Should you apply if the job is asking for 3-5 years of experience?

By Relebohile Sera


Coupled with the dilemma of unemployment is the fact that most job openings require a certain amount of previous work experience from prospective candidates.

With the motivation to try every new opportunity, job-seekers are lured to apply for openings where they clearly lack experience.

“I am a recent Computer Science graduate. Most jobs I come across are asking for 3-5 years of experience. Should I still apply to them?” The question and the answers that follow were originally posted on Quora. They hold a viewpoint from an experienced employee and from the HR.


The Experienced Employee

Welcome to the club! I want to apologies in advance for being cruel, but here goes:

This nonsense has been going on for over 40 years. When I was initially in the business, it was 2 years’ experience.

You are approaching this the wrong way. You need an in that gets by the usual HR crap!

Work with your friends, other grads, and professors. (You haven’t PO’d any of them, have you? If so, that closes out some options.)

Research the top five companies that you want to work at. Then research the departments and divisions. Keep a basic file on them. Work to get contacts within the division(s) that you want to work.

Also select five small companies that might need your skills. Do the same thing.

Adding to this, employers want the sun, the moon, and the stars in a new hire. Sadly, they seem to want to pay pennies for dollars of value in getting this. (Sound familiar?) — I want a rocket scientist! Are you one? Well, I launched a model rocket as a kid! Fine, you’re hired (because, you’re the first person that has actually done anything with a real rocket that I have met)!

So, that’s a bit of a start. Print up a stack of business cards & resumes. Skip the jargon. The HR folks are jargon driven. The hiring managers? Performance & skill driven.

Now for the soft stuff and some encouragement. Just remember:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.


The HR

The “usual HR crap” that you mentioned is actually not “crap”. When I write a job postings requirements, I do so in order to let the job seeker know that if he or she is fresh out of school then there’s a good chance that he/she will be competing with job seekers who have actual job experience and are most likely better prepared for the role.

And crazy as it may sound, if the job ad says that the job requires a certain level of experience, then guess what – it actually does. It’s so amusing to me how people so often think they know what the company needs for the open job more than the company does.

If a job seeker doesn’t have the skills or experience that will be needed for him to be a success in the job then it’s just possible that it’s not the right fit for him. I don’t spend my time writing job descriptions because it’s a fun way to pass the time. I do the “HR crap” because we’ve seen job seekers who don’t have enough experience come in and struggle and end up not staying.

I write job descriptions and hire people so they are set up for success. Just because you don’t have the skills or experience needed for the job doesn’t make the job description wrong.


Both these answers feel right to me, but I don’t know for sure. What’s your take? What’s your experience with applying to jobs where you didn’t have hands on experience?