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Friday, July 24, 2009

don't list basic computer skills on a resume

A reader writes:

Is it really necessary to list computer skills on a resume? Shouldn't basic skills be assumed at this point in history? I'm great with Microsoft Office and I know Macs and a couple of other miscellaneous programs, but I don't know Photoshop or Dreamweaver or HTML or anything specialized. And my most recent position is "Administrative Assistant," so isn't computer use implied in the title? Can I save that space for something a little more, I don't know, stand-outish?

Yes, yes, yes! I totally agree. There is no need to list basic computer skills, like Word, Excel, or Outlook, on a resume.

If you have specialized computer skills -- in a program that isn't being used by everyone in any office in the U.S. -- list those. Or if you're known for something really amazing in these basic programs, you could put that -- like "became office Excel guru and trouble-shot all complicated Excel functions." But otherwise, skip any mention of computer skills; there's no reason to use up valuable resume real estate with it.

Frankly, in my dream world, candidates would instead list the expected skills that they DON'T have -- like: "warning: I've never used a word processing program, and I don't know how to attach a file to an email, nor am I likely to pick it up easily."


majigail said...

I can agree with not listing them, but I've been amazed at the number of candidates that I've seen that don't have them. A year ago when I was hiring an administrative assistant, I had at least two people who made it to the interviews who told me they weren't good in Excel and didn't know Outlook or Access at all. Someon needs to tell those folks it's time to wake up and get some basic skills.

ExecSearchPro said...

I would have to agree with your comments on Word & Powerpoint- however, as an Executive Search Consultant for Accounting and Finance professionals, I have a different perspective to offer for Finance & Accounting professionals' resumes. Listing proficiency with Excel, Access, etc is very important as they may be key prerequisites for positions. Put your technical skills in a separate section on your resume listed in bullets. In addition, for accounting professionals, I would also recommend listing ERPs you have utilized even if rare. Keyword searches for positions requiring software will pick up your resume for that very specific search for someone with your software experience!

Henning Makholm said...

The six last words of this article are key. What really matters is not so much having used a particular program as having the right attitude for learning one.

Ordinary office applications are not very difficult to start using. They are written to be intuitive and explorable. A person who have continuing trouble using them has that trouble because of lack of hands-on experience but because something prevents them from hands-on experience into proficiency.

One person may have interacted with program X for years, but still masters only the most basic of its features, thinks the only way to discover new ways to use the program is to have somebody else explain a procedure step by step, and loathes getting tasks that might require this to happen. Is basically afraid of the computer.

Then another person has had very little hands-on experience with that particular program, but has a basic mental model of what happens inside the computer and is not afraid to explore the menu tree and experiment with the program to get a feel for its capabilities. Has an working understanding of what it is reasonable to expect this kind of program to do for her and is stubborn enough to (gah!) leaf through a manual if she cannot find an answer through pure experimenting.

Placed in a job that involves daily use of that program, the second person will run circles around the first one in a matter of weeks.

However, it's the first one who would be able to list program X as a skill on her resume.

Charles said...

I disagree. You should list any and all computer skills and list them specifically!

Here's why - many jobs today are found through an online database. Many (though certainly not all) recruiters run a scan of the database looking for certain keywords(i.e. Excel) If you know Excel or Word or whatever program and do NOT list it on your resume the scan will skip your resume; you just lost out!

Even if the recruiters are not scanning a database they could be doing a manual scan and be looking for certain programs or other keywords such as "good time-management" as a quick way to filter through the "yes," "no," and "maybe" resumes.

So, I agree with ExecSearchPro in that it is best to list these as a separate section using bullet points. I would also recommend that you list them alphabetically.

For the sake of a couple of lines of real estate if you do not list them you could be eliminating yourself from many job opportunities.

Ask a Manager said...

If that recruiter is searching for "Word," that recruiter is very strange, given that programs like Word and Outlook are as ubiquitous at this point as knowing how to use a phone or a copier!

I also wouldn't recommend including something like "good time management," as that's a subjective assessment and thus not worth much to the person screening resumes.

Henning Makholm said...

Another consideration is whether you'd want to work for an employer who considers "prior experience with Word" (rather than "not afraid to get acquainted with new programs because it's not rocket science") a basic qualification for the job.

If the employer is afraid of letting you learn something as simple and accessible as basic office automation on the job, what are the changes that your duties will include anything that actually challenges you?

Rebecca said...

If only all managers were as enlightened as AAM and the commenters here!...

In my last job search, I left Word, Excel, and Powerpoint off my resume. Then two interviewers in a row asked me "Are you a pretty fast learner? Because you'll need to learn Word, Excel, and Powerpoint to do this job." Explaining that I already knew the programs led to "Oh! Why didn't you put that on your resume?"

So I put them back on.

And then I probably didn't get interviews at other places because only an idiot would list basic computer skills on a resume.

You can't win in interviewing... all you can do is hope you accidentally fall into the right manhole.

Anonymous said...

If I had a nickel for every office assistant hired who could do simple things like make a spread sheet or send a fax... I would be very wealthy. I think if you know how to use the program then put it on there. How many mundane programs are there really? MS word excel powerpoint, maybe 2-3 others. If you don't know how to use them don't put it on there. If the job doesn't require computers, don't put it on there. Certainly when applying to be a home builder you don't need to be an expert at excel.

Anonymous said...

Just want to remind people that what you might think are "basic" computer skills that "everyone" has... aren't. If they were, we wouldn't have the phrase "the digital divide," and there wouldn't be charities and nonprofits dedicated to spreading internet access to everyone, or to figuring out how to get modern computers into schools, or to teaching kids enough computer skills in school, or to teaching computer skills to adults in less affluent places.

(Do people NEED these skills for office jobs - yes. I am NOT saying you should hire people who don't have needed skills, and I am NOT saying people shouldn't endeavor to learn these skills.)

Rachel - former HR blogger said...

I disagree. I've found when hiring Admins that if they don't have it listed (even basic skills) then they don't have it. I also know that our hiring managers look specifically to see if the items are listed.

Anonymous said...

It really doesn't matter if you DO list them because most employers know by now that candidates LIE. I just held 9 interviews, each and every one of them said they "knew Excel" and so I gave them a little "Excel TEST" and not a single one of them could sort a list a dates, rename a tab, alphabetize, copy paste from one workbook to another, print in "landscape", add a border around a specific group of cells, create a SUM fuction, etc etc. They all failed miserably.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't ever expect a potential employer to just assume I had skills.

Unknown said...

I have a heading on my resume titled Computer Skills, then sub-headings for Word, Access, Excel, and PowerPoint, listing specific things that I can do with them.

This is what I've got for Word.

MS Word: able to create templates; create and format complex tables; customise toolbars; work with advanced styles and AutoFormat features; use graphic effects such as dropped capital letters, ClipArt, WordArt, and draw in a document; work with very large documents that require a table of contents, footnotes, and endnotes; manage and track document changes using highlights and comments

(I'm in Australia, one page resumes are generally looked down upon as lacking in detail and information)