By Rebecca koenig

U.S. News, October 15, 2018 —

Resist the temptation to apply to as many opportunities as possible when looking for your first job.

Entry-level jobs present one of the most vexing paradoxes of professional life: To get experience, you have to already have experience.

That’s what many young people discover as they search for their first jobs. But that shouldn’t deter them from applying to appropriate positions, says David Cortez, director of operations for Professional Diversity Network.

That required experience, he explains, “doesn’t necessarily have to be work experience.”

Here, Cortez and other experts demystify entry-level jobs and offer advice for how to get them.


Companies looking for entry-level employees care about whether workers have or seem capable of picking up relevant skills. (Getty Images)


What does entry-level mean?

Entry-level jobs are positions intended for people who don’t have much professional experience.

Some of these jobs are designed to simply meet immediate company needs and offer few opportunities for advancement. Others help young people launch careers, providing them with pathways to move up in the ranks.

“We pride ourselves on promoting a lot from within and providing a lot of resources for our entry-level employees to be successful,” says Teri Paridon, director of talent acquisition at Sherwin-Williams, which hires 1,500 entry-level workers a year and recruits recent graduates into its management training program. “Our goal is to create future leaders and managers in the organization.”

What entry-level jobs are in demand?

Companies in the hospitality, retail and sales industries typically hire lots of entry-level workers, Cortez says. That’s echoed in data provided by ZipRecruiter, an online employment marketplace, about the backgrounds employers seek most when hiring entry-level employees who have college degrees:

  • Sales and marketing
  • Consulting
  • Hospitality
  • Outside sales
  • Public relations

According to ZipRecruiter, small businesses are looking to hire lots of workers into the following entry-level jobs, which don’t necessarily require bachelor’s degrees:

  • Customer service representative
  • Receptionist
  • General laborer
  • Field service worker
  • Warehouse worker
  • Pest-control worker
  • Data-entry worker
  • Driver
  • Installer
  • Call-center worker

Many companies care less about their employees’ college majors than about whether workers have or seem capable of picking up relevant skills.

How can I find an entry-level job?

For people new to job hunting, it may not be obvious which jobs qualify as entry-level positions.

Some “employers want to make sure they don’t confuse candidates” and so will include the words “entry-level” in a job title or at the beginning of the description in a job advertisement, Cortez says.

Others use phrases such as “no experience required” in their job ads, says Julia Pollak, labor economist at ZipRecruiter. The website currently has advertisements for more than 1.75 million active jobs that use this phrase or a variation of it.

Some companies use words such as “trainee” or “development program” in entry-level job titles and ads, Paridon says, as is the case at Sherwin-Williams.

The number of years of experience mentioned in a job advertisement’s requirements section provides another clue about whether the position is entry-level. If no years are mentioned, it’s likely meant for beginners. But a job that asks for one or two years of experience could also be entry-level, too. Unless explicitly stated, job seekers shouldn’t interpret that to mean only professional experience. Instead, they may be qualified to apply if they learned relevant skills in school, doing volunteer work or during internships and part-time jobs.

“One of the key reasons they even list that is at the end of the day, they want to make sure the person that comes in is trained to some degree for that specific job,” Cortez explains.

What do employers look for in entry-level workers?

Some companies expect entry-level employees to arrive on the first day with specific technical skills, while others provide training programs to teach recruits how to fulfill most of their job responsibilities.

Recognizing that entry-level workers don’t have much experience, hiring managers at both kinds of companies are “looking for people who are able to adapt, grow, and learn on the spot efficiently,” Cortez says.

Many companies care less about their employees’ college majors than about whether workers have or seem capable of picking up relevant skills. At Sherwin-Williams, recruiters look for people with strong communication, collaboration and customer service skills, plus “the burn in the belly” to work hard, Paridon says.

How can I get hired for an entry-level job?

Although some companies, especially those that hire large numbers of entry-level workers, rely heavily on online job applications, there are several other strategies to pursue to land your first job.

One is participating in an internship or co-op program while still in school or soon after graduation to get on a company’s radar. For example, Sherwin-Williams internships are designed to “fill the pipeline of talent in our development programs,” Paridon says. Another is taking on and performing well in a seasonal job, which can lead to full-time opportunities.

Speaking with a recruiter during job fairs or college events can be useful for securing an entry-level job. Sherwin-Williams sends recruiters to 400 universities to search for “the next class of bright young talent,” Paridon says.

Professional Diversity Network, which annually hosts 25 career fairs across the country, has seen a 30 percent increase in job-seeker attendance at its events. Talking with representatives face to face “is a way to know your resume is getting in front of people who should see it,” Cortez says.

With unemployment looming, it may be tempting to apply as widely as possible, but ignore that impulse, Cortez advises. By focusing “on the jobs you feel are a good fit for you,” he says, you’re more likely to land the right position that will help establish your career.