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I'm curious if the term "Power User" has outlived its usefulness. There are several different definitions. Some include nothing more than knowing keyboard shortcuts for Microsoft Word, while others involve maintaining advanced hardware and having at least some programming capability.

Is the term still useful on resumes? Does it do you any favors at all in the hiring process or otherwise?

I find it hard to believe that someone may stop and say "We're interviewing Person A over Person B" because B is a self-described power user. Still, I hear the term in my office from time to time, but the thing is, the person can be anywhere from knowing one or two things above the norm, to actually being proficient.

I can't help thinking that maybe the term has aged out of usefulness, but I still see it floating around on resumes, and I've been told to put it on mine. Is it worth including?

  • "It seems to me that the term probably started circulating in the 2000's...." I remember hearing the term "Power User" back in the 1980's. – GreenMatt May 31 '16 at 18:41
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    In its day (I feel old right now) when people invest a couple of grand to a PC with two floppy drives and more than 64 MB of memory and run application that others may have barely heard of, they were called the power users. It generally goes for the people who are above and beyond the regular Joe, with what they do with any particular app or hardware, needs to be classified as power users, not any Schmoe, who can do a pivot table in excel. But again this is my opinion. – MelBurslan May 31 '16 at 18:44
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    @zfrisch: That part of the paragraph doesn't really add anything. If you're making edits like Lilienthal suggests, it can be deleted instead of corrected. – GreenMatt May 31 '16 at 18:48
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    "I'm curious what the overall professionalism boost one gets from the use of the term "Power User" is" - "power user" is used to identify a type of customer. For example, we may need to include a certain type of "advanced settings" feature in our software to appeal to power users. You don't use the label for professional gain for yourself. – Brandin May 31 '16 at 18:52
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    Good edit @zfrisch. I've adjusted the phrasing a bit but it already looked much better. – Lilienthal May 31 '16 at 19:07
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Is the term Power User still a useful term on resumes?

No, and it never was. Describing yourself as a power user is problematic for two reasons:

It's subjective

Anyone can claim that he's a power user because it's pretty much impossible to prove. It's on par with describing yourself as "goal-oriented", a "problem-solver", or having a strong work ethic. Not only are these phrases meaningless on their own, it's typically assumed that they apply to you!

As Alison Green says:

Your resume is for experience and accomplishments only. It’s not the place for subjective traits that anyone could claim without evidence.

It's relative

Power user is a distinguishing term in that it seperates someone from an "average" user. As a result it means different things in different situations. In a standard office environment an Excel power user is someone who can create a pivot table without succumbing to a fit of rage. In a university research department that level of experience wouldn't even get you in the door.


Because it's such a relative concept, it's also largely meaningless: it doesn't actually add anything positive to your profile by being on your resume. Even if you are objectively a power user compared to your would-be colleagues, so what? They obviously don't need to be that computer-literate to do their jobs so what will you accomplish with your computer skills? If you can help Janice from accounting out with her mouse problem or explain how she should archive her emails then all you've done is saved the IT department a bit of work at the cost of your own time. It's a collegial thing to do but it doesn't make you a better employee.

The one area where this would help is in improving business processes, such as in departments that haven't kept up with the times. It can be beneficial to get someone with comparatively advanced knowledge of Excel, Access or even Word templates to automate some processes. But if that's the case you wouldn't just say "power user" on your resume. You'd point to past accomplishments where you actually improved processes and lightened workloads thanks to skills that you possess! It's called showing your work and that's what a resume is for.

Or as Alison Green said in a different post:

Many job-seekers just load up their resumes with [subjective] words, which is incredibly ineffective. Self-assessments from relative strangers count for basically nothing in hiring (and probably in life, too). I mean, I could proclaim that I’m brilliant and enormously charismatic, but you’d be right to be skeptical.

Instead, the key is to find ways to show that you have those traits. Employers want to see actual evidence of those things, not just proclamations. And the way you provide that evidence is to talk about what you’ve done that illustrates your work ethic, or your written communication skills, or your initiative, or whatever is that you’re trying to demonstrate.

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    While I agree with the general point, a self-assessment of proficiency with a given technology is useful (even though subjective). I find it useful to know that a candidate considers themself an expert at Java, has a basic familiarity with HTML, etc. This is better than an undifferentiated skill list. Of course it is better to list specific skills/experience, but there is not always space for everything. – user45590 May 31 '16 at 20:27
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    "I mean, I could proclaim that I’m brilliant and enormously charismatic, but you’d be right to be skeptical." Certain US voters beg to differ. – Amy Blankenship May 31 '16 at 20:28
  • @dan1111 The point I want to make is that you shouldn't list soft skills that are impossible to quantify or back up with examples from actual work experience. I didn't mention this in the answer but a secondary issue with such generic "qualities" is that employers expect you to have most of them. They want someone with a work-ethic, who is a "self-starter" and can communicate well. Someone who is motivated, can work in a team and who takes initiative. If you'll pardon the forced metaphor it's related to why you see can see a "fresh fish" sign but not many "frozen fish" ones. – Lilienthal May 31 '16 at 20:56
  • @Lilienthal something like "Excel power user" might be useful (though not the term I would choose). But I agree that claiming to be a generic "power user" is just useless resume fluff. – user45590 Jun 1 '16 at 6:36
  • @dan1111 power user, is relative as it states better than average. Meaning when I join a Company A I might not be considered an Excel power user in that Company, but I would be if you look at a more global user Group. My point being that there is no Definition what a power user can and can not do and thus its bad to place on your cv. – Raoul Mensink Jun 1 '16 at 9:01
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Know your audience

It depends on your audience. If you're targeting other "power users" (like software developers, system and network admins, or any subject matter expert in any field, for example), your use of that term to describe yourself would probably result in your resume being discarded very quickly with the justification being that you're just trying to look better than you are. If you're targeting a small business owner who is afraid of their computer, it might be a huge plus for them.

"Power User" is a term that is probably best used when describing another person, not yourself.

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It offers some level of differentiation beyond "I possess this skill" which can be helpful. A hiring manager would take self assessed proficiency with a grain of salt. Listing oneself as a power user is a firm indication that one has the basic functionality completely mastered whereas just listing a skill may indicate only passing familiarity.

For example many people would list Excel as a skill even if they had only ever entered data in cells and never used a formula. If this were your skill set it would not be disingenuous to list Excel on your resume however it would be to list yourself as a power user.

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In an office you may describe a person as a power user as a general qualifier. A help desk person may say one of our power users is having a problem with X - it means that X may be broken rather than the user is likely just confused. But it is not appropriate on a resume as it could mean so many things.

You should list out specific skills

Excel very strong
- vlookup
- macros

If you just have a working knowledge then

Proficient in Word and PowerPoint

To some people power user means that you can replace components. If you can diagnose hardware problems and replace components then list that.

If you are set on using the term then give it some meat. To me this is a power user.

Power user
- install software (including OS)
- update software
- install and configure drivers
- configure a network connection
- configure a firewall
- connect to network share

I would not expect a power user to know how to configure Group Policy.

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  • If I follow this, I would end up with a 20 page long resume. Specific skills should be mentioned by certificates otherwise just mention it in a one liner. Especially when you are a poweruser this list would otherwise get way to long and nobody likes to read. – Raoul Mensink Jun 1 '16 at 6:44
  • @RaoulMensink Then don't follow it – paparazzo Jun 1 '16 at 11:56

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