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Is There Still a Need for a Microsoft Office Skills Test? (Part 1)


Microsoft Office is one of the most commonly used software tools today. It’s an essential part of almost any clerical and administrative work and is used in businesses and government institutions around the world. Because of its widespread use, many employers may even doubt there’s a need for job applicants to take a Microsoft Office skills Test. Everyone already knows the Office program by now, right?

On the other hand, some organizations believe it would be a mistake not to test applicants. Because it’s a tool that employees will use daily, an employer should want to test applicant skills before hiring, so they have a clear idea of what kind of assistance or training the new hire may need during onboarding.

In this article, we’ll cover the following topics:

Microsoft Office by the Numbers

Microsoft Office is used by 1.2 billion people worldwide. Office 365 has more than 200 million users, which means that one in every five businesses is using the suite for their day-to-day work. The ability to efficiently use Microsoft Office is one of the most sought-after business skills and Microsoft Office skills rank 4th of the top 20 required across all occupations. Usage of other tools provided by Microsoft is also on the rise. A great example is Microsoft Teams, due to the ability to help with remote work requirements.

Why Test Applicants with a Basic Computer Literacy Assessment Test?

Employers almost always rely on resumes as a way to learn about their job applicants. But resumes may not always be a reliable source for multiple reasons. First, the candidates are tempted to embellish their skills on their resume. It’s human nature for us to present our abilities in a positive light, but excessively exaggerating skills is not beneficial for anyone.

Second, even if they don’t exaggerate their skills, it’s not always easy for a candidate to accurately know their own skill level with Microsoft Office. What may seem as “advanced knowledge” to a candidate may not be considered “advanced” for the company hiring them.

That’s why a basic computer literacy assessment test may be the first step to learning which computer skills the candidates are bringing to the job. It will ensure that each applicant has the baseline of technology skills.

Jobs Requiring Microsoft Office Skills

Because Microsoft Office is one of the most used tools in the business world, it’s easier to find jobs that don’t have at least some use for these skills. If you’re looking for administrative assistants, accountants, retail managers, and financial analysts, having skills in Microsoft Office is a must.

It’s also important to note that many other job roles don’t use Office on a day-to-day basis, but still require presenting data and filling reports regularly. These jobs as well are best suited to candidates that have a basic level of Office knowledge for these tasks. A Microsoft Office skills test is therefore the best way to select the employees that could handle the day-to-day workload.

Which Microsoft Office Skills to Test For

Because Microsoft Office has so many advanced options, it may be difficult to know which skills are needed for your open job position.  How will you determine which skills should be tested?

One solution that can help is to conduct a survey with your employees, especially those in similar roles, to see what are the most common tasks that are performed in Office on a daily basis. Another strategy is to ask your IT team, specifically the “Desktop Support” team, if that exists.  This team will be aware of the most common questions or troubleshooting that they deal with and make suggestions on what should be included on the tests.

The results of these surveys, whether informal (casual conversations) or formal (written analysis), will help you know the basic skills required for each new hire for that position.

What to Assess with a Microsoft Word Skills Test

Microsoft Word may seem like a simple tool with many basic features, but it also packs a punch when it comes to advanced features. It’s best to calibrate the difficulty of your Microsoft Word test according to the job requirements.

Beginner Word User

This level covers the basic skills that you need to use Microsoft Word. The candidate should know how to create a word document, use dynamic page layouts, format text within Word, insert images and bookmarks into a Word document, create and modify tables, create graphs and charts, print a text written in word, and perform a grammar check.

Intermediate Word User

Intermediate-level skills expand on the basic skills and are often used when publishing and sharing Word documents. They include sharing and copying documents, inserting hyperlinks into a document, exporting documents into other formats, using a revision history, and adding cover pages and page numbers.

Advanced Word User

An advanced Word user should know how to design and create forms and templates. They should also manage large documents and create sub-documents and master documents. Advanced users need to understand how to create macros and use them to automate tasks within a Word document.

What to Assess with a Microsoft Excel Skills Test

Microsoft Excel skills are often cited on a resume, but there’s a wide range of ability levels, as it’s a complex and powerful tool. A test can help you rank the candidates based on their skills level.

Beginner Excel user

The simplest tasks done in Excel are the ones that will be used on most jobs. They include creating a worksheet, inserting and naming tabs, basic text formatting within Excel, cell formatting, printing and sharing a sheet with coworkers, and inserting a comment.

Intermediate Excel user

Intermediate skills are useful in most accounting and sales positions. They involve working with numbers and large sets of data in a streamlined and automated fashion. Such a user should know how to make a copy of an Excel document, import data from another Excel document, use number formatting, insert charts, and graphs, use functions, sort, and filter data, use revision history, and export documents into other formats.

Advanced Excel user

The candidate with advanced Excel skills can apply for the most complicated jobs in the field. They should be able to use advanced functions, customize and edit charts and graphs, insert pivot tables, and assign name ranges. An advanced user should also know how to install and use add-ons.

What to Assess with a Microsoft PowerPoint Skills Test

PowerPoint users often have difficulty knowing their skill level because there are many hidden features that aren’t used by an average user. A Microsoft PowerPoint Skills test administered before an interview can divide the users into three groups.

Beginner PowerPoint user

Most jobs require only basic PowerPoint skills. A basic PowerPoint user should know how to create and name a presentation. A user should also choose a theme, insert and delete slides, and duplicate slides. They need to know how to insert images and tables, share a slide with coworkers, and change a presentation format.

Intermediate PowerPoint user

Intermediate PowerPoint skills include copying a slide, importing slides from other documents, working with slide backgrounds, using shapes and lines. Such a user should also know how to add a video to the presentation and add hyperlinks. They need to know how to use revision history to collaborate with others.

Advanced PowerPoint user

Advanced PowerPoint skills include using design idea tools, adding animations and transitions to the presentation, editing images, working with objects in the Format menu, and using auto-advance to present.

How Using Microsoft Office Skill Tests Saves On Training Costs

Onboarding is one of the biggest expenses that a company has in the hiring budget. It can be especially demanding for a smaller business, which doesn’t have a large onboarding staff (or budget) to manage the process.

It takes time to train the employees so that they can help and your organization will need to dedicate resources away from other more profitable tasks. Using Microsoft Office tests will show which skills the candidates are lacking and what the training should focus on.

This too is a useful way to make the training more efficient and less costly in the long run. If more training is required, you’ll know in advance, to aid with scheduling training at the onset of employment.  This all works toward the goal of making the new hire more productive, starting on Day 1 of employment.

How Using Microsoft Office Tests Lowers IT Workload

The role of an IT department is to manage important technology structures, as well as other complex technology-related tasks. They shouldn’t provide on-the-job training or troubleshooting for employees learning to use Microsoft Office. IT departments are often big proponents of using Microsoft Office tests because hiring employees that perform well on such a test can lower IT’s workload.

When employees are uncertain about their Office skills or don’t have the skills, to begin with, the result is valuable IT team time being consumed by basic level desktop support. By hiring the employees with the right skill set, you’re freeing up the important time that an IT department could use more productively.

Lowering Turnover by Hiring Skilled Employees

Turnover presents another costly problem that a business needs to face. Making more informed decisions during the hiring process is one strategy to reduce turnover. If employees stay with the company for a long time, retention is higher and the overall cost of recruitment and training is lower.

Teams of employees work more efficiently and in a more cohesive fashion when they aren’t interrupted by the constant influx of new employees (and departures of current staff). It’s also easier to retain customers when they form a working relationship with an employee who’s been with a company for a longer period of time. You can achieve these by improving the recruitment process by using the Office tests in the hiring process.

How Microsoft Office Assessment Tests Strengthens Corporate Culture

Using a test to assess what employees suit the needs of an employer can have an impact on strengthening corporate culture. It’s a way to promote and champion meritocratic ideals when hiring and treating employees.

The tests could also mean parity and increased opportunities for employees from disadvantaged backgrounds. The reason is that the hiring process is based on actual objective results (from tests), rather than previous opportunities, education, or work experience. An unbiased hiring process isn’t just about maintaining the employer’s reputation. It’s also a way to gain access to the very best of potential employees based on their demonstrated verifiable skills.

How to Administer the Tests?

Today’s job market is competitive and companies are under pressure to find top applicants that suit their needs. At the same time, the stress of the application process can have a negative impact on job applicants. It’s important to give each applicant the best chance to succeed, at this stage of the hiring process, by explaining the purpose of the test, the test topics, and how it works. At the same time, you should also be transparent with the applicants about how their performance on the test will impact the hiring decision.

Tips for Conducting the Test

In order to make the test less stressful for the candidates, it’s wise to follow these guidelines:

To Sum Up

Microsoft Office is one of the most used tools in administrative and clerical work. It’s a complex set of tools that provides much more functionality than the average user is aware of. That’s why, rather than guessing at the applicants’ skill sets,  it’s a better strategy to use a Microsoft Office skills test to determine how well a candidate knows the Office programs.

Doing so will help you identify the top prospects in your applicant list. It will also ultimately lower your turnover costs, as well as training costs. The key is to make sure you’re testing at the correct skill level for each program and make sure your candidate understands the process. The applicant you don’t hire today may be a great fit for a different role in the future.

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 Explore page.