We all know how important it is to impress a prospective employer; anything which will raise an eyebrow will give you an advantage over your equally ambitious competitors. Yes, we all have our faults (even though we will claim that we are faultless during the interview process) and some of our weaknesses are easier to rectify than others.

Luckily, one of the most highly sought after skills needed in the 21st century workplace is probably the most easiest to master. Being proficient in IT is a sign of the times and employers from every vocation will expect to see some degree of Excel knowledge on your CV.

Most of us are able to find a street using Google maps or draft a letter in Word but it is surprising how many people are not confident using Excel and are often keen to avoid it. This means that knowing how to use Excel will definitely add the edge which could secure you that job.

Why do so many employers require Excel?
In the world of commerce, time equals money. One of the main functions of spreadsheets is to increase efficiency. Excel has been designed with this in mind. Its primary objective is to help a company save time and funds which in bygone days could have been wasted.
There are an estimated 500 million active Excel users and virtually every company uses Excel in some way. Whether it is for managing budgets, business planning, sales analysis, customers records, stock control...the list is endless. Almost any office job involves a good knowledge of Excel. Even those who work in call centres and retail outlets are expected to be conversant with this much needed software application.

Any problems which arise from Excel are usually the result of human error. Taking a little time to train existing staff or hire Excel competent employees will free a company from experiencing errors which could have easily been avoided. This is the main reason why many companies insist that any potential employee has a basic knowledge of Excel before even considering their application.

If you can prove that you have spreadsheet knowledge, you are demonstrating to your potential employer that you are constantly extending your skill set. It also indicates that you will take a proactive approach to keeping the company one step ahead of its competition by being able to analyze its strengths and weaknesses. Excel knowledge shows that you are a good organiser and the type of person who is able to see the bigger picture.

Here comes Excel... why is this application so popular?
Released back in 1985 as a part of the Office package, this simple to operate but highly customizable application tore strips off Lotus' 3-2-1 which was its major competitor. In fact, until Excel came on the scene, Lotus was the only commonly used spreadsheet program.

There have been very little changes to Excel over the years other than a few minor tweaks and functional add-ons. In essence, if you have ever used Excel in your lifetime, it will take no longer than thirty minutes to brush up on your skills and get up to speed with the latest edition.

How do companies use Excel?
Excel is strongly associated with tedious business presentations where data graphs are sweated over and analyzed in great detail. However, this application is more than just a number cruncher. Let's dive into some of its functions and see just how versatile this software can be.

Live updates - this is a very useful tool. In just a few clicks you can have your data refreshed automatically. Very handy if there are any changes made to another Excel document or a website. When data is unified; employees from all departments are able to track and make use of changes as they happen.

Staff rotas - These can be created in a jiffy and played around with until the desired result is achieved. In a company where a large number of staff are employed such as warehouses, departmental stores, offices... Excel can make it easy to create lunch hour rotas, shift patterns, pay dates, anything which helps to maintain a well oiled machine.

Don't be daunted by learning Excel...
Although many feel that Excel is a technical tool, ironically it is quite the opposite. Excel takes the stress out of manually working out percentages and sales figures via a calculator. Maths skills are not necessary to operate Excel but you will amaze yourself when you can set up a complex algebraic framework which could save oodles of time, especially if you are handling a lot of raw data. Then, if you want to add the piece de resistance, you can jiggle around with a few keys and turn it into a pretty graph and bore everyone with a long drawn out presentation!

Excel - making complicated things simple.