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Adding Microsoft Excel Testing To Your Hiring Process

A long time ago, when working as a Personnel Officer, I would meet a departmental manager several times a year to help her interview candidates for admin roles.   One of her ‘absolute must-haves’ for the role was a competent grasp of Microsoft Excel for Windows95.  As I said, it was a long time ago.

The interview question went like this:

“Would you describe your Excel skills as Basic, Intermediate or Advanced?”

People who replied ‘Basic’ found their interview quite a lot shorter than the 30 minutes stated on their invitation letter, whilst ‘Advanced’ responses were fawned over and almost always made job offers.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the level of skills asserted at the interview often didn’t translate into actual skills in the job, resulting in other visits to the department by the Personnel Officer to instigate performance management measures and sometimes exits.

In the days of Windows95, cloud based simulated software tests were largely restricted to the Holodeck on Star Trek – Next Generation episodes, but in 2020 there’s still plenty of employers interviewing people about their software skills when an absolute measure of skills that requires candidates to prove what they can (and can’t) do is at their fingertips.

If you need people to be able to use Excel with competence, but are still interviewing them about it, or maybe giving them multiple-choice question tests, then this short read is for you:

Want to see if Accountests will work for your company or firm?  Click on the button for a FREE trial worth up to $200 - use it on a candidate or get one of your staff to give it a go and see what they think (offer does not apply to Excel tests).  


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Why Use Simulated Excel Tests?

Simulated Excel tests take place in a synthesized version of the application, where the questions take the form of tasks that candidates are required to carry out to prove they can operate at the level essential to the job.  This places simulated tests way ahead of multiple-choice style tests.

Tests are available at Basic, Intermediate and Advanced levels, so employers can pitch the difficulty of the test to the role.  Most accounting and bookkeeping businesses use the Intermediate level test, with the Advanced level test reserved for roles such as Actuaries and Business Analysts.  There are also specialist Excel tests focused wholly on features such as Pivot Tables.

With most Excel tests timed at 30 minutes and performance reports generated almost instantly, employers quickly and reliably gain a snapshot of current Excel skills, enabling them to target priority training to Excel skills shortfalls, identify highly skilled and reject poorly skilled candidates objectively and fairly.

Where Can You Get Them?

Accountests recently added a suite of simulated Microsoft Excel Tests to our product range which can be purchased in the same ‘pay-as-you-go’ way as our accounting and bookkeeping tests.

There’s a good overview of the tests here on our website, including sample reports to illustrate the output and value to your selection decision making.

Any queries on using simulated testing, do Contact Us

Happy recruiting!

 Have you ever made recruitment decisions you lived to regret?  Are you given recruitment responsibilities on top of your day job and struggle to find time to do it all?  Get our compact Accountant & Bookkeeper Recruitment Guide for free.   


An easy reference document covering the whole process from scoping the Job Description for upcoming vacancies, right through to making better job offers than your competitors and sealing the deal, and every step in between.  Written by Accounting firm Partners, HR/People Management professionals within the accounting and bookkeeping sector and drawing on established and emerging best practice in selection techniques in Australasia, the UK and US, you can have access to a wealth of practical recruitment and selection knowledge and links to external expertise and reusable templates whenever you need it.

 About the Authors

Giles Pearson FCA was a PwC Partner for 18 years before jointly setting up Accountests.  

Steve Evans has a whole career dedicated to enabling employers to attract, recruit, develop and retain talented individuals and teams, with particular expertise in candidate testing and assessment before setting up Accountests.

Accountests deliver the world’s only online suite of annually updated and country-specific technical knowledge tests designed by accountants for accountants and bookkeepers.