This article is part of a larger series on Hiring.
When hiring for certain positions, you must 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.
If you need a quick way to test your candidates, use our free Excel test that mimics data that might be included in a sports club’s client database. Having your applicants use and manipulate that data allows you to evaluate their ability to use formulas, VLookup, IF statements, and more in 30 minutes or less. Armed with the results, you can weed out unqualified job applicants, so you only hire applicants who meet your required qualifications.
Free Excel Test Directions
When your test subject downloads the provided Excel test, they will see multiple tabs—Context & Tasks, Clubdata, and Fitness Table. For the purpose of completing the Excel skills tests, these tabs relate to a fictional facility: The Patagonia Exploration Club International.
Tab 1: Context & Tasks
The Context & Tasks tab includes the various accelerated Excel functions that will be tested and instructions for performing those tasks using data provided across all three tabs. The information in the left columns shows the skills and familiarity required to complete the tasks in each stage.
The test consists of the following stages:
- Stage 1: Standardizing the Dataset – This stage tests the individual’s ability to process data between different types of variables.
- Stage 2: Conversions – This stage tests the individual’s ability to convert formulas (i.e., centimeters to inches) and use the VLOOKUP (vertical lookup) function to populate them.
- Stage 3: Pivot Table 1 – This stage tests the individual’s ability to create a pivot table.
- Stage 4: Pivot Table 2 – This stage tests the individual’s ability to take an existing pivot table and change its values, creating new value tabs.
- Stage 5: Sorting and Pivotchart – This stage tests the individual’s ability to sort data within a pivot table or pivotchart.
- Stage 6: Print Setup and Output – This stage tests the individual’s ability to create a header using Page Setup, as well as print the document to a PDF file.
Tab 2: Clubdata
The Clubdata tab lists the demographic information of all club members of our fictional club, including name, birthdate, sex, height, and weight, among other data. This data is used in the Context & Tasks tab to complete the Excel test.
Tab 3: Fitness Table
The Fitness Table shows the PECI-SCORE, PECI-LEVEL and PECI-CODE. In Stage 2: Conversions of the Excel test, applicants will use data collected to calculate the PECI-SCORE, and use VLOOKUP to populate the PECI-CODE from the tab FITNESS TABLE tab into their answers.
Excel Test Results: Grading
The Excel Test Results file contains the test answers, so do not send this file to your job applicants. It is for grading purposes only and should be used as a guide to examine how well the individual performed on their assessment. Pay attention to individual questions and not just the final score, as some applicants may score lower overall but have more proficiency in the area you need.
Scroll through the images below for information on what each results sheet illustrates about your candidate.
How to Facilitate an Excel Test
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 during applicant screening as part of 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.
The test can be administered by email or in person, depending on your preference.
If you choose to email the test to your candidates, 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. If they don’t respond to your email request, they probably weren’t that interested or qualified.
The downside to emailing the test to the applicant is that they could use outside sources to complete the test. When you’re giving a candidate an Excel test, you really want to know what they know—not what they can look up.
You may choose 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 and requires a proctor to sit in with the candidate. When done later in the hiring process, however, it can help you separate the outstanding applicants from the average.
Excel Skills to Test
Depending on the position you need to fill, the job applicant’s qualifications might vary. Hiring for a front-office position that needs to know how to create simple spreadsheets and use a SUM formula is 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 to test interview candidates for:
- Data input
- Data formatting
- Data manipulation
- Using formula
- Pivot tables
- Creating charts
- Flash fill
- Conditional formatting
It is recommended that you test for the basics, regardless of the level of position for which you’re hiring. Applicants must prove they have the foundational elements of Excel. Without that, they may not be able to complete the more challenging tasks required for the position.
Alternative Options to Our Free Excel Test
There are additional options available to provide Excel testing for your candidates. Indeed offers a free Excel skills test that can be added as part of your applicant screening. Additionally, you can purchase Excel tests from outside sources, where they will be administered and graded for you, or even create your own test unique to your business.
Indeed Excel Test
Indeed provides free applicant screening tools for many skills, including Excel. In addition to the option to ask applicants about their Excel skills, you can have Indeed test each candidate on their level of proficiency.
By setting up the Excel test during the application process, Indeed will automatically reject any applicant who fails the Excel test. You can also see the level of proficiency of each applicant who passes. The downside to using Indeed’s Excel test is that you will not have the ability to customize the test in any way or evaluate an applicant’s test performance in person.
Purchase an Excel Test
There are companies that will allow you to purchase 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.
Some are integrated into more comprehensive HR software and others are standalone tests. However, depending on your business needs and how frequently you plan to hire, purchasing Excel tests can get expensive. Several options include:
- TestGorilla – Starting at free for five tests, with custom plans available
- TestDome – Starting at $100 for five tests
- EmployTest – Starting at $149 for five tests
- ESkill – Starting at $1,200 for 100 tests
Create Your Own Excel Test
If you are creating your own Excel test, be sure to ask practical questions that are related to the job duties of the position. Your questions should require applicants to create spreadsheets and test their ability to organize, track, and manipulate numerical data.
Review our guide to pre-employment assessment tools for other tools to help you evaluate your candidates’ qualifications and experience.
When Excel skills are important to the position, you should verify a job applicant’s aptitude. The best way to do that is through a practical exam. Download our free Excel Test template to test the Excel skills of your applicants. 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.