Top Excel Interview Questions And Answers

By Amanda Covaleski - Feb. 10, 2021
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Microsoft’s Excel program is useful for all areas of work, regardless of your role or industry. It can help you do your job better by organizing, analyzing, and manipulating data, or it can even be a central part of your job duties.

In professions where having a solid knowledge of Excel is required, it’s not uncommon for an Excel test or questions to show up in the interview process.

If using Excel will be a key part of your job, employers want to know that you have the necessary skills and knowledge to be good at the job you’re applying for. In these cases, it’s a good idea to brush up on your spreadsheet skills and prepare for any Excel-related questions that might come up.

Whether you’re expected to answer a few interview questions about Excel or show off your skills, our guide is a great starting point. We’ll go over what to expect when you see Excel-related questions in a job interview, and we’ll show you a few of the most common questions interviewers will ask you about Excel and their answers.

What to Expect From Excel Interview Questions

If you’re in a profession where crunching numbers, analyzing data, or just organizing information is an essential part of your role, you probably need a good grasp of Excel and other spreadsheet programs.

For jobs where this is the case, employers might ask some Excel-related questions during the interview process. These questions aren’t meant to trick you or confuse you. Employers just want to know that you have the necessary skills to succeed in the role you’re applying for.

Think of Excel questions like any other question you’ll come across in the job interview process. Your interviewer will ask you questions about your work history, skills, personality, and a few behavioral questions. Questions about your knowledge of Excel fit into questions about your skills.

You just need to show the interviewer your existing knowledge or emphasize your desire to learn if you have less experience. If you do have previous Excel experience, try to tie as much of that into your answers as possible. It will show that you have real-world practice with the software and give your interviewer more information about your previous roles.

Depending on the job you’re applying for, the knowledge that a potential employer will expect you to have about the platform varies. If you’re in an analyst role that requires lots of data analysis, you’re going to want to have a deep understanding of Excel and all of its relevant functions.

If you’re in a coordinator role or something less data-heavy, you’ll want to know your way around the program and be comfortable using it, but the hiring team probably doesn’t expect you to be a master.

One of the best ways to prepare for an interview that will include Excel-related questions is to review the job description. Many job postings explicitly list Excel as a required skill if it’s going to be used heavily in a role.

Other times, you might just see something broad like “comfortable with Microsoft Office suite,” this means having a general and basic knowledge of Excel.

Here are a few other ways to prepare for Excel interview questions:

  • Take an Excel course. There are lots of courses online about Excel, and you can even get a certificate for completing them. If the job you’re applying for is going to rely on Excel heavily, it’s a good idea to take an advanced course and refresh your memory on the program.

    It’s a good idea to find a course that awards a certificate at the end so that you can show potential employers that you’ve reached a certain level of competency with the program.

  • Create tasks for yourself. One way to practice for an interview is to brush up on your skills and help yourself to come up with a task and complete it in Excel.

    For example, maybe you want to get better at budgeting your money, so creating a budgeting spreadsheet is a good way to practice in Excel while improving your financial health.

    You can also make spreadsheets for the job search process or vacation planning, so there’s sure to be a way for you to practice.

  • Look at sample questions. Take a look at some Excel sample questions and answers, as we have listed below. You can better understand what employers look for this way, plus you can get some practice.

    Try answering the questions on your own, then see how your answer compares to the sample answer.

Common Excel Interview Questions and Answers

Here are a few of the most common Excel interview questions and answers. This isn’t an exhaustive list, and it’s not industry-specific, so it’s a good idea to do some extra research on your own.

We’re covering common questions for all skill levels when it comes to Excel, so if you can’t answer some of the more technical ones, you don’t need to worry if you only need basic Excel knowledge.

  • Can you explain what Microsoft Excel is? Excel is a spreadsheet program that allows you to input data, store, organize, and analyze it. It also allows you to create graphs and tables to better organize and visualize your data.

  • What are cells? Cells are the boxes where you input your data. They can hold numerical and text values. You can locate them by naming their column (A-Z) then their row (1-999).

  • What data formats are available in Excel, and what are they used for? Numbers are used to show data as a number, Currency shows data as a monetary value, Date shows data in date format, Percentage shows numbers as a percentage, and Text shows the cell as text values.

  • How do you add rows and columns in Excel? If you go to the area where you want a new row or column, then right-click, there’s an option to add a row above or below or add a column to the right or left.

  • What formulas do you use most in Excel? I have used COUNTA, DAYS, SUMIFS, and AVERAGEIFS the most in my previous roles. I’m also comfortable with formulas like VLOOKUP, IFERROR, and RANK, but I used them less than the others I mentioned.

  • What is text wrapping, and do you know how to do it in a cell? Text wrapping is used when you want to format the text within a cell to either move to the next line within a cell or cut off at the end of the cell.

    You can wrap text if you select the text, then go to the home tab, and there’s an option for text wrapping.

  • What is freezing panes, and how do you do it? Freezing panes allows you to keep headers at the top of your spreadsheet as you scroll.

    You can do it by selecting the rows and columns that you want to freeze, then navigating to the View tab and selecting Freeze Panes, where you have three different options to freeze the rows and columns.

  • What order of operations does Excel use? Excel follows PEMDAS, so operations within parentheses first, then exponents, followed by multiplication and division, then addition and subtraction last.

  • Can you explain how a pivot table works? Pivot tables are a way to organize and view data. You can set which categories and values you want to view to better understand how the data is related.

    One time in a previous position, I needed to analyze which versions of an ad performed best on which social media platforms to yield the best conversion rates for a marketing campaign we ran.

    By reorganizing the data by platform and ad version (versions A, B, C, and D), then looking at total conversion rates and cost per conversion, I was able to recommend that the marketing team continued with ad versions B and C on Facebook and Instagram advertising.

  • Which two macro languages does Excel use? Currently, Excel uses VBA most commonly, but it used to be XLM.

  • Do you know how to add up data in rows and columns quickly? Yes, using the SUM function can add up the values in rows and columns.

  • Is there a way to prevent other people that you share your spreadsheet with from editing it? Yes, you can password protect the spreadsheet from the Menu bar. Under Review, there’s an option to Protect Sheet, and you can add a password. Sharing the password with others gives them the ability to edit your work.

  • What types of COUNT functions does Excel have? Excel has five different COUNT functions: COUNT, COUNTA, COUNTBLANK, COUNTIF, and COUNTIFS.

  • Do you know how to calculate percentages in Excel? Yes, if you want to find a percentage, you need to divide the part by the whole and set the cell to the Percentage format.

    So, for example, if you wanted to calculate what percent of t-shirts were sold, you need the number of t-shirts sold (32) and the total number of t-shirts made (126). In the cell, you can enter =(32/126) and make sure the cell is formatted to show percentages.

  • What are the three report types available in Excel? The three report formats are Compact, Report, and Tabular.

  • Can you create shortcuts for functions? Yes, it’s done through the Quick Access Toolbar over the home button. There, you can customize the display to show you the most used functions and make them easily accessible.

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Amanda Covaleski

Amanda is a writer with experience in various industries, including travel, real estate, and career advice. After taking on internships and entry-level jobs, she is familiar with the job search process and landing that crucial first job. Included in her experience is work at an employer/intern matching startup where she marketed an intern database to employers and supported college interns looking for work experience.

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