Tag Archives: job search

How can job seekers get interviews when entry-level job postings demand previous work experience?

Jessica Lau

Jessica Lau

This blog post was written in response to the Coffee Shop HR World Café topic: “How can job seekers get interviews when entry-level job postings demand previous work experience?”

When entry-level positions demand that all applicants have work experience, how can recent grads and those seeking to enter the field land their first job?

What an interesting topic, as this is something I’ve been struggling with in the past few months. When I used to work in Hong Kong a few years ago, this was not as much of an issue. As an executive recruiter in Hong Kong, I was able to help candidates get into positions where they have not had the work experience in the field easily. The clients seem to understand and accept the fact that for entry positions, having the appropriate education such as a BBA degree for an HR administrative assistant is sufficient. Perhaps it has to do with the labour economy in Hong Kong at the time.

I honestly don’t have a definite solution to overcome this but I do have some ideas that may work.

One of the ways to overcome this may be going through an internship. An internship is an excellent way to enter and gain some experience in the field you are interested in. Even if there is no internship available, you may be able to find your own internship. Through internship, you can gain some work experience in the field you want.

Two is to go through contract jobs. Through contract jobs, you are able to gain a few months of work experience that most employers look for. This can be difficult at times because a lot of contract jobs do ask for individuals with some work experience.

Third is to work for the company in another role that you are eligible for. You know of a company or industry you are interested in, apply for a role that you are eligible for and through this, you can gain some experience in the company and learn the culture. While you are with the company, you may want to try to gain some cross-training and job shadowing someone in your ideal role.

How can job seekers get interviews when entry-level job postings demand previous work experience?

Bonnie Milne, PhD

Bonnie Milne, PhD

This blog post was written in response to the Coffee Shop HR World Café topic: “How can job seekers get interviews when entry-level job postings demand previous work experience?”

While work experience is important – let’s just take a step back and think about what a recruiter is really looking for when they are asking for work experience. Work experience demonstrates the ability to hold down a job, which put simply, means getting to work on time, performing the duties of the position and getting along with colleagues and customers. There are other activities that demonstrate these abilities. The first thing that comes to mind for many of us is volunteer work so I won’t delve into that except to say that it is an excellent way to learn and practice these skills.

I would like to look at how responsibility and creativity are developed in other ways. Being a member of a dance troupe, a sports team or a musical group are ways that applicants can demonstrate the attributes a recruiter is looking for. Each of these activities requires one to show up and perform. Not only that, but in order to be successful on a team or in a musical group, one has to get along with a variety of people, take direction, and often, practice on one’s own. What a great precursor to a job!

When I ask my youngest son how he gets along with his colleagues, he always refers back to his experience on hockey teams. He had to build relationships with his team mates or they wouldn’t pass the puck! They trusted him and he trusted them. He understands management styles because he has had a number of coaches with incredibly different styles, from those who were very demanding to those who were stood back and let the team make decisions.

A recruiter could craft a set of requirements rather than relying on the ‘catch all’ of previous work experience. Why not ask for experience working with or leading a team over a period of time? This would open the door to applicants who have developed their skills outside the workplace.

Another aspect one could explore is training – it is not experience or application in the usual way, but training develops skills that are critical to success in the workplace. In the UAE, teens don’t hold part time jobs. Their first jobs are entry level jobs and they may not have any previous ‘work’ experience. College graduates have worked on team projects (we all know how difficult these can be) and they have usually completed a ‘work experience’ with a company. These are training experiences that segue nicely into an entry level position.

In my experience, students who demonstrate leadership potential in college or university are often offered coaching, workshops, or other opportunities to develop their potential. They might take a leadership role on the student council or in campus clubs. This training and these roles provide the experience students need for an entry level position. Seeing this kind of experience on a resume is a cue that this applicant has been recognized for their potential and has begun to develop their skills.

As part time work becomes more difficult to find – the economic downturn meant that some of those part time jobs disappeared and others were taken by full timers who were downsized, we need to be more creative in our approach to hiring for entry level positions.

While I have written about what I think recruiters can do to dig a little more deeply, applicants can also think about ways to demonstrate their ‘unpaid’ work experience.

Keeping a Resume Current: Don’t Just Wait Until You’re Job Searching

So most of us are guilty of this, myself included, we don’t keep our resumes up to date. We put it off for another day and another time. We say we will do it when we can and then simply add it to our growing list of things to do. But then it happens. We see a posting for our dream job, but the deadline is tomorrow. And then we are left scrambling to piece together an articulate accomplishments-based resume that will get us the interview, and hopefully the job. As many of us know from experience getting the interview is no easy feat and a last-minute resume that is pieced together in haste rarely does the trick.

The solution? There is no easy solution. It takes time and commitment. But here are a few tips that I’ve found helpful

1)     Keep a running list of your professional accomplishments (big projects, initiatives, or events)

2)     Be sure to track any volunteer work or projects that you’re working on

3)     Do some research on current trends for resumes

4)     Set aside some time in your calendar every quarter to update your resume

5)     Ask a colleague in your industry to have a look at your resume

6)     Make a one time investment and seek the professional input of a career advisor

7)     Be mindful of the job postings you are drawn to and the qualifications needed, ensure you are getting experience in these areas through professional or volunteer channels

8)     Make sure that you use results-based phrases throughout your resume

Although it can be time consuming and arduous, keeping your resume up to date helps you keep a running inventory of your accomplishments and skills and also prepares you for networking opportunities. It also cuts down the time you spend scrambling to put a resume together for a job that crosses your path. It also cuts down the anxiety of resume writing when you have no choice because having a base to work from is always better than starting from scratch. So with the New Year upon us, I challenge readers to dust off their resumes and get updating in 2013! Happy writing.