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Why do companies want experience for entry-level roles?

Why do companies want experience for entry-level roles?

If you’ve been applying for entry-level jobs recently, you have almost certainly noticed a very strange and frustrating trend: companies requiring experience for entry-level jobs.

Like this:


  • High School Diploma/GED required
  • Some experience in a call center or customer service role within the healthcare industry preferred

or this:


  • At least one (1) year of experience in claims examination, health insurance, customer service, call center, medical office, or other healthcare-related field
  • High School Diploma or GED

or even this:


  • Minimum of 1-2 years professional experience within IT tech support, help desk support, or related role
  • You are a self-starter and take initiative to help, and you’re able to identify problems
  • Strong communication skills with the ability to communicate causes and solutions to end users and report your observations and/or discoveries to internal teams. You ask for help when needed
  • Experience with creating effective documentation
  • Proficiency with FreshService, Confluence, and SharePoint strongly preferred
  • Able to follow written and verbal instructions accurately and perform tasks with minimal supervision

What’s with that?

What a great question. And we’re going to do our best to clear up the confusion.

80% of the time, you should simply scroll on to the next job posting if you’re truly entry level, or if you’re not looking for entry-level pay. But for that other 20%, there may be very good reasons for you to stop and consider the opportunity strategically.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the most common reasons (actually, there are only four, in our experience) why companies want experienced people for entry-level roles.

We’ll also share our top tips for tackling this incredibly confusing paradox.

The Entry-Level Paradox: 4 reasons why companies claim an experienced role is ‘entry level’

#1 They want to underpay you

Let’s start with probably the most common reason for wanting an experienced ‘entry level’ employee. At the end of the day, companies see themselves as profit-making entities first and foremost. If they don’t make and save money, they can’t exist.

This mindset typically extends to all areas of the business (hence the tight budgets for everything from hiring, onboarding, and training, to essential office supplies).

When they post a job vacancy, most companies make the assumption (rightly or wrongly) that it’s an employer-driven market. They know that anyone who isn’t interested in the job scope or conditions won’t apply. Which means, those who will accept the conditions out of necessity (including salary range) will hit ‘submit’. From this candidate pool, they’ll make a selection. It’s not necessarily a savvy long-term retention approach, or a way to hire great fits, but you can see their logic.

What can you do about it? This is entirely up to you. If you have the required experience, and decide to apply because you need a job or it’s a great opportunity to get your foot in a particular industry or company, then consider this a strategic maneuver.

You may lose out now in terms of pay, certainly, but it could pay dividends later on when it leads you to a better opportunity. It’s a risk you’ll need to weigh based on your own circumstances and ambitions.

#2 They genuinely don’t know what they want

This reason is also fairly common, unfortunately. That’s because there are multiple stakeholders involved in even getting a job posting published. HR has a standard job description on file. The hiring manager may envision the role slightly differently, but either doesn’t communicate that to the internal recruiter, or forgets to check the description before posting.

Or, conversely (which happens more often than you realize), the hiring manager edits an existing job description and posts it without anyone else casting an eye over it. So any discrepancies may not even be spotted until well into the recruiting process.

Another scenario is when a junior employee or intern is asked to post the vacancy online. Out of inexperience, they may select the wrong experience category on the job board or the company’s career web page, and no one notices.

So, what can you do about it? If you meet the requirements and it still looks tempting even with entry level pay, apply. But be prepared to ask probing questions about the role and the hiring manager’s vision if you’re called in for an interview. Establish the salary range on offer early on, as this will tell you if the role is genuinely entry-level. Proceed, but with caution.

#3 They assume that even entry-level professionals have transferrable experience and skills

Sometimes, companies demand experience for entry-level roles because it’s a traditional hiring practice (especially for long-established organizations). It may be a carryover from earlier times when the job market and industry expectations were different, or when degrees were seen as a much more serious differentiator from lesser-qualified junior applicants.

These days, it’s a general truism that many entry-level professionals have built up a variety of extracurricular work and skills development experiences before applying for their first full-time job.

This could be through volunteering, internships, traineeships, work experience programs, sports, hackathons, side hustles, gig work, part-time work, or even programs such as Junior Achievement or the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

Not to mention trainings and qualifications in addition to school or university studies, such as technical certifications, language programs, or online courses.

What can you do about it? Level up on paper. If you’ve gone through the above list and suddenly realize you’ve missed a ton of useful abilities and experiences on your entry-level resume, now’s the time to get it in black and white.

Once you begin building up professional work experience, these earlier experiences can take a back seat. In the meantime, you now have a fantastic set of skills and expertise to give you that ‘experience’ edge in the highly competitive entry-level job sphere.

#4 They’re confused about what they want, but they’re not confused about wanting to underpay you

In this scenario, once you’ve ascertained that this genuinely is a role for someone with experience, but they’re not willing to pay for that experience, AND there seems to be conflicting views on the role between HR, the hiring manager, and other internal stakeholders, there are simply too many red flags to even recommend this as a strategic job opportunity.

Because not only will you be underpaid, but you’ll quickly fall victim to the clashing expectations of everyone involved. You’ll then find yourself in the unenviable position of wanting to jump ship quickly, being forced out, or having this time end up as an awkward gap on your resume.

What can you do about it?

Simple: run.


As we’ve seen, the reasons why companies may advertise an experienced role as entry-level are fairly straightforward.

While this contradiction is unlikely to go away anytime soon, it’s useful to assess these types of opportunity before scrolling on. Just in case the situation can be spun to your longer-term advantage.

It’s also worth reconsidering how you, as an entry-level professional, can bolster that required experience on paper.

Whether through your previous internship or training program experience, part-time roles, or volunteering, there are many ways to showcase that expertise and get your foot in the door.

Whatever you choose to do – ignore or apply – we hope you’ll now be able to assess it from a more strategic and analytical perspective.

Key takeaways:

  • Paradoxically, there’s a growing trend for companies to demand experience for ‘entry level’ roles
  • Companies may seek experienced individuals for entry-level roles to underpay candidates, driven by a profit-centric mindset and the assumption of an employer-driven market
  • Some employers genuinely lack clarity in defining entry-level roles due to discrepancies among stakeholders, leading to honest confusion in job descriptions
  • Employers may assume entry-level workers possess transferable skills and experience, influenced by traditional hiring practices, which is reflected in the higher level of desired experience
  • While much of the time it’s best to keep on scrolling, sometimes a better course action is to strategically explore the role further, as it may in fact present a fast track up the career ladder

Related questions

How can entry-level candidates gain experience before applying for jobs?

Entry-level candidates can gain experience through internships, volunteer work, part-time jobs, and freelancing. Participating in relevant online courses, joining professional organizations, and attending industry conferences can also help. These activities build skills and enhance resumes, making candidates more attractive to employers seeking experienced entry-level hires.

Why do companies list experience requirements for entry-level positions?

Companies often list experience requirements for entry-level positions to ensure that candidates have basic, transferable skills that can reduce training time and costs. This practice can also be a result of miscommunication between hiring managers and HR or a carryover from traditional hiring practices that expect more from modern candidates.

What strategies can job seekers use to address experience gaps in their applications?

Job seekers can address experience gaps by highlighting transferable skills and relevant experiences from internships, volunteer work, and part-time jobs. Tailoring resumes to match job descriptions and using a functional resume format to emphasize skills over chronological work history can also help bridge experience gaps. Networking and seeking referrals can provide additional support.

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