cytonn-photography-n95VMLxqM2I-unsplash.jpg

Requiring previous work experience can be an ineffective and unfair way for employers to hire new applicants. 

Applying for jobs is an intimidating and sometimes difficult process to maneuver, especially as a teenager or young adult with limited experience in job hunting. Finding companies that are nearby and related to one’s interests is already a daunting task, but when employers go so far as to require specific skill sets in their applicants, prospective candidates may give up on the search.

As many students may know, applying for internships and jobs throughout one’s time at college is an important part of resume building. Holding these positions provides vital experience in the workforce and teaches students important skills to use after graduation. Since internships or related work experience have become expected for college graduates applying for full-time work, one would think that companies would offer these opportunities without barriers to interested students. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

If companies expect past work experience from students who are just beginning to explore their fields, where does this leave applicants? Many job postings have explicit expectations of applicants to have past experience in the field and to be proficient in all related software and applications. This is simply not possible for young adults who may not have held any job, let alone one that coincides with their major. By placing these restrictions on their applications, companies are ostracizing interested parties.

Insurance Journal shared research done by Chad Van Iddekinge, a management professor at FSU. His research concluded that there’s little to no correlation between having past job experience and doing well at a new job in a similar field. He concludes that there are many better indicators of job performance, like asking personal questions rather than skill-based questions, that should be used instead.

Harvard Business Review stated that recruiters need to have realistic expectations of their applicants. Some methods that may be more fruitful are pre-employment personality tests, interviews with more decision-making questions and combing resumes for keywords and skills that align with the company’s values. Forbes noted that hiring inexperienced juniors often has positive results. Those who enter an environment that asks a lot of them will adapt and learn exactly what’s needed of them, while those who have worked in the field for multiple years may become passive and hard to rewire for the company’s needs.

These methods of hiring can be successful because they draw in strong applicants with a desire to learn and dive into a field that’s new and interesting. Inexperienced recruits who align in personality and value are far better investments than a more expensive hire who’s become complacent over their years in the company. Students who’ve just graduated college often haven’t had the time or opportunity to gain skills and work experience, but this lack of experience doesn’t equate to a lack of potential.

Ditching required work experience for personal decision-making interviews, such as asking what a candidate would bring to a deserted island, will give recruiters a look into the character and hobbies of their applicants. Instead of listing required skills, companies who use rigorous pre-tests to vet potential hires on their proficiency in the field have been able to narrow the applicant pool without excluding anyone. 

The attitudes and interests of applicants are more telling of success at a new profession than previous experience, and many companies have seen success in utilizing strategies that target the individual applicant rather than excluding those who don’t fit the mold.

Liz Riccio is a junior media arts and design and psychology major. Contact Liz at riccioem@dukes.jmu.edu.