What are the minimal computer skills needed for employability in any field?
June 22, 2004 8:33 AM   Subscribe

For anyone who works in HR, does interviews, hires people, etc. What computer skills do you require applicants to have in order to get a job? I'm talking any job. What do you consider base level skills in order to be employed?

I'm burning out on doing support, people.
posted by pieoverdone to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
We expect word processing, e-mail, and web browsing/searching experience as a baseline. Most of our applicants have this plus experience in powerpoint and simple data entry, and maybe a page layout application and/or photo manipulation software. (I work at an educational institution, we just train everybody on whatever else they need to know.)
posted by whatnot at 9:14 AM on June 22, 2004

We're working on basic-level skills for library staff to have, though I don't do hiring, I've been working on a list.

- We expect staff to know how to turn a computer on and off, start a program from the desktop or start menu, use Find to find a file.
- Turn on a browser and locate a web page from a Favorite or by typing the address into the address bar. Use Google or Yahoo to find a web page they don't have bookmarked.
- Use Word to type a document: save, print, edit, re-open, basic formatting, selecting text, cut/paste/repaste
- Open a document by clicking on it from the desktop or by using the File Open command and using the open dialog box, know how to use the file manager
- Reboot a frozen computer [ctrl-alt-del] and do basic troubleshooting along the lines of "My monitor went dark" "Oh, did you turn it off by accident?"
- Computer vocabulary: knowing how to differentiate the Internet from a browser from a web page. Knowing what the different mouse buttons do, know how to scroll, click OK on a dialog box, open and close a window, etc.

Keep in mind that our staff are library workers who need to at least know the basics of computers in order to help patrons using public access computers and not totally look like dorks. We've been working on the bare minimum of things that it's unacceptable to say "I don't know" to when patrons ask for help.
posted by jessamyn at 9:59 AM on June 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

We're in the hiring process at the small law firm where I work and applicants have to at the very least know how to use Word, have a very good understanding of Windows directory structure, have good web search skills, and know how to use email. And the last three things jessamyn listed as well, because the position being vacated is mine and right now, I'm the only one in the office who knows how to do all of those things.
posted by jennyb at 11:16 AM on June 22, 2004

If you are looking for what computer skills to list on your resume, the more the better, I think. As long as it does not turn into a novel, of course. If you have experience in tech support, this can be a good thing to highlight, except that you run the risk of becoming the "computer guy" in the office and be expected to help very stupid people with stupid computer-related problems. This can be a real pain in the proverbial, but also makes you more valuable to the company if you are the only one that can keep things running.

As a minimum, you should be familiar with the MS Office suite and list the applications separately (most people don't know what exactly MS Office is). If you are familiar with a large number of apps, it may be good to list them under different categories or provide some differentiation as to your skill level with each one. If you have skills (even basic ones) with apps that most people know about but don't use, like Photoshop, these can be good to include, even if your skills are limited. Employers looking for staff in a non-tech capacity are still impresed by applicants who have a wide range of computer skills, even if they are not required for the job.

Most importantly, tailor your skill set to the job you are applying for - if the ad mentions that computer skills are required, put as many as you can, even if your skill level is limited (you can say that your experience in the app is limited and most people will not see it, they will just see that you can use it). Find out as much about the company as you can before sending your resume and try to match yourself to the company as much as possible. Being perceived as a "good fit" within the company is more important than particular skills, in many cases. This applies right through your resume - look at the company's web site and any other advertising you can, then try to make yourself look like "one of them".
posted by dg at 4:17 PM on June 22, 2004

It's not that dg, but that's a good guide for a jobseeker.

My issue is that computers have been normal in offices and schools for at least 15 years. I've been in internal support for 4 now and it does not cease to bother me how technically illiterate some people can be. I'm not talking funny tech support stories of dealing with the public. I'm talking about things that actually demonstrate incompetency at one's job. Are employers looking for certain skills and checking proficiency at that before hiring? What are their expectations?

There's a difference in support between an actual 'This doesn't work' type question as opposed to 'I don't know how to do my job'.

I'm a cranky little dandelion today. Sorry.
posted by pieoverdone at 7:00 PM on June 22, 2004

I'm talking about things that actually demonstrate incompetency at one's job. Are employers looking for certain skills and checking proficiency at that before hiring? What are their expectations?

Lots of people exaggerate (to put it kindly) when they list what software they know, and know how to use, so it's kind of expected that people know less than they say they do (speaking as the in-department-go-to-for-help-guy).
posted by amberglow at 7:52 PM on June 22, 2004

Yeah, when someone's resume says they know how to use Word, they often mean that they can open the program, type something and then save a file. It doesn't mean they know how to find that file again at a later date or how to do advanced things like create a table or insert a graphic into a document. My boss claims to know how to use Excel, but has no idea about even basic formulae and uses a calculator to do simple things like add up a column of figures. Don't get me started on how few people can actually write a business letter ...
(speaking as the in-company-go-to-for-help-guy for the second job in a row)
posted by dg at 10:59 PM on June 22, 2004

dg and amberglow are right. Most companies don't test computer skills, especially for exempt-level jobs or jobs that require a college education. We just all kind-of assume that if you made it this far you must have enough Office skills to get by. OH how wrong we often are.
posted by pomegranate at 7:14 AM on June 23, 2004

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