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Microsoft Office skills: Why you should care

When applying for positions, many candidates focus on highlighting strengths like tertiary education, position titles and specific related experience. But with the employment market continually evolving, what other skills can you put on the table so you stand out from the crowd?

More organisations – public, private and not-for-profit – are looking for strong abilities with Microsoft Office. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that the days of secretarial pools in organisations are long gone. This is one reason, Microsoft Office has become the backbone of many workplaces.

What are the top Microsoft Office skills?

The top Microsoft skills employers typically look for are Word, Excel and PowerPoint, followed by Outlook. Other programs, like Teams, OneDrive, OneNote and Project, are increasing in demand.

Why is Microsoft Office so important?

Organisations find Microsoft Office skills valuable for many reasons. They support consistency in presentation, manage communications and make written communications sharper and quicker. They also save time and money.

As recruiters, we see job specifications every day, all day. More and more positions call for capabilities with Microsoft Office programs. Sure some only ask for basic skills, but some more in-depth.

What does this mean for you as a candidate?

Shine the spotlight

If you have Microsoft Office skills, include them on your resume, even if the job criteria don’t ask for them. This will shine the spotlight on your additional capabilities and show you understand their importance.

Be specific with descriptions

Be specific when describing your level of experience. Use categories like beginner, intermediate and advanced. Also showcase specific accomplishments you’ve achieved using Microsoft Office software.

Don’t be general with short phrases like ‘use Microsoft’ or ‘familiar with Word’.

Do be specific with detail like ‘Intermediate knowledge with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Teams, and Outlook, and leverage these for maximum productivity.’ Or you can use wording like  ‘Advanced knowledge of Microsoft Project, used to map and track timelines.’

Relate experience to the position

If your Microsoft Office skills relate directly to a position, highlight this by aligning your skills to organisation needs. Examples:

  • Excel is invaluable if you’re in finance or a data analyst.
  • Word is essential if you’re a writer or editor, especially of complex, lengthy reports.
  • Teams is great if your position involves collaboration.
  • PowerPoint is essential if you’re a marketing professional making presentations.
  • Access is key if you’re working with database management.
  • Outlook is invaluable if you’re an Executive Assistant organising calendars, managing inboxes and scheduling emails.

Be creative

Get creative in demonstrating your Microsoft Office strengths by weaving them throughout your resume (many people just list them in one sentence at the end). These 3 examples illustrate how to do this:

Example 1

If you’re applying for a communications and publishing role and the job specification requires creating marketing material, consider this type of presentation:

‘Create and edit professional marketing materials, using advanced skills in Microsoft Publisher, to ensure speed, accuracy and quality control.’

Example 2

If you’re applying for a senior accountancy role, consider this type of presentation.

‘Apply advanced certification in Excel to format cells, organise data and create tables in professional settings.’

Example 3

If you’re applying for a role as an administrator, consider this type of presentation.

‘Leverage the power of Excel to monitor office inventory and track orders and supplies, saving the company 12% through greater efficiencies.’

Learn, learn, learn

If you’re not confident with Microsoft Office, you can brush up on your knowledge for free or minimal cost. A quick online search will point you in the right direction to a myriad of courses and tutorials.

  1. Take an online course. You can do this anywhere, anytime. Countless courses are available and Microsoft itself offers a Microsoft Office Certification program.
  2. Check out Youtube. Loads of content creators have put together loads of easy-to-understand videos explaining the world of Microsoft Office.
  3. Find a mentor. If someone in your workplace (or outside the workplace for that matter) is a Microsoft whiz, ask if they’d be willing to share their skills. This doesn’t have to be super formal but it can be effective.
  4. Bring in an expert trainer. Ask your workplace about bringing in an expert trainer who specialises in all things Microsoft. The best trainers are clear communicators and inspirational. Bringing in a trainer for larger groups can be cost-effective.

List courses completed and certifications

If you’ve completed courses, include these in your resume, and the certifications you’ve gained with one or more Microsoft Office programs.


Whatever you do, don’t lie about your Microsoft skills. You may find yourself red-faced if you get the job and are asked to use a program on your first day on the job.

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