How do you use Microsoft Excel VLOOKUP?
The Syntax of VLOOKUP is:
lookup_value: this is the value to search for in the first column of the array.
table_array: this is two or more columns of data - the values in the first column are the values searched for by lookup_value.
col_index_num: the column number in the table_array from which the data will be returned from.
Range_lookup: a logical value that indicates whether an exact match is required.
What is Microsoft Excel VLOOKUP used for?
Microsoft Excel is not a relational database. A relational database allows you to link tables of information by common data such as employee ID, Name or SSN. Microsoft Excel does give you some tools that allow you to link data together.
One of the more powerful tools is the Microsoft Excel VLOOKUP formula. VLOOKUP searches for a value in the first column of an array and will return a value from the same row in another column in that array.
How do I use Microsoft Excel VLOOKUP?
Many people will look at the syntax and definitions of VLOOKUP and simply give up. However, it is a very simple formula to use. The steps below will demonstrate how to use VLOOKUP in Microsoft Excel:
Creating Data Tables for use with VLOOKUP
The two tables below contain information about employees of a fictional company. Table 1 has indicitive data about the employee, while Table 2 has information about the region and office.
The common data in both tables is the Name of the employee and therefore this must be placed in the first column of the table. While in this example it is not relevant, it is always a good idea to sort the values in the first column in order low to high - this becomes important when you are not searching for an exact match.
Creating a Table where I want the combined data to be listed
I’ve decided that I want a table that has the Office and Salary for a few employees. I therefore create a third table that lists the Name of the employees I need this information for and add two columns to retrieve the information from the other tables
Filling in the combined data table using VLOOKUP
In the below VLOOKUP example we will create a VLOOKUP to find the Office for each employee:
- Click on cell D6 (this is where we will create the VLOOKUP formula)
- Press the fx button to open the formula wizard.
- Choose the vlookup option.
- Press the OK button.
Now we will ‘build’ the VLOOKUP
- In the Lookup_value field enter the cell that you want to look at. In this case it is the first cell in the Name column (cell c6)
- In the Table_array field navigate to the table where the relevant data is 0 in this case it’s office in Table 2 (Note – I only include the main headings in the Table_array – I didn’t include the ‘Table 2 – Office Data’ summary heading)
- In the Col_index_num field enter the column with the data you want to return. In this case the third column in Table 2 – column 1 would be the Name column – as the Office column is the third column in the table we use 3 as the Col_index_num
- In the Range_Lookup field choose True or False, in this case False. If you want an exact match (as we do in this case) then use False, if you want to find the nearest entry to the data you are looking up use True.
- Once you have filled all the boxes in, press OK. You will now see the cell populated with the Office for Andrew North
- Copy this formula to the cells below.
- Repeat the above this time selecting table one, and column 4 (Salary)
The table should now contain all of the information you want from the other tables.
Looking up non-exact information with VLOOKUP
Often when you use a VLOOKUP you may not require an exact match. In the example below I have set a table up with Rating and Bonus – the ratings are listed from 1 to 5, but can actually have any decimal value 1 or above.
When I use VLOOKUP with this data I must set the Range_lookup to TRUE so that it knows it is not looking for an exact match. I have illustrated some results (including a few errors) in the example below.
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