Interviewers commonly ask “How would you describe your Excel ability” or “How much experience do you have in Excel?” Taking a quick informal survey, I found most people answered, generically “intermediate”. This makes sense, no one wants to claim to be a beginner, but no one wants to claim to be advanced and be asked questions to verify. You won’t stand out using this approach.
Instead, we suggest the following response:
1. Qualify your response by indicating that while you think you’re good at Excel, that you want to become much better.
It really depends on who you compare me to. Compared to my classmates I think I’m very advanced, but being a student there’s only so much experience with Excel I can have. I’m happy with where I’m at, but I know I have much to learn.
2. Name drop some Excel features.
I know vlookups, PivotTables, text functions, and I have a little experience with macros.
3. Mention areas that you are working to improve.
Recently, I’ve really been concentrating on keyboard shortcuts and not using the mouse. I’ve seen people work ridiculously fast with just the keyboard and want to get to that level.
4. Going along with item #3, mention how you’re working to improve.
I’ve actually been working through this Excel Tutorial <Insert Name here> and I’ve really been learning a lot.
Rememeber Spreadsheet Boot Camp has a free Efficiency Trainer that you can download. Try referencing that!
I’ve really been concentrating recently on keyboard shortcuts and not using the mouse. You can work so much faster that way. I’ve been going through an “Efficiency Trainer” by Spreadsheet Boot Camp to help learn the techniques I need.
From my own experience, I’ve noticed interns with weak Excel skills be “cast aside” and not given work or attention during their internship. Training them takes too much effort. So you can bet employers want to weed out potential hires without strong Excel skills. Not because Excel skills = competence, but because if you have weak Excel skills you’re going to waste other people’s time while they bring you up to speed. So, go out and learn Excel!