Excel Skills: Definition and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 June 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.

Excel skills can help you analyse complex sets of data and encourage you to use technological tools to remain organised in the workplace. During the hiring process, it's an integral computer competency that recruiters look for in job candidates. Thus, taking a course to improve your understanding of Excel can enhance your employability in the long term. In this article, we discuss what Excel skills are, why the skill is important, when to use them at work and share examples of powerful functions in Excel.

Related: Computer Skills: Definitions and Examples

What are Excel skills?

Excel skills describe your ability to use the computer software, Microsoft Excel, and its relevant functions with confidence and ease. The term may also refer to your competence with other spreadsheet tools that aid data analysis. Typically, these skills include your understanding of other components of Excel, such as calculation, graphing tools and pivot tables, among others. For jobs that require you to work with statistics regularly, recruiters may want to see evidence of an advanced understanding of features in Excel. However, for most professionals, basic knowledge in Excel equips you with productivity tools to improve your efficiency at work.

Related: What Is a Data Scientist?

Why is Excel an important skill at work?

Most professionals have a foundation in Excel, therefore, it's almost an unsaid requirement to secure a job. It has a variety of uses that can support strategic decision-making. The following are a few reasons describing the importance of Excel proficiency in the workplace:

Encourages a data-driven approach

Data allows you to make better predictions, which leads to superior decision-making. Using Excel to compute large data sets can help you come to realistic conclusions in a quick and efficient error. It accounts for errors that can minimise future problems. A data-driven approach maximises your ability to reach your organisational goals.

Related: How To Become a Financial Manager: Qualifications and Skills

Supports your organisational skills

Excel contains tools to facilitate task tracking and time management. It's a great way to monitor the progress of your team members and share project updates with your supervisors. This way, you can improve your organisational skills and hold others accountable for their productivity. As a business leader, it gives you greater flexibility when managing a team and you can easily adjust your spreadsheet to account for changes in your daily duties.

When to use Excel in the workplace?

The following are some situations in the workplace where your knowledge of Excel can benefit your productivity:

  • Business analysis: Businesses gather data through their daily activities and Excel can help you make sense of large amounts of information. It converts data into something useful, such as predicting inventory needed to meet the demand.

  • People management: Excel is a powerful tool to record individual data, such as a person's name, contact details and preferences. This is especially useful in marketing, where professionals can target different market segments depending on their interests and preferences.

  • Managing operations: Business operations involve complex logistics. Therefore, Excel can help key stakeholders keep track of business activities, such as inventory, distribution and transactions.

  • Performance reporting: As a business leader, you can track the progress of your team members or outsourced agencies through Excel. Multiple parties can access the document to update each other on their goals and to share valuable information.

  • Office administration: Apart from financial and administrative record-keeping, you can use Excel to manage ad hoc office activities, such as ordering office supplies, invoicing and paying bills.

  • Strategic analysis: You can use the formulas in Excel to analyse data from different perspectives. You can do calculations, such as the mean, median and mode of data, without much effort and time. It's a useful function that facilitates quick decision-making.

  • Project management: While there are several project management tools available in the market today, many project managers use Excel to keep a record of the start date, end date and status of a project. It allows them to monitor the schedule of a project and inform key stakeholders of any delays.

  • Managing programs: Programs are like ongoing projects. Excel can be a beneficial software to manage the progress and action plan of programs over a long period.

  • Account management: Account managers use Excel to organise their client information in order to maintain loyalty and generate repeat sales. The simple software allows you to share and update client files.

Related: How To Become an Internal Auditor

Examples of powerful functions in Excel

The following is a list of important functions in Excel that can help you enhance your data management skills:

Power query

Power query is a tool that allows users to connect to data outside of Excel and clean and manipulate the data. Learning how to use this tool can help you incorporate data from different sources into Excel and use other Excel tools to work with it.

Conditional formatting

Conditional formatting involves notating data to meet specific, defined criteria. For instance, users may highlight negative numbers or numbers over a certain threshold. This tool includes cell-based formatting and condition-based formatting.

Advanced charting

Excel's charting tools include vast formatting and function options. Advanced users have in-depth knowledge of these tools, such as in-cell charts, interactive charts and conditional formatting charts.

Pivot tables

Pivot tables extract relevant data from a larger sheet or workbook into a smaller table. You can also reorganise the data. This skill helps users work with a more manageable data table organised in a more thoughtful way for the immediate task, making work quicker and more efficient.

Flash fill

Users can manipulate data on a single row, and the flash fill tool creates similar manipulations on the remaining data. This skill saves users time on repetitive tasks, especially when working with large data sets. For example, you may want to change a list of names to include "Dr." in front of each name. Using the flash fill tool allows you to change the first name, and the program will add "Dr." to all of the remaining names.


Filters show selected data for users to work with while hiding the rest of the sheet. Advanced users can use multiple filters to extract highly specific data, such as extracting employees who have hiring dates in May and work in the legal department.

Data validation

Data validation tools can help advanced users identify and correct mistakes in data. Data validation functions include:

  • Email address verification

  • Drop-down menu integration

  • Duplicate entry notification

  • Spelling validation through autocorrect

Data manipulation

Data manipulation is an advanced skill you can use to synthesise data and create uniformity. Users can incorporate many complex formulas to alter data sets. Examples of data manipulation include:

  • Combining columns or extracting data into multiple columns

  • Consolidating two lists into one

  • Eliminating duplicate data

How to improve your knowledge of Excel

You can increase the attractiveness of your CV by developing your skills in spreadsheet software, such as Excel. While some professionals are comfortable with technology and can learn new computer programs quickly, others may need additional time and support. The following are a few methods of developing your knowledge of Excel:

Research free online resources

If you already have a foundation in Excel, you can simply research Excel functions and formulas to enhance your productivity. There are multiple resources online with clear step-by-step guides to aid your understanding. You can choose between written instructions or video tutorials that are designed to support your unique learning style.

Register for a workshop

If you prefer a proper curriculum when learning a new skill, attending a workshop is a great option. The guided form of instruction gives you access to knowledgeable mentors who you can ask questions and gain personalised feedback. You can also opt for an online course if you prefer learning at your own pace.

Hire a tutor

Learning Excel as a novice can feel very technical, therefore, one-on-one instruction may make the process easier for you. While this is a more expensive option, hiring a tutor can help you learn more complex Excel function quickly. The additional support can also encourage you to overcome challenging lessons.

Practise during your free time

The most important step in learning Excel is practise. The more opportunities you get to use the skill, the more likely you are to remember the key techniques and get better at them. For example, you can try to use Excel at work to manage your daily schedule.

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

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