualifications achieved or training courses attended as you complete them. This means that you will not have to start over again from scratch each time you want to add to your resume.
You can save a version of your resume in PDF format to send to employers that ask for this format, but make sure to check the job application carefully before sending a PDF version of your resume.