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How a Microsoft Office Test Can Help You Choose a Clerical Worker


Clerical and administrative workers rely on Microsoft Office for their day-to-day tasks. That’s true for typical workday tasks on all levels and across different sectors, including the public (government) and private sectors.

It’s a tool that many employees are familiar with, but it’s not always easy to assess how proficient they really are with the advanced features of each program. A Microsoft Office test is, therefore, a useful tool when it comes to choosing clerical admin workers that can jump into their work role and be self-sustaining with their tasks.

Read on to learn more about:

Turnover in Administrative Positions

Employee turnover is one of the biggest concerns employers face. Losing employees is costly not only because of the loss of organizational productivity but also because of the costs of hiring new team members.  It’s an even tougher road in the public sector. Research shows that public sector employees are less engaged with their work than those in the private sector. Only 38 percent of employees working in the public sector report to be engaged by their work. This high turnover rate can be best solved during the selection process itself. Hiring employees that are confident in their abilities will help you improve retention.

The Rise of Remote Work

In the past two years, many administrative workers have started working from home.  However, the trend will continue even after the social distancing measures are lifted. There are many advantages to remote work for both employees and employers, including lower costs for employers and more freedom and flexibility for the employees.

As many as 65 percent of all workers say that they want to continue working remotely after the pandemic. This implies that the employee needs to be more self-reliable because there are no coworkers at the side to guide them on the job. A Microsoft Office test is a good way to screen for common technology skills that will be needed for their remote work.

Why is it Essential to Have Qualified Administrative Workers?

The importance of administrative work is often overlooked or underappreciated. However, it’s a mistake to do so, because administrative workers are the cornerstone of any organization. Their skills and dedicated work supports the entire organization, allowing them to provide service to customers (or constituents, for the public sector), as their needs require.

For example, collecting and recording taxes are essential tasks for public sector workers. The effective functioning of government depends on precise and dedicated clerical work, which in turn relies on Microsoft Office, as well as many other tools. Hiring employees that can use these tools confidently and self-reliably is an obvious key concern.

Which Microsoft Word Skills to Test for?

A potential employee needs to have a specific set of Microsoft Word skills that would allow them to work in a clerical environment without constant supervision. These skills provide the ability to prepare a word document for publication or presentation. This means that they need to format a document with the needs of their collaborators in mind. It’s an especially important skill in remote teams where work needs to be streamlined and communicated from one department to another, effortlessly.

A basic Microsoft Word assessment will also show if the applicant can design and format text so that it’s ready to be presented to the end-user. In an office environment, this entails preparing letterheads, news heads, or having a document ready to be used as web content. With the same collaborative goal in mind, a potential candidate should demonstrate their ability to save or properly store Word documents in a cloud-based or network-based platform.

Which Microsoft Excel Skills to Test for?

The main goal for the employee using Excel is to analyze the data more efficiently and productively. An experienced Excel user should be able to analyze and present data so that it’s understandable from different viewpoints. An employee who’s able to use Excel functions in this way can easily discern how a particular data point affects different outcomes for the company.

Another important Excel skill to have is the ability to find a piece of data within a large data set. An experienced Excel user should know how to filter these data so that a particular section can be emphasized when the need arises. These skills are especially important when working in a team. In this collaborative environment, an employee using Excel should be able to understand both what they are looking for and how to find it. In the end, you should test the candidate’s ability to present Excel data and format it to fit those uses.

Which PowerPoint Skills to Test for?

A candidate for a clerical job should be able to generate and use templates when creating a PowerPoint presentation. They should be able to do this, based on the team’s instructions, with creativity and flair.  This is about more than just knowing how to create a certain style. It’s also about being able to understand how that style fits with the goal of the presentation.

It’s also useful to test for the ability to add animation and other graphic elements to the presentation. Even if a candidate thinks they know PowerPoint, many lack these sophisticated skills and it’s important to know the skill level of the applicants you plan to hire.

Troubleshooting and Self-Reliance

As with any software program, Microsoft Office will sometimes experience technical issues or just won’t work as it is supposed to. A job candidate should be able to deal with these troubleshooting emergencies on their own. With this basic skill set, a potential employee wouldn’t have to rely on IT departments each time there’s a problem that needs to be solved. This is an especially important skill to have in a remote work environment because there’s no IT department nearby to provide immediate assistance.

Beyond Computer Skills Assessment

Relying on computer skills assessment is important when hiring new employees. However, it’s certainly not the only competency to watch for. There are also many essential skills that go beyond the use of any single technology tool. The employees need many different competencies to work in a fast-paced and collaborative environment.

For example, an effective employee should be able to pay attention to detail, work according to a schedule, have good communications skills, and have competent grammar and spelling skills. When it comes to remote work, it’s also useful for the employee to be self-reliant, because team members may not be able to provide timely help as questions arise.

What Level of Proficiency Level is Needed

A pre-employment Office test can help to sort your candidates based on their technical skill level. However, the needed skill level should be based on the requirements of the job position. Not all employers need candidates to have the highest possible Microsoft Word assessment score, for example.

However, you shouldn’t just settle for the employees with the skills that cover your needs at the moment. It can be helpful to have employees with the skills that you may need in the future as the job position evolves. It’s best to start by knowing what kind of skill set you’re looking for. Outline the actual tasks that the employee will perform on a day-to-day basis. It’s also useful to discuss this with your IT team because they can help you choose a test that will focus on the important skills for the position.

Workplace scheduling (and limited staff) will often require employees to finish a task that’s above and beyond their usual assignment. Keep this in mind when selecting the tests and make sure they cover a wide range of skills.

How to Use the Test to Train the Employee on the Job

The results of the Microsoft Office assessment can be a helpful prescription for what type of training employees need in the future. Research shows that employees are looking for ways to improve and expand their skills on the job. A company that provides such an environment has better retention results.

The test will show what the employees are excelling at and what kind of skills they are lacking. This will allow you to train them and help them realize their full potential in the years to come. It’s especially useful when the results are shared with a learning/development team that can devise further training – we’ve touched upon this topic in “How Will Your Team Benefit from Pre-employment Office Tests?,” as well.

Making Candidates Comfortable With the Test

The interview process, including testing, can be stressful for job applicants. You’ll want candidates to have a good “applicant experienc” because they may be a source of applicant referrals in the future, even if they are not hired by your organization. One key step is to ensure your candidates know in advance about the tests, the topics covered, and how the results fit into the hiring decision.

Common Mistakes to Avoid with Microsoft Office Assessment

A common mistake organizations make is administering too many tests, such as giving out separate tests for Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint. There are common tasks across each program so testing in-depth for all of them may be repetitive. Multi-hour computer skills assessment such as this can also be intimidating for the candidates and cause them to drop out of the applicant pool. It’s best to stick to the relevant skills only, and not to test at the highest skill level. There’s no need to expect your employees to know about Office features that are well beyond the skill level needed for the job.


Employee turnover among clerical and administrative staff can be high and expensive. Correcting a hiring mistake will cost much time and resources and can be prevented through the use of pre-employment tests. For example, Microsoft Office proficiency is one of the most important skills administrative employees can have. It’s best practice to use an Office test to assess job applicant skill levels before hiring, as applicants often overestimate their knowledge.

A Microsoft Office test should be selected based on the skills that the employees will use on a day-to-day basis. Not all applicants need to be experts for every possible skill. Combining the test results with other aspects of the hiring process (interview, experience, references, and more) is a reasonable step toward making the best possible hiring decisions.

EmployTest specializes in developing pre-employment tests for the public sector (government), companies, and nonprofits. Contact us for a free sample of our Microsoft Office skills test – and learn more about what we offer on our Test List page.