Advanced Excel Skills: Definitions and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 21, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Software knowledge can help employees succeed in many career fields. Using Excel, for example, allows employees to work more efficiently and increase productivity through data organization. These skills can also be an important part of the application process, depending on your industry. In this article, we discuss advanced Excel skills, various advanced functions, how to improve your skills, and how to demonstrate your skills during your job search.

Understanding advanced skills in Excel

Advanced skills in Excel are complex, but having proficiency in them can help you land the job you want. Advanced skills in Excel go beyond basic entry and are helpful for analyzing data at a higher level. Those using advanced Excel skills can report and present data in ways that are understandable across multiple teams and departments. Moreover, you can use advanced formulas and functions to manage this data.

Related: How to Improve Your Management Skills

Ways to use advanced Excel skills

There are a few ways to use advanced Excel skills. Here is a list of how you can use these skills:

Consolidating data

Those working with Excel skills need to merge data and gather information practically. You may need to do this if you work in a store that has a list of online and in-person clients. By using advanced Excel skills, you can combine these lists.

Choosing your data

Another way to use advanced skills is to filter through data to find relevant information. If you're working for a company that needs you to find data on products that are priced over $100, these skills allow you to do so.

Representing data

You can use Excel skills to transform data into visual representations. This allows supervisors and colleagues to analyze data more efficiently. You can do this by transforming your data into graphs or charts that provide a visual of your data.

Advanced skills in Excel examples

Here is a list of some examples of advanced skills in Excel:

Using conditional formatting

When you use conditional formatting, you're also notating data. This often involves using background colours when data meets specific criteria. An example of this is when you want to highlight numbers that have gone over or under a threshold.

Using pivot tables

You can use pivot tables to filter or single out data that is part of a large Excel sheet. You can transfer a large sheet into a smaller one by reformatting and consolidating data. This benefit of using pivot tables is that you can turn data that is originally difficult to interpret into a sheet that is more understandable. Doing this allows you to make projects more efficient and manageable.

Considering this, pivot tables are most appropriate in circumstances when you have large amounts of data. When working for a company that has a significant number of sales, for example, you can use pivot tables to consolidate data from those sales into fewer entries.

Understanding power query

When using power query, you can transfer data from external sources into Excel. This advanced tool allows you to work with and analyze large amounts of data. To use Power Query, you also need to have a good grasp of external data sources. Use this tool if your company stores data in files outside of Excel.

Using VLookup

VLookup is a useful skill for those who want to identify the location of data or combine several sets of data into one that is more manageable. VLookup is otherwise known as Vertical Lookup and identifies where data sits in a column.

Because VLookup manages columns, it arranges your data vertically. The values you're looking up should be in the column farthest to the left.

Using Flash fill

This tool allows you to manage data within a row. When you do so, this manipulation also affects the remaining rows. Flash fill is useful for those who are trying to save time and increase efficiency. An example of a circumstance to use flash fill is if you want to change the names of a given row to have a prefix like "Ms." before the names. By using flash fill on one row, you can subsequently add the prefix before the remaining rows.

Understanding Filters

When you use filters, you can find specific data without highlighting the remaining data in the spreadsheet. When you have advanced Excel skills, you can use filters to highlight specific data and analyze the data chosen. You can use this tool, for example, if you want to find a list of employees with a particular birthday in the marketing department.

Using COUNTIF

This function allows users to find the number of times a value occurs in a spreadsheet. This value can be anything from the number of employees in a particular department to department names. This is useful for finding relevant information more efficiently.

Navigating Sparklines

Sparklines provides users with the opportunity to create visual representations of data by using either lines or columns. This is done inside a data cell. Sparklines is useful for those who want to find trends within smaller pieces of data that contribute to larger spreadsheets.

Validating data

The primary use for those validating data is to determine whether there are errors within a dataset. If the user finds errors, they can then correct them more efficiently. Here is a list of components data validation can apply to:

  • Duplicate data

  • Confirming whether data is spelled correctly

  • Confirming email addresses

Manipulating data

Those who use data manipulation are those who want to create more continuity in their data. To manipulate cells and data, users need to right-click on desired rows or columns. From here, the menu to manipulate cells appears.

Data manipulation is used to delete duplicated data, to merge data, and to combine rows or columns.

Related: Computer Literacy in the Workplace: What You Need to Know

Improving your advanced Excel skills

Here is a list of how you can improve your advanced Excel skills:

  • Find online tools. To improve your Excel skills, you need to do research on various Excel formulas and functions. In doing so, you'll find new Excel skills that will allow you to work more effectively and efficiently.

  • Complete an online certification. There are online workshops and certifications available for those who want to improve their Excel skills. Workshops are popular because they allow users to work at their own pace. These workshops teach users how to use complex formulas provide users with background information on the internal functions of Excel.

  • Complete a digital media course. In-person courses on Excel can be taken at academic institutions. These courses allow students to receive feedback from the instructor and provides the opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience and ask questions.

  • Practice. The best way to improve your skills is to practice them. If you don't have a data set to work with, you can use Excel sheet templates or sample data sets that are available online. By practising your advanced Excel skills, you can expand on your current knowledge and use functions more efficiently.

Demonstrating your Excel skills

Here are some ways for you to show off your Excel skills in interviews, resumes, and cover letters:

Using advanced Excel skills in a resume

When writing your resume, include your advanced Excel skills in your qualifications. You'll also need to include the exact skills you've learned or courses you've taken that will provide added authority or show that you've had training.

Example: "Knowledge of advanced Excel skills and showed proficiency in pivot tables, data manipulation, and COUNTIF."

Related: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

Using your Excel skills in a cover letter

A cover letter is an opportunity for candidates to elaborate on their advanced Excel skills. You can, for example, mention any trainings you've completed and which skills you learned from those trainings. This is also the chance to provide examples as to how you've used Excel to improve your efficiency at work or to list any achievements you've accomplished thus far. If you have plans to use Excel in the job you're applying to, be sure to mention those plans in your cover letter.

Related: 12 Tips for Crafting a Great Cover Letter

Demonstrating advanced Excel skills in an interview

In a job interview, you'll have time to establish your skills and discuss how you've used Excel in the past. The interviewer will also ask you about various Excel tools and whether you have experience with them. This is an optimal opportunity to discuss large projects you've been part of that involved Excel.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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