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Have They Got the Skills? 7 Questions to Ask Your Excel Consultant

By December 27, 2019July 28th, 2023No Comments

It’s been over thirty years since Microsoft excel hit the market and it’s since been one of the most vital applications you can find. It’s mostly popular due to a large number of features that allow its users to quickly analyse data as simply as possible. And since Excel has launched, its competitors still struggle to be the better tool for data analysis. Hence why finding the best Microsoft Excel Consultant is as important as any other data analyst position.

You want to ensure that job applicants are well-qualified and comfortable manoeuvring through Excel. Most recruiters are vague on the details when speaking to prospective employees, but you don’t have to be!

Here’s your guide to the best questions to ask a potential excel consultant before bringing them on board to your business.

1. Ask About Data Formats and How They Are Used

It would be a great start to the interview process to ask simpler questions. If the applicant has spent any time using Excel, then they’ve had the opportunity to experiment with multiple data types. Therefore, they should be familiar with some of the most frequently used formats:

Numbers are frequently used by all Microsoft Excel Consultants. They can be formatted with customised decimal places or numbers, and sometimes have commas to separate the thousands digits. An excel consultant can then add, subtract, divide, multiply, or include formulae and functions that allow numerical inputs.

Microsoft Excel can show you dates in a variety of ways, including the traditional style MM/DD/YYYY. Dates can then be added or subtracted using basic addition and subtraction and can be manipulated using different date-based functions. Dates in Excel are also stored as numbers — so the date May 5, 2019, will be stored in Excel as the number 42,128, since there are 42,128 days from January 1, 1900, to May 5, 2019.

You can also format numbers as percentages. The programme multiplies the input number by 100 and adds the percentage sign at the end. For example, the number 0.07 is equivalent to the percentage of 7 percent.

2. Ask About the Order of Operations for Evaluating Formulas

Similarly to standard mathematics, Microsoft Excel has an order of operations when evaluating multiple operators within the formula bar. An excel consultant should know the acronym PEMDAS to understand the order of operations that Excel uses. PEMDAS stands for parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction.

When trying to evaluate formulae, Excel will always process operators in that order. If your applicant knows the solution when they receive an unexpected result from their mathematical formulae, then you’re in good hands. They should be double-chequing to ensure that parentheses are being used properly so that they achieve the results that they want.

3. Ask About Functions in Excel

For any frequent excel user, functions should be second nature to them. They’ve used SUM, AVERAGE, and VLOOKUP frequently but should also understand what functions actually are when creating spreadsheets. Describing functions can be a bit of a trick question, but it’s also imperative for any business consultant to know.

The name of a function describes what the function does, such as a SUM or an AVERAGE. The arguments of any function describe what ingredients are going into it. And the output of the function comes out on the other side and is useful for showing important data etc.

4. Ask Them What The Most Useful Functions in Excel Are

This can definitely be a tricky question since you’re asking applicants to use their subjective judgment instead of giving an objective answer. Expect a wide range in responses but each should be well-thought-out. This question will demonstrate both their proficiency with Microsoft Excel and their wide range of experience using spreadsheets.

INDEX MATCH and VLOOKUP are two of Excel’s most commonly-used functions. Both are equally important, but if an applicant brings up INDEX MATCH, then they could be a bit more fit for the job. That’s because they understand how this is the more useful function and doesn’t have the disadvantages of VLOOKUP.

5. Ask About the Difference Between Relative and Absolute References

A good Microsoft Excel Consultant will know all of the magical features of Excel’s cell references. Cell references allow you to include the values of external cells dynamically in formulae. This is more effective than manually hard-coding particular values.

Excel’s default setting is to use relative cell references. This changes dynamically since they are copied and pasted on the row below and the row to the right. This leaves the new reference pointing to cell B2 and allows users to do similar calculations for different ranges of cells easily and quickly.

Absolute cell references, on the other hand, do not change once they are copied and pasted into other locations amongst the sheet. Absolute cell references are used on either columns or rows or both simultaneously. They are also indicated by using the $ sign.

6. Ask What Some of the Best Practices Are for Complex Models

Though Microsoft Excel can be used for basic calculations, it’s most effective when designing complex maths models that better predict outcomes or tracking data over time. When interviewing for a business consultant, you should ask how they use spreadsheets to accomplish more difficult tasks. When listening to the answer, be sure to also ask about what these spreadsheets look like for them.

An excel consultant should know the best ways to create multiple tabs so they can stay organised, effective, and helpful for anyone else viewing the spreadsheet. They should be savvy at using dynamic inputs that never reveal hard-coding, but instead, uses cell references. And they should also have a table of contents to keep things structured.

7. Ask About the Spreadsheets They Are Most Proud of Creating

This is a softer and more subjective approach to getting to know a business consultant applicant. Asking about the spreadsheets they’ve created that they are most proud of to get a sense of their past experience and enthusiasm towards quantitative analysis. They should provide 2-3 examples of their prior spreadsheet use.

Hire the Best Microsoft Excel, Consultant

Before doing another search for “the best excel consultant near me”, keep this article in mind instead. Once you have the right questions, you’ll be able to hire the best Microsoft Excel Consultant with ease. And for more advice on any and all data-related roadblocks, give us a call!

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