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Basic Computer Skills: Why and How Do We Test Them?
Everybody has basic computer skills in this day and age, right? As we said on a previous occasion, when candidates send their CVs via email or through a job posting board, it is clear that they have some computer skills. But is it enough to be able to use a word processor or an email client? Why do companies and recruiters even bother with listed computer skills for a resume? To understand why we still use a basic computer skills test in the pre-employment assessment stage of hiring, we have to tap into a handful of concepts and trends. Therefore, today we will discuss computer literacy, computer skills, assessment tools, and more!
What Is Computer Literacy?
We found one of the most straightforward computer literacy definitions to be the one offered by William Rainey Harper College. It states that computer literacy describes peoples’ general knowledge about computers (software & hardware) and their work. Moreover, in educational, academic, and recruiting environments, we refer to computer literacy to navigate and use applications rather than to code or program.
In this conversation, we have to make some clear distinctions: what the computer literate meaning is and what it describes in recruitment practices. Being computer literate does not necessarily and automatically mean an individual has enough computer skills to perform well in a computer-based job.
Computer Literacy vs. Basic Computer Skills
What does computer literacy mean for us? It means a candidate knows how computers and applications work. She/he is most likely able to create a compelling resume, send it to you, and complete the pre-employment assessment tests and tasks you give.
Sometimes, however, it isn’t easy to assess job applicants’ computer literacy levels. For this reason, we use computer literacy tests. We will discuss them in a few moments.
Nevertheless, even if we establish that a candidate is computer literate, we cannot know for sure if she/he can perform well in a position where basic computer skills (or advanced computer skills) are mandatory. To learn more on this topic, we use basic PC skills tests. As you already know, they include data entry typing tests, word processing, worksheets usage, email client proficiency, and more.
Why Is Computer Literacy Important?
Having a basic understanding of how computers and programs work is more than just an employability skill; it is a survival skill nowadays. Joke aside, computers are everywhere. Even in fields requiring fewer basic computer skills, such as construction work, land transportation, etc., employees still need to perform minimal daily digital tasks.
Overall, computer literacy is crucial for organizational growth for many more reasons than just sending a work report at the end of the week. Here are some of them:
- It has a foundational value for recruiters and companies. When employees understand programs and applications, it cuts down a company’s budget and time spent on training. Moreover, computer literate employees are eligible for internal organizational development programs, promotions, etc.
- Computer literacy sustains a company’s productivity, efficiency, and growth potential. Companies big and small rely on technology and computers to improve their processes, products, services, etc. The more computer literate employees are, the fastest can a company grow and achieve its goals.
- It streamlines and enhances communication and collaboration on all levels. Organizations with computer literate employees face better the communication challenges of our times. They can keep close relationships internally and externally.
- Computer literacy allows for internal flexibility and versatility. In case of an emergency, a computer literate employee can temporarily replace another computer literate colleague if the latter cannot perform a task for whatever reasons.
As you can see, it is our job as recruiters to hire computer literate candidates. As HR experts working in an organization, we also have to keep an eye on things. We have to encourage and foster a work environment where computer literacy and basic computer skills are organizational growth priorities.
How to Use a Computer Literacy Test for Pre-Employment Assessments
The Hire Talent offers recruiters and organizations a computer literacy test to use in the pre-employment stage. Of course, you can give the test to existing employees to measure their evolution in time and on the job. Here are some things you should know about this test:
- It measures candidates’ overall ability to use a computer operating system;
- New potential hires or existing employees can take the test via our online portal; there are no intricate logins or complicated access paths;
- The test takes only 10-15 minutes, and recruiters get easy to read and interpret results;
- Our tool consists of questions whose answers give you a clear idea about an applicant /employee’s computer literacy level. In other words, you get standardized results that can help you differentiate between candidates and screen the ones you want for further pre-employment assessments and interviews;
- In case you need assistance, you can get free hiring consulting from us on assessment analysis and the tool’s best uses.
If you take a closer look at our skills testing portfolio, you will see that the computer literacy test is separate from other PC skills such as the MS Word, Excel, Outlook tests, and so on. It means that, in current practice, the computer literacy test is just the tip of the iceberg.
So, let’s continue with what we have to deal with mostly today: basic computer skills.
What Are Basic Computer Skills?
One thing has to be clear upfront: different jobs and roles define (and require) different basic computer skills. Let’s make things even simpler to understand:
- Suppose you want to hire a personal assistant for your company. In that case, you focus on basic computer skills such as typing speed and accuracy, data entry, word processing use, email, web use, etc.
- When you want to hire a web designer, graphic design is a basic computer skill for that position.
Nevertheless, we will now discuss general basic computer skills needed for almost all job roles on the market. Let’s categorize them properly and see how we can test them to differentiate among candidates!
Computer Skills that We Hire for In Our Current Times
This section will not discuss advanced (yet basic) computer skills employees should prove when they apply for specific jobs. For instance, many consider “blogging” a basic digital skill. While using a content management platform is an absolute win as a transferable digital ability, most positions have nothing to do with blogging, content creation, CMS management, etc. So, let’s see the baseline in computer skills you should test for regardless of the positions/roles you hire for at one time or another.
1. Microsoft Office Suite
As we said, it all depends on the job description a candidate or employee has to perform, but the Microsoft Suite is a general requirement across the board. Most recruiters and companies focus on:
- Microsoft Word. If you assess candidates presenting you with a Microsoft Office certification, you know they have knowledge and skills with macro scripts, mail merges, advanced formatting, and so on. Such abilities will offer them a hiring advantage. Nevertheless, even in the lack of certification, you still need to make sure a candidate can perform basic MS Word tasks.
- Excel. Some people know to use spreadsheets and Excel to a minimum level and, for some jobs, it is enough. Depending on your hiring positions, you need to test more elevated Excel skills, as the program itself is extremely complex and crucial for certain jobs’ performance levels.
- PowerPoint. Not all job roles require employees to prepare PowerPoint presentations, but you need to make sure you find candidates with such basic computer skills as the ones that do.
The Microsoft Suite is vast, and companies will favor individuals who can master Microsoft Access, OneNote, Publisher, etc.; it all depends on the job profile.
2. The Google Suite
Having a Google account is now a common thing for most of us, as we use it for more than just emails. Nevertheless, since many companies use Google Docs and Sheets, Google Drive, Google Meet, the Calendar, etc., it is important to have candidates and employees executing basic tasks in these applications.
3. Email Clients
Some companies use Gmail for their communication needs, but others have Apple Mail, eM Client, Mailbird, Outlook, or Thunderbird as dedicated email clients.
4. Cloud Storage
Simply put, computer literacy means knowing there is such thing as cloud storage and using Google Drive. Computer skills mean knowing how to use Dropbox or OneDrive to store and share files/documents with the team.
5. Web and Social Media Use
We believe the Internet and social media are most likely the best-developed computer skills people of all ages and professions have these days. Since we use them in our everyday lives, you will likely find candidates versed in using diverse SM platforms and the Internet to stay on top of their work tasks.
The idea here is not to find regular Internet users but talented candidates. Our future prodigies should perform quick and accurate search engine inquiries, find resources, do thorough research, capture leads, communicate, and navigate “Internet noise” efficiently to perform their job tasks.
6. Communication Applications
Many years ago, “googling” became a verb, describing the action of finding information on Google. Nowadays, “zooming” is the new buzzword, and it refers to organizing or participating in a Zoom meeting. If the pandemic taught us something, it revealed that we all needed to brush up our basic computer skills and computer literacy fast to deal with the new challenges. Using Google Meets, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype, Slack, and other communication applications is an employability skill nobody affords to ignore these days.
As the job description advances in complexity, so do the basic computer skills. Operating systems, productivity tools, database management, content creation, digital marketing, etc., are becoming “basic” PC skills for increasingly larger numbers of jobs, roles, and positions.
How to Test Basic Computer Skills
If you want to test for such skills, you can get a comprehensive assessment battery from The Hire Talent. We know you are already using many of our tools, but for those new here, let’s offer a quick roundup of the most popular basic computer skills tests in our portfolio:
- Excel Test: It identifies candidates who can use Excel at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.
- MS Word Test: The test measures candidates’ basic, medium, and proficiency levels of using Microsoft Word for business purposes.
- Outlook Test: It helps you find candidates who understand how Outlook works and perform various Outlook tasks using the program’s features.
Sometimes, recruiters make the mistake of using the same tests to assess computer literacy and basic computer skills. However, when we learned about skills, abilities, and soft competencies, we also learned that one skill does not exist in a void.
It always connects and correlates with other skills. For this reason, it may be enough sometimes to apply the Data Entry Test and the Excel Test when you hire a junior data entry specialist.
Nevertheless, as we are here to hire talent, we always use complementary tools. For this reason, we recommend you also employ at least the Word test, the Typing Test, the Reading and Writing evaluation tools, and the Verbal Reasoning assessment if you want to hire a junior marketer, for instance. The examples could go on.
As you can see, computer literacy and basic computer skills go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. Most companies develop their assessment tools for industry-specific computer skills evaluations – a talent acquisition strategy that is becoming increasingly popular.
Have you ever used computer skills tests in your pre-employment assessment processes? What are the basic computer skills you are looking for in young candidates? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this matter, as digital literacy and the use of computers shape reality as we know it, as we speak, so we have to prepare ourselves for the future!
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