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6 Ways Recruiters Test Excel Skills

Excel skills are required for most office jobs and are frequently mentioned in resumes. When everybody claims to be an expert, testing spreadsheet abilities is the only objective way to avoid future disappointments.




To help recruiters and hiring managers improve testing their candidates' excel skills, we asked those that recruit Excel experts for their best vetting methods. From testing a candidate’s use of look-up functions to having them create a task calendar, there are several simple ways to test a candidate’s excel experience and skills.

Testing their Use of Lookup Functions

In a workbook with multiple sheets of data, the task for the candidate would be: to make a new sheet of data collated from the multiple existing sheets, only keeping the relevant parts. For example, the new sheet could be the customer's last name, and they would have to then bring in details they have looked up using the last name across multiple sheets into the new sheet.


Specifically, this could be worded as "create a new worksheet to show customers who have not made a purchase in the last 6 months", with the relevant information scattered over multiple sheets.

Paw Vej, Financer.com Ldt


Favourite Shortcut Keys

What are a few shortcut keys that you use daily with Excel? Someone who is an expert in Excel knows the formulas, yet more importantly, they should know the shortcut keys to making their daily tasks quicker. Their answer should contain a few topics. There's a chance to be more efficient when using shortcut keys, rather than using the mouse to navigate and click through several times.


There is a variety of these keys which are used directly from the keyboard. If you are working with spreadsheets all day long, then this saves you time making your day more productive. There’s a long list of useful ones to choose from. Since I use these ones daily, my favourites are CTRL+V for paste, CTRL+C for copy, CTRL+X for cut (and then paste), and CTRL+D to copy an equation down the sheet. A candidate should have a similar approach to answering this question; first the answer then the examples.

Connor MacDonald, The Ridge Wallet


Make Pivot Tables

One task I use to test a candidate's Excel skills is to ask them to create a pivot table. I am looking for candidates who can create a pivot table from scratch, not just use the premade ones that come with Excel. I also look for candidates who can customize their pivot tables, for example, by adding a calculated field.

Matthew Ramirez, Rephrase


Job-Related Excel Tests

Everyone is proficient in Excel....or are they? That is why they have to prove it! By that, I mean use the software to give you an objective level of proficiency, which oftentimes is not what they claimed to be. In addition, this allows for consistency in the application of job-related tests and helps identify whether someone is truly the right candidate for the position.

Patty Hickok, NANA Regional Corporation


Connecting Sheets & Formatting Cells

The key activity that we do in Excel involves recording daily data, a process that requires the data handler to know how to format cells quickly and correctly to ensure a good flow of work between departments. We love to test this skill in all our candidates by giving them a small test that takes about five minutes but which we allow up to 15 minutes.


The purpose of the test is to see how our employees approach Excel tasks and how well they can adopt company practices on Excel projects. We also ask our candidates to organize the data according to a structure to gauge how quick to learn they are and what time it would take them to blend in with our company processes and workflow.

Ryan Yount, Luckluckgo


Create a Task Calendar

Every sphere of work, irrespective of the industry a brand belongs to, revolves around completing a set of tasks over a day, week, month, or year. Hence, a perfect way to test a candidate’s Excel skills is to assign them the effort of designing a task calendar. In this case, the ideal approach for the candidate would be to consider every essential component of the job position they have applied for and ensure that each of these elements finds a place in an easy-to-decipher and well-structured format. The results will help a manager gauge a candidate’s Excel skills and also help them get a fair idea of the on-the-job knowledge that a candidate holds.

Eva Taylor, WP Buffs



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