Having strong computer skills is necessary for almost any job. That knowledge can set you apart from others who don't possess it.
But what are the most necessary computer skills to have? And when you acquire those skills, how do you showcase them effectively to prospective employers?
In this article, you will learn about some of the most important
computer skills and software programs needed in the workplace.
You will also learn some of the most basic tasks you need to be able to complete to be competent in those programs.
Lastly, you will see some of the dos and don'ts for listing computer skills on your résumé.
Here is what we will cover:
- Why computer literacy is important
- Software skills guide
- Knowledge of operating systems and of basic IT troubleshooting
- Knowledge of web Browsers and web searching skills
- Knowledge of Project Management Software
- Knowledge of communication software
- Knowledge of Email and digital calendar management software
- Knowledge of Word Processing Software
- Knowledge of spreadsheet software
- Knowledge of presentation software
- Knowledge of graphic design software
- Knowledge of coding tools and databases
- How to Include Computer Skills on Résumé
Why Computer Literacy is Important
We live in a digital world, and that doesn't seem to be changing any time soon.
On the contrary, each year, technological advancements and breakthroughs occur.
Despite the rapid growth of the Internet and technologies surrounding it, more than a third of the world's population doesn't have access to the Internet and has never used it.
Having access to it and owning a personal computer is a privilege in and of itself.
Many people also still lack the digital skills needed to use the Internet.
At the same time, there are unfulfilled jobs due to a lack of a skilled workforce.
The work we do – and will do in the future – relies heavily on digital media and tools.
So, basic computer skills are considered the bare minimum requirement by employers, with computer skills often being the top requirement listed in job postings.
And no matter the industry you are in, you will need computer skills.
Whether you work in healthcare, retail, finance, as an administrative assistant, or the HR department of a company, digital competency will be helpful.
Digital literacy will give you a higher chance of getting career opportunities and achieving growth in the modern workplace.
Software Skills Guide
Before continuing, I want to give a disclaimer.
In the sections to come, I will go over some of the most used software programs utilized in office jobs.
Depending on your job, or the career you want to transition into, you may not need knowledge of all of this.
For example, if you are an administrative assistant, you probably won't use the command line for your day-to-day tasks.
If you are a software developer, you won't necessarily be writing Excel formulas.
That said, knowledge of computer software will put you one step forward compared to someone lacking that knowledge.
So, even if you're not in tech, you can still benefit from using the command line to make repetitive manual tasks quicker. And if you are a software developer, you won't be writing only code all day. You will probably use a word processor for documentation and will need to know how to create presentations.
Another thing to add is that the list is quite long, with many programs included. It's not intended to be an exhaustive list. Instead, it's for providing a general idea of what could help make you more productive and competitive.
Learning all the software will take time, and you don't need to learn everything all at once. But you never know when this knowledge will come in useful. So, if you want to improve your computer knowledge, you can start slow and add one more tool to your toolbox each time.
With that out the way, let's see some of the most used software programs in the workplace.
Knowledge of Operating Systems and of Basic IT Troubleshooting
The first step to digital literacy is having a well-rounded understanding of operating systems.
There is no need to become an IT expert if that is not your goal, but instead, know their basic functionalities.
The Operating System (OS for short) manages all of the software and hardware on a computer and allows you to interact with the computer in the first place.
The three most widely used operating systems are:
- The Windows Operating System, which is owned by Microsoft.
- macOS, which is owned by Apple.
- Linux, which is an open-source operating system. In contrast to Windows and macOS, Linux is not proprietary software. No one company owns it. Anyone with the knowledge can contribute, make changes and improvements, and help maintain it.
In addition, it helps to have some at least basic IT troubleshooting skills. This knowledge will help you find solutions when you get stuck, and help you solve problems by yourself.
For example, some basic computer troubleshooting skills are:
- Recognizing network icons and knowing if the WiFi is on or off.
- Knowing what to do when a computer program has frozen.
- Knowing how to handle crashes.
- Knowing when and how to reboot the system.
- Knowing how to restart the computer or interact with Task Manager to handle unresponsive programs.
- Knowing what to do when the computer doesn't power up.
- Knowing how to solve issues with USB memory sticks and external hard drives.
- Knowing how to speed up a slow computer.
- Knowing how to perform basic network diagnostics.
- Knowing when to update system and when a routine maintenance is needed.
- knowing about user account management.
You'll use a GUI (Graphic User Interface) to make your way around a computer.
The different buttons and dropdown menus, the pointing and mouse clicks, and the different icons you see on your screen make GUIs easy to use.
However, there may be times when you will need to use a Command Line Interface (or CLI for short).
A CLI is a text-based program. You type commands in a prompt using keyboard navigation only and save significant time when performing repetitive tasks.
On Windows, the software program is called Command Prompt, and on macOS, it is called Terminal.
A shell (such as Bash or Zsh shell) is the interface between you, the user, and the computer's operating system.
You type commands in one of the CLI applications. The shell reads, processes, and interprets the commands and instructs the Operating System to perform the task.
Knowing your way around the command line will help you save considerable time. Some basic command line skills to have are:
- General system commands.
- How to create and delete files and folders.
- How to view contents of files and folders.
- How to open programs.
- How to use a command-line text editor, such as Vim, Emacs or Nano, to write to files.
- How to manage current working processes.
Knowledge of Web Browsers and Web Searching Skills
Knowing how to quickly and effectively find meaningful information to help you solve a problem, or to enable you to conduct research for a project, is a valuable skill to have.
For this purpose, you must know how to use a Web browser correctly.
Web browsers are application software that locates and presents to users the information requested on the World Wide Web.
Some of the most popular web browsers are:
- Google Chrome, developed by Google.
- Firefox Mozilla, developed by Firefox.
- Microsoft Edge, developed by Mircosoft.
- Safari, developed by Apple.
To use web browsers productively, here are some of the skills you need:
- Make sure you use modern and updated web browsers instead of older and unsupported ones.
- Know the navigational buttons. Go back to the previous page, refresh the current page, create a file and open the page in a new tab or window, and know your way around the browser's menu for extra functionalities, to name a few.
- Enter URLs (short for Uniform Resource Locator). URLs are a unique web address that you put into the browser's address bar.
- Know how to read a URL by understanding its different parts and recognizing when a website might be sketchy.
- Perform searches by using keywords and perform basic Internet research.
- Know how to apply filters for advanced searching techniques.
- Make use of tabbed browsing. With modern browsers, you can open, manage and switch between many web pages simultaneously – in the same browser window.
- Know how to restore tabs.
- Create and manage bookmarks with the browser's built-in bookmark manager. Bookmarks is another name for 'your favorites' – the websites you would like to save and keep for future reference. You can create folders and subfolders for a more organized bookmarking system.
- Know how to manage and delete browsing history on your system.
- Know about browser security and privacy issues. The first step is knowing the difference between HTTP and HTTPS, especially when making financial transactions across the internet. Next is using Incognito mode for protecting sensitive data when sharing a computer with someone else or using a public computer.
- Know how to clear browser cache and cookies to improve load time, save space, and reduce bandwidth.
- Know how to install extensions that have additional browser functionalities.
Knowledge of Project Management Software
When you become part of a team, you will probably need to use project management software.
Project management software is an interactive collaboration tool used for project task management and delegation.
They help keep teams organized, productive, and efficient, no matter their size.
Some of the most commonly used project management software are:
- Google Tasks
You can also use project management software for your personal projects.
They can help keep you motivated and visually see the progress you are making, all in one place.
The most common features to know when using such applications are:
- How to create a custom workspace for the team.
- How to plan, organize, and schedule projects.
- How to create a visual roadmap and timeline with kanban boards and user stories, to visualize the bigger picture of the project, and what the workflow will look like during the different stages of the project.
- How to create and view lists with tasks that need to get done.
- How to color code and label tasks to better organize and prioritize them into groups.
- How to update and edit the current status of tasks. Track progress of projects throughout the life of the project for all team members to stay up to date.
- How to mark and check off completed tasks as completed.
- Collaboration between team members. Individual team members can comment, add notes and their input regarding significant project updates, set reminders, all on the same page.
- How to allocate and assign tasks to team members. Easily visualize the assignments that each team member is working on.
- How to track time spent on each task and manage deadlines to ensure on-time delivery.
- How to create internal reports and project documentation.
- How to create and share project meeting notes.
- How to create and share a knowledge hub and wiki, with a curated dashboard of a library with resources related to the project.
- How to share accomplishments and project milestones.
- How to keep track of achievements that you can use as a reference in one-to-ones and reviews.
- How to keep track of budgeting, monitor the project's spending, and schedule invoices.
Knowledge of Communication Software
When you are part of a team, you need to communicate clearly and precisely with the rest of the team members.
Communication tools enhance a team's productivity, which in turn leads to better products and services.
These days, more people work remotely and teams are distributed theoughout different corners of the world and across different timezones. Because of this, teams rely on dedicated communication tools to collaborate, talk to each other, and stay in touch, no matter where they are.
Each team has its own communication style, but regardless of their preferences you would be expected to know how to use a digital communication medium.
These fall into different categories:
- Real time instant messaging platforms, which are a substitute for emails and provide faster exchanges with more communication features to choose from.
- Voice calling platforms.
- Video conferencing platforms to host meetings.
Some of the most popular ones used are:
- Microsoft Teams
- Google Meet
Some of the features you would need to know how to use are:
- How to privately message someone for direct communication.
- How to create group messaging chats that are either public or private.
- How to create and utilize custom channels for specific projects or topics.
- How to record meetings and talks. In this case, all participants need to be aware of the recording.
- How to host an educational webinar.
- How to share your screen to work through problems.
- How to utilise the 'raise your hand' feature.
- Know keyboard shortcuts for muting/unmuting yourself and turning your camera on/off.
Knowledge of Email and Digital Calendar Management Software
Emails are a fast way to communicate with your colleagues and send messages across the internet.
You need to know how to compose concise and well-organized emails using an email provider.
The most commonly used email software applications are:
- Microsoft Outlook
- Google Gmail
The basic knowledge you would need includes the following:
- Setting up an email account.
- Formatting, sending, and receiving emails.
- Sending an email to multiple people at once.
- Attaching document files, images, and voice messages to your emails.
- Using the address book for your contacts.
- Starring emails for organizing emails in a separate folder.
- Creating folders and sorting through emails.
- Creating labels and filters to search through specific keywords to maximize productivity.
- Knowing how to file, prioritize, and group emails for easier access and time efficiency.
- Forwarding emails.
- Idenitfying phishing emails.
Your email account will be in-sync with a digital calendar program.
For example, Gmail uses Google Calendar and Outlook uses the Outlook Calendar.
Knowledge of Calendly, a scheduling application, is helpful too.
You can connect it to your email account for scheduling appointments, meetings, and appointments.
The skills you need to have when using digital calendars are:
- Knowing how to block out your time and set up your availability.
- Sharing your calendar with a link so other team members can arrange events and meetings with you.
- Scheduling and arranging meetings.
- Inviting attendees.
- Canceling events.
Knowledge of Word Processing Software
Knowing how to write in an engaging way and format text documents is a necessary skill, no matter your industry.
You may need to write blogs and articles for the company's website. You may be in charge of writing and publishing the company's newsletter. You may need to compose and frequently update documentation on internal tools used in the company. You may need to write formal reports to stakeholders.
Whatever the case, knowing how to use a word processor is a must.
Some of the most commonly used word processors are:
- Microsoft Word
- Google Docs
- OpenOffice Writer
- Dropbox Paper
Here are some of the basic skills to have when using a word processor:
- Know how to create a new document and insert, edit, modify, copy, cut, and delete text. Know how to enable automatic saving to ensure you don't lose any work by accident.
- Know how to open an already created document.
- Know how to merge documents.
- Know how to change page view layout.
- Know how to utilize spell and grammar checker for correcting spelling errors and typos.
- Know how to create hyperlinks.
- Choose the correct font depending on the occasion.
- Know how to format and emphasize text. Knowledge of keyboard shortcuts (such as copy/cut/pasting, how to undo and redo work) to improve your touch typing speed.
- Know how to organize and split the text into sections with headings, subheadings, and indented paragraphs.
- For large documents, know how to create a table of contents so others can easily navigate to different sections.
- Know how to select, move and center align text.
- Know how to use pre-existing templates and create new ones.
- Utilize the find and replace feature.
- Collaborate with other team members by highlighting text and leaving comments in the document's sidebar with suggestions.
- Know how to share and protect documents by setting up password protection.
- Know how to save the document in different file formats (such as saving the document as a PDF).
- Know how to set up and print documents.
- Know how to insert columns.
- Know how to insert and format tables, text boxes, charts, graphs, and visual elements into text documents to visualize data.
- Know how to create, edit and format complex tables with data.
- Know how to import graphs and embed other documents (such as Excel worksheets).
- Know how to insert images and bookmarks.
- Know how to create, sort, and filter Mail Merges.
Knowledge of Spreadsheet Software
Many jobs require you to be comfortable working with smaller or even larger datasets.
You need to know how to store and organize data in a tabular format.
In this way, you'll be able to analyze and perform calculations on the data.
Some of the most commonly used spreadsheet softwares are:
- Microsoft Excel
- Google Sheets
- Apple Numbers
- LibreOffice Calc
Here are some of the basic skills to have when using spreadsheet software:
- Know how to perform data entry by setting up, creating, modifying, formatting, and saving worksheets.
- Know how to manage multiple worksheets.
- How how to merge cells.
- Know how to highlight columns based on conditions you set using conditional formatting.
- Know how to filter columns.
- Know how to create graphs and charts
- Know how to perform arithmetic calculations using functions. For example, know how to add individual values and find the total sum using SUM, Or being familiar with finding the average in a range of numbers using AVERAGE. Or, knowing how to find the highest and lowest number in range using MIN and MAX, respectively.
- Know how to use advanced functions such as VLOOKUP (or Vertical Lookup) to search columns.
- Know basic VBA (which is short for Visual Basic Application) to create Excel Macros. Know how to work with macros commands to create custom functions that automate repetitive and time-consuming manual tasks.
- Know how to create pivot tables and charts to visualize, compare and present large amounts of data using visualizations. Know how to generate reports with your findings.
Knowledge of Presentation Software
Knowing how to put together a presentation is a valuable skill to have.
You may need to give a presentation in front of a few team members and update them on the progress of a project. You may need to deliver a more formal presentation to stakeholders, or you may even need to give a talk at a large conference in front of experts in your field.
Either way, knowing how to create engaging slides will be necessary.
Some of the most popular presentation software programs are:
- Microsoft PowerPoint
- Google Slides
Here are some of the basic skills to have when using presentation software:
- Know how to select pre-built templates and color schemes and customize them by adding content into the slide.
- Know how to design and format custom templates.
- Know how to add slide transitions.
- Insert charts, graphs, diagrams, and tables with data into slides.
- Create icons, animations, transitions, and a mixture of static and motion graphics.
- Know how to insert Clip Art.
- Add notes to each slide
- Make slides interactive by inserting hyperlinks.
- Know how to insert media such as pictures, pieces of music, audio and sound effects, gifs, short video clips, or full videos uploaded from the computer or embedded from Youtube.
Knowledge of Graphic Design Software
Knowledge of design software is not exclusive to designers.
You may need to create visual content for an email marketing campaign, create a poster for a company event, or you may want to add detailed and visually appealing infographics to a presentation. You may want to prepare and edit photos or create mockups to improve the User Experience of a company's website.
Some of the most popular design software are:
- Adobe Photoshop
- Adobe Illustrator
- Adobe InDesign
- Adobe After Effects
Each of these programs above have a different use case.
In general, here are some of the basic skills to have when using graphic design software:
- Know how to import assets and set up a document from scratch correctly, with the appropriate width, height, size, and display setting for the project.
- Know how to open already existing image files.
- Know how to create and manipulate 3D objects and how to add visual effects from pre-existing and built-in styles.
- Know how to manipulate images, both static and moving, and add visual effects with animations
- Know how to prepare and get documents ready for print production.
- Know how to save and export files in the correct format and prepare them for other programs.
- Know how to make documents ready for use on the Web.
- Know how to create and manipulate interactive media.
- Know how to do basic photo editing, retouching, and enhancement and manipulate images by cropping and moving them.
- Know how to create graphs, charts, infographics, and interactive PDFs.
- Know how to create wireframes, prototypes and mockups, and User Interfaces for web design projects.
- Know how to create logos, icons, and artwork.
Knowledge of Coding Tools and Databases
Coding can help you solve problems and communicate with computers using a language that computers understand. And databases are programs for storing data and that allow programmers to retrieve the data using queries.
Even if you are not working as a developer, knowing the basics of coding can help make repetitive aspects of your job much easier.
Besides that, coding is one of the most fundamental technical skills you can have in the 21st century, not to mention that there is a high demand for applicants that know how to code.
Here are some of the basic skills to have for coding and interacting with databases:
- Knowledge of text editors and using the smart features available for writing source code.
-Knowledge of code editors with IDE-like features – where IDE is short Integrated Development environment – such as Visual Studio Code, for writing and editing source code, compiling and running source code, using the built-in terminal and debugging, all under the same roof.
- Knowledge of the Git version control software to keep track of project changes and for collaboration. Create, push to, pull from, and clone a repository.
- Knowledge of more advanced Git commands, such as for merging and branching.
- Knowledge of Linux commands and working with a Linux environment. Know how to set up a Virtual Machine and run Linux on your local computer.
- Know SQL (short for Structured Query Language) to interact with Relational Databases (such as Oracle Database, MySQL, and PostgreSQL). Know how to write basic SQL commands to perform CRUD (short for Create Read Update Delete) operations to query the database and manipulate the data stored.
How to Include Computer Skills on Résumé
Below are some key points to consider when including computer skills on your résumé:
- You could create a separate dedicated section, such as a sidebar on the résumé, reserved for only listing your computer skills by including a list with bulleted points.
- Include computer skills that set you apart from other applicants and are only relevant to the position.
Just a note: don't list Microsoft Word as a computer skill if you are applying for a software developer role.
Microsoft Word may be a tool you use for your daily work, but employers assume you already have that knowledge, and it's not what they are interested in seeing from your résumé.
- List skills you have familiarity with and are comfortable using. Employers will probably ask questions based on the skills and technologies you added, so don't mislead and be direct about your exact level of proficiency.
- List relevant courses and diplomas/certifications you have taken to advance your skills.
- Do not list your skills accompanied by a metric bar with a percentage of how proficient you are.
- Be specific. For example, don't just include 'Advanced knowledge in Microsoft Excel'. Instead, provide some examples of what you can do with Excel, such as naming the advanced functions and formulas you are proficient in.
- Instead of just only listing skills, focus on mentioning achievements, milestones, metrics, and how your computer skills helped a company. Employers are interested in seeing how your computer skills helped improve your team's productivity and increased sales and revenue in your previous jobs.
For example, you could mention a task you automated by writing a Python script which saved significant time for your team.
- Make sure to keep it brief and get your point across in a concise way. Recruiters and employers don't spend much time going through résumés, so relevant information needs to stand out easily and in a summarized way.
- You can include links to articles, a conference talk you gave, a workshop you hosted, or a YouTube channel you have, where you explain technical topics in your field. This way, you show to prospective employers that you are engaged in your community, and you have the knowledge and expertise they are looking for.
Here's a guide to writing a résumé that hiring managers will actually read.
Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of what computer skills you should have if you're job hunting in today's market. We went over what you need to know to utilize software programs effectively, and how to present those skills clearly to employers.
Thank you for reading!