Why does every single job posting ask for at least a year of experience?

I have basic skills as a frontend developer (HTML, CSS, JS). I’ve been coding for close to a year, I have a portfolio with projects but no experience.

Almost all job that I have applied ask for a least a year of real-world experience. And that's the problem. How do I get real experience when I can't get a job?

Any advice/encouragement for this newbie is welcome ❤️.

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DISCUSSION (16)

I've often wondered this same thing...

Frankly, the bulk of employers want folks who can do the work with as little effort from them as possible. A year (or more) of experience indicates that someone else took the risk on you, developed you a bit and now you're a safer bet. This approach is flawed in more ways than I can count, but it's the de facto approach to hiring "safely".

Having said that, and from personal experience: Forget how much experience they want you to have. Apply, demonstrate your ability in interviews or your portfolio, demonstrate proactivity in learning and you'll probably be just fine.

I'd also recommend that you adjust your focus. Maybe you're applying to small, local companies that seem super cool and have ads out for junior devs. But those companies aren't going to have the resources to support and develop you, thus it's not super likely that they'll hire you (it's a no win situation).

Graduate/entry level programs at larger companies are designed specifically for your case (solid foundation, but no experience) and the absence of a degree is becoming much less important these days. Getting into a graduate program at a big company without a degree is orders of magnitude easier than getting a junior role at a small company with no experience.

Do the graduate thing for one or two years, then boom! You're an experienced developer and anyone anywhere will give their right arm to have you on their team.

At the bottom of the barrel lay internships (especially unpaid ones). I've never been one to buy into the "prove yourself, then you get paid" mentality associated with internships (in some countries). But when push comes to shove, they're a great way to add a few lines to the "experience" section of your CV.

You're right Leighton, I've been looking for a specific job with specific companies when I can apply and get more options. I'll search with a bigger vision.

Hugs and husky love 🐶

Freelance (paid work) a couple of projects so that you would show potential suitors that your work is in great demand and you actually know how to ship an end-product that's functional and people willing to pay for it.

That's an awesome idea, I just need some help getting clients, any advice to get clients as a freelancer? Thanks, Abdelrahman

Hugs & Husky love! 🐶

You could try Upwork or Fiverr.

What I did was to pick a real business website I largely liked and did a mix of copying its various features and tweaking it to fit my own style aesthetic. That way I was learning as I went. The result is here. It helped me a lot with carousels and animation.

Why does every single job posting ask for at least a year of experience?

Job postings require specific experience levels for a number of reasons, but here is my direct take:

  1. Recruiting is very expensive, and even more expensive if a company gets it wrong.
  2. Because recruiting is expensive, recruiters, hiring managers (and now AI) set parameters so they don't waste time reviewing hundreds of underqualified (or overqualified) applicants.
  3. Experience is generally a good heuristic to determine someone's skill level, although it can be wrong (in both directions.)

Additionally, some things are simply learned through experience, technical or otherwise. Punctuality, adherence to process, teamwork, and clear communication would be examples of non-technical skills or qualities which are typically reinforced in a professional environment. It's not to say that you can't possess those qualities without any professional experience, but seeing evidence of past work history increases a hiring manager's confidence that they aren't hiring "the wrong person," which is very expensive, remember :)?

All that being said, even if a job posting "requires" 1+ year of experience, it's usually not a hard-and-fast rule. If you find an amazing opportunity and you meet all of the other requirements in the job posting, go for it. Spruce up the resume, write a thoughtful cover letter, and sell yourself. The worst thing that can happen is you don't get the job and you move on.

How do I get real experience when I can't get a job?

As others have mentioned, try freelancing, searching for internships, or volunteering your time.

Oh, and using "years of experience" can also help applicants get a better idea of the actual job requirements and qualifications. For example, a "Senior Engineer" job at the local mom & pop web development shop and a "Senior Engineer" at, say, Google would (probably) require very different skills and experience levels.

Thanks Jesse, as you said, it's not about applying to every single job, but those where I have the confidence and almost all the skills, hiring is investment, and as a lot of people say: You already have the "no" answer, so you don't lose anything by trying to get the yes.

Thanks and I think your answer is my favorite :)

Hugs & Husky love! 🐶

This is a big concern of mine and a problem I'm trying to address while I'm learning. (I'm only at the very beginning of my self-education process.) My strategy - no idea if it'll actually work - is I'm working towards creating at least five portfolio pieces that are all for real-world people/businesses/orgs. So that when it comes to applying, I can show: here is this site I made for a professional photographer, here is an app I made for a bird conservation group to use when they're doing field work, etc.

Also, because I'm living in a rural state in Mexico while I'm learning, I can't network via meetups, hackathons, etc. So, I am trying to create community online, a kind of network. So, hopefully, by the time I'm ready to start applying, enough people will know me/my work that they'd be happy to throw job leads my way.

I have no idea if any of this will actually work, but it's the best plan I've come up with so far....

I think you're on the right way Stacy. Btw, I'm from Mexico and I know it can be difficult to connect if you are not in Mexico City, Guadalajara or Monterrey, but the online community it's always close, and never stop learning it's the clue. Best of luck and thanks!

Hugs & Husky love 🐶

Yay! Someone who understands Mexican geography and the tech sector here!

I'm in a similar position in regards to lack of work experience, but I've been programming for many more years. What I've been doing is picking up volunteer positions that want some frontend work. So far it hasn't made a difference in application responses, but its worth a shot.

Doing volunteer it's important, it increases the value of the CV, I've been going to meetups to connect with more people of the dev community, it's helping but I need to get a strategy to get invitations instead of applications.

I hope you can find something perfect for you :) it's just about confidence, thanks for your advice!

Hugs & Husky love 🤗

At least what I'm doing is I took up a job in a location where I'm pretty much the only guy for the job, e.g. my hometown. You'll be getting that 'required' professional 'xp' time and you'll be at least making some cash in the meantime.

And do go beyond job postings and cold email people. Sometimes small companies/institutions are looking for your skills but have not posted anything. But be sure to charge a fair salary otherwise it'll be hard to be motivated.

Money's important, not as much as passion, but we must not rest importance of it. If we are in a job where we must worry about everything outside the office, something's wrong.

Thanks, Bernardo, your advice made me though about a lot of things.

Hugs & Husky love 🐶

From the point of view of someone who's lead or sat in on a lot of interviews - and who doesn't have any training in that area - I have a couple of observations.

If you set someone who is straight off a university course a task to do, they'll often attempt it in an overly-engineered manner. You'll ask for FizzBuzz1 and they'll try to give you FizzBuzzEnterprizeEdition over the next hour. Someone who has a year or more of real-world experience will throw a dozen lines of code on a board and talk to you about how they'd improve it if they had a good enough business reason.

Of course it's not really fair. There's often only a limited budget for recruitment because it takes up the time of HR, a developer (or more than one) a technical or team lead, etc. Each person brought into the office is another person-day of work which could be used for something with a visible result - the kind of thing management prefers.

Ideally, everyone who fits the actual requirements of the job should be brought in and evaluated on their own merits. The years of experience thing is done to put people off applying more than anything else.

If you see a job advertised that says it requires a year of experience and you have none, apply anyway. If it says it needs two years, apply if you have any, even if it's not from a commercial environment. Any more than that and, yeah, they probably mean it2.


  1. I've never asked anyone for FizzBuzz. 

  2. Or they're the sort of idiots who ask for 5 years of the framework that got released a month ago. 

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Brenda Zam
I'm Brenda! A frontend developer. 👩🏻‍💻 I'm From Mexico 🇲🇽 working at Code Party. ❤️videogames ❤️writing ❤️code ❤️mexican food ❤️huskies

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