How to pass an analytics job test – Part II – MS Excel.
Even with the rise of use of R, Python, SAS and other more scientific analytical tools, Microsoft Excel remains the most popular data analysis tool. While we have gone over a solution for an analytics job test in SQL last month , you are much more likely to encounter a job test in Microsoft Excel for your next analytics opportunity. While I would personally argue that this particular test is actually better solved with SQL, the employer believes that the applicants instead need to apply their Excel skills to demonstrate their proficiency and acumen. As before, we should start by asking questions about the problem at hand and trying to get as much clarification as needed or state our assumptions. However, since spreadsheets are less forgiving from the presentation point of view than the databases, I would strongly recommend that we would also take a few minutes to format any workbooks provided by the prospective employer. Chances are they would recognize your level of professionalism by looking at clean and presentable file. Your stylistic preferences might be different, but as a minimum I would remove gridlines, add filters/format as tables larger datasets, freeze panes, and add at least one to two colors to the otherwise monochrome layout.
Using Excel IFS and SWITCH functions.
Making Rent vs. Buy decisions always seemed like a no-brainer to me. If you hold on to your purchase long enough, you will be saving money: be it a car or a computer software. Case in point: it costs only $ 109.99 to purchase a license for Excel 2016 vs $69.99/year to lease Office 365 Personal, which includes Excel, as well as other Office products. Assuming you only need to use one product that truly matters, and you will use it for more than 19 months, buying is cheaper than renting. The longer you use the product without upgrading, the more money you save. This held true until February of this year, when Microsoft introduced 6 new functions available exclusively to Office 365 subscribers: TEXTJOIN, CONCAT, IFS, SWITCH, MAXIFS and MINIFS. This addition alone, coupled with introduction of Funnel charts might steer more users towards the subscription model. In this post we will review the IFS and SWITCH functions. Let’s say goodbye to nested if functions , we have already discussed on this blog.
VLOOKUP() vs. INDEX(MATCH()), which should you use?!
I recently read an excellent article, where its Excel MVP-author makes a very compelling, albeit biased argument towards using INDEX(MATCH()) function combo, instead of taking the VLOOKUP() route. That article jokingly proclaimed the end of the VLOOKUP vs. INDEX(MATCH()) debate. Interestingly enough, some of the heavy-weight Excel MVPs and expert users weighed in on this issue, in essence continuing the debate. One of the commentators, published an equally brilliant rebuttal, skewing the victory towards the VLOOKUP function. Being a biased VLOOKUP proponent myself, I concur with his conclusion completely. In addition, I’d like to throw in a crazy idea of using SQL as a better, faster, more flexible, and easier solution, comparing to either: VLOOKUP(), or INDEX(MATCH()).
I believe there is no disagreement here: VLOOKUP enjoys tremendous popularity. People have different opinions whether this popularity is justified. I belong to the “ease of use” and “ease of learning” VLOOKUP camp: two of many factors that help us explain high adoption rate of this function among all Excel users.