Bombing an Advanced Excel Test

I applied for a position at my work called “Optimization and Planning Agent.” Most people, myself included, (before working for Canada Post of course) have little idea of what happens when you send and recieve mail. I’ve been looking forward to this position because it will give me the opportunities to be involved in the planning aspect of the juggernaut mail system. It literally scratches my geek itch.

The caveat–I had to pass a test to prove that I have advanced knowledge of Excel. They are looking for someone who can make pivot tables, work with data, and they are not looking to teach someone how to do all of that from scratch.

Now, I’m no slouch with Excel. I’ve been using it for over twenty years. I can format like a madman, make formulas that reference to different cells, cells in different workbooks, even in different files. My macro knowledge is intermediate, and my work still uses some workbook tools that I made to complete day-to-day tasks.

Thing is, I’ve been off due to the Covid crisis for over fifteen months. I haven’t opened many Excel books during that time, except to look at reports. Certainly no function or Pivot Table voodoo.

The test I took today was the same I took two years ago. I had thirty minutes to format a few tables, come up with some formulas to compare data in different cells, and I was supposed to finish with the pièce de résistance–a simple pivot table.

I opened the workbook, went to work, and figured that even though I had no mouse, I had the trackpad. I started to type the functions I knew I needed, then had to spend precious minutes frantically trying to remember how to make the arguments work. Smash the F1! Scanning through Excel’s uber help text scrambled what was left of my confidence I earned from premptively watching a few pivot table videos prior.

Before you could say that Sally’s potato salad tasted like an insipid, washed lumps of dog shit, time was up. I was over half done, but I didn’t even come near the famed Pivot Table section yet. A quick tally of the points I had earned didn’t look promising, and one function I had spent five minutes troubleshooting still didn’t spit out the correct answer.

The HR lady assured me that all was okay, I only needed sixty percent to pass the test, and if I was close, there could be a bit of training to get me to it. She said people always second guess themselves. The answer would come down to how many questions I had completed were right.

I got fifty-two.

The silver lining to not being offered the position of full-time is there was a temporary position available, for three months. I interview for it on Monday.

Fingers crossed. I am looking forward to getting the job. Meanwhile, I will be practising the test until I get it right.

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