Imagine for a second that you’re at the job interview and the person judging whether you’re a fit for their company asks how much excel you know. uh oh, you think, as you’re palms get sweaty and your throat dries up. Let’s see, how much excel do I actually know? What was the name of that function I used in college for my final project?? How much excel do they me to know??? Did I lock my car????
Whether you just blank out in the middle of an interview or you oversell your skills (I’ve been guilty of the latter) being in this situation sucks. For most people, knowing excel is half the battle; but how the heck do you prove to interviewers that you know enough excel to blow their socks off?
It’s especially difficult these days since everyone and their goldfish puts excel on their resume as a skill; how do you stand out from the crowd?
Here’s what you’ll will learn:
- Just writing “Excel” under skills is severely underselling you; instead list what functions and features you know.
- Two things you can do on your resume that will immediately put you ahead of other candidates.
- If you can send a message to a professional associate, you can boost your chances of proving to hiring managers that you are an excel rockstar.
- Is part of your job so manual it’s yawn-inducing? Learn how I used that cringe worthy work to get upper management to notice me.
I’ve interviewed many candidates for jobs that require these skills and I almost always ask them to list out a set of functions that they’re familiar with and have used to solve practical problems in their previous jobs. Many times, my question is met with a blank stare because people tend to oversell their Excel skills.
First you need to be honest; if all you’ve ever done is data entry, please stop putting excel as a skill on your resume! That’s more pretentious than this guy thinking his car could suddenly transform into a submarine:
Hiring managers are usually looking for candidates who not only can explain how much they know but also explain how they have leveraged their skills to solve problems for their employer.
Instead of simply putting Excel as a skill on your resume like everyone else I suggest that you make it its own section and list out the different functions and features you’re familiar with.
“Excel does not represent one skill on your CV, it represents a huge category of skills. In the age of keyword search hiring, you need to understand that simply writing ‘Excel’ or ‘Advanced Excel‘ will seriously undersell you to prospective employers. Use actual Excel functions in your Resume!
Pivot Table, VLOOKUP, Macros, VBA, Conditional Formatting, Charting and filtering…These are far more telling of your ability to an employer then writing Excel. Someone who writes VLOOKUP, Pivot Table, Filtering demonstrates an ability to analyse data and so has eliminated a potential barrier in the mind of the hiring manager reviewing the CV. “
-Chandoo, leading Excel expert (check out his blog here)
If you really want to separate yourself from other candidates, you can write a quick note describing an example of how you’ve used your excel skills; 2 – 3 sentences should do.
Why go through all this trouble?
It gives interviewers something to ask during the interview and, as a result, it will provide you with the opportunity to really showcase your problem solving and analytical skills.
You want to have at least two detailed examples of how you’ve used specific functions or features (ie. conditional formatting, IF Statements, Pivot tables) in excel to accomplish a task, finish a project, or streamline a workflow. The more specific you get, the more impressed with you the interviewer will be.
When you’re at the interview, making it more about how Excel complements the skills you already have (ie. teamwork, problem solving, etc.) can really amplify the impression you’ll leave.
Become good at explaining exactly how you used your skills, what obstacles you overcame and how you leverage the software to overcome those challenges. If you just focus on this you’ll already be way ahead of other candidates.
…But wait, there’s more…
Linkedin Skill Endorsements
Linkedin has become the only social network that matters in the professional world. If you don’t know how to leverage Linkedin the best way possible; you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities.
HR managers and corporate recruiters search Linkedin for specific skills when they are looking to fill a position; makes sense that they would. Well, what some people don’t realize is that the skills you’ve been endorsed for in your Linkedin profile affect your profile’s search ranking for those skills.
Realize that potential hiring managers are keeping an eye out for these skill endorsements. The more people that endorse you for your excel skills, the better your chances are of impressing upon a hiring manager of your excel wizardry. It’s something that is very difficult to ignore from their standpoint because not only do you claim to have the skills they’re looking for but there is obvious social proof.
How do you get more endorsements? Well, Scott Tousley of Portfolium was able to increase his endorsements by more than 10X with just 15 minutes of effort by using this simple messaging script:
What skills do you want to be endorsed for? I’m going around endorsing people for what skills they want highlighted. It helps you with the job search, believe it or not, as HR reps look for these skill sets on Linkedin. So figure it makes sense for everyone to help each other. 🙂
If you get a sec, could you in turn endorse my profile for ONLY these 5 skills:
-[insert skill #1]
-[insert skill #2]
-[insert skill #3]
-[insert skill #4]
-[insert skill #5]
Trying to boost these babies to the top. Let me know what you need to be endorsed for.
[insert your name]
www.linkedin.com/in/[insert your url]
Make sure to check out Scott’s blog post here for more details about this strategy.
Another useful tip for Linkedin users is to ask your connections for recommendations. The great thing about these recommendations is that they also show up on your Linkedin page. It adds credibility to you and the skills you are promoting and sticks out to Hiring managers because a lot of people don’t use this to their advantage. Leverage this feature as a way to let your connections do the talking for you.
Here are what recommendations look like when people view your profile:
When you ask for recommendations, don’t just ask for it and wait for a response. Typically people are going to receive your message with a “what’s in it for me” mentality (don’t blame them; it’s just human nature to think this way). Make sure you offer to write them a recommendation in return for one.
Now that you have the job, how do you continue to leverage excel to advance your career?
If you’re feeling stuck, under-appreciated, and underutilized at your current job then you’re not alone. I felt that way at one of my previous jobs and I wasn’t sure what to do or how to get noticed, but I eventually figured it out.
It started by my own mini-obsession with streamlining my ridiculously manual work; downloading bank activity, cross checking credit card deposits with credit card charges from our accounting system, the kind of mind numbing, error-prone, afternoon yawn-inducing manual work that makes you want to run into a glass wall just thinking about it:
— WTHR.com (@WTHRcom) June 3, 2016
I figured I could create an excel template to help me matchup credit card deposits from one table and the charges from another table using a few SUMIFS. So I created the template, weeded out all the “bugs”, and streamlined that task. I then realized I could do the same with other tasks, and so I did. In a short period of time I had several templates that I used for various tasks. When I noticed my colleagues could benefit from my templates I either began sharing them with people or I would teach them how to make their own templates.
What happened next was unexpected. I thought people would show off my spreadsheets and not mention me to others, or maybe take my credit. It turns out people were talking about my templates and I began getting noticed. The reason wasn’t necessarily because my sheets were innovative or advanced, it was because I provided people with immense value, they appreciated it and reciprocated by telling each other to come to me whenever they were stuck.
The key point here is to provide your employer with value, which is ultimately what you’re compensated for. I stopped focusing on myself and how I could get noticed and began focusing more on how I could become immensely valuable; and my niche became excel.
Ultimately, every situation and every company is different. You need to be creative about how you’re going to leverage your skills. Once you figure out your niche, don’t stop looking for ways to problem solve. From there, ask for extra projects or look for opportunities to show how valuable you’ve become. Approach it in a way that makes your manager or colleagues feel like you’re doing them a favor; after all, you are.
It’s important to remember that knowing excel alone will not help you progress in your career. Lets face it, companies don’t conduct their annual performance reviews based on how many excel functions you know (one can dream though :D).
It’s not how much Excel you know, it’s about how you can best leverage this skill to make your employer’s life easier. Ask yourself:
- What repetitive tasks can I streamline?
- How can I make my manager’s life easier? What is most important to him/her?
- How can I make my life easier?
he answers to these questions are different for everyone. For me, I realized that if I could help my CFO use our data to drive strategic decisions then I can become more valuable to my employer and, in turn, I would be compensated for the value I provided.
As optimistic (and possibly oversimplified) as that seems, there’s a group of you that read the last paragraph and thought “my boss is cheap, hates my guts, is crazy, eats puppies for breakfast, and for these reasons would NEVER give me a raise.”
Well, that may be true (or exaggerated), but either way you can leverage your accomplishments to negotiate a higher salary with your next employer who would likely appreciate you more and will practice a less scary morning diet.
Stop procrastinating and start learning excel right now. Its never been easier in today’s information era; there are tons of resources out there for you to take advantage of. You can start right now by downloading my free ebook Master Excel, Surpass your Coworkers, and Impress Your Boss.