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I'm struggling with the correct way to use barrier to entry in the following sentence:

Technical interviews are an ever present barrier to entry in the software industry

or

Technical interviews are an ever present barrier to entry into the software industry

Does using 'in' versus 'into' dramatically change the meaning of the sentence and is one more correct in this context?

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  • How could a technical interview be a barrier to entry into an industry?
    – Xanne
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 10:41
  • @Xanne technical interviews are a barrier to entry for individuals who want to get employed in the industry. The sentence is taken out of context. Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 21:02
  • Your question uses industry, not employment.
    – Xanne
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 2:11

2 Answers 2

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One can use enter and a complement with no preposition between them—like enter the industry or enter retirement—or with the preposition into. But using in as the preposition tends to sound unacceptable.

It has to do with the fact that enter in this sense conveys a change of state (often with regard to location), as does the preposition into. By contrast, in is typically used in contexts involving stasis.

This distinction can be fuzzy though. As an example, it’s perfectly idiomatic to say Please enter your name in our guest book. But here the entering does not involve changing one’s own position; rather, it’s creating an entry, a small bit of written text. And we create things in or at locations, not into them.

And as to your specific context, one could sidestep the matter by rewording slightly:

Technical interviews are an ever present barrier to entering the software industry.

I’d note that barrier to entry is a common expression, but one needn’t always maintain such collocations 100% inviolate.

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If you are trying to talk about employment in the software industry, don't use barrier to entry at all. Barrier to entry would be used to refer to a company, established or newly formed, breaking in to the software industry. And software has historically had rather low levels of barriers to entry, compared to, say, the automotive business, nuclear energy, or building large bridges.

Barriers to entry is an economics and business term describing factors that can prevent or impede newcomers into a market or industry sector, and so limit competition. These can include high start-up costs, regulatory hurdles, or other obstacles that prevent new competitors from easily entering a business sector. Barriers to entry benefit existing firms because they protect their market share and ability to generate revenues and profits.
https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/barrierstoentry.asp

The key point is that barriers to entry is used in the context of restricted competition in the marketplace. It has nothing to do with employment.


When I Googled just "Barrier to entry", none of the first 100 returns had to do with anything other than the classical use I referenced above. However, I also tried "Barrier to entry""employment""job", and found plenty of examples, including this one from the South Carolina jobs site titled Opportunities for Jobs with Low Barriers to Entry in Greenville County, which goes on to define barriers to entry in the context of employment.

Low-Barrier Jobs Jobs with low barriers are defined as those not requiring higher levels of skills, training, or education. Specifically, for this analysis, low-barrier jobs are those rated as requiring “low” or “moderate” levels of reading comprehension, writing, speaking, and math, and rated as requiring short- or moderate term on-the-job training. These skill and training ratings come from U.S. Department of Labor data for typical skill and education requirements for jobs at the national level.
https://dc.statelibrary.sc.gov/bitstream/handle/10827/30323/DOC_Opportunities_Jobs_Greenville_County_2008-08.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

So it exists, but construing basic job qualification requirements as barriers to entry is the worst type of political incorrectness.

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  • I appreciate this perspective. What should be used instead of barrier to entry when talking about technical interviews that gatekeep employment in the software industry? Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 21:08
  • I guess I'd describe them as hurdles, unless I was dead set on creating a pejorative impression of their function.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 22:32

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