When hiring for certain positions, it’s crucial that you ensure job applicants are well-versed in the qualifications for the role. For bookkeepers, accountants, and any finance position, among others, Excel skills are vital. Testing a job applicant’s ability to use formulas, VLookup, IF statements, and more will help you hire the right person for the job.
If you need a quick way to test your candidates, use our free Excel test. It shouldn’t take them more than 30 minutes to complete and can help you weed out the unqualified job applicants, so you only hire applicants who meet your required qualifications.
Free Excel Test Directions
When you download the Excel test, you’ll see multiple tabs. The first tab, Context & Tasks, is the test given to job applicants. Tab 2, Clubdata, and tab 3, Fitness Table, are the data used by the applicant to complete the test. The last piece of the job applicant’s test requires them to create an output document. Note that the Excel Test Results file contains the test answers, so do not send this file to your job applicants.
Excel Skills to Test
Excel, and its related cousin, Google Sheets, are easy to use on the surface but incredibly difficult to master. Depending on the position you need to fill, the job applicant’s qualifications might vary. If you’re hiring for a front office position that needs to know how to create simple spreadsheets and use a SUM formula, that’s an entirely different Excel skill set than hiring for a bookkeeper or finance administrator.
Certain Excel skills will be necessary for your specific open role. For example, a bookkeeper must know how to input accounts receivable and payable data to create an accurate budgetary picture. A finance manager may need to know how to create charts to show a visual representation of where this month’s revenue is coming from.
Here are some common Excel skills you should test interview candidates for:
- Data input
- Data formatting
- Data manipulation
- Using formula
- Pivot tables
- Creating charts
- Flash Fill
- Conditional formatting
I recommend testing for the basics, regardless of the level of position you’re hiring for. Applicants must prove they have the foundational elements of Excel. Without that, they may not complete the more challenging tasks required for this position.
Types of Questions to Ask on an Excel Test
Some companies like to give multiple-choice tests to job applicants. Sometimes, these questions can provide insight into an applicant’s level of Excel knowledge. However, choosing the right multiple choice answer doesn’t actually show me the applicant can do the work—just that they know the right answer. So, I prefer to cut right to the chase and use practical questions.
Here’s a sample practical Excel test question:
Create a pie chart titled “Percent of Sales” and label each piece as follows:
- Referrals – 62%
- Outbound Sales – 23%
- Internet Ads – 8%
- Email Marketing – 7%
You’ll find that one of the tasks on our Excel test for job applicants requires the candidate to create a pivot table. This allows them to really demonstrate their current skillset.
How to Give the Job Applicant an Excel Test
Once you have determined the skills to test and questions to ask, you have to administer the exam. You have several options.
One option is to email the Excel test to each job applicant. Make sure you only email the test sheet and not the answer sheet.
The biggest benefit to emailing the Excel test to the applicant is that you can gauge their interest level in the position without too much investment from you. If they don’t respond to your email request, they probably weren’t that interested or qualified.
What I don’t like about emailing the test to the applicant is that they could use outside sources. While I’m an advocate for people using tools at their disposal, when you’re giving a candidate an Excel test, you really want to know what they know, not what they can Google.
A second option is to give job applicants an Excel test in person. This allows you to see the applicant work through the test, giving you a better idea of how long it takes them to complete. This method lets you learn what the applicant knows off hand. The biggest downside here is that this takes time to schedule, requiring a time investment on your part. When done later in the application process, however, it can help you separate the outstanding applicants from the average.
Grading the Job Applicant’s Excel Test
After you send your own Excel test via email or have the applicant take the test in person, you need to set aside time to grade the test. With our sample test provided, you have the answer sheet available to you, so you just need to compare that to the applicant’s answers.
You will need to compare the test results for each applicant. It’s crucial that you provide the same test to every applicant so you can compare apples to apples. Also, pay attention to individual questions, not just the final score. Some applicants may score lower overall but have more proficiency in the area you need.
Alternative Testing Options
If you don’t want to download our free Excel test and answer sheet, there are other options available to you.
Indeed provides free applicant screening tools for many skills, including Excel. Besides the option to ask applicants about their Excel skills, you can have Indeed test each candidate on their level of proficiency.
This helps you in two ways:
- Indeed will automatically reject any applicant who fails the Excel test
- You can see the level of proficiency of each applicant who passes
However, you will not have the ability to customize the Indeed Excel test in any way or evaluate an applicant’s test performance in person.
There are companies that will sell you an Excel test, along with an answer page. You can either purchase a specific test you download and send to applicants, or you can purchase access to a link that you can email to applicants. Of these options, sending a link is the most efficient for you since you simply get the results back and do not have to grade the test yourself.
However, these Excel tests can be expensive. Some are integrated into more comprehensive HR software, like IBM’s ProveIt, which starts at $5,000 per month. A more affordable option, EmployTest, has plans starting at $149. Depending on your business needs and how frequently you plan to hire, purchasing Excel tests can get expensive.
When to Give an Excel Test for Job Applicants
The right time to give your Excel test can vary based on the job you’re hiring for and how many applicants you get. The most logical time to have job applicants complete an Excel test is as part of applicant screening during the interview process. You have the candidate’s commitment at this point as they have learned they are in the running for the job and have been selected for an interview.
When scheduling an interview, I like to send a test and give the applicant a window of time to return the test, usually two business days. First, this shows me if the applicant is serious about the job by completing the test. Second, it allows me to ask questions about their proficiency during the interview based on the Excel test results.
According to a SHRM article citing several studies, between 50%-60% of job applicants will not apply or will abandon an application because of its length. Here’s why: Over 60% of all job candidates apply on their phone or a tablet, surpassing the amount who use a laptop or desktop computer.
Because job applicants are less likely to complete a lengthy application or take an Excel test on their phone, you’re better off collecting vital information at this stage and saving the Excel test for later in the application process. Asking one or two questions about an applicant’s Excel experience is a good idea, though you shouldn’t rely on their answer without verifying through a test.
The testing method that works best for you might differ from another company. Your testing methods might even vary from role to role. But when Excel skills are important to the position, you must verify a job applicant’s Excel skills. The best way to do that is through a practical exam.
My recommendation is to use our free template and modify it to best fit your needs. Because you can add real examples based on your business, you can test on items that job applicants may face working for your company. Grading the test can take time but it ensures that you know exactly what Excel skills each applicant has so you can make the right hiring decision.