How to Make Microsoft Excel Your Best Friend During a Job Search

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Job searching is never easy, apart from stressing about the need to get a job you also stress about how to go about finding one. Though not an easy task to tackle, job search needn’t be so frustrating if you have the right tools at your disposal. Microsoft Excel can be your new best friend in this journey as it can provide you with basically everything you need to make the process of getting a job easier.

See Also: Top 10 Job Search Strategies for 2015

There’s one piece of advice you’ve probably heard many times: use Excel to keep track of your applications. Maybe you don’t follow that advice because you never use Excel; it’s just the green icon next to Word that you pay as much attention to as the Recycle Bin in the corner. Even if you do use it, you probably do what most of us do: use it simply for entering information into cells, much the same way you would with a table in Word. While it’s less of a headache than Word, you’re missing out on what it’s truly capable of.

So, how can you go about making Microsoft Excel your best friend during a job search?

1. Use it the way it was meant to be used

Be honest. Have you ever actually looked at the templates available, or do you just immediately start typing into the blank spreadsheet you’re presented with when it opens? "I want to make a spreadsheet about the jobs I’ve applied to, so I need a date column, job title column..."

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with doing that; maybe you prefer to keep things simple. However, templates are there to help you and make your life easier, and chances are they’ll come with column headings you hadn’t thought of because you didn’t ever think of Googling what to include on your spreadsheet. The next time you’re in Excel, click on "file", "new", type "job search" into the search box and open the template it comes with. (It’s available in Excel 2010 and 2007, and there should only be one result.) Once it’s downloaded and opened - remember to hit "save as" so you don’t fill it in and then lose it all – you’ll find a 4-worksheet document. Have any of your do-it-yourself efforts ever had more than one worksheet?

2. Resume submissions

The first worksheet is called Resume Submissions. If you move the slider at the bottom of the page, you’ll see that it has 15 columns, and the first three are frozen.

You may have been introduced to column freezing when you were taught Excel at school; it means no matter how far across you scroll, those three are always visible. It’s up to you which columns you may choose to rename, delete, or even add, but these are the ones the creators felt were important:

The three frozen columns are:

  • Job Applied For. Once you’ve been searching for a while, you’ll be able to look down this column and see how your job search has evolved and how long it took you to realize you perhaps shouldn’t be aiming for president just yet.
  • Company Name. When you’re trying to remember if you’ve already applied for Company X, you’ll be able to simply come back to this and do a search for it.
  • Contact Name/Title. This might be the person you sent the application to, the person listed as the one to call when you don’t get a response, or the name on the automated response.

The rest of the columns may or may not be of use to you - how many places still have fax machines? - but they do include key information such as:

  • Phone. For when you want to follow up your application in a couple of weeks.
  • E-mail Address. When you get an automated reply in a few months, you’ll want to be able to look it up and see what company it belongs to.
  • Mailing Address. You probably won’t send them a letter, but change this to "city" or "country" and you’ll remember which branch you were looking at.
  • Web Site. So you know where to go for information in preparation for the interview.
  • Date Resume Submitted. How long ago did you send your resume, and did they ever get back to you? Personally I would move this one further to the left or even freeze it as it’s essential information.
  • How I Heard About This Job. If you get it, you might want to go and sing this source’s praises on their website. If jobs from this source never work out, you might want to consider not using it any more.
  • Comments. "They promised I’d hear back in seven days."

3. Networking contacts

Yes, the dreaded "networking" word; but if you’ve actually gone to the effort of making those contacts, it would be silly to risk forgetting about them, wouldn’t it? You might think you’ll easily remember them when it’s the day after the conference and their business card is still safely stored away, but you won’t necessarily have such clear memories a month from now - of the person or what you did with the card.

Similarly to the previous worksheet, there are two frozen columns:

  • Acquaintance Name/Title
  • Company Name

Followed by three more columns with further information:

  • Contact Information
  • Date Contacted
  • Comments

And then another 12 columns, four for each of the three leads they gave you. For example, lead 1:

  • Lead Name/Title
  • Company
  • Contact Information
  • Comments

This article on Forbes is by a contributor who used a spreadsheet to expand their contacts list and get their dream job.

  • Make a spreadsheet with 20 rows of your dream companies and columns including URL, industry, anyone you know there, and any open positions you’re aware of.
  • Send that list as a mass email to everyone in your network, asking for their help with contacts or leads.
  • Send it with a personalized email to the mentors, former bosses and dream companies and be even more specific on what you want. 

4. Interviews

The next worksheet is to help you keep track of all the interviews you’re getting; is it Tim on Monday and Steve on Tuesday, or the other way round? Which day is it that’s going to be a nightmare to get to, and what’s the phone number I’m going to need if I get lost?

Again, there are two frozen columns:

  • Interview Date. Very important.
  • Interviewer Name/Title. You’re often not told this, but you may have noticed that the person you’ve been emailing with tends to be the person you interview with, so make sure you know their name, how to say it, and what they do; it’s as much important to research them as it is to know about the company.

Then there are five more columns:

  • Phone. For when you need directions or to tell them you’re hopelessly lost. Not that you will need to, because travelling there the day before is the third thing you will have done in preparation.
  • Address of Interview and Mailing Address. Probably you won’t use both of these, and probably they’re the same anyway, but a record of the address is always a good idea so you don’t have to keep referring to the email.
  • Date Thank-You Sent. Read here why it’s important to send thank-you notes. 
  • Comments. "Best interview ever, I think I got it!” "Really should have written the address on a piece of paper and not relied on my phone." 

5. Career web sites

No frozen columns this time, just six columns to help you keep track of all the sites you’ve signed up to and the last time you updated your resume there.

  • Web Site.
  • User Name and Password. Don’t try to tell me you’ve never forgotten one.
  • Date Resume Posted. So you can remember which ones you’ve updated since the first time you signed up 10 years ago and which ones you haven’t.
  • Date Cover Letter Posted.
  • Comments. "I’ve never found a job to apply for here, I might deactivate my account."

So, there’s just one of the ways you haven’t been using Excel to its full potential. Perhaps you prefer to keep things simple and a 4-page document sounds like far too much work compared to your trusty notebook, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

What are some of your favourite methods of keeping track of your applications and finding contacts? Let us know in the comments section below.

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