Career Advice

8 Microsoft Excel Tricks That’ll Change Your Job Search Forever

Job hunting these days has undeniably gone digital. It’s easier than ever to cast a wide net when you’re searching for a new role, but keeping track of all the jobs you’ve applied to and the correspondence for each one can be daunting without an organizational system of some sort. Many job searchers turn to Excel as a clear, useful way to keep track of their progress.The things you can keep track of using the program are virtually endless, from HR contact names and emails to dates of application to passwords for job application portals. But if you’re not an Excel pro, using the program can be intimidating. Luckily, with just a few tricks under your belt, you can maximize your efficiency when using the program. Ahead, find the top shortcuts experts say can help you stay on top of your job search and ensure you’re spending time doing the important stuff rather than organizing your data.

1. Automate Your Follow-Up Dates

It’s always a good idea to follow up on an application or after an interview, and keeping track of the date of application, interview date and ideal follow-up date is a great way to use Excel during your job hunt. Plus, you can get Excel to generate the date you need to reach out again for you. “For example, if you wish to follow up in two weeks, simply use the formula = D1+14, where D1 would be the date of application,” explains Sumit Bansal, founder of Trump Excel, a company that helps people master the program. “In case someone asks you to get back in a month or on a specific date, you can use that date instead of the formula.” As for how to know when it’s time to follow up, you can use options in the conditional formatting menu to highlight the date when it matches the current date, which can be easily done with TODAY function. “This will highlight cells with the current date, reminding you to follow up,” Bansal explains.

2. Pivot Tables

Not a data whiz but looking to identify trends in your job search data? Maybe you want to see how long it takes on average for employers to reply to you, what your overall application response rate is or what types of interviews lead to offers. “The data analysis that pivot tables provide is what makes the tool so useful,” notes Stuart Ridge, Chief Marketing Officer and Excel whiz at VitaMedica. “The tables allow you to drag and drop items with ease and the data table becomes interactive, so when trying to calculate the average salary of different positions, the pivot table will take care of that process to make your calculations more efficient and organized.” To create a pivot table, click on any cell on your spreadsheet, go to Insert > Tables > Recommended PivotTable.

3. Shift + F2 for Comments

Formatting cells can be a pain, and if you have a lot of extra text in one cell, your whole chart can get thrown off. Luckily, “you can easily add notes to a cell to maintain a detailed account of what has happened with an opportunity so far,” says Bansal. “For example, you can record the gist of the conversation you had with someone from the HR team of the company. To do this, simply select a cell where you want to insert the comment, hold the shift key and press F2. This is helpful when there are details that you need to capture without creating any additional columns.”

4. Ctrl + Shift to Select

“A basic, yet important tip to help better your Excel skills is trying to use your mouse as seldom as possible,” Ridge notes. “One way to do this is by using Ctrl and Shift to help select and move cells. Click the first cell you want to select and hold down Ctrl + Shift, then hit either the down arrow in order to get all of the data in the column below, the up arrow to get all the data above or [the] left or right arrow to get everything in the row.” You can also click the cell you want the highlighted selection to stop at. Then, you can easily cut, copy or paste a large chunk of cells without having to manually select them all.

5. Link to Application and Interview Materials

Many people have various cover letters and resumes for different types of job opportunities, and it’s a good idea to keep track of which materials you’ve used for which applications should you be called in for an interview. “For a sales job, you may highlight your sales experience, but you may focus more on project management skills when it comes to an administration or management role,” Bansal notes. “In such cases, create a column to record this and mention which resume (or version) you have used while applying for an opportunity.” You can even use the Insert menu to link to the files on Google Drive, Dropbox or on your own computer. That way, when you’re prepping for the interview, you can quickly refer to which files you need to print ahead of time.

6. Ctrl + Arrow Button

This super simple trick can help you navigate to any edge of your spreadsheet, and if you’re doing a serious job hunt with many applications, it can save you a lot of scrolling time. Simply press Ctrl + the arrow button of the spreadsheet edge you want to edit. For example, if you want to add a new column on the right, press Ctrl + the right arrow to quickly reach the last column of data.

7. Insert More Than One Row

Inserting rows one at a time can time consuming, especially if you’re applying to a dozen jobs in a day. To quickly insert multiple rows, use Ctrl + Shift to select the number of rows you want to add, then right click and select “Insert X Rows.” That way, you won’t have to go to the menu at the top of the sheet to insert a row each time.

8. Use Tabs to Categorize Opps

Use the plus sign at the bottom of your spreadsheet to create multiple spreadsheet tabs. You can separate opportunities based on location, role or even salary range. It may also be helpful to create tabs based on how long an application has been with an employer. “Create a separate tab for opportunities that are old or for which you have already followed up multiple times,” Bansal suggests. “These are usually cold opportunities and are less likely to convert. This will help you keep all the new job records in a current tab, and rest all in a separate tab.”

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