Entry Level Position — 3+ Years Experience

The application process is broken. The place it’s broken most is for entry level positions. After the startup I just started working at failed, I was painfully reminded of this fact.

I have found jobs using Jobr, Monster, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Jobvite, AngelList, Switch, and so many other services, I can hardly keep up. It isn’t job discovery that’s broken, although I have my gripes with that; the application process is fundamentally flawed.

Can I count my side projects as 3+ years of experience?

I just graduated college, so after having secured a job, looking for another one this soon is quite a disappointment. I could lament about it all day, but instead, I decided to roll up my proverbial sleeves (I’m wearing a t-shirt, so it would be foolish to actually roll them up), and get started. The first thing I noticed was that a lot of the positions asked for a portfolio. That was going to be a pain; I have some fun apps I’ve designed just for fun, but I hadn’t ever put them into a comprehensive portfolio. Furthermore, as an aspiring UX Designer, most of the work I did happened before the high fidelity mockup. “These guys should be hiring me for how I think, not draw boxes”, I was thinking.

Will they realize I poured over IBISWorld and Hoovers studying the industry for 2 days before deciding on how existing solutions worked? Are they aware that I will have looked into user problems in roundabout ways, since they aren’t just aggregated into a single site for me to peruse? Do they know I wrote out a map of the steps to get to the result and rewrote it 10 times to create the shortest path to user success?


No. They don’t even want to see the sketches, wireframes, and low fidelity mockups. Just show them you can make an end product.

Okay. I can deal with that. I can make a portfolio. I think there are a few other things they can look at, but I’m not the seasoned recruiter; I’m the recent unemployed grad.

Got it. Portfolio. Check.

Then I started to notice that all the job descriptions were different. Come on, Marlon! You’re just complaining about everything. Hear me out. I expect the descriptions to be different, but they varied so drastically, that I am no longer sure what a UX Designer actually does. Some required HTML, CSS, some JavaScript knowledge would be nice. I can understand that. Most of them mentioned the ability to create wireframes and mockups. One even said “ux jargon knowledge”, which I think I have a bit of.

PHP. MySQL. Strong backend development knowledge. node.js. Cybernetic widget manufacturing. Exorcism (2 yrs+).

I double checked the title. There are UX Developer positions, so maybe I just mistook it for saying Designer. No. I was expected to know these things. This wasn’t all of the jobs; in fact, if I’m being fair, it wasn’t even most of the jobs, but it was enough to make me hesitate on whether or not I was qualified for this field. So now I’m screening positions by the skills, which is a bit more work, but applying for jobs isn’t meant to be a cakewalk.

Then the bomb dropped. Every entry level position I looked at required 3+ years of experience; now, the first few times, I figured it was some sort of mistake, but when it began to show up on nearly 60% of the job descriptions, I started to get a little worried. Can I count my side projects as 3+ years of experience?

Make It Stop!

Something needs to be fixed. As an aspiring UX Designer, I’m always looking outward at user problems and forcing myself to be unbiased. This time, I was the user with a problem. So how was I going to fix it?

Step One: Research the Industry

Recruiters are looking for a sharp resume with no typos that concisely and effectively communicates the skill of the applicant — at a glance. They see so many applicants a day that they need something quick that lets them sort the good from the bad.

Oftentimes, an employer doesn’t know the exact skills they need to fill a position; they only know that they need to improve the visual impact of their product and get users to user it more.

I could go more in depth, but for now I’ll focus mainly on these two pain points.

Step Two: Identify User-Solution Dissonance

I’m not the first person to think of a solution to this problem; what is out there and why isn’t it working?

Applicants are making beautiful (not visually stunning, rather concise and effective) resumes, but recruiters aren’t making it that far.

People are applying to positions that do not match their skill set.

Too many people are applying and it’s hard to filter out the bad.

Step Three: Brainstorm Solutions

“…but recruiters aren’t making it that far”

What did I see in my application process that made me think this? I uploaded my resume and I was then asked to fill out a lengthy form containing most of the things my resume contained. It’s redundant to do both, so maybe it’s time to kill the resume and blend it all into a single solution for employers to read.

“…do not match their skill set”

Rather than employers listing every skill they can think to cram onto a job description, let’s have employers list all the skills they’re looking for in a position and applicants list every skill they have. The job fit percentage or score will help employers to quickly identify if they have a match applying and the applicant can quickly determine if a position is ideal for them.

“…it’s hard to filter out the bad.”

This is the toughest. Talent acquisition officers know how to do their jobs well, so this one would require more primary research. I’d want to interview some hiring managers about how exactly they go through the selection process.

Still, sometimes it helps to form a hypothesis and let your research either confirm your hunch or prove you wrong, so I’ll take a stab at it.

Since each employer is looking for something different, the filtering process can’t just be a blanket solution. The skills matching idea goes a long way to alleviating the filtering process; culture fit is something that is usually assessed in person and a GitHub or Dribbble really helps to verify skill level. Culture fit can possibly be prescreened by building a social media analysis tool for recruiters to use, although I’m certain they already exist. Okay, let’s not just rank the applicants against the ideal candidate, but against one another and create a holistic match score. Employers can add additional criteria to help filter out people that don’t match (like 3+ years experience), and we’ll ask for this information from applicants well before the application stage to ensure filtering occurs intelligently.

Step Four: Sketch Out the Solution

In the UX process, this is the first time I would even consider drawing pretty pictures, and that’s if you think lines on paper can be considered pretty. In fact, I would sketch something rough, and then start researching again to find how existing solutions tackle the problem visually.

I sketch first to make sure I don’t box my designs into the thinking that other solutions use. Obviously they aren’t the perfect solution if I believe I can address the problem more effectively, so they’re more of a launch pad to see if I am missing out on obvious components of the solution they have already thought out.

That’s my UX process in a nutshell and how I might consider fixing the application process. There’s a lot more I want to share, but I also want people to read this, rather than see that it’s too long and skip over it. I also have a lot of jobs to apply for and I don’t have the luxury of building a custom application solution to my problems at the moment.

Thanks for reading and, as always, if you have an idea for an App A Day post or just want to chat, I’m available at m@rlons.com. Liked the article? Make it official and hit the 💚 below.

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