MS Excel has been around for so long. It is even older than me, and I am no youngster anymore 🙂. But why it has remained the no. 1 spreadsheet application in the world for almost 4 decades? That’s a hard question to answer. Perhaps it benefits from the front-runner position, and perhaps people are simply so accustomed to it, and corporations have been using it for so long, that the change is almost impossible now. At the end of the day, at many universities all around the world, MS Excel is one of the courses, often an obligatory one. What other computer software can we tell the same about? Back to the job interview though.

It doesn’t matter whether you apply for a job of a receptionist, administrative assistant, or some IT guru. As long as computer work forms part of your job, the chances are extremely high that you will work with Microsoft Excel, or with one of its alternative, such as Calc from Open Office for example. And while you will get a training in most jobs, and they will show you how to do the work, the hiring managers still wonder about your skills with MS Excel, and will ask you to describe them in the interview. So what should you focus on? And what to say to actually get the job? Well, the three basic recommendations I have for you are the following:


Rule no. 1: Try to be as specific as possible when describing your skills with MS Excel

Saying that you have worked with Excel for a few years is not enough. Say for how many years you’ve worked with it, explain clearly what you have done with the software, what functionality you have used (for example mathematical and statistical functions, especially if they matter for the job), and even what version of the software you have worked with.

The main purpose of mentioning so many details is to give your answer some credibility. What I try to say here is that everyone can say that they “have skills with MS Excel”. But as you describe the details, and mention some numbers, the hiring managers are more likely to actually trust you, and they can also make a better picture of your actual skills with the software.


Rule no. 2: Always express your desire to learn new things with MS Excel

Doesn’t matter whether you’ve been working with Excel for ten years or ten days, you should always show a desire to learn more, to try new things. Remember that the software’s functionality is almost unlimited, considering you can program your own macros and stuff. What’s more, you should remember that each interview question is also a test of your attitude.

Corporations do not want to hire people who are complacent with the status quo, with what they already know. They are looking for employees who are always eager to learn and try new things, who always try to get better in their job, and actually enjoy the process. Saying that you still want to progress with Excel, while describing your software skills in an interview, gives a clear sign to the hiring managers that your attitude is right, and that you are a kind of an employee they always dreamed of having (or at least you pretend to be such :)).


Rule no. 3: If possible, describe how MS Excel helps you with particular tasks in the job

This one is the highest level, and only a few job applicants manage to do it right. Let me give you a few examples, to understand what I mean by this one. Let’s say you apply for a role of a hotel manager, and have done such a job (or a similar one) elsewhere before. In such a case, you can say that you kept a spreadsheet for each day, with details of every guest, your observations, and that it helped you to keep things organized and know what to expect and prepare for when similar type of guests arrived next time (for example in terms of food planning, events and activities this or that type of guests are interested in, etc).

Another example. You’re a financial analyst, or an aspiring one. You can describe how you used particular mathematical and statistical functions in MS Excel, how you created charts and time rows, and how it all helped you greatly to make right decisions and come up with amazing analyses. Obviously these are just two examples and it will be different for each job field, but I hope you got a point. As long as you manage to show the hiring managers how MS Excel helps you to be more productive in the job and to deliver the expected (or beyond expected) results, you will no doubt score 10/10 for your answer…


Sample answers to the question about your MS Excel skills

Following the three rules I have just outlined, you cannot do anything wrong in your interview. If you need more help though, or lack a bit of imagination, or are such a computer geek that your communication skills suffer as a consequence (since you do not really talk to anyone these days), you can check also 7 sample answers to the following question: Describe your experience using MS Excel. Thank you for reading, and best of luck in your interview!


May also interest you: Describe your experience using Microsoft Word.

Matthew Chulaw
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