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Experience Inflation: 94% of entry-level jobs in IT require at least one year of work experience

Steven Rothberg
Tonje Ødegård (Guest Author)
April 22, 2021

Have you ever browsed entry-level roles and found you didn’t have enough experience to make the cut? Not only is it incredibly frustrating, but it also makes no sense. Isn’t an entry-level job intended to be your opportunity to enter the job market and jump-start your career? It then seems ridiculous that roles advertised expect you to have years of experience after you have spent a huge amount of money and energy on a college degree that supposedly should prepare you for the job market. You might find comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone and that this might be a bigger problem than first expected.  

Perhaps you’ve stumbled across the term “experience inflation” in the news and on forums. It is one of the job market’s most dangerous trends and it is making it harder for job seekers to meet the demanding requirements of roles originally meant for them. 

But what exactly is “experience inflation” and why is it damaging? Junior, entry-level, and graduate-level jobs are traditionally designated to those without prior work experience and recent graduates looking to launch their careers. The common denominator linking these job levels is a lack of formal work experience. However, previous studies have revealed a job market trend termed “experience inflation” is seeing job posts at these levels requiring an increasing number of years of experience from applicants and turning candidates away from roles originally intended for them.

To explore this concept further and to reveal the true scale of the problem, London-based SEO and digital marketing agency Verve Search trawled 50,000 “graduate-level”, “junior-level”, and “entry-level” job listings on US and UK versions of Indeed and LinkedIn. 

The research revealed some troubling results, especially within the IT sector, which, according to Verve’s analysis, is the biggest culprit when it comes to “experience inflation”. For instance, it found that as much as 94% of entry-level jobs in the IT sector require at least one year of work experience, making it the most experience-demanding sector to get into. That is almost all of the jobs listings out there. 

Even more worrying, the study also found that a shocking 96% of graduate-level job ads in the IT industry required applicants to have at least two years of experience. It begs the question of whether the IT sector is expecting too much of its graduates. 

If you look at all sectors combined and of all the US graduate-level job postings included in the analysis, over half (59%) demanded applicants to have at least one year of experience. The picture is worse for junior/entry-level positions where 68% ads required at least one year of work experience. Below are some tables displaying the analysis’s findings. It outlines the different sectors and the percentage of job ads that require a certain amount of experience. In all instances, IT comes out as the most-demanding sector in terms of prior formal work experience.   

Graduate-level job ads requesting at least 1 year work experience:

Sector% of ads

Junior/entry-level job ads requesting at least 1 year work experience:

Sector% of ads

Graduate-level job ads requesting at least 2 years work experience:

Sector% of ads

Junior/entry-level job ads requesting at least 2 year work experience:

Sector% of ads

Hannah Salton, an independent career coach and consultant, says she believes this is a worrying trend and encourages companies to realise the importance of other factors besides formal experience when hiring graduates. “Companies more than ever need to be agile and adapt quickly,” she says. “Therefore, looking for hires that possess qualities like flexibility and resilience are increasingly important. Experience can be valuable but can be gained over time, whereas some personal strengths and qualities can’t be taught.” 

She goes on to say: “It’s a tough market for everyone at the moment. All candidates have different things to offer, and may not be applying for the same roles as candidates with more experience.” 

The analysis has contributed to demonstrating the true scale of the problems involved with “experience inflation”. How can a candidate tackle this head on and ensure their lack of experience won’t stand in their way of landing their dream job in IT? 

Salton’s advice is all about going the extra mile: “Candidates can set themselves apart from others by demonstrating an interest, awareness and a passion for the industry and the roles they are applying for,” she says. “Networking is also a key opportunity to take advantage of. Use LinkedIn to connect and build relationships to help with your job search.” 

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