Dear Sandra

Dear Sandra,

I’ve been job hunting for a part-time job to pay for my courses and I wonder if you could tell me what companies are looking for when they say they require “basic” computer skills? I can type and surf the net, is that what they mean?

Perplexed in Calgary

Dear Perplexed,

I think the requirements vary from job to job, some places may consider your current skills top notch while others think your skills are way below standard. I asked a friend of mine who does a lot of hiring for office staff to define this vague “basic” qualification.

Primarily, if employers are asking for basic computer skills as a qualification they want you to be able to turn the computer on and off (without breaking a sweat worrying if you did it wrong), open and close programs (same no sweat thing), and use a mouse and keyboard (preferably not using the hunt and peck method). It also helps to have file management skills (creating, saving and deleting files on floppy or CD-ROM, possibly even knowing all about zipping and unzipping large files), system maintenance knowledge (being able to perform back-ups, defragmenting and disk clean-ups, virus checking, etc:) word processing and other office tasks (this is the big one, you should know your way around a word processing program and possibly spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations) and finally, they may also want you to have internet skills (sending and replying to email, opening and sending attachments and using netiquette – believe me it is VERY easy for people to misconstrue your tone and meaning in an email 🙂 ).

That’s what I think of too, when I think “basic” computer skills. For the record, I have “basic” computer skills. I know how to defragment, I just don’t know, or really even care, why I have to perform this mundane and time-consuming task. I realize by admitting this fact that I have lost the respect from many of the computer geeks and goddesses of the AU world, but maybe I’ve gained their pity (fingers crossed).



This column is for entertainment only. Sandra is not a professional counsellor, but is an AU student who would like to give personal advice about school and life to her peers. Please forward your questions to Sandra care of