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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

How to Overcome the Experience Requirement

Published January 27, 2013 6:31 PM by Glen McDaniel

New graduates especially are familiar with the frustration of looking at an ad for a dream job only to see the dreaded "experience required."   In frustration, they argue, "How can I get experience if no one will give me a job, a chance to gain some experience?"

But such frustration is not confined to new graduates. A colleague who has been in healthcare for several years, holding many positions at various levels of management told me about a job posting she saw recently. The job description sounded perfect, it was from a well-respected company and would also be a short commute from her home.

The only drawback is that they required "experience working for an accountable care organization."  According to my friend, accountable care organizations (ACO) have not even been around that long and there are not too many of them in existence.

Employers ask for experience for 3 basic reasons

-They want to make sure the employee knows at least the rudiments of the job

-They want to make sure the employee has a record of success elsewhere. This employer does not want to be the guinea pig allowing the employee to find their way while they stumble and make mistakes

-Employers do not want to expend the resources (time, money, energy, human resources) to train the employee from scratch

Here are some suggestions on getting around the "experience required" rule

Volunteer.  If you cannot find a job, volunteer for a nonpaid job. This is especially true for new grads. Very often a volunteer position can get converted into a full time position once the volunteer has proven their work ethic, team spirit and ability to fit in.

If you want to move up through the ranks or even make a move outside of the main laboratory, volunteering for committees, PI teams and the like does get your name out there. Helping with a project teaches valuable project management skills while you learn new subject matter.  The big plus is that experience gaine from volunteering can help to davance your career in your current organization, but it also gives you the opportunity to fulfill the experience requirement for a job at another organization.

Broaden the definition of experience.  This is one that works well for job seekers who have prior work experience but may be seeking a position in a new line of work. Take my friend mentioned above. She has worked for an HMO and was very focused on monitoring physicians' observance of care maps and treatment guidelines.

In her mind she had not seen an HMO as an ACO in its broadest definition as "a healthcare organization characterized by a payment and care delivery model that seeks to tie provider reimbursements to quality metrics and reductions in the total cost of care for an assigned population of patients." This was precisely the focus of her previous job.

A job listing "experience in infection control" might not be targeted by most microbiologists. But who is more eminently qualified to be an expert on infection control? Who says an infcetion control practitioner must be a nurse-often with far less academic and practical experience  with "bugs."

Get the interview.  The goal of applying for a job is getting an interview. While you do not want to be dishonest, you have to realize that often a job listing is a description of the ideal candidate. Even if you do not meet the requirements, 100 percent, do everything you can to land the interview. Then use the interview as an opportunity to sell your skills in terms favorable to the employer.

Many of the skills you possess are transferable and may be suitable for the advertised job. Rather than emphasizing how extraordinary and unique you are as a human being, concentrate on showing the employer how you can add value to their organization by doing the job well.

If you can make a good case the employer will not be focused on whether you are the ideal candidate or not. Once they are convinced you can get the job done, you will find they are much less rigid about the formal experience they previously thought was essential.

So the next time you see your dream job, but hesitate to apply because of that "experience required" barrier, take a second look and think: is there some way you could gain some experience, or  do you have the skills required even if you have not had that job title?


I am from the Phillipines. When I first came to the States I could not find a job. I  went for interview after interview and they used the excuse  that I needed  a US experience although I got my US papers even before I left home.

I volunteered to work in a clinic signing patients in and explaining the whole procedure of what to expect.  I would walk patients from the lab waiting room to Xray or where they had to go. I would give out specimen cups and so on. I would also help the phlebotomist with kids and difficult sticks. Of course I was not allowed to perform any tests. But as they got used to me, I would even help out in the main like matching up slides with requistions to be read and answer the phone.

Then they finally hired me as a part time phlebotomist. By that time I got to know all the techs and the doctors and even some patients.

They got busy and created a new position and hired me as a tech. By that time it was almost a year already and so I knew everybody and got along well with all he doctors and many of the nurses and regular patients.

I also learned a lot about the paper work about physician orders, billing and so on. I would read the procedures a lot. Sow hen they hired me I wa smore than ready for the job. So what you say anout volunteering is very very true. If I did not vollunteer I would definitley get this job or have one of the best experiences of my life.

Melinda Cordoza January 28, 2013 7:00 PM
Washington DC

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