For CNA’s with limited nursing assistant experience, it can be frustrating when you are looking for a new job and it seems like every job posting “requires” more years of relevant work experience than you have. This dilemma is most commonly faced by newly certified CNA’s and nursing assistants that have been working in the industry with less than 2 years of related experience.
When you are first looking for a job as a recently certified CNA, it seems like just about every CNA job you are interested in “requires” a minimum of 3 years work experience. But how strict are companies on these work experience requirements? Do CNA’s really need as much relevant work experience as what is listed on the job posting?
In today’s economy, this is not a problem that only CNA’s face. It’s getting to a point where most job postings throughout all industries “require” multiple years of relevant work experience. But this problem is like the chicken or the egg question: which comes first? After all, when you are new to the industry, how do you get relevant work experience if all the entry-level jobs already require some relevant work experience?!
There is no hard cutoff on work experience required
Well we have good news for you so stop stressing! When companies post job openings and require a specific amount of work experience, they are not strict requirements that must absolutely be met. There is almost always some wiggle room on the requirement.
Think of it like this: when companies post available jobs they are looking to fill, the company is hoping to find the absolute ideal candidate. They really would like someone with X # years of experience and other qualifications. But guess what? Often times that CNA candidate does not exist because it’s tough to find a candidate that meets every one of the posted requirements.
And if that candidate does exist, they are usually looking for a position a step up and don’t want to settle for a lateral move to the same position they are already qualified for. They want the CNA position a level up too!
Do you require potential dates to meet all of your personal requirements?
Think of job posting requirements in the same way that people have “requirements” when they are dating. We don’t want it so sound shallow, but most people do have a mental list of “requirements” or traits they would like their future husband or wife to have. Some of these requirements are big things that could be a deal breaker like religion or whether or not they want kids. Or the “requirement” might be something more trivial like height and/or hair color.
Lets use the dating scenario of requirements for an example. You meet someone that meets (almost) every requirement you have for a potential date/partner. They are handsome, well-educated, nice and share the same values as you. However, they are about 4 or 5 inches shorter than someone you’d really like to end up with. Are you not going to date them? Well if you’re answer is yes then maybe we need to have a talk…
Most people are still willing to date someone they are really interested in but maybe doesn’t meet EVERY requirement. As long as the potential partner shares similar values and meets most other requirements, most people are willing to at least go on a few dates. If at that point you don’t click, then you can move on. But it usually isn’t just because of that 1 trivial requirement that it doesn’t work out.
Getting an interview is similar to the dating process. As long as you’re meeting just about every requirement on the job posting, they will be a little more lenient on whether or not you meet the number of years work experience work requirement.
So if getting an interview is like dating, getting the job would be like getting married. And guess what? People are happily married to partners that they didn’t think met all their “requirements” at first. In fact, most of the time they find out that some of the requirements they used to have were not all that important.
Our point is that once you get the interview, they are open to the idea of offering you the job. Don’t sell yourself short on all your other amazing qualifications just because you are a little short of the work experience requirement.
There’s no hard cutoff, but be realistic
When posting CNA jobs, most companies want to ensure that the candidates they interview fall within a range close enough to the window. There’s usually no hard cutoff. That said, you have to be realistic about the range for this window. If you just got your CNA certification, you’re not going to be able to get interviews for a supervisory CNA position that requires 5-7 years of experience.
However, if you were working part-time as a CNA while getting your certification, you have a very good chance of at least getting an interview for the job that “requires” 2 to 3 years of CNA experience. The job vacancy needs to be filled, so just because the perfect candidate doesn’t apply, it doesn’t mean they still don’t need to hire someone. So guess what happens? They hire the best qualified and best fit CNA candidate! They don’t just give up on finding a qualified nursing assistant that can perform the job at a high level because the perfect candidate doesn’t apply.
Turn your lack of experience into a positive
Have you ever had to train someone at a job where they had prior industry experience with a different company? Do they sometimes think they know the best way to do things? They aren’t always the easiest people to train and work with and this is why we think you can use your lack of experience (to a certain extent) to your advantage.
This might sound counter-intuitive, but you can actually use your lack of work experience as a CNA to your advantage. You don’t have to unlearn bad habits that another more experienced CNA has been performing at their previous job. They could already be set in their ways in how they perform their job duties incorrectly. You are a blank canvas and the medical staff can train you to complete tasks and work with their team exactly the way they want it performed.
As long as you have your CNA certification and show a willingness to learn, be a great teammate, have integrity, work hard and care for your patients, a lack of experience can be spun as a positive. Prove you are qualified because you have the fundamentals down from your CNA training and have the right character traits, and you will get interviews.
Companies use job requirements to help discourage people from mass applying
When you are looking for a CNA job, you’re going to apply to a lot of different open positions. However, there is a difference between just blindly applying to every CNA job available and actually looking to make sure you fit the right profile for the job.
When people mass apply for positions, they usually just make sure they meet the basic requirements and quickly submit their generic resume. If they see they don’t meet the job experience requirement right off the bat, they will quickly move on to another job application.
This is not an effective strategy. Maybe you don’t meet the number of years of work experience required, but if this is a job you’re really interested in, you can definitely tailor your resume to meet all the other requirements in the posting. If you tailor your resume to this particular job posting and really nail your cover letter, you greatly increase your odds of getting an interview.
Ask for an interview even if you don’t meet all the job posting requirements
If you apply for a CNA job where you don’t meet the experience required and they tell you that’s why you didn’t get an interview, ask if you can come in to meet with them anyway. Sometimes they will busy and won’t have time, but many times they will be willing to meet with you for 10 to 15 minutes.
Use this time to learn more about their company and if you’re a good fit. You should also use this time to softly sell them that when a job opening comes available where you do meet the requirements, they don’t need to look any further. They already know a candidate they are interested in.
Work experience is just 1 factor of your candidacy for nursing assistant positions
Just remember that job posting requirements are typically a profile of the ideal candidate, not the profile of who they typically end up hiring. When it comes to the number of years of prior work experience, you definitely need to be close to the range they are looking for, but feel free to apply if you are close to that range. Sorry we can’t give you a more definitive answer, but it’s not a black and white topic. There’s definitely some gray area on what applications they will accept without meeting the prior work experience requirements.
Most companies can’t always find the perfect/ideal candidate that meets all the job posting requirements. Prove through your resume and cover letter that although you don’t have the required prior experience as a CNA, you do have other work experience that directly/indirectly relates. Convince them you have the fundamental CNA skills required and that you have a passion to learn the job. If you can effectively do these two things, you will get interviews.