Discrimination or restriction? Five years experience actually required to apply for a job?

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008 - curriculum vitae, Job Application, Job Application Rejection, job hunting, resume, resume writing

Jenny asks: OK, call me a pessimist if you will but a manager position with 5 years experience doing X? I don’t understand – help me understand. I have a couple of friends that have been looking for positions and keep bouncing up against the “…at least 5 years experience….for manager (supervisor of others)…” Is this a way to keep cost down? Are they really looking to hire someone with 5 years experience? If you expect managerial excellence can that be obtained with 5 years experience? I am sorry for the repeat but I can’t get that number out of my head. Let me give it some context. A manager position, senior to project managers with anywhere from 1 to 15 years work experience; not only managing but accountable for results, “…develop and execute strategies, driving analysis and facilitation of well defined requirements as part of product development process, in support of strategic methodology. The Manager will also provide alignment and integration across multiple disciplines (Product Development, Merchants, Product Engineering, TRU Asia …) …” Seriously? 5 years experience? Does anyone else find this strange? Just from a salary perspective, I can see where a 5 year experience base would be preferable to a 15 to 20 year base but do they really expect to attain the results that the position description is requiring? Please, don’t get me wrong, I am NOT belittling anyone’s experience or experience level. I just think that expectations are unrealistic for the required experience level. In my very humble personal experience, I do not think that a 5 year experience base is ENOUGH experience to accomplish and excel at the above requirements of the position. I think it is a salary play. At 5 years experience, I sure thought I had enough and could excel but looking back, there was so much I had not experienced and did not know it could have been career crippling to have had that much responsibility at that early a time frame.

In answer:
I can hear your frustration and I tend to be sympathetic. But this “experience” criteria is being wiped away, particularly in the European Union and now in many other countries, by discriminatory legislation – ie: if you want that amount of experience, the employer has to justify why

Hence there is a slow but rapidly gathering pace by employers away from citing years of experience for positions (where you could get sued for discrimination), and a corresponding move to define the competencies and standards that are needed. The other driver behind this from Governments allowing the legislation through is the falling birth rate, so getting young people through the system quicker is a way of filling the people gaps.

There are certain skills and trades where either without X amount of experience you can not gain the necessary qualifications to undertake that skill; or the company would not get Health and Safety approval to undertake it. In the EU now, these are the only criteria under which sugest “years of experience” criteria can be used in selection.

Previously in the EU countries, and still in many parts of the world, employers asked for a certain number of years of experience as part of the qualifications for a job is designed to insure that an applicant has a certain level of experience that matches what the job requires. The problem is that most hiring managers and HR folks are not real adept at estimating this.

It is not their fault, however. Years of experience do NOT equal competency, no matter how you slice it. Some individuals will pack an immense amount of excellent experience into that five years and someone else will simply pick up a paycheck during the same period.

Here’s a thought: if you think you can do the job, and have the necessary and stated qualifications BUT NOT the required years of experience, apply anyway. What have you or your friends got to lose – at minimum you won’t get a job you don’t have, and at maximum you will get a job you could have been excluded from. Most likely, you will get a job offer as a trainee or direct report to the position, and an agreed training scheme to get the job you applied for.

Good Luck!

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