Excel expertise is a prerequisite for many job roles. From data analyst jobs to operational level jobs, many job roles require an understanding of Excel. Microsoft Excel is one of the most essential and ubiquitous business applications that allows you to visualise and analyse data. Because of the popularity and growing demand for analysing data to make critical business decisions, interviewers include different Excel interview questions in an interview. Answering Excel interview questions with precision and confidence showcases your technical prowess, mathematical thinking, analytical skills and increases your chances of cracking the interview.
In this article, we will discuss Excel interview questions you may encounter in your interview with example answers and use the STAR method to answer interview questions.
Why use the STAR method to answer excel interview questions?
You may have to answer a few excel interview questions in your interview because it is usually a small part of a larger interview strategy. An interviewer is likely to focus on some of the most critical functions, formulas and Excel features.
As far as possible, give examples from your experience when answering Excel interview questions. You can use the STAR interview response technique to make yourself a competitive applicant and showcase your application proficiency.
The STAR method to answer excel interview questions is:
- Situation: Start by describing a challenging situation in the question.
- Task: Explain your role and responsibility in providing a solution to the above challenging situation.
- Action: What action you took to overcome the difficulties.
- Result: Explain how your actions impacted the outcome.
Common Excel interview questions and answers
Here are 9 common excel interview questions with example answers:
1. What is the use of the VLOOKUP function?
Questions that are directed toward a formula or function help the interviewer understand your proficiency with Excel. VLOOKUP is an important Excel function and is widely used across different job roles.
When answering such advanced concepts, always use your personal experience to showcase your knowledge and familiarity with the concept.
Example: “VLOOKUP helps find data in a large spreadsheet using the lookup value in another spreadsheet. It is an essential function because it provides valuable insights and relationships between the data set.
As a purchasing and inventory supervisor, I worked with Excel to optimise inventory quantities and levels to meet customer demand. After each month, I had to go through the on-hand inventory and inventory usage data and separate it using the product's code. This helped me develop creative solutions for slow-moving inventory and ensured that I could manage the faster-moving inventory without facing issues.
Using VLOOKUP, I could achieve the goal successfully without wasting too much time. It helped me save so much time that I could calculate the months on hand for each product. This gave me insights into the number of months required for the on-hand inventory to finish. This was something not expected from me and I could provide valuable insights to the management.”
2. Explain the difference between COUNT, COUNTBLANK and COUNTA?
Apart from crunching numbers, you may have to count cells with and without values for in-depth analysis. Answering this question showcases your Excel and technical prowess. Interviewers ask this question to understand your knowledge of Excel functions as they might help you in the job.
Example: “The COUNT function in Excel counts the number of cells containing a numeric value. It does not count blank cells, cells with special characters and string value. COUNTBLANK function counts only the number of blank cells. It skips cells with values. COUNTA function counts all the cells irrespective of whether it has string values or special characters. However, COUNTA does not count blank cells.”
3. Why is the freeze pane important in Microsoft Excel?
Your job may require crunching thousands of numbers for analysis. Through this question, an interviewer wants to understand how you deal with a large table of information under one heading. As you scroll down the excel sheet, the heading disappears and this could make your analysis wrong. It is one of the basic excel interview questions requiring excellent foundational knowledge.
Example: “Freeze pane allows locking of the column or row headers. It lets you keep the row and column heading locked when scrolling up and down to the other parts of the worksheet. These frames do not scroll and the other areas remain unaffected. However, you cannot freeze columns and rows if your worksheet is protected. For freezing a pane, select the column header or row header and click on the 'View' tab. Select the 'Freeze Panes' option and choose an option that suits your requirement.”
4. Do you know about pivot tables in Excel?
Interview questions that are direct and ask whether you know something is an excellent opportunity to give examples from your experience. As the question gauges your Excel familiarity, you increase your chance of cracking the interview when you explain how you used it in your previous job.
Pivot table is a critical concept and often asked by interviewers. The answer you give showcases your resourcefulness with Excel.
Example: “Pivot tables provide an interactive view of a large data set. It summarises, reorganises, aggregates, counts, groups, sorts and computes an extensive data set. It extracts important information from complex and vast data sets. I have vast experience using pivot tables as a data analyst with an FMCG company in New Delhi.
The FMCG company wanted to know the age group and states where their new cold cream made most sales during the winter. They ran a campaign from November to February and handed the data set to me for giving useful insights. I used Pivot tables to help the FMCG company decode the age group and states where their cold cream performed the best.”
Related: How to Crack a Job Interview
5. Can you code using the VBA language?
Never answer such advanced-technical questions in one word. Grab this opportunity to showcase your intellectual, analytical and coding skills to the interviewer. Knowledge of macros and VBA language make you a competitive applicant because you can automate frequently occurring tasks.
Example: “Yes, I know macros and VBA language. As a sales manager of a leading electronics brand, my team had to manipulate thousands of lines of data to create a sales report. Each quarter the company required a new report and the steps required for creating a report remained the same. I developed a macro to automate the entire process. The macro could manipulate the data, generate a report and displayed the insights in the chart form. It saved a lot of working hours and increased the productivity of my sales team.”
6. Explain charts in Excel
Charts help display information in an easy-to-digest format and knowledge of this feature comes in handy when preparing reports or analysing data. Questions that ask you to explain a feature are an opportunity to portray your Excel skills.
Example: “Charts in Excel are a graphical representation of data. In my previous position as a marketer, I used charts to show the relationship between quality content and search engine rankings.”
7. What is conditional formatting in Excel?
Applicants who are well-versed in Excel know the importance of conditional formatting. This is an intermediate-level question that confirms your understanding of the topic.
Example: “Conditional formatting allows you to apply a format to a single cell or range of cells based on specific criteria. It makes trends and patterns in your data look more apparent.
As an FMCG company's HR manager, I used an Excel spreadsheet to track the employee's breaks, in-time and out-time. The FMCG company wanted to filter out people who were spending way too much time in the office. It cost losses worth lakhs of rupees as these employees charged overtime. Using conditional formatting in Excel, I could highlight employees who were spending more than 8 hours in the office.”
8. What is absolute cell reference in excel?
Though this a fundamental Excel interview question, it tests your foundational knowledge. When answering this question, instead of giving examples from your experience, keep it direct. Such questions describe your technical prowess required to work efficiently with Microsoft Excel.
Example: “Absolute cell reference is a locked reference and ensures that the rows and columns will not change on copying the cell. We add a '$' symbol in front of the row and column number. When the cell is $A$2, both rows and columns remain unchanged on copying. But if it is $A2, it means that the column remains unchanged, but the row changes on copying. Similarly, for A$2, the column changes, but the row remains unchanged on copying.”
9. Can you link a cell to different files and websites on the internet?
This is a foundational question that tests your fundamentals in Excel. Often, in many analytical roles, you may have to source information or data in your spreadsheet. Also, such a question may segue into a complex Excel interview question.
Example: “Yes, we can link a cell to different files and websites on the internet using the hyperlink feature of Excel.”