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Is Excel Expertise A Crucial Litmus Test for Senior Finance Hires?

When it comes to hiring a seasoned finance professional, do you assume they're Excel-savvy, or do you put their skills to the test? This burning question sparked a lively debate in the FSN Modern Finance Forum on LinkedIn, revealing intriguing insights into hiring practices across the industry.

Out of 180 responses, the results were as diverse as the financial landscape itself:

34% preferred to take candidates at their word, bypassing independent verification.

20% leaned towards evaluating Excel prowess through proven work experience.

34% opted to subject candidates to an Excel proficiency test, ensuring they could ‘walk the talk’.

And intriguingly, 12% were willing to provide post-hiring Excel training, emphasizing the importance of skill enhancement.

These findings underscore a striking reality: even for high-ranking finance roles, such as CFOs with over a decade of experience, Excel proficiency remains a top priority. But why the fuss over spreadsheets in an age of sophisticated analytics tools and AI-driven finance? There are probably three good reasons.

1. Excel Endurance: A Time-Tested Companion

FSN's research confirms what many of us intuitively know: Excel isn't going anywhere. In fact, with Microsoft's recent innovations like CoPilot for Excel, its relevance is experiencing a resurgence. Over 75% of finance functions still heavily rely on spreadsheets for reporting and analysis. It's a testament to Excel's enduring relevance, flexibly integrating with the daily operations of modern finance functions. Excel is simply too prevalent, impactful and important to be ignored.

2. Mitigating the Risks: Error-Free Financial Navigation

With great reliance comes great risk. Complex spreadsheets wield immense power, but they're equally prone to error. Senior finance professionals must ensure the integrity of crucial reports, guarding against misstatements and reputational damage. Whether overseeing junior preparers or diving into the spreadsheet trenches themselves, the stakes are high. Excel mastery isn't just a bonus—it's a necessity for safeguarding financial accuracy.

3. The CFO as Spreadsheet Connoisseur

While CFOs needn't be Excel ‘technicians’, they must possess a profound understanding of its inner workings. Whether responding to urgent demands or navigating confidential M&A scenarios, they must be ready to roll up their sleeves and dive into the digital spreadsheet sea. Excel fluency isn't just about knowing formulas; it's about navigating complexities, managing risks, and being ready to take the helm when duty calls.

In essence, relying solely on a CFO's word regarding Excel proficiency may not suffice. The majority of finance professionals seem to agree: Excel expertise is a non-negotiable asset, warranting validation through corroboration in the selection process, rigorous testing or training.

We invite readers looking for new roles and those looking to fill vacancies within their own finance function to reach out to us using the following forms.

Employers form here.  Job seekers form here.

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