Critical MS Excel Areas to Test – Prior to Hiring

From the time it was released during the 80’s MS Excel has become one of the most widely used business tools. Critical business decisions are often based on Excel analyses. For this reason, it’s one of the most important skills to confirm, prior to hiring. It is also one of the most embellished skills on resumes.

Consider the common scenario where a candidate has been hired and has embellished their Microsoft Excel skills. They constantly bother co-workers with ‘how to’ questions and their mistakes go unnoticed at first. Their errors are eventually picked up when things have gone wrong with an order or, a misleading analysis due to an incorrect formula.  The reality is that it’s often some time before mistakes on MS Excel spreadsheets are picked up – after the damage has been done. The individual then requires training on skills they should already possess, costing businesses time, money and unnecessary stress.

Here are our TOP 10 MS Excel skills to test for when hiring to avoid costly hiring mistakes.

1. The MS Excel User Interface

Fig 1.1 – MS Excel User Interface. (Source: RightPeople, 2018).

What should they know?

Understanding the user interface is imperative. Users should have a solid grasp of the buttons such as Home, Edit, Undo, Redo and also the Keyboard Shortcuts and Ribbon Options. The should understand how to use workbooks and how to navigate between them.

2. Data Protection

What should they know?

One increasingly important skill is learning how to protect worksheets, reports and information. Businesses employ complex and unique formulas in their reports in order to interpret results and build their corporate strategy. Many datasets include sensitive data coming from individuals, companies or other entities. In order to safeguard formulas from editing or prevent unauthorised third-party access, employees need to know all the “tips and tricks” available, ranging from using passports to locking formula cells.

3. Insertion & Analysis: Sort, Filter, Find & Replace

What should they know?

A single worksheet can contain several tables. Handling the data across these tables is difficult if you were to do it manually. That’s why we have the Sorting function that allows organising entries by last name, price and etc. Additionally, the Filter function is used to identify rows of data entries that match particular criteria. For example, say you need to list of particular customers in an insurance company above the age of 40. A Filter function helps to do this. Last but not least, Find and Replace is as its name suggests, is a function that helps to find and replace characters and other values from within a workbook. It sounds easy but can be quite tricky to work with. Users must be cautious when using it because many areas are often updated simultaneously.

4. Insertion & Analysis: Name Ranging

When you’re working in MS Excel it’s also important to know about Name Ranging. Name Ranging allows a user to give names to cells and formulas. This allows time savings by typing a name instead of having to search the row throughout the workbook.

What should they know?

Knowing how to name cells and formulas is important. Following the naming conventions of Name Ranging is also helpful. Users should know that the first letter of a name can be a letter, an underscore ( _ ) or even a backslash ( \ ) and afterwards, anything from alphanumeric characters, periods ( . ) and even underscores. Also, the names should not be similar to cell references such as A1C2, B$200 and etc. Additionally, users should also note that cells do not distinguish between capital and simple characters.

5. Functions and Formulas

Functions and Formulas in Microsoft Excel

Fig 1.2 – Functions and Formulas. (Source: RightPeople, 2018)

What should they know?

Basic algorithmic functions such as addition, subtraction, IF/AND/OR Functions. The latter gives a Boolean result (true or false) about the data, allowing the user to cluster it in relation to a condition – they’re commonly known as logical operators and allow for the Excel system to make a decision for the user.

6. VLOOKUP an HLOOKUP

VLOOKUP and HLOOKUP’s helps to group and analyse data across columns or rows, for a particular value.  Depending on the function, a user can search vertically among the rows or horizontally among the columns.

What should they know?

Using VLOOKUP as an example, they should know that =VLOOKUP is (“the value you’re looking for“, “the table starting from the leftmost column from the first row to the rightmost column on the last row“,  “the index of the column starting from the leftmost column 1 to the rightmost column N“, “true = approximate match, false = exact match“).

7. Formatting with Charts & Slicers

 

What should they know?

Charts help in visualising data and are especially useful for presentations at meetings. The ability to create Pie Charts, Column Charts, Line Charts, Bar Charts, Area Charts and Scatter Charts is important. 

Slicers are another commonly used Excel feature that provides buttons that a user can click to filter table data or PivotTable data. In addition to quick filtering, slicers also indicate the current filtering state, which makes it easy to understand what exactly is shown in a filtered PivotTable.

8. Summarising with Pivot Tables

Pivot tables summarise and help to identify unique values in a field. They can, for example, help to quickly identify any typos and the unique values from within a large data set.

What should they know?

Being one of the most substantial Excel tools, the user should know how to use Pivot tables to re-structure and summarise selected columns etc. of data across large amounts of entries. They should be able to generate an output format that is a database table, containing significant or meaningful information on the values selected.

9. Macros

A Macro is a common function utilised by more advanced users. Macros provide an automated input function that replaces a repetitive series of mouse actions, commands or keystrokes. With macros, a proficient user can have Excel deliver troublesome tasks that could take hours, in a matter of a few seconds. 

What should they know?

The user should know how to use Macros to apply style and formatting, manipulate data and text, communicate with data sources (database, text files, etc.) and even create entirely new documents.

10. MS Excel Integration

Excel does not act in isolation within a person’s workflow. It is often useful to build in questions on using MS Excel with other tools like PDF, Microsoft Word (MS Word), Microsoft PowerPoint (MS PowerPoint) and Microsoft Outlook (MS Outlook).  It is useful for users to know how to fetch data from other sources such as the cloud, sending emails through Excel or, exporting to a properly formatted PDF document.


RightPeople’s Microsoft Excel tests cover all levels including Basic, Intermediate, Advanced and Expert.

For more information and to purchase Microsoft Excel tests for hiring or staff development, visit RightPeople Candidate Testing https://rightpeople.com.au/product-list/skills-tests/microsoft-excel-test.html

Personality Factors – Importance of the Big 5

In the world of personality assessment there are numerous tools that are used to measure and understand personality. A trait approach to personality has been in existence since the early 1900’s, and it has been the aim of many researchers to identify which are the most useful underlying factors to consider – with numerous studies dedicated to this topic.

Many of the largest and most reliable studies have indicated that the “Big Five” personality factors, namely Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism are the most valid and reliable factors with considerable research to support them.

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Navigating the world of telework

The rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) has created numerous opportunities for more flexible work options, also called telework. A report by Deloitte Access Economics predicted that flexible work created by the NBN would be one of the biggest structural changes to the labour market this decade, creating an additional 25,000 jobs by 2020. The research also found that almost 50% of the mature workers (aged 45-64 years) and one-third of the part-time workers surveyed had at least partially flexible work patterns.

Fast broadband technology and other structural changes are eroding the idea of the traditional ‘office’ workspace. We are increasingly seeing the rise of new forms of flexible work, including working from home, a mixture of working from home and office, regional workspaces, working from client workplaces etc.

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Ambiverts, Extraverts, and Sales Job Performance

In this article we look at Ambiverts, Extraverts, and Sales Job Performance and announce the new Accounts Payable and Receivable Test

Sales Aptitude Personality Research

Article Highlights

Extraversion vs Introversion is one of the most studied personality dimensions. It was a long-held belief that extraversion would “take a person further” in business, particularly in sales. The most recent research supports a third personality type that is in a way, a combination of qualities of both introverts and extraverts. These personalities stand to make the biggest impact in leadership and in sales. The implications suggest that:

  • Organisations should screen candidates around the “right disposition” and sales aptitude rather than relying on training people to cope with the pressures and emotional aspects of being in sales.
  • Organisations should consider re-thinking their personality style benchmarks for hiring sales staff and other roles where high levels of extraversion might seem like a key criteria.
  • The research continues to show that regardless of “personality type”, the qualities of self confidence, commitment, etc. are always going to impact the balance of this scale.
Sales Aptitude Personality Model

Sales Aptitude Personality Model

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New Era of English Language Assessment for Australian Schools [Press Release]

TOEFL Junior - The World Leader in Teen English Second Language Assessment

TOEFL Junior testing tool offers world-standard testing methodology to cope with large increase in school students learning English as a second language.

With students from non-English speaking backgrounds now estimated at around 30% of school enrolments in Australia, teachers are demanding a more effective means of placing new students into appropriate language programs.

With the arrival of the new TOEFL Junior testing tool, they will now have access to an internationally renowned english language assessment system to measure english language proficiency of students at the middle-school level.

Based on the heritage of the world-renowned TOEFL brand, the TOEFL Junior tests are specifically designed for English-as-a-second-language (ESL) students aged 11-16 to assess their English communicative competence against international standards. These tests can be used both for language placements and monitoring students’ progress.

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Microsoft Word Matters – Most Popular Corporate Software

“After Web browsers Word is the most-used app on the planet; it’s still the platinum standard in word processing. Nothing else even comes close” (PCMag, March 2013).

Microsoft Word is a word processing program developed by Microsoft.”  It’s been in existence since 1983, and since that time has undergone 14 revisions, the most recent being Word 2013. It is the most widely used word processing program, with Word files being used as the “go-to” format for sharing documents (e.g. by email) because almost every computer user can access a Word document by using MS Word, a viewer or word processor that imports the Word format.

Its basic features include utilities for manipulating and editing text, as well as a spell checker, thesaurus, and dictionary. It appears as a deceptively simple program, but it has a high degree of functionality.

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Time Management Scale – The Utility of ATOMS

The importance of effective time management skills in the workplace has been highlighted by issues including increasing workloads, less funding and greater diversity in the client base. A situation has been created where health professionals need to achieve more in less time, making good time management skills essential. The importance of these skills has been endorsed by graduates, supervisors of recent graduates, experienced practitioners, and educators in the industry.

To that end, researchers at Sydney University investigated the most effective way of evaluating time management skills that would be suitable for an academic environment and clinical settings. They used the Australian Time Organisation and Management Scale (ATOMS) (Covic, Adamson, Lincoln & Kench, 2003).

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Employee Engagement Essential in Professional Services Firms

The importance of employee engagement has been discussed in previous posts. Recent research indicates that nowhere is employee engagement more important than in professional services firms. While these firms are necessarily primarily client focused, ultimately the success of professional services firms relies on the success of their employees’ work. And the most successful employees are engaged employees.

In fact, in professional services firms employee engagement is a strategic business initiative.

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English Second Language Training and Support

In Australia, on average 15 percent of all school students come from a non-English speaking background. In some states it is much higher: in New South Wales this figure is almost 25 percent English Second Language Students, as it is in the Northern Territory, and in Victoria it is 20 percent. According to Adriano Truscott, president of the Australian Council of TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) Associations, Australia has an “outstanding tradition” in teaching English as a Second Language (ESL).

It is therefore vital that we have a great system for tracking the progress of our English Second Language Students (ESL) students, to cater for the needs of our high number of ESL students, as well as to safeguard our reputation as a leader in this field.

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Multitasking Ability and Intelligence

When dividing attention between two tasks (Multitasking), people need to find the most efficient ways of allocating their attentional or processing resources between the tasks. It is reasonable to presume that people with higher levels of intelligence will be better able to allocate their processing resources efficiently. This was investigated in a study by Ben-Shakhar and Sheffer. Read on to learn more about their findings and how RightPeople has used this information to help you make better choices during your recruitment process.

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Employee Retention Linked to Shared Values and Interests

Research by the American Psychological Association has found that workers are more likely to stay with employers when there is alignment between their values/interests and those of the organisation. They found that these factors were more important than remuneration and benefits.

The Workforce Retention Survey, conducted with American workers aged 18 years and above, examined a range of factors associated with employee retention. Even in the current economic climate, values and meaning were key drivers of employee satisfaction above financial considerations.

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Skills needed by multi-taskers

Brown (1998) investigated the concept of “time-sharing” proposed in earlier work on multi-tasking by Fogarty (1982) . Fogarty (1982) describes time-sharing as a factor that emerges when two tasks are undertaken simultaneously. This sharing of time between the tasks is the extra factor over and above those associated with performing each of the tasks in isolation.

In Brown’s paper two experiments were undertaken, one that involved completing a single task (manual tracking) and one dual tasks (manual tracking and a timing task). The following outcomes were found:

 

    • An interference effect. Doing two tasks at the same time disrupted the speed of the timing task and made it more variable.
    • A relationship between practice and interference. Practice on the tracking task under single-task conditions reduced the interference effect in timing. However, practice on the dual-task test was not successful at minimising the interference effect.

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Getting the most out of psychometric assessment

Our previous post Organisations are reaping the benefits of psychometric assessments summarised the outcomes of recent research by a leading organisational research firm which revealed the relationship between HR success and the use of psychometric assessment tools.

This post provides more information about the ways successful organisations use psychometric tools and incorporate them into their talent search and development programs. The 516 organisations involved in the research were placed into three groups based on criteria indicative of employee performance and satisfaction: best performers (best in class), average performers (industry average) and those lagging behind in their industry (laggards).

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Organisations are reaping the benefits of psychometric assessments

Organisations are continually looking for tools and techniques to help them make better hiring and promotion decisions, as well as for ways to set themselves apart in the search for talent. A 2011 survey by Aberdeen revealed the high prevalence and impressive benefits of psychometric assessments as part of a talent recruitment and development programs, particularly in an era when many organisations cannot afford to spend significant amounts of money hiring new staff.

The survey involved over 640 organisations, including more than 500 that used assessments as part of their hiring and talent development strategy. The researchers used several benchmarks of organisational HR success. These included: high rates of employees receiving outstanding performance reviews, sound succession plans and manager satisfaction rates. Read on to find out more about what these successful organisations did to set themselves apart…

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Job/person mismatch is a leading cause of underperformance

Underperforming employees can be very costly to organisations. A 2009 article in the  Australian Financial Review found that unproductive employees can cost Australian businesses up to approximately $33 billion a year!

A primary reason for underperformance is a poor fit between the employee’s skills and interests and the needs of the organisation. Another related reason is managers not clearly specifying their expectations and the requirements of the role. Both of these can lead to an employee struggling to deliver on what is required. These issues are preventable however.

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Recruiting older workers

Making the right decisions for your business

An important consideration when recruiting older workers is to consider what their strengths and weaknesses are likely to be in terms of their cognitive abilities (thinking abilities or intelligence). By using the right mix of psychometric tests you can easily and quickly identify what type of work older workers are best suited for, and in what aspects of work more training may be required.

This may also help guide organisational restructure and employee development programs.

There has been much research about the effect of ageing on cognition. Read on to find out more about some of the key outcomes of their research.

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The key advantages of well-designed skills tests

Skills tests assess skill levels of applicants or employees on a variety of topics and areas that are important in the workplace. These may include typing and data entry, Microsoft Office and other commonly used software tools, Web development and basic literacy and numeracy skills, to name just a few.

There are a number of key advantages to using well designed skills tests as part of a pre-employment selection process or employee development program. Read on to find out more about these advantages, and about what you should be looking for to ensure that you select the best skills tests for your organisation.

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Minimising the impact of disruptions in the workplace

Distractions such as telephone calls, emails, online notifications and colleagues stopping by for a chat, or even the time it takes to try to remove such distractions, are part and parcel of the modern workplace. We tend to take it for granted that long periods of uninterrupted work are few and far between.

Recent research has shown that this can have quite a damaging effect on productivity and work safety. A study conducted by Michigan State University found that interruptions as short as 3 seconds are enough to double the chance that an employee will make a mistake.

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Protecting your business against fraud and misconduct

As the business world becomes more diverse and expands across national boundaries, concerns about security and integrity in the workplace have never been higher. Stakeholder expectations for ethical business operations continue to rise, placing more responsibility on organisations to employ people who have high ethical standards.

To safeguard their organisations, many organisations incorporate background screening checks into their recruitment process. While the benefits of these are clear, there are legal ramifications which arise when a criminal record is revealed.  Refusing to employ an individual because they have a criminal record is against the law in Australia.

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Multi-score performance ratings work

Multi-score performance ratings are employee performance feedback systems where feedback is obtained from multiple sources (supervisors, peers, clients. They are very popular, with almost all Fortune 500 companies in the US using this approach (Cheung, 1999).

Why are they so popular?

Research shows that there are a number of reasons that multi-score (also often known as 360 degree) performance rating systems work so well. Read on to find out more.

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Multimedia and multi-tasking

Brunken and colleagues (2002) investigated multi-media learning and the processes that make it work. In two experiments they showed that the multimedia format facilitates learning through the processes of the dual coding effect and the modality effect.

The dual coding effect refers to the effect by which learning is improved when related pictures are presented at the same as text-based information, and the modality effect shows that learning is enhanced when information is presented through the visual and auditory modalities simultaneously.

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Speed, working memory and ageing

Numerous authors have examined the relationship between speed of processing, working memory and age, and debated the role of these concepts in understanding individual differences in cognitive ability. There are arguments as to the relative contributions of both concepts, and most theorists tend to agree that slowing is the explanation for cognitive decline.

Using tasks that draw on working memory (holding placekeepers in mind) and fluid intelligence (task complexity incrementally increasing), it has been found that both speed and working memory are important for our understanding of individual differences. It is unlikely that speed of processing can completely explain the decline in fluid intelligence with age.

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Tips when hiring a casual workforce

Over 2 million Australians, or 1 in 4 workers, are classified as casual workers.  A spokesperson from the ACTU described the trend in the increase in casual workers, or ‘casualisation’ of the workforce as “one of the dominant trends in the Australian workplace during the past decade”.

Much has been written about the casualisation of the workforce and there are many opinions on the benefits and costs. Casual employment can facilitate flexibility in the organsiation and help achieve a better work-to-lifestyle balance for employees. It can be particularly attractive to those who have other commitments, be it study or family, and who cannot or prefer not to commit to full time work. However, there are some hurdles that organisations should be aware of in relation to hiring a casual workforce.

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Report reveals the benefits of skills testing

Skills are specific competencies (such as knowledge of MS Excel) that enable performance of job tasks or functions (such as accounting tasks). While often thought of as ‘less than’ a qualification such as a degree, skills are essential in the workforce.

While being intelligent and having a degree, diploma or the like provide the necessary foundation to perform well in many roles, it’s also important that employees have the necessary skills to perform the day-to-day tasks required by their job and which are often not taught as part of a formal qualification.

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A theory on managerial success: managers need “soft skills” too

Research has shown that while intelligence in its traditional form, including tasks assessing verbal, numerical, visuo-spatial, reasoning and working memory, is the best predictor of job performance, other skills are also important for managerial success.

Sternberg’s (1996; 1997) triarchic theory of intelligence proposes that intelligence is comprised of traditional analytic skills, practical skills and creativity. He advises that managers need all these components of intelligence in order to be successful. Practical skills are those used in the workplace to guide interactions, help solve problems and knowing how to act in certain situations. They are usually acquired without the direct help of other people. Creativity in the workplace is about seeing old problems and situations in new ways, or the catchphrase of the early 2000’s: thinking outside the box.

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