Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
Kristen Fife's Blog

Defining "Experience" in Job Descriptions

2016-01-11 12:34:51

This topic seems to create a disconnect between candidates and recruiting/HR professionals when it comes time to apply for a job and consider "qualified" applicants. There are a few different reasons it is important for candidates to understand how "experience" is evaluated by a recruiter. The single most important thing for any candidate to understand is that in the recruiting world "experience" relates to *the specific job requirements and not total years in the work force.* (This is one reason why job seekers rarely need to go back more than 10 years on their resumes.) Please note that from the recruiting perspective "requirements" is just that...you must possess these attributes to be considered for the role.

As collegiates (both bachelor's and graduate level) start trying to line up their jobs, they start applying to a variety of positions. If they are foreign students looking for a US company to eventually offer them an H1-B/Green Card, it becomes even more critical that they understand how recruiting defines and evaluates "experience" when it comes to jobs, leveling, and titles.

The most important thing to understand is that a new grad with no *professional work history* will most likely never be considered for a mid-level (or higher) job. There is a specific recruiting specialty title called a Campus Recruiter (not to be confused with a "college" or "university" recruiter - this is a position within higher education that recruits STUDENTS to the school). Campus recruiters generally hire interns and new graduates; most large companies have at least one person that works directly with college/university students. They focus on candidates that don't have much in the way of professional experience (excepting perhaps internships.) It is very important for students to understand that the recruiting and interview process is different for an industry candidate (a year or more of solid professional experience) than it is for a student. There are levels of evaluation in an industry interview that touch upon how a candidate has done things in a professional setting. Scholastic projects, short internships, even monetized personal projects aren't going to be relevant. For graduate students, the line may be a bit blurrier based on TA, Fellowships, and research projects and will depend on the individual.

There is also the fact that companies have several different layers of legal requirements for the Federal Government that often dictate how we define various levels of experience. (One of them is USCIS.) Legally, an employer may not be *able* to consider an entry level candidate for a job requiring several years of industry experience.

What about those professionals without a degree looking to move or graduate students with a work history that have gone back to school to pursue a new line of work? The key here in the job *requirements* are the magic words "or equivalent." For those without a degree, a very conservative formula is 2-3 years of experience that would give you the same knowledge as attending collegiate classes. Experience gained may be paid, project, or volunteer.

Things to consider if you are trying to figure out equivalencies:


• Is the experience you are trying to leverage recent and up to date? It should be skills you are using often, regularly, and you should be an "advanced" practitioner of the skill for it to be considered relevant. If it is out of date, chances are you will not be considered for the position. Most employers are looking to fill jobs reactively, (not proactively) which means they aren't going to be taking time to give you a refresher on outdated skills.

• Do you have enough breadth and depth of experience to be able to handle variances or odd situations that might crop up while using the skill? These are the types of questions that may come up in an interview for someone that doesn't have the educational foundation to draw upon.

• Does your resume adequately show your history practicing the skills that are relevant to the position? Especially in cases of equivalency, you will need to be much more detailed in your past history to show that you actually *do* have the relevant skills. You will need to do that by putting more detailed project work under your job headings to show that you have done what they are asking for. *DO NOT USE A FUNCTIONAL RESUME* if you are doing this. A reverse chronologic format is going to be the way you make the connection between your recent employment and the needs of the employer.


Although many candidates feel it is unfair or even discriminatory to require degrees for certain jobs, the reasons a company may do so most likely have a grounding in legal issues. Looking at smaller companies where there is more room to grow is one viable option in these cases. Just because a company is small don't overlook the potential to make a huge impact.

Finally, if you have not finished or obtained a degree and it is barring you professionally, it may be time to consider getting that degree. With online options and a plethora of accredited schools offering flexible learning and credit or "real life" or professional experience, it may be worth re-exploring.











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