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The power of offering entry-level jobs with “no experience” required

The power of offering entry-level jobs with “no experience” required

Should we expect workforce newcomers to have impressive employment histories? ‘Experienced early talent’ is something of an oxymoron really and, worse, failing to offer entry-level jobs with no experience required might be a barrier to DEI. 

Are we setting early talent an impossible brief?

We all want to find the best talent with incredible skills, but some companies appear to be looking for candidates who can also bend time. 

The tech industry, in particular, is rife with stories of recruiters asking for 5 or even 10 years of experience in technologies that are only 2 years old. 

Not the best way to boost your employer branding, right?

What do we mean by ‘entry-level’ anyway?

Here’s a truth we can all appreciate: entry-level positions are designed for graduates and those new to the world of work. But here’s something we maybe don’t quite grasp: when we ask workplace newcomers to have experience, we’re setting them up to fail. 

This is particularly the case for disadvantaged groups. Without financial support from family, many simply can’t choose part-time work or internships that complement their career goals. 

When deciding whether to offer an entry-level job, it’s worth thinking about the pros and cons of hiring someone with no experience.

Offering entry-level jobs with no experience: pros and cons

Pro: Cost-effectiveness

Candidates with extensive experience rightly expect compensation for what they have learned. At the first stages of their careers, new talent typically recognizes that it will take time to earn this premium. 

This means that hiring talent with no experience for entry-level jobs can be very cost-effective.

Pro: New insights

A new hire with no experience is coming into your organization with few (if any) expectations and preconceptions. This fresh set of eyes can help highlight legacy practices that are no longer necessary or highlight opportunities others may overlook.

Pro: Adaptability

Applicants with no prior experience are often coming straight from education and are used to adapting to new working practices, assimilating new information, and trying new things. 

This makes them incredibly adaptable. 

This is particularly valuable during periods of change, where more experienced staff can often struggle to acclimatize.

Pro: Find hidden gems

Using the right tools can help you find applicants that may lack traditional experience but have massive potential.

Headstart’s Match Score includes a semantic skills assessment, which scans through applications to pull out desirable skills and abilities across a range of experiences beyond previous work, including achievements and extra-curricular activities.

This allows candidates to demonstrate their abilities in a way that feels natural and gives you access to talent that traditional recruitment methods often overlook. See Headstart’s Match Score for yourself.

Pro: Loyalty

Early talent can struggle to find their first “real” job. This often results in a strong sense of loyalty to a company willing to give them the opportunity. 

Loyal staff typically have higher productivity, lower turnover, and create a more collaborative culture.

Pro: Less competition

Requiring experience for entry-level jobs is common across a wide range of sectors. This means that competition for experienced talent can be fierce. 

Tapping into the talent pool earlier by giving people their first opportunity grants you access to the very best candidates without struggling for their attention.

Pro: Social responsibility

Removing the requirement for previous experience can make a real difference to social mobility. 

Candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds or who have had adverse life experiences may struggle to gain the requisite experience but often more than compensate with determination, resilience, and passion.

Con: Training time

Candidates with no experience can take longer to reach the same level of productivity as their more experienced counterparts. They may require additional training and may spend more time getting settled into their new roles. However, this should be a short-term cost.

Con: Missing knowledge base

More experienced candidates may bring additional ideas and knowledge from their previous positions. This can help bring in best practices from other firms.

Con: Management requirements

Some candidates who lack experience can require more time and effort on the part of managers to help them settle into the workplace. Selecting the right inexperienced talent can minimize this, but it can be helpful to plan to spend more time developing and mentoring new hires if they don’t have work experience. 

The good news is that this is often both effective and highly rewarding for managers.

Stop confusing ‘experience’ with other desirable attributes

In traditional recruitment methods, candidates lacking experience are often the first to be filtered out of potential talent pools. 

If candidates without experience don’t even make it through the first round of screening, how can we evaluate their potential contribution?

Screening for experience can be more due to convenience than reflecting a genuine requirement of the role. We have too many potential candidates to examine them all in detail, so we choose easy screening criteria, providing a proxy measure for the characteristics we’re looking for.

So what are we really looking for when we ask for experience?

Experience isn’t the same as enthusiasm

The very best talent is enthusiastic, engaged, and will go the extra mile to get the job they want. They take work experience roles, internships, and volunteer to build a compelling CV. 

If they really want it, they’ll find a way to gain experience, right? Wrong.

Being able to find work experience roles often relies on already having relationships with people within your industry. Internships are often poorly paid or unpaid, making them inaccessible to candidates who can’t rely on family or savings. 

Without contacts in similar roles, great talent might not even realize that their lack of experience limits their chances.

Experience isn’t the same as low-risk

Taking on early talent can sometimes feel like a risk. Without a strong history, candidates are an unknown quantity. Selecting candidates with experience and relevant references might seem like a safer option.

But this is often a false sense of security. 

In an increasingly litigious environment, companies are frequently cautious about what they say in references. To avoid potential lawsuits that can arise from giving unflattering references, many have policies only allowing them to confirm dates of employment. 

As a result, we are at best using poor selection criteria. At worst, we have unfounded confidence in the reliability of an experienced candidate.

Experience doesn’t mean “ready for anything”

Experienced hires can hit the ground running, can’t they? Yes, and no.

Experienced hires usually understand the basic principles behind what they’re doing, but they’ll still need to learn how your company does things. They may have to unlearn old ways of doing things and can resist some of your ways of working.

Talent without experience is typically fresh from education and ready to learn. They’re used to having to pick things up quickly and are keen to impress. 

Offering programs like apprenticeships can be a great way to give early talent the skills they need to grow with your business. You will have to spend a little more time training them up, but investing in their development can pay dividends in the long run.

Experience isn’t the same as potential

Hiring new talent is a long-term investment. While an experienced candidate might have higher productivity over the first 3 or 4 months, that might not be the case if you consider them over the first few years.

Using alternative metrics to find the best talent allows you to focus on long-term potential rather than short-term gain.

How to recognize true entry-level potential


Headstart’s Match Score includes a semantic skills assessment that reduces the focus on traditional work experience and offers a more holistic assessment of candidates, whether it’s their first job or fifth. 

We believe that allowing candidates to highlight their skills in a wide variety of ways is better for companies, better for talent, and better for society. 

Arrange a demo to see how Headstart can transform your hiring pipeline.

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