Does this look bad on an interview modeling test?

Let's say your company is hiring for an Analyst position. As part of the interview process, as is customary, you give the top handful of candidates a modeling case study in Excel. Here is my question...

Would you view it positively, negatively, or neutrally if a candidate reformatted the raw data from a T12 statement, rent roll, etc. that you provided as a basis for the analysis?

I am the candidate in this hypothetical situation and while I realize I may very well be overthinking this matter, we all know that these are competitive positions, so the details matter.

I pride myself on being a highly organized, detail-oriented person when it comes to this stuff. My inclination is to bold the headers, add lines above sums, etc. none of which is present right now. I imagine that this data was exported from an accounting system.

On one hand, I can see how someone would perceive the reformatting as a positive if it helped the candidate more clearly analyze the numbers and lower the likelihood of careless mistakes.

On the other hand, though, I could see it being viewed negatively and as a waste of time in a business where speed matters and tight deadlines are often present.

After writing this, I'm feeling a little crazy so, please, someone who is currently an Associate or above - let me know what you think! Thank you!

Comments (10)

  • Associate 1 in PE - Other

I always format the data (font + font size). Color code blue for hardcodes. Takes 2 seconds, conforms to the rest of whatever I'm gonna build.

Does it matter, probably not. Is it visually appealing, yeah (immediate 2 second glance in the model forms an immediate impression). If I spent half my time formatting something, not worth it. 

Speaking from someone with extensive experience doing these tests (not that it matters), made tests, and have reviewed tests.

Ironically, if you're coming from a banking background, and the formatting looks like shit, somehow this dings you further then someone who hasn't done banking and probably has worse formatting. Don't ask me why, just how i've seen it play out.

developermonkey, what's your opinion? Comment below:

The formatting you describe takes all of 15 seconds so sure go right ahead

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Invalid_CREdentials, what's your opinion? Comment below:

neutral for me - as long as it doesn't mess up any formulas that refer to the data, I wouldn't think twice about it. 

Don't @ me

  • Partner in RE - Res

Neutral or Positive. I used to always clean up any raw data. Not to the point of being perfectly formatted but just easier to work with and read. Makes it easier for anyone reviewing your work as well.  Unless it was timed and you were unable to finish the test, I don't see how anyone could view this as negative.  

negativeprophets, what's your opinion? Comment below:

As long as you don't overdo it (i.e. funky colors and fonts) it can't be anything other than positive, granted your analysis is correct. Producing highly organized and visually appealing work is not only preferred, but for many companies required, especially if you work for an institutional firm. 

  • Intern in RE - Comm

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