Microsoft Office suite is still the most widely used set of desktop applications across all industries. and candidates will often list Microsoft Office skills on their resume. However, as a hiring manager, this doesn’t tell you much, especially since there are so many different versions of MS Office that include different programs.
Because a hiring manager’s and candidate’s idea of “proficiency” in any given software system can be two very different things, it’s important to be able to select candidates with strong Microsoft Office skills effectively and test if a candidate really has the skills listed in their resume. It’s also important to you and your human resources department to have a documented process for the skills selection in place.
Essential Skills for a Microsoft Office Specialist
Before developing an assessment process for a Microsoft Office Specialist, you must first decide what level of proficiency you expect from this position.
- Basic Skills: Entry-level skills include the ability to open, create, save and modify documents in Word, send and receive email in Outlook and create spreadsheets in Excel. For any of these programs, candidates should know how to format the documents for printing, be comfortable with using the printer menu to preview documents before they are printed and print the pages. Word is the most-used program in MS Office, so knowledge on how to change the font, the margins, insert or delete pages and use spell check and grammar check should be part of a basic skill set.
- Intermediate Skills: Many common tasks go beyond basic MS Office skills, such as using Mail Merge in Word to personalize business letters for an entire mailing list or creating presentations and other graphics-heavy documents with slideshows in PowerPoint. At this level, employees should know how to create formulas in Excel to calculate desired results such as sales commissions or taxes, and some companies use Excel instead of Access to create lists of customers or other information. Intermediate skills for Outlook include knowing how to create address books and set up internal office email groups.
- Advanced Skills: Knowing how to use Access and Publisher can be considered advanced or specialty knowledge. An employee’s ability to handle these programs, along with the capability to import and export information in all MS Office applications, is a bonus for any employer. Creating databases in Access is more complex than entering a simple list in Excel. The advanced skill set also includes using Excel for custom financial forms, using graphics and tracking changes between shared documents in Word and customizing presentations in PowerPoint.
How to Assess Your MS Office Job Candidate
The three primary steps to look for when you’re evaluating a candidate’s proficiency in MS Office are:
- Experience. Has the candidate simply listed experience with MS Office, or have they broken down experience levels with each program (i.e. 7 years experience with Microsoft Excel, 10 years of experience with PowerPoint)? Ideally, a candidate will indicate level of experience with specific Microsoft programs and refer to how they’ve used each, for example: Pivot tables and programming macros in Excel, set up mail merge templates in Word, or design presentations with PowerPoint.
- Courses and Certifications. Is the candidate certified in any MS Office programs? There are many companies that offer certifications in these programs, from a basic certification in Word to advanced certification in database management with Access.
- Skills Testing. Testing your candidates on these programs is key to learning more and isolating their specific skill set with Microsoft Office. The most accurate way to do this is through testing modalities like eSkill Microsoft Office simulations. If a test closely approximates the work expected, candidates will learn about the job (and, simultaneously, you will learn about their skills). Using simulations is the best way to ensure your expectations for the position are clear while determining the skill level of each candidate.
When assessing potential candidates for a Microsoft Office Specialist position, having a standard testing process is key to making your screening process consistent and fair. Some candidates may state they have a high level of expertise with a Microsoft Office product simply because they have used it for years, however if your expectations are for advanced work in a program, documenting the results of your testing process is important for setting those expectations for a new employee.
For example, it is possible for someone to use Microsoft Excel on a regular basis and for them to consider their skill set advanced, but if they aren’t able to set up a spreadsheet, program formulas and macros, and create robust reports with pivot tables, they will under perform. It’s important to discover this information during candidate screening and not after you’ve on-boarded your new employee.
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