Category Archives: MS Office Skills Checklists

What on earth are strong Microsoft Office skills?

Is “strong Microsoft Office Skills” too vague for your comfort? Then decide for yourself what that means to you and let employers know exactly what you can do for them tomorrow morning if they hire you. There may be a reason for the vagueness of what the employer is asking for, but you can rest assured the vagueness isn’t for your benefit!

Take care of your own interests by setting out a clear list of things you can do with Microsoft Word, Excel and the other great and useful programs that let you accomplish more work of a higher quality in less time. That tells them in a very understandable way how you will add value far in excess of the salary they will pay you.

4 Easy Steps to a clear story employers understand and believe:

  1. Do your homework: Research the specific programs that are needed to do the job you would like to have. Talk to someone who actually works there!
  2. Honestly compare your current skill level for each relevant Microsoft Office application to what employers need. The many skills checklists on the Free Resources page are intended for exactly that purpose.
  3. Upgrade your skills as needed by self-study and taking courses.
  4. Assemble completed checklists along with supporting evidence as needed.

You’ll find MS Office Skills Checklists here.

For more detailed explanations, check out my Slideshare presentation, then have a look at  some earlier posts that I’ve listed below.

I welcome any questions and suggestions for additional related materials.

“Credential Yourself” on Microsoft Office Skills

credential yourself

Can You Credential Yourself?

Responsibility for credibly communicating your competence in advanced Microsoft Word Skills is entirely in your hands.

Fortunately, even if you can’t point to a fistful of recently-completed certificates, you can quickly create effective documentation of those essential skills and credential yourself.

If you follow the steps I will lay out for you, you will never need to worry that you will be over looked for promotion or have your job application tossed out simply because you learned barely enough skills to get by in fulfilling your current responsibilities.

And you can do that without spending a single dime!

Can you really “Credential Yourself”?

You could just create a nice colorful certificate but that would have about as much credibility as a “World’s Greatest Dad” t-shirt! But you can prepare something at least as effective and more relevant and current within groupings of skills that are generally considered to be basic, intermediate, or advanced skills in Microsoft Word.

You can start with the Advanced Microsoft Word Checklist that I have provided in the free resources section. Then once you have satisfied yourself that you can perform all of the listed tasks, you need to decide how you will substantiate that claim as needed when you are challenged in a job interview. Continue reading

5 Reasons Microsoft Office Skills Need Proof

Proving Microsoft Word or Excel Skills to an employer even before they call can boost your credibility.

Prove your skills with a checklist

Prove your skills with a checklist

Most job postings specify Advanced Microsoft Office Skills, but not every interviewer confirms those skills for every applicant by asking a specific question.  But there are situations where they will need to know that you really have those skills or are just gambling that they won’t ask or will accept an evasive or vague answer.

When your Microsoft Office Skills need proof, nothing less will substitute.

Begin by clarifying in your own mind exactly what is included in an advanced level of skills and then make sure you can actually perform them!

Here are 5 situations when vague, unsupported responses to job interview questions just won’t do and your Microsoft Office Skills need proof.

1. Your MS Office skills are better than your work history suggests

If you have lots of relevant experience in positions requiring Microsoft Office skills, the interviewer may not ask you about them.

On the other hand, if very basic skills are likely all that’s needed in your current position and the employer needs advanced proficiency, they will be more skeptical and require evidence. and that just might mean they don’t invite you for an interview.  Continue reading

Communicate Your Microsoft Excel Skills Clearly and Succinctly

In the middle of a job interview, you sense that things are going smoothly. Everyone is smiling, lots of encouraging nods, and most of your initial nervousness has faded. Then a question that you hoped they wouldn’t ask rears up in front of you.

Microsoft Excel Skills

Microsoft Excel Skills

Some job interview questions are designed to throw you, questions that you can’t specifically prepare to answer. For those questions, you can learn and practice how to respond when they show up. Find a list of such questions and practice responding.

“How strong are your Microsoft Excel skills?” is not one of those questions, but it’s not very specific. And when you answer it vaguely it is obvious to you that it is obvious to the interviewer. And there is no excuse not to have a very specific answer to that question. Continue reading

Job seekers must fully address employer concerns

Sanjit P., a banker from India, Paul M. a newly unemployed tool and die machinist, and Andrea S., a former accounting clerk, may not appear to have much in common. But all three are frustrated job seekers looking for employment in Southern Ontario and all face difficulties in the job market for what is essentially the same reason. Too often, prospective employer concerns about hiring them are significant barriers that never are addressed.

Address Employer Concerns

As I have mentioned in a previous post, all these worthy job applicants see is a total lack of response.

Morning after discouraging morning, they send cover letters and resumes to posted employment opportunities.

Evening after discouraging evening they wonder what they need to do differently.

In each of these (fictitious) stories of typical job seekers, one significant piece of information stands out to an employer like a red flashing light and sends the application to the trash.

Know the Precise Employer Concern

Sanjit worked as a banker for 15 years but it is hard to tell from his application exactly what his responsibilities might have been and he is applying for a much more junior position than a banker with an MBA and 15 years of Canadian experience would consider. The employer concerns are that he will not accept the work environment and more junior duties that go with entry-level employment opportunities and that he will need significant training to get up to speed in the job. He will not be able to “hit the ground running”. Continue reading

Document your Advanced Microsoft Word Skills

I frequently see resumes from job applicants claiming Advanced Microsoft Word skills. When such a high level of proficiency seems highly improbably given their previous work experience and education, I am very skeptical. When I have doubts and the answer is important to me, I ask questions. I want to know what specific things you can do on the job tomorrow.

Document Your Advanced Word Skills

Advanced Word Skills – Really?

Many job postings ask for advanced skills beyond what is essential, but that doesn’t really matter. When you are asked in a job interview some sort of vague question about your Microsoft Office skills, you still need to nail it convincingly.

That is the reason I created the checklists that are now available in the MS Office Skills Checklists section. By making sure that you know exactly what advanced skills are, you can avoid an awkward conversation that doesn’t answer the question. You don’t want either error. You don’t want to be embarrassed when you learn that you actually don’t have any advanced skills. Pretending you have skills that you don’t makes for an entertaining movie, but I think the thrill of the experience falls short of that in real life. Continue reading

What Credentials on Microsoft Word Skills can you offer?

What evidence of your Microsoft Word skills could you offer in response to job interview questions?

“Pretty good, I guess” isn’t very precise, but without advance preparation, a mumbled vague response is the best you have.

You don’t even know exactly what advanced skill levels are for this particular interviewer and you don’t want to reveal your ignorance by asking. You don’t know exactly what they need you to be able to do. Very often, the interviewer doesn’t really know either! So they wait to see what you say and write that down and go on to the next question.

You are justifiably proud of your accomplishments and references and university degree. But wouldn’t it be beneficial to state very precisely what things you can do with Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint  Access, Publisher and Outlook?

What if you could say “I have all the Intermediate skills for Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook and basic skills for Access and Publisher. I have already sent you a PDF file that lists my Microsoft Office software skills in detail, along with a series of documents and projects that together are my “credential”. Continue reading

Job interview questions on Microsoft Office skills

Job interview questions on Microsoft Office skills

Job interview questions on Microsoft Office skills

As I reviewed a resume recently with a young person in preparation for anticipated job interview questions, I encountered the following item in the qualifications section.

  • Advanced skills in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access

Given her limited work history, I knew prospective employers would doubt that her Microsoft Office skills were at the advanced level she claimed. I asked if she could prove advanced skills. Could she demonstrate those skills if requested during a job interview? Not only did she not have a way to prove that she had Advanced Microsoft Word skills, but she could not name one such skill. She was not prepared to handle what were highly predictable job interview questions in her line of work. Notice that I didn’t say she didn’t actually have advanced skills, but that she wasn’t ready to support her claims.

Exactly What Are Advanced Microsoft Word Skills Anyway?

Do you know what skills a prospective employer would expect if you claimed on your resume to have Advanced Microsoft Word Skills? How would you answer job interview questions about your proficiency in Microsoft Word? Could you prepare a table of contents, footnotes and endnotes for a document with 20 chapters and 200 pages? How about “managing and tracking document changes, using highlights and comments”? I’m not asking whether you could run to the library on the way home and grab a book on Word skills. I mean if at the end of a job interview, they stuck you in a room with a computer, could you demonstrate those skills right now? What about Microsoft Word 2010?

Most Intermediate Microsoft Word skills, such as creating and formatting complex tables, would be a stretch for many of us unless they had been previously required in our employment. It’s not a question of whether you could easily get up to speed on these skills if you turned out to need them after you were hired. Most of us could do that. But what if many of the jobs you are looking for all say that they want Advanced Microsoft Office proficiency but you don’t yet have them?

Show Your Microsoft Word Skills with 5 Simple Strategies

  • Use research tools, including information interviews with current company contacts to identify exactly what the employer does require for the position you are seeking.
  • Come prepared to the job interview with checklists that honestly reflect your current skill levels with Microsoft Office suite. Include that one page in your portfolio. Some organizations ask for advanced Microsoft Office suite skills for every job posting, but it’s not likely they actually need them. If possible,
  • Revise your resume to honestly describe your current skills, such as Intermediate Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel and Beginner Microsoft PowerPoint and Access. That should seem more credible than a claim of advanced skills across the entire Microsoft Office Suite. Unless your previous employment required very sophisticated skills or you have extensive training, that simply is not credible. You definitely can’t expect them to take your word for it.
  • Upgrade your skills regularly: Over time, keep adding to your skills as part of your job interview preparation. You don’t need to wait until a prospective employer gives you a reason to add the skill. Free training, including videos on YouTube and books at your local library, is widely available,! When you can demonstrate another skill, upgrade your skills list.
  • Create a demonstration document that you could bring with you to the job interview or even email in advance. For example, find a simple text version of a classic novel or other public domain document. Reformat the document, demonstrating the full range of Intermediate and Advanced Skills in Microsoft Word 2010. Create a new PDF file with an index to examples in the document of each of the skills you are claiming. Bring that PDF file with you on an inexpensive USB drive that you can leave behind at the end of the interview!

Prepare for Job Interview Questions on Microsoft Office Skills

Job seekers need to arrive at the job interview prepared to respond appropriately for all predictable questions. To do that, reassure a prospective employer that you have the up-to-date Microsoft Office skills, especially if those qualifications wouldn’t be indicated by previous work experience. The checklists in the MS Office Skills Checklists section of this site can help you to credibly communicate.

Does all this sound like a lot of work? I’m not suggesting that it isn’t, but it may set you apart from the competition. Don’t just claim your qualifications. Use the checklists to prove them!

Do you have other suggestions? Please let me know!

Check out this Slideshare presentation on how these checklists can benefit you!