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The Benefits of Excel Testing in the Interview Process: A Guide for HR Professionals

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Excel skills tests are increasingly commonly used as employee selection tools, and can be an essential addition to the interview process. Naturally, proficiency in MS Excel is a key requirement for many roles and is directly tied to the performance of employees. Those who struggle with Excel are likely to require significant training, presenting a major cost to employers.

Moreover, if they struggle with Excel even after receiving training, they are likely to be a poor fit for any role that uses Excel heavily, representing a major failure in recruitment and selection. Using Excel skills tests, however, allows employers to screen for these basic abilities early on, ensuring that all subsequent candidates meet a minimum level of Excel proficiency.

In this article, we will outline the key benefits of using Excel tests in the interview process, particularly from an HR professional's perspective.

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Improve quality of hire

One of the main goals of the recruitment process is to find and hire the best-suited candidates for the job. One way to improve the quality of hire is to use online Excel tests as a tool in the interview process. Excel tests can be tailored to the specific requirements of the job, testing candidates on their ability to use Excel functions and features that are relevant to the job. This ensures that the candidates who perform well on the test have the skills and knowledge necessary to perform well in the position.

By using online Excel tests as part of the interview process, HR professionals can gain a better understanding of each candidate's ability to use Excel. This information can be used to make data-driven hiring decisions, selecting the candidates who have the necessary skills and knowledge to perform the job effectively. Online Excel tests can be used to assess a wide range of skills, from basic data entry to complex data analysis. For example, candidates may be tested on their ability to create and format spreadsheets, use formulas and functions to perform calculations, analyse data using charts and graphs, and use advanced Excel features like pivot tables and macros.

By using online Excel tests as part of the interview process, HR professionals can gain a better understanding of each candidate's ability to use Excel.

Moreover, online Excel tests are a useful proxy for a candidate's problem-solving skills, time-management skills, and attention to detail. These skills are important for any job that requires the use of Excel, and they are especially important for positions that involve data analysis and reporting. Online Excel tests can also help HR professionals make fair and objective hiring decisions. All candidates are given the same test, ensuring that everyone is evaluated on a level playing field. This helps to eliminate any potential bias that may arise from other factors like education, work experience, or personal characteristics.

However, HR professionals and hiring managers are advised to incorporate other personnel selection tools into the interview process, particularly ability tests and behavioural assessments. Although Excel tests are likely to add value, Excel almost always accounts for a relatively narrow element of the job, and thus shouldn't be overweighed in any selection decisions. Nevertheless, in roles where Excel skills are essential to performance, including an online Excel test will almost certainly help improve the quality of hire.

Reduce administrative burden

As online assessments, Excel tests represent an ideal method of shortlisting candidates en masse. Rather than relying on hours of interviews or lengthy CV sifting, HR professionals and hiring managers can simply administer Excel tests to hundreds, even thousands of applicants, providing a convenient way to create concise shortlists. Usually, Excel tests provide HR professionals with a single, overall score representing the performance of each candidate, allowing them to rank-order candidates by their scores. This means that organizations can decide on pass marks and cut-scores, screening out large volumes of candidates while progressing the highest-potential candidates to the next stage.

Online Excel tests are almost always administered through an online psychometric testing platform, which typically offers a range of useful features to automate the process. For example, users could upload a spreadsheet with the candidates' names and email addresses, bulk inviting candidates in one go. Alternatively, many platforms offer self-registration links that can be embedded into mass emails, careers pages, or on static websites, allowing candidates to register themselves without any input from HR.

"Lastly, many psychometric testing providers have API integrations with applicant tracking systems and other HR software, allowing them to send out invitations directly through these systems."
- Ben Schwencke

Although highly convenient for both candidates and employers, this approach can seem rather impersonal. Additionally, screening out a large number of applicants could cause the organization to reject candidates who are high-performing in other areas, harming the interview process overall. To combat these issues, HR professionals should avoid being too selective when basing selection decisions solely on Excel tests and instead choose a relatively low minimum score. Additionally, they should be tactful regarding the messaging of these assessments, providing support and encouragement to candidates who take part, enhancing the candidate experience.

Save the organisation money

Using Excel skills tests as part of the interview process can be an effective way to save money on training for subsequent staff. This is because by identifying candidates with strong Excel skills, organizations can ensure that they have the right talent in place to handle data-related tasks and reduce the need for extensive training.

Hiring candidates with strong Excel skills can help organizations avoid the costs associated with training employees who are not familiar with the software.

These costs can be substantial, as they may include the cost of hiring trainers, the cost of purchasing training materials, and the cost of lost productivity while employees are in training. By selecting candidates with strong Excel skills, organizations can save money on training and get new hires up to speed more quickly. Furthermore, training can be a time-consuming process that takes employees away from their core responsibilities, which can have a negative impact on productivity. By selecting candidates with strong Excel skills, organizations can avoid the need for extensive training, which can help to keep employees focused on their primary duties and increase overall productivity.

Using Excel skills tests can also help to reduce turnover and employee dissatisfaction. When employees are not able to perform their duties efficiently due to a lack of Excel skills, they may become frustrated and unhappy in their roles. This can lead to turnover and the costs associated with recruiting and training new employees. By selecting candidates with strong Excel skills, organizations can ensure that employees are well-equipped to handle their responsibilities, which can help to reduce turnover and increase employee satisfaction.

Lastly, by hiring staff who already have strong Excel skills, organizations can utilize their L&D budget for other things. For example, by reducing the amount spent on Excel training, they could provide additional training in resilience, social skills, conflict management, data security, or myriad other areas that require formal training. This further boosts the organization, avoiding the opportunity cost associated with spending money on formal Excel training programs.

Easily combined with other assessments

Another important consideration is that Excel tests, like any other online assessment, can be easily combined with additional assessments measuring other skills, traits, and abilities. For example, Excel tests are frequently combined with MS Word assessments, allowing employers to evaluate a wider range of software skills. Additionally, some employers combine Excel tests with cognitive ability tests, situational judgment tests, or behavioural assessments, providing a more comprehensive profile of each candidate.

This approach offers a range of important benefits. Firstly, it greatly improves the quality of hire compared to using Excel tests in isolation. Research shows that cognitive ability tests, for example, are the strongest predictors of performance known, making them ideal additions to any selection process. By combining Excel tests with cognitive ability tests, organizations can capture more information about the candidate's likely potential, allowing them to make more informed selection decisions. This approach is also fairer for the candidates, as additional assessments give candidates the ability to compensate for poor performance on a specific assessment, allowing them to express their potential in other domains.

Additionally, by administering a battery of tests to the candidate, organizations can avoid the need to test candidates at multiple stages of the interview process. For example, some employers use ability tests first, then behavioural assessments, then Excel tests, representing three distinct stages in the interview process. This adds unnecessary complexity, while also lengthening the selection process for both candidates and employers. Moreover, each successive stage in the interview process increases the probability that candidates will discontinue their application, increasing candidate attrition. However, by combining multiple assessments into a single battery, organizations can minimize the number of stages in the interview process, making it more candidate-friendly.

Increase hiring velocity

Similar to reducing the administrative burden associated with recruitment, Excel tests can also be used to speed up the interview process. Excel tests can typically be completed in 10-30 minutes, requiring very little time from applicants. They can also be completed remotely and from any location, making them especially convenient for candidates. Moreover, unlike interviews, Excel tests scale very well, meaning every single candidate could theoretically complete their assessments at the same time, requiring no complex scheduling. The volume of candidates, therefore, doesn't affect the time required to complete this stage in the recruitment process, helping to improve hiring velocity.

These assessments are also very easily scored, and selection decisions can be conveniently automated. As with other online assessments, Excel tests can be scored automatically online, requiring no individual input from human assessors or markers. This further minimizes the required input from HR professionals and hiring managers, speeding up the interview process. Whereas interviews require careful consideration and reflection after completion, the results of Excel tests are made available the second the candidate completes them. This level of automation is a huge advantage when trying to speed up hiring velocity, increasing the speed at which new hires are welcomed into the organisation.

hiring velocity formula

When using Excel tests in this way, HR professionals must be mindful to manage this process in a structured way. For example, it is good practice to give candidates a specific deadline, encouraging them to participate within a certain timeframe. Depending on the needs and capabilities of the organization, this could be a 3-14 day timeframe, giving candidates adequate time to prepare and participate. By using a fixed deadline, organizations can easily keep control of the interview process's pace, allowing them to stick to a predetermined timeline. This is particularly important if the subsequent stage of the interview process involves face-to-face interviews or assessment centres, as both of those activities require careful planning.


Excel skills tests are a straightforward and cost-effective way to improve interview processes. They boast a range of benefits, many of which are especially helpful to organizations that are not currently using any form of online assessment at all. However, most of these benefits are amplified by using a wider range of online assessments, particularly cognitive ability and personality tests. When these assessments are used in combination with Excel tests, they can vastly improve the quality of hire, widening the scope of assessment. Consequently, we recommend always combining Excel skills tests with other tools, particularly cognitive ability tests.

Test Partnership offers an Excel skills test, along with a comprehensive battery of other assessments. Our Excel test is targeted at the beginner-intermediate level of difficulty, making it applicable to the majority of roles that require Excel skills. This assessment takes around 15 minutes to complete and can be easily combined with a range of other assessment tools. For more information on our Excel skills test, please contact us for more information or register for a free trial.

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Article by

Ben Schwencke

Ben is responsible for client delivery work at Test Partnership and usually serves as the main client of contact. He holds an MSc in Occupational Psychology and is a registered test user of ability and personality testing.

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