Jobs Requiring No Work Experience Jumped 18 Percent in Early 2021 Amid Labor Shortage

As corporations struggle to fill low-paying roles nationwide, job requirements are relaxing, like at the drug store franchise CVS, which announced last month that it would no longer mandate a minimum high school diploma for entry-level positions.

The company also plans stop requiring a 3.0 GPA when recruiting on college campuses, and the e-commerce giant Amazon will no longer drug test for marijuana, the Associated Press reported.

Roughly 940,000 job were added in June and July, lowering the unemployment rate to 5.4 percent. The figures for August to be released Friday are predicted to show about 750,000 jobs added and a 5.2 percent unemployment rate.

Fall hiring is on track to look just as good, according to economists, who report that pandemic-related factors made for 10.1 million job openings in June, up from 9.2 million in May at a rate of 6.5 percent, the highest numbers ever recorded by the Labor Department. Employees walking off the job increased to 3.9 million in June from 3.6 million in May.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

US Labor
Lost Dog Cafe is one of a growing number of companies that, in a desperation for hired hands, is loosening restrictions on everything from age to level of experience. Above, Sarah White (center), area manager of Lost Dog Cafe, trains manager Alex Aleman (left) in a new pasta preparation technique in Fairfax, Virginia, on August 27, 2021. Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo

Landing a waitressing job or bartending gig at the Lost Dog Cafe in Northern Virginia had never been easy.

"Help Wanted" signs were a rarity, and half the chain's staff stuck around for at least 10 years. The onset of the pandemic made job prospects even worse when Lost Dog had to temporarily shut down indoor dining.

But as vaccinated patrons rushed back to eat out and once-loyal workers moved onto new opportunities, the business began struggling in May to fill the roughly 20 percent in vacancies on its service staff.

To address the shortage, it did something it hadn't done before: look to people without experience. It also started recruiting workers under 18.

Lost Dog is one of a growing number of companies that, in a desperation for hired hands, is loosening restrictions on everything from age to level of experience.

The trend to relax the rules started about three years ago when the labor market started to tighten. It accelerated this past spring when employers were caught flat-footed as Americans enthusiastically emerged from months of pandemic lockdowns, eager to shop and dine again. At the same time, workers were reevaluating their jobs and whether the long hours were worth the paycheck.

Employers dangled incentives like higher hourly wages and extra bonuses but still had trouble filling openings. Data from various sources show that they are now more willing to let go of some restrictions that in the past have shut out certain populations from the workforce.

Job-hunting platform ZipRecruiter, which scrubs 16 million job postings of all types of work, says the percentage of jobs requiring a bachelor's degree fell from nearly 15 percent in 2016 to just over 11 percent in 2020. But that figure dropped even more drastically to 7 percent from January to June of this year. For the percentage of job listings requiring no experience, the figure went from roughly 9.2 percent in 2016 to 14.3 percent in 2020, and jumped again to 18.6 percent for the first six months of this year.

Experts say many of the restrictions were artificial barriers that perpetually kept out low-income workers, particularly people of color. Education requirements, for instance, tend to favor white workers over Black. Compared with 47.1 percent of white adults, just 30.8 percent of Black adults have earned some form of college degree, according to the Educational Trust, an educational nonprofit.

Delta Air Lines says 95 percent of its jobs in customer service no longer require a four-year college degree, up from 78 percent back in the first quarter of 2020. Ashley Black, director of equity strategies at Delta, said the move was not directly because of any labor shortages; rather, it was about finding the right talent for the job and the organization.

"Traditional hiring processes are highly subjective and can have multiple barriers that complicate access to economic opportunities for any potential talent," Black said. "Still, this disproportionally impacts people of color. Without being able to easily and credibly assess skills, implicit bias can shape the recruiting and hiring processes."

Sarah White, area manager for Lost Dog Cafe and a restaurant consultant, says the relaxed requirements have opened doors for job prospects who might have not been previously considered.

"We get locked in these ideas of what the job looks like," White said. "Now, we are getting people we wouldn't have hired before. And they have been some of the most amazing employees. It would have been our loss."

Karen Rosa, 32, started out as a server at the Lost Dog Cafe last September but then became a bartender without any experience. She says she can now pull in a steady $600 to $700 a week. She says her server's income was more volatile.

"They gave me a chance," she said. "They were very helpful."

But there are downsides, too. White says she's been so desperate at times she's had to hire some servers who have bad attitudes and have actually scared away customers.

"We don't have anyone to wait on them, but we are also losing them because they get service but it's from someone that I wouldn't want serving them," she said.

Daniel Schneider, professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, says that the difficulties of finding good workers like servers underscores "a lie" that this is not skilled labor.

"Not just anyone can step into these roles," he said. "These are skilled jobs, and they should be compensated accordingly."

Companies say they're making up for the lack of experience by doing a better job with training. Lost Dog now trains cooks on different types of menu items every day and also posts cocktail recipes on the back of the bar rail where customers can't see them. CVS just opened two new workforce innovation and talent centers in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, where it works with faith-based and community organizations to find, train and place workers in jobs such as pharmacy technicians and customer service workers.

No one can predict whether companies will go back to tightening requirements when they're flush with lots of job applicants again.

Brad Hershbein, senior economist and communications Advisor at W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, said employers may still offer leeway on academic credentials but desperate moves like hiring people with bad attitudes will go away.

"Employers may decide there are other ways of actually screening employees that are more effective than looking at key words on their resume or do they pass this education or experience requirement," Hershbein said.

We're Hiring
As corporations struggle to fill low-paying roles nationwide, job requirements are relaxing. Above, a group of young people walk past a "We're hiring!" sign posted at a store in New York City on August 20, 2021. Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images