The Experience Paradox

Hello there, job candidate.

I have this business where I have positions available for you to apply for. These particular positions are for starter-level candidates, but I would prefer to hire someone with “experience.” Let’s say three years at least would be preferred. Oh wait, let’s make it four years to be safe.

Yeah, four years at least, otherwise I can’t consider you for this job that is meant for people starting out.


You’re just someone who graduated from college with limited experience to your name? Gosh, I’m sorry to hear that. I guess I can’t consider you for these particular positions if you don’t have the required experience on your resume.

Tough break. Be sure to apply again in a few months when you have acquired more experience.

Huh? You’re saying other places are telling you the same thing? They won’t give you a chance to work for them to build up experience because you are “inexperienced” for the job?

Well, golly, it kind of sounds like you’re in quite the bind. It seems like you’re saying that this is some kind of experience paradox …

Story of my life for the past year.

I have grown to hate the word “experience” because I think places that are hiring people use this qualification in an awkward manner. Like, it makes sense if you want someone who has more experience when you are trying to hire someone for a bigger position, such as bringing in a qualified manager for your business/company. However, to put so much emphasis on someone’s experience for a starter-level job is ABSURD.

Starter jobs shouldn’t focus so much on one’s experience for many reasons. For one thing, these positions should be newbie-friendly, as in someone should be able to handle the minimum requirements for the position with a reasonable amount of training. The point is, these should be positions that do not require a seasoned vet. As a result, prior experience should be the last thing on the list of requirements to factor in.

Honestly, how is anyone supposed to get a job these days when you’re just starting out? Ignoring personal connections, getting your foot through the door is made all the more difficult for no reason because places want you to have a certain amount of years of experience under your belt.

OK, so let’s think about this …

Experience is supposed to represent a person acquiring skills and becoming comfortable with what they are acquiring experience in. So let’s say I wanted to be a basket weaver. I can do basket weaving for five years, and so these five years should mean something significant, at least in theory.

But here’s the thing – not everyone learns at the same rate and everyone peaks in their performance at certain points. I could do basket weaving for five whole years and suck at it. Someone else could start basket weaving for a year and be 100x better than me. What I am trying to pry at here is, the experience part can be quite moot in a lot of cases.

If destiny wanted me to be a crappy basket weaver, then I could do basket weaving for another 20 years and the end result wouldn’t be that much better. It’s diminishing returns. It’s capping out in what I am capable of as a basket weaver.

So why do businesses/companies care so much about experience? I understand hiring someone is a risky venture, regardless of who it is. Hiring the wrong person can prove costly, and this is why a lot of companies pay so much attention to how much experience you have. Experience is supposed to put the business/company at ease when they consider hiring you. The experience a person has should correlate with competency. But does it really mean all that much?

I believe skill should be put at the forefront in the hiring process. Having lots of experience should certainly be a factor, so I am not saying experience should be ruled out completely. However, saying you’ve worked for a place/profession for x years doesn’t mean much to me anymore. I think it just makes someone look like a fool when they screw up if they really do have that many years in a given industry.

At the moment, America faces an economic crisis of sorts with youth unemployment, especially among college graduates who are struggling to find work like myself. I’ve faced rejection because of a lack of experience way too many times, and I know I am more than capable of doing the job that is required of me. I think being denied consideration on the basis of an arbitrary number that anyone can pull out of thin air is downright infuriating.
Want to know how arbitrary it is to request x amount of years for experience?

Let’s say I have a restaurant. I need a waiter/waitress. If you want to be a waiter/waitress for my business, I want at least two years of experience, even if someone with one year would suffice.



6 thoughts on “The Experience Paradox

  1. fischfail August 22, 2011 / 5:54 pm

    I couldn’t agree more. I’ve seen countless positions (for my field of study) that are “entry-level,” however they require 5, 6, or more years experience. Another frustrating thing is generally being unable to claim your educational experience. I think the worst I’ve personally seen was for an entry level technical position that wanted 6 years experience data base administration and multiple years of managerial experience…

    It is incredibly frustrating… Stick with it, and best of luck.


    • Nhan-Fiction August 22, 2011 / 11:09 pm

      It’s just an unpleasant problem to come across. Many people want the chance to learn, but places don’t grant the opportunity to learn because the people who want to learn haven’t learned what they need to learn yet. -_-


  2. Tim Bryce August 23, 2011 / 11:24 am

    Nhan –

    This economy is causing people of my generation, “The Boomers”, to work longer; we simply cannot afford to retire. Whereas we should start to be retiring, many are staying on longer thereby making the job market more crowded, and hindering your chances of getting a job. This means young people have to be better educated in order to get a competitive advantage. Further, their starting incomes will be lower due to supply and demand. Sad but true. I can only admonish you to persevere and when you get a job, do it to the best of your ability and make yourself indispensable.

    All the Best,
    Tim Bryce
    Palm Harbor, FL, USA


    • Nhan-Fiction August 23, 2011 / 6:16 pm

      Hmm, that makes sense. But still, it’s so frustrating to acquire an education, but only to hold onto this knowledge without a job to show for it. And student loans won’t wait until you are employed or not. I am just lucky I don’t have that many loans to my name compared to others.


  3. brianajae August 24, 2011 / 4:22 pm

    It’s the same with seniority. When it comes to cuts, they fire who they hired most recently, not who’s doing the best job.


    • Nhan-Fiction August 24, 2011 / 8:12 pm

      What ever happened to factoring in actual ability?


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