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Guide to hiring an expert with advanced excel skills

Recruitment | 6 Min Read

Guide to hiring an expert with advanced excel skills


It is common for HR leaders to analyze the need for advanced Excel skills for a job position, but it is challenging to hire an expert with these skills. Hiring managers need to identify and shortlist candidates with Excel skills and evaluate them further to ensure job fitment. The task becomes extremely complicated when the hiring team doesn’t have an in-house expert or they don’t have knowledge of the tool.

The answer to these challenges is hiring an Excel specialist using a skills-first approach, which involves employing relevant advanced Excel skills assessments. This proficiency test evaluates a candidate for a combination of Excel functions, such as VLOOKUP, data simulation, Index/Match, etc.

Let’s explore more about hiring an Excel expert.


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What are advanced Excel skills?

Microsoft Excel is a widely utilized spreadsheet tool for automating activities like financial data management, personnel data administration, data analysis, and many more. Its user-friendly, advanced functions help businesses employ this tool in various departments, such as sales, human resources, marketing, and data analytics. The expertise for the tool ranges from beginner to advanced Excel skills for different departments.

This indicates that with increasing use cases for Microsoft Excel, the need to hire employees with advanced Excel skills also rises. When that happens, hiring managers need to ask a crucial question: What are the necessary skills and competencies to consider?

An expert with advanced Excel skills has the ability to process large amounts of data by efficiently using tables, automation, graphs, and computations.

Three experience levels for Excel skills:


A basic-level employee can utilize keyboard shortcuts and common functions like styling, formatting, cell references, etc.


An intermediate-level employee has better knowledge of formulas like SUM, AVERAGE, SUMPRODUCT, etc.


An expert with advanced Excel skills has detailed knowledge of formulas, macros, pivots, and other complex functions, such as VBA, data validation, etc.


Top 10 advanced Excel skills to consider

Microsoft Excel is an advanced tool with hundreds of tables, functions, formulas, and methods. Even Excel experts require years of practice to understand the product fully. Therefore, when hiring an Excel expert, the recruitment team should consider these top 10 Excel skills.


1. Visual Basics for Applications (VBA)

Visual Basics for Applications (VBA) is a programming language for Microsoft Excel. It has in-built applications for IT, finance, and accounting. However, it is commonly utilized to simplify repetitive tasks through macros.

Macros are commands that are saved, named, recorded, and executed multiple times according to business requirements. With the help of macros, reporting and data manipulation, Excel specialists can automate repetitive tasks.

For instance, creating a macro to unmerge the cells that are merged or protect different worksheets using a single command.

Using VBA and macros helps Excel experts automate different actions, format data easily, generate user forms, and increase work efficiency.


2. Data validation

Data validation allows Excel specialists to restrict worksheet inputs. When a worksheet is shared with multiple users, it is necessary to limit what every user can add to the sheet. For example, using data validation to specify that only a date can be added to a cell or a certain cell can only contain letters.

When a user inputs an invalid data format, a customized alert is generated to offer more information.

While the process seems simple, there are eight data validation options, such as text length, decimal, whole number, dates, drop-down selection, custom filtering, and more. It is imperative for a candidate with advanced Excel skills to understand all these validations and their implementation.


3. Pivot tables

Pivot tables allow Excel experts to create visual reports using a huge dataset. These tables help calculate, evaluate, and summarize patterns, trends, and comparisons as observed in raw data.

For Excel users, pivot tables are extremely important for analyzing raw data. They automatically match group data, which helps create summaries quickly.

For example, an Excel specialist is working to sort sales data collected in the past year. Every line has a value for the product and its price. Using pivot tables, it is possible to summarize this data without spending time on adding multiple formulas.

If a company processes larger, more complex datasets, it is necessary to consider an advanced tool, Power Pivot. It is an add-in that allows importing data from different sets and connecting pivot tables to different external databases.



OFFSET is an Excel function that picks a specified range of columns and rows using a reference range. It is an advanced built-in function that simplifies data analytics for Excel experts.

Using this function, it is also possible to isolate a range or single cell. It offers specific information about a huge data set.



The INDIRECT function turns a text string into a reference that is valid. It locks a given cell with a formula, which means that users can modify the cell reference, but the formula remains unchanged.

For instance, if number 4 is added to A1 and the cell name A1 is written in cell B1, the INDIRECT formula will route to cell A1 and pick the return value of A1 even when changed.



The SUMIF formula utilizes the given parameters by the Excel expert and summarizes them based on specific conditions. For example, it can help evaluate the money a product has made by taking profit row along with the product and adding them.

COUNTIF works similarly to SUMIF, but it counts cells with numbers or words. It can help Excel specialists count the product number they have sold or allow understanding overlaps.



In data-centric spreadsheets, it is difficult to find data while scrolling all these rows. Even when using a search bar, it is possible to receive hundreds of entries for one product or keyword. For this search, professionals with advanced Excel skills utilize V and H lookups that take search parameters and find relevant items.

VLOOKUP or vertical lookup reduces the search results to one column, where the user can find their data. Using this function, Excel experts can find employees’ names, product names, or sort data based on custom factors. Similar to VLOOKUP, HLOOKUP is utilized for sorting and finding data in rows.


8. Index/Match

Index and Match are two functions in Excel combined to offer an advanced form of VLOOKUP or HLOOKUP. These are utilized to identify the relative position of the data in the sheet.

Using the INDEX function, an Excel specialist can find the cell value, column and row number. The MATCH function finds the cell positions in columns and rows. When applied at once, they return cell values from a table.

For example, sales users can utilize this function to find quarterly revenue for a given product across a period.


9. Data simulations

Data simulations are advanced Excel skills that help predict outcomes for certain events. For example, a factory manager may forecast the optimal capacity of a plan, and a general manager may predict income using purchasing costs.

To implement a data simulation, the Excel expert should understand features like statistical functions, random number generations, what-ifs, and data tables.


10. Advanced conditional formatting

Conditional formatting is used by Excel experts or data analysts to include visual elements in the dataset. This way, it is easier to analyze information, find trends, and enhance reporting.

For example, it is possible to highlight and color code cells based on different criteria, such as sales above US$ 2000 from England. These visual layers are pleasing and easier to understand.


How to assess candidates on their Excel skills?

When hiring Excel experts, it is necessary to ask the right questions from candidates. A few examples of questions are:

  • How to use a macro?
  • How to eliminate editing of a cell in the worksheet?
  • What is the use of INDEX MATCH?
  • How to use conditional formatting?

Using the right screening questions during hiring helps identify professionals with advanced Excel skills. Another feasible method to achieve this is to utilize Microsoft Excel Skills Knowledge Assessment by Mercer | Mettl. This assessment is a hassle-free and user-friendly method to evaluate the advanced Excel skills of candidates during hiring. It contains questions related to advanced charts, formulas, and functions, and the hiring team can customize these questions according to business requirements.

Every skills test by Mercer | Mettl offers accurate, reliable, and scannable results for hiring managers. With efficient marking and detailed evaluation, hiring managers can find the right fit for different job positions easily.


Which job roles require Excel skills?

Advanced Excel skills are important in different job roles, such as:

  • Accounting
  • Data analysis
  • Market analysis
  • Administrative roles
  • Financial analysis
  • Digital marketing
  • Sales analysis
  • Project management



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Microsoft Excel is an important application used across departments for several functions. Whether it is the sales team using it for sales data management or the marketing team using it for market analysis, Excel experts help manage project resources efficiently.

For this reason, understanding the advanced Excel skills that the team requires is the key to building a future-proof workforce. Check Mercer | Mettl’s assessments and explore the library of pre-built tests to hire Excel experts for your organization.



What skills should you look for while hiring an Excel expert?

What advanced Excel skills are employers looking for?

What is the best description for an Excel expert?

Originally published October 19 2023, Updated November 8 2023

Written by

Vaishali has been working as a content creator at Mercer | Mettl since 2022. Her deep understanding and hands-on experience in curating content for education and B2B companies help her find innovative solutions for key business content requirements. She uses her expertise, creative writing style, and industry knowledge to improve brand communications.

About This Topic

The primary objectives of recruitment and selection are to ensure high-quality candidates who are culturally fit and work toward shared organizational goals and vision.

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