Blogging with B.G. – Are Job Seekers Proficient in Excel?


 “There are two sides to every story” is a very old proverb.  Let me introduce you to a new proverb.” There are three sides to every story in the job seeking and hiring process—the job seeker side, employer side, and the truth”.  The truth in this blog is about the “Mastery of Proficiency”.  How do you measure proficiency?

I often have employers’ looking for administrative assistants who are proficient in Excel with 2-3 years’ experience and some level of analytical thinking and can do the Excel basics like: charting, formula creation, know the language and linking cells.

Job seekers who appear to meet the minimum qualifications based on their resume are invited to our weekly prescreening.  This is where two sides: the job seeker side and the truth meet up!

My purpose during the prescreening process is what I thought was pretty simple.  Find as good a person as possible, one that is skillful, adequate and friendly and can ultimately compliment the company by performing proficiently in Excel.

However more often than not I hear “Yes, I am proficient in Microsoft Excel”.  This term is casually tossed around by job seekers looking to cater to the skill requirements of employers.  When asked, “How proficient are you?”  I typically hear crickets.  However, what does this really mean?  Proficiency is described as a mastery of a skill with a tool.

So here’s a word up on what needs to be mastered in order to claim proficiency status using Excel:

 Know the Language

In order to be proficient in Microsoft Excel, the first core element needed to be proficient in the knowledge of the language.  Every industry or occupation has its own mumbo jumbo, jargon or believe it or not slang.  Many people lose this skill over time due to inactivity and not working consistently.  The old adage holds true “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

 Sort and Filter

This feature is one of the most basic but powerful features in Excel.  A user of Microsoft Excel cannot be proficient unless mastery of this basic tool is acquired.  It is the ability to filter and sort a table. Regardless of the job function or occupation this tool will be needed at one point or another to organize data.

 Link Cells

Linking is the process of connecting one cell to the display contents of another cell.  The knowledge and execution of that task will lead to increased productivity, accuracy and minimized redundancy.  Linking cells is arguably one of the most commonly used features in Microsoft Excel.


Excel has over 70 chart types, not counting the combinations that can be made.  The ability to craft a simple chart is a skill that must be possessed by all users.  In addition the ability to select the proper chart for the message and data is essential.

Formula Creation

One of the main components of Microsoft Excel is the ability to create formulas and utilize functions.

Distribution Options

Every user of Microsoft Excel should know how to distribute a Microsoft Excel document.


Every user of Excel needs to have some level of analytical skill.  The ability to think critically will allow the users to apply the tools in Excel in new, dynamic and exciting ways to solve pressing business problems.

These basic tools are the building blocks to more advanced tools, techniques and applications.  Without these core elements true mastery in Microsoft Excel cannot be attained.  So the next time I prescreen job seekers with “proficiency” in Excel on their resume, a brief look at the above mentioned items will help determine true mastery, proficiency and will if they are worth of an interview.  The third side, the employer side, is still to come.