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Skills To Look for When Hiring an Excel Expert

Deepti Chopra

July 04, 2023

Microsoft Excel is a software program created by Microsoft that uses spreadsheets to organize numbers and data with formulas and functions. Excel analysis is ubiquitous across the globe and used by businesses of all sizes.

63% of American companies consider Excel a vital accounting tool.

Depending on the job requirements, you need to assess candidates for their Excel skills. But what to look for?

Here's a quick guide on what skills to look for when hiring an Excel expert for different job roles and experience levels.

The main uses of Excel include:

  • Data entry
  • Data management
  • Accounting
  • Financial analysis
  • Charting and graphing
  • Programming
  • Time management
  • Task management
  • Financial modeling
  • Customer relationship management (CRM)

The main roles that might require Excel skills are:

  • Business Analysis: Business analysis is the activity of converting data into something useful to the people who run the business. The number 1 use of MS Excel in the workplace is to do business analysis.
  • Performance Reporting: Performance monitoring and reporting is a specialised type of business analysis that can be done effectively using MS Excel.
  • Managing Operations: Excel is relied on heavily to manage the day-to-day operations of many businesses. While Amazon uses sophisticated custom software for operations management, MS Excel is an important tool for many smaller businesses (or parts of larger businesses). An advantage of Excel is that it’s relatively low tech, allowing it to be used by many people and without the risk of programming bugs.
  • Office Administration: Office administrators use Excel to enter and store much of the data that’s subsequently used for accounting and financial reporting, as well as business analysis and performance reporting.
  • Strategic Analysis: With respect to uses of Excel, strategic analysis is where business decisions are closely connected to the data and formulas on spreadsheets. You apply Excel to guide actions such as investments and asset allocations.
  • Contract Administration: Contract administrators use MS Excel because it provides a no-fuss means of recording contract details, including dates, milestones, deliverables and payments.
  • Account Management: Account managers are generally required to be competent MS Excel users since they receive and need to maintain customer records. Excel is commonly used in account management since it provides a simple way to share and maintain client files.
  • People Management: MS Excel is a great way to organise information about people (employees, customers, supporters, or training attendees).
  • Project Management: Even though project managers have access to purpose-built project management software, an Excel Workbook is often an effective alternative.
  • Program Management: A program is somewhat like a project, but might be ongoing and can depend on participation by users. MS Excel helps managers allocate resources, keep track of progress, and maintain participant records.

Excel for Entry Level / Administrative Job Roles

One of the main skills an admin assistant needs to exhibit is the ability to provide crisp concise information in a consumable format to clients and managers. One of the simplest tools for the same is Microsoft Excel.

The most important Excel skills for admin roles include:

  • Logical functions eg. IF, AND
  • Aggregation functions eg. SUMIF, COUNTIF
  • Combining formulas with Nesting
  • Selecting the correct formula
  • Adjusting formulas manually
  • Working with dates

Looking to screen Admin candidates for Excel skills?
Check out our Excel Test to streamline your hiring process and reduce screening time by 80%.

Excel for Auditors

Excel is positioned as the one of the most important tools for auditors to support them throughout their daily activities, whether it comes to risk analysis or control testing. Every day, auditors typically live and breathe in Excel.

Most of the role involves:

  • Formatting information in an audit report
  • Presenting information obtained by auditors
  • Analyzing the information obtained in an audit process
  • Boosting productivity in an auditing activity

The Excel skills auditors most require are:

  • Charts
  • Using pivot tables
  • Auditing formulas
  • Data validation
  • What If analysis
  • Using templates

Looking to screen Auditor candidates for Excel skills?
Check out our Auditor Excel Test to streamline your hiring process and reduce screening time by 80%.

Business Analyst

A business analyst's role involves around a lot of reporting, creating dashboards and working with numbers.

Their job requires them to fully understand the business model and all the processes involved. This is why they take the lead in processing and analyzing all available information and come up with the necessary solutions to every problem of the company.

The Excel skills required by business analysts would be:

  • VLOOKUP and merging data from different sources
  • Cleaning and unifying data
  • IF functions
  • Pivot Tables
  • Data Validation
  • VBA
  • Charts
  • Advanced Filtering
  • Analysis Tool Pack
  • Histograms
  • Conditional Formatting


Looking to screen Business Analyst candidates for Excel skills?
Check out our Business Analyst Excel Test to streamline your hiring process and reduce screening time by 80%.

Data Analyst

The majority of companies today realize the value of a data-driven business strategy and are in need of talented individuals to provide insight into the constant stream of collected information. Research shows that nearly 70 percent of U.S. executives say they will prefer job candidates with data skills by 2021, and the demand for analysts will only grow as we continue to digitize our physical world.

For handling large datasets, R or Python might be a better choice but for most light analytics, VBA lookups, Macros and other advanced Excel functionalities are often used.

Over the years, Excel has remained a mainstay for businesses in every industry, so learning it is a must.

The most common Excel skills required by data analysts are:

  • Concatenation
  • Len
  • Find & Replace
  • Filter & Sort
  • Conditional Formatting
  • Index Match
  • Remove Duplicates
  • Logic Functions
  • IfError

Looking to screen Data Analyst candidates for Excel skills?
Check out our Data Analyst Test to streamline your hiring process and reduce screening time by 80%.

Important Excel skills/ formulae explained

VLOOKUP: This is by far the most useful function in Excel where one can assign categories without using a lot of complex formulas.

Sort: When you are working with a large amount of data, there may be scenarios where you want to group certain type of data and want to sort it in ascending order, descending order, alphabetical order or some other way and doing it manually will take a long time, instead one can use the sort function and group the data in few seconds.

Filter: Applying filters to your data can bring in a lot of ease and convenience. You can subgroup the data according to your needs. It helps you to narrow down your large data and you can view only the information that is relevant to you.

SUMIF function: Adding your cells in Excel is easy, but what if you want to add only if certain condition is met. That is where the SUMIF function comes to your rescue. SUMIF function helps you to get the sum of a range after fulfilling certain mentioned criteria. When you want to add more than one condition then use SUMIFs function instead of SUMIF. By using this function you can add the total number of numerical entries within a range if the desired criteria are met. It works with numbers when adding figures, disregarding entries containing texts.

COUNTIF: This function counts the number of entries within a range if certain criteria are met regardless if the data are text or numbers.

Pivot Table: This feature allows you to summarize and analyze large amounts of data in lists and tables, by dragging and dropping columns to different rows, columns, or summary positions. You can easily arrange and pivot statistics in order to make the information more consumable.

Text Formulas: Text formulas can help when you want to extract only a certain amount of text from a large amount of data.

IF formulas: Often you are required to make certain decisions based on your data research. For e.g., if you want to calculate sales based commission for your employees.

Charts: Too many numbers create too much of confusion and hence using charts can be a great help. Charts simplify the data and make it look more presentable.

Conditional Formatting: Conditional formatting can be used to highlight important cells, or unusual information by using data bars and color scales. This is a useful tool for effective presentation of important information.

Other important functions and skills include CONCATENATE, MOD, MATCH, HLOOKUP, VBA, Advanced Filtering, Conditional Formatting and Analysis Tool Pack.

Here are some of the topics you can assess candidates on:

– Quickly seeing sum or average
– Finding and analyzing records using complex filters
– Finding missing dates in data
– Joining text
– Analyzing data with pivot tables
– Analyzing results by date
– Formula auditing
– Dealing with dates
– Using conditional formatting
– Adding subtotals
– Looking up data
– Finding transactions from the last week
– Creating a random sample from a dataset
– Sorting your data, also by color
– Using icon sets to mark values
– Matching two lists
– Retrieving many columns from the lookup range
– Highlighting outliers
– Dealing with errors in formula results with missing values
– Finding duplicates or unique values
– Automating excel with VBA
– Getting good records from bad data

Looking to screen candidates for Excel skills using a pre-employment assessment?

Check out our Excel test which can be customized for your role and our excel interview questions for interviewing candidates.

Deepti Chopra

Deepti is a co-founder at Adaface. Her online persona is extroverted, but in real life she is terribly introverted and you can startle her just by calling out her name.

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