What’s more important for job hunters? Skills, or experience & credentials?

What’s more important for job hunters? Skills, or experience & credentials?

One of the biggest Catch 22’s of securing that big break is the good old “I can’t get a job without experience and I can’t get experience without a job” gem. And look, I’m not going to deny this absolutely poses a degree of difficulty. But if it were watertight true, surely no one new would ever get a job anywhere ever, right? So the first thing to take out of this is that it is possible. Someone else has done it before, in fact, plenty of people have, which means you can too.

If other people can get a job without experience, so can you

The same thing goes with ‘credentials’. Depending on what industry you’re trying to crack, these can carry varying degrees of importance. But if I can impress one thing on you, whether it be about experience or credentials, it’s this:

Employers don’t actually care about either of them. They say they do, but they don’t. They put it in their ads that it’s important, but it’s not. What is important is that they have some way of establishing you are capable of doing the job. Experience is one way. Credentials are another. But they are not the only two ways to prove what you are capable of.

There are many ways to prove what you’re capable of

I know people who have totally self-taught skills courtesy of non-accredited online training. Those people read blogs and forums, watch YouTube videos, do all sorts of things to up-skill, and are absolutely awesome at their jobs.

Don’t get me wrong, if you’re applying for a job as a heart surgeon, telling people you’ve watched a YouTube video on how to perform a triple heart bypass is unlikely to land you the job. But if you’re trying to prove you can design a website, then designing a kick arse website (even if it’s for a make believe client) is pretty compelling evidence. Same goes with plenty of other jobs. Write heaps of amazing copy. Write a marketing plan. Code something. Design something. Shoot something. Edit something. The list goes on. (Oh yeah, making your own application something out of the ordinary – where appropriate – is not a bad place to start either!)

Bosses don’t really care about credentials, they just need some proof

If someone tells you that you don’t have the necessary experience or qualifications, see if there’s another way you can convince them that you are more than capable of doing the job. (Assuming you are!) Oh, and actually doing the job for a short time, whether it’s a few days or a few weeks at no charge, isn’t a bad way to prove it by the way. And sometimes, despite the fact you’ll feel crappy about working for nothing, it’s still cheaper than paying for that credential they wanted you to have in the first place.

Some credentials have a very short ‘Use By’ date

If you need some icing on the “don’t worry about credentials” cake, don’t be afraid to remind a potential employer that credentials are quite often out of date by the time they’re earned as well.

I recently asked an industry contact of mine what the best digital training was. He was previously in charge of quite a high profile digital course and he just laughed. He told me things move so fast that by the time he outlined the course content, developed it and taught it, it was consistently out of date. This doesn’t apply equally to everything, but it does apply to a lot of things.

Credentials are like insurance. Nice to have. But not always necessary

Look, I can’t comment on each and every person’s individual circumstances. Different jobs, different companies, different bosses all have different requirements… But that doesn’t mean you can’t work around them.

‘Experience’ and ‘Credentials’ are like an insurance policy for any potential recruiter. It helps them with two important things:

– It gives them a clue of what you’re capable of.
– And it protects their arse if they hire you and you end up being crap at your job.

So in that respect, they are important. But like any good marketing campaign, your job is to be persuasive, resourceful, relevant, and convincing. Regardless of where you have or haven’t worked and what piece of paper you may or may not have.

More reading:

Job seekers: How do you stand out from the crowd?
How to learn your way into a new job
Be the Michael Jordan of job hunters

If you’re interested in up-skilling yourself with free, online Digital courses, check out Aquent Gymnasium,designed specifically by our partner Aquent to bridge the digital skills gap.


Award-winning Australian recruitment agency, Firebrand Talent, ignites the careers of digital, marketing, creative, communications, advertising, & media talent. If you are looking for your next career move, check out the jobs we currently have on in Sydney & Melbourne.

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