Sure, I know the operating systems...which means what, exactly?
July 23, 2013 5:59 AM   Subscribe

I'm currently filling out a profile on for web development jobs and am being asked to indicate which skills I possess. Some of the choices include MacOSX and Windows. I've also seen people list these on resumes(used to work in HR) in the same section where they list proficiency in MS Word, or even in a separate section for operating systems, for pretty much every kind of job, not just tech-related.

I have MacOSX and Windows listed on my own resume and am definitely more of a 'power user' than average so I'm comfortable having them on there, but I really have no idea what it is supposed to indicate.

To a lot of people I've spoken to who aren't looking for tech jobs it seems to mean that they have a Mac and/or PC and are able to operate it.

Is it similar to MS Office where people put it on the resume mostly to make sure they don't get screened out by software(or humans) who have to check all the boxes, even though pretty much everyone in my age group(~30) is familiar with it? Or is having operating systems listed as skills supposed to mean that your skills are more advanced?
posted by fromageball to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Is it similar to MS Office where people put it on the resume mostly to make sure they don't get screened out by software(or humans) who have to check all the boxes, even though pretty much everyone in my age group(~30) is familiar with it?

posted by valkyryn at 6:00 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yeah, it's to check off boxes for resume screeners.

If you have specific skills that pertain to one OS, for example, extensive experience with Terminal in OS X and its UNIX-flavored command-line structure, then that would be something else to put on the resume.
posted by dfriedman at 6:23 AM on July 23, 2013

It means that you can sit down at the respective computer and be able to do everyday functions without any training.
posted by octothorpe at 6:49 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

When applying for government jobs (at least in Canada) it's important to include everything. For example, even if you have a Masters degree or two PhDs on your résumé, the software will assume you haven't completed high school if you haven't included that as well. By the same token, if you don't indicate that you are able to use Mac OS or windows it will be assumed you don't know how to use a computer. It's a drag.
posted by wabbittwax at 7:02 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

It means that you can sit down at the respective computer and be able to do everyday functions without any training.

Basically this. If you know how to use MS Word but could not locate it on a Mac because you use PCs, don't check the Mac box and vice versa. If you know enough to change the display font size, mess around in system preferences, locate a missing file, customize your system colors and connect to a network, you probably know enough to list both of those. Once you get into different flavors of Linux people might presume you have technical skills above and beyond being a sophisticated end user but with Mac/Windows as long as you can generalize from your experiences with them and feel comfortable with them you are fine. The situation they want to avoid is that you say you can use MS Word and they send you to an all Mac office (or send you a file type that they think you'd need a Mac/PC to be able to open) and you freeze. Sounds like you are fine.
posted by jessamyn at 7:21 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

(note: this is a little off topic to your specific question and a bit long, but I hope it makes sense)

In my experience on Elance (and I have quite a bit), how you craft your profile is less important than how you craft your bids. I am still an active member and rely on the site for a portion of my income. FWIW, I currently have something like a half dozen jobs in progress right now in various stages of completion and almost 350 complete jobs over the past few years with very high ratings pretty much across the board. (yes, a few jobs went south over the years....that is par for the course)

Your profile should be viewed as just a something that is a small portion of your bidding efforts. Relying on the details of your resume is a small fraction of the reason people are successful on Elance. Personally, I have a pretty much blank profile, yet have managed to stay in the game over the past few years. Those jobs, while not in the same area that you seek to work in, still have a technical bent, so one would think that some crazy listing of skills would be an advantage. Yet, I list almost nothing and still get jobs. The key? I write my bids carefully and use that opportunity to show off my technical understanding of a job. This as opposed to hoping a buyer will actually read my resume and be able to decipher the tech talk.

As far as relying on buyers finding your, know that the Elance search system is seriously flawed in that their corporate rhetoric implies that buyers will choose the best person for the job based on a particular skill via some obtuse matching algorithm that Elance refuses to reveal. So while people will tout crazy resume lists of skills, there is no real proof that it helps to the degree that one would think it would. Certainly, if someone searches for MS Word Mail Merge, they will get those results. However, they will also get every Tom, Dick and Harriet who lists “Outlook Email” or “I can draw Merge signs like on the highway” as the Elance provider search is simply not sophisticated enough to drill down on the true meaning of the search. While more than a simple keyword search, it still is just a bit too clumsy to really to deliver quality results. The bottom line is that those freelancers who show up on searches are more likely to be better at placing themselves in search results than being qualified to do a particular task. So the signal/noise ratio is pathetic as the buyer ends up wading through all sorts of RFPs that have are not applicable to the job.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of buyers are not knowledgeable enough to understand the difference – they do not know what they want on a specific technical level. They know they have a problem they need solved and maybe have an idea of how to do it, but they would not be on Elance if they knew the specific solution (of course there are some very technical buyers, but the majority are not).

Of course, your profile needs to reflect you and what you choose to add into it needs to mesh with the way you conduct yourself. So whatever you do, stick with what you know and can speak to as opposed to just putting in details because it may appear that it will show up in searches.

I could go on for days about Elance and I know this reply is a bit of a ramble to your question(s), but there is so much more to working the Elance system than just your profile. If any of what I noted needs clarification, just say so.

One last thing: Whatever you do though, stay away from the Water Cooler, the Elance site forum. That place is one of most dysfunctional message boards I have ever encountered and it is infested with disgruntled writers and others who think 24/7 complaining is a substitute for a reasoned approach to freelancing. What more, just about all the people on the WC will have no idea what you do for a living, so any advice is pretty much worthless (there are a couple techies, but they are few and far between). Or, if you are so inclined (and you want to see a forum train wreck in progress), go to that site just to watch the almost completely ineffectual moderation and user participation. It is the polar opposite of the moderation efforts of the MeFi staff and user contributions here.
posted by lampshade at 7:59 AM on July 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

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