Microsoft Excel - Starter test

The Microsoft Excel test assesses the fundamental skills required to master the software and benefit from its features. Candidates who score well on this test have a strong understanding of Excel and are able not only to work efficiently but also to create their own apps based in Excel.

Transversal skills
5 min.
Transversal skills
5 min.
Covered skills
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This test is relevant for
Financial Analyst
Marketing Analyst
Human Resources Manager
Microsoft Excel - Starter
Yolanda Cuesta

Expert in Microsoft Excel - Starter

Yolanda Cuesta
Excel specialist

A Linkedin Learning Instructor, Yolanda teaches more than 20 courses about Excel, Power BI and Management. She was awarded the Microsoft Excel Most Valuable Professional Award 8 years in a row (2014-2021). Previously an economist, Yolanda enjoys teaching and sharing her learnings from her business experience with others.

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Microsoft Excel Test: Assess and Hire the Best Candidates!

The majority of office positions these days require, at minimum, basic computer skills and some software proficiency. Many jobs utilize more advanced computer knowledge or competency in Microsoft Excel, one of the most popular and widely used programs.

Microsoft Excel, from the Microsoft Office Suite, is more than just a workbook. The versatile software includes advanced and complex features with formulas that can perform data calculations. 

The level at which workers use Excel can vary greatly depending on their responsibilities. The program can be used as a basic template to manage a list of information, or it can perform complex calculations and data grouping. Some positions may require employees to know how to simply create and edit Excel spreadsheets, while others may require advanced skills to utilize formulas and create Pivot tables.

For positions that rely heavily on Excel, it’s imperative to confirm that job candidates are as skilled in the program as they claim to be on their resumes. Their proficiency in Excel may be more important than their education and degree listed on their resume. To accurately determine how well candidates have mastered Excel, many companies administer Microsoft Excel tests for hiring new employees.

Implementing a Microsoft Excel assessment test as part of the hiring and interview process goes a long way in ensuring that the job candidate's skill level meets the job’s requirements. The assessment test will test their knowledge and proficiency in Excel. 

A job applicant may claim to have used Excel in their last job, but an assessment test may reveal the applicant can do little more than open and close the file. Just as a recruiter wouldn’t blindly hire an employee based on a resume, companies shouldn’t rely on the skills listed on a resume either. With an Excel assessment test, employers can ensure their new hires are as experienced as they claim to be.

How to Use Microsoft Excel Tests in the Hiring Process?

For candidates who are interviewing for positions that don’t use Excel regularly, it may not be as essential to assess their skill level in Excel. If they only need to read an occasional spreadsheet, other skills may be more critical in the hiring process. 

For other positions, where simple Excel tasks are needed periodically, it is possible to train employees and teach them the essential Excel skills they will need. If a candidate fits all of the other job requirements, it may be worthwhile to train them in the simple Excel tasks they may need to perform.

However, if the position you’re looking to fill requires proficiency in Microsoft Excel, job candidates should ideally possess the skills and knowledge needed for their role. If they get hired, they should be able to fulfill all their job responsibilities without first learning how to use Excel. 

To evaluate each job candidate’s skill level in Excel, test all prospective hires with a Microsoft Excel assessment test.

Depending on their role, employees may need different levels of expertise. You may choose to give different tests depending on each job's skills.  

What Excel Skills are Needed?

Before implementing an Excel test, know the type of skills needed for the job. You may need the secretary to be familiar with creating and editing spreadsheets, while the candidates for a financial analyst role may need to be a pro at the advanced features.

Some common Excel features to test for at an interview include:

  • Formatting columns and cells
  • Employing colors, borders, hiding rows, and freezing panes
  • Sort and filter spreadsheets
  • Share, email, and print spreadsheets
  • Creating formulas to compute calculations
  • Use keyboard shortcuts to accomplish tasks quickly
  • Insert graphs
  • Create pivot tables

Basic Excel Assessment

Many non-technical or entry-level office jobs just require basic knowledge of Excel. Written tests might ask for shortcuts to specific tasks, while hands-on tests for job applicants may include adding spreadsheets to a file, renaming files, basic formatting, sharing, and printing.

Even employers who are willing to train new applicants in using Excel should give job applicants a basic Excel assessment to gauge their skill level and readiness for the job and determine how large the learning curve will be. Look for applicants who prove themselves to be quick learners, who are technology-savvy, and who may catch on easily to the program.

Intermediate Excel Assessment 

Positions that rely more heavily on Excel may look for job applicants with more experience in the program. Tests may include sorting and filtering rows, conditional formatting, and using basic formulas. The tests may also be timed to evaluate the applicant’s speed at performing the tasks in Excel.

Advanced Excel Assessment

Jobs in the financial sector or positions that heavily use Excel may need to know how to use the program’s more advanced features. An advanced assessment test may include creating graphs and charts, customizing macros, using data calculations, and pivot tables.

How to Assess and Use Microsoft Excel Test for Hiring?

Employers use different methods of testing prospective employees on their Excel skills. Many prefer to use a combination of written questions and an interactive skill assessment with a time limit for answering each question to ensure the candidates are quick and proficient.

Written Questions on the Excel Assessment Test

Excel assessment tests may include a section of multiple choice and true or false questions on Microsoft Excel, designed to gauge how well the candidates know the program. The questions may not always be the same for each interviewee, and they may change between tests.

Some sample questions that may be asked on a written Microsoft Excel test for hiring are:

  • Which formula is used to find averages?
  • What is the shortcut for the autosum?
  • How would you insert the date and time in a cell?
  • How would you calculate the EMI?

Interviewers may also ask verbal questions about using Excel during the interview to determine if the candidate is even up to the level of taking the test. Simple questions, including how long the applicant has worked with Excel and which features the applicant uses the most, can segue into more technical questions.

Some sample interview questions in a Microsoft Excel test for hiring include:

  • Explain when and how to use a specific function
  • Identify a specific symbol
  • How would you format a specified field
  • How does VLookup in Excel work
  • How would you use a Pivot table
  • Have you ever used Macros in Excel
  • Can you create a chart in Excel
  • How would you share the spreadsheet with collaborators

Hands-On Skill Assessments

On the hands-on part of the Excel assessment, interviewers may ask the candidates to perform specific tasks in Excel that mimic what they’d need to do in their role. This ensures that the job applicants have the skills they would need for the job. Candidates may need to format spreadsheets, merge cells, insert calculations, use functions, create charts, or manipulate data. 

Some tasks recruiters may ask candidates to perform include:

  • Auto-sum columns of numbers
  • Insert a formula to round numbers
  • Format cells 
  • Filter column
  • Freeze rows
  • Copy a formula to another row

Recruiting for Microsoft Excel

For positions that heavily use Microsoft Excel in their day-to-day job responsibilities, recruiters can assess a candidate's proficiency in Excel even before their interview in a pre-interview assessment test. This process will eliminate prospects who display sub-par Excel skills who wouldn’t be a good match for the position. The pre-screening saves significant time in the interview and hiring process.

Jobs with Excel Skills

Some jobs rely heavily on Excel. Recruiters for these positions will look for candidates with experience in Excel.

  1. Financial and Business Analysts - Financial and Business Analysts use Excel to chart and track data. They may take advantage of Excel's built-in formulas to calculate data, as well as the program's charts and graphs.
  1.  Accountants - Accountants work with numbers, from taxes to income and debts. They may use Excel to categorize and organize data. They use spreadsheets for tracking fiscal data from budgets to financial projections. Excel’s formulas and formatting make it easy to manage the data.
  1. Project Managers -  Project Managers use Microsoft Excel to track tasks, dates, and timelines. It’s easy to sort and filter the data in Excel, format the layouts to print reports, and share or email the spreadsheet with collaborators.
  1. Office Assistants - Although office assistants and secretaries do not always hold college degrees, they can benefit from learning Excel to help them with their job responsibilities. Using Excel, they can manage and update lists and effortlessly email the spreadsheets to coworkers.
  1. Managers - Managers in every sector, from business to services to retail, can utilize Excel to manage data, track expenses and budgets, and maintain inventory and customer lists. 

Microsoft Excel Test: Considerations for Recruiters

From a Microsoft Excel skills test, recruiters can evaluate a job applicant’s mastery of Excel and their level of competence in working with the Excel features needed for the job. 

A candidate may claim to have an advanced level of knowledge of Excel, but an assessment test may reveal that they only know the basics. The Excel test can help recruiters determine which job applicant is the best candidate for the job.

Pre-Employment Excel Tests for Hire

Create an Excel proficiency test as part of the hiring process for all job roles that may use Excel. Job applicants for financial and business analysts, accountants, account managers, project managers, administrative assistants, secretaries, and bookkeepers may all need to be familiar with Excel’s features.

Customize the assessment tests for different job roles and levels of Excel knowledge. A secretary may take a basic assessment test, while a project manager may need to do well on the intermediate level assessment test.

A Basic Skills test will ask the candidates how to open and edit a spreadsheet, zoom in on cells, format cells, change styles, and use simple formulas.

An Advanced Skills test can depend on the job responsibilities. It may include more advanced formulas, VLOOKUp, and even programming and data analytics.

Excel Functions Assessment Test

Intermediate or advanced Excel assessment tests might focus on using Excel functions if that is a key part of the job’s responsibilities. 

What are some functions recruiters should include in the Excel assessment tests?

  1. VLOOKUP (Vertical Lookup) - This combines multiple pieces of data as one, similar to a merging tool. 
  2. Index - Create an index and match where the data is.
  3. Pivot Table - Run reports based on heavy data. 
  4. Macros - Write computer programs in Visual Basic (VBA) to customize Excel and create your own shortcuts.  

Excel Assessment Test Results

The Excel assessment test is easy to set up and customize for different job descriptions. Recruiters will review and compare the job applicants’ Excel test results to help them determine which candidate is the best fit for the job. It will save a lot of time during the interview and hiring process by vetting out unsuitable applicants.

The assessment tests will show more than just how many questions each candidate got right or wrong. It will also give the recruiter a clear picture of each job applicant's strengths and weaknesses. One candidate may work quickly and have mastered all of the shortcuts, while a second applicant's strengths may lie in using formulas and creating macros. Depending on the job’s requirements, a recruiter can choose the most promising candidate for the role. 

Excel assessment tests can revolutionize the way recruiters and HR personnel interview candidates for job openings. By requiring job applicants to take an Excel skill test before or during the interview process, they can focus on the applicants who show the most promising skills for the job.

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