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VLOOKUP with multiple criteria

VLOOKUP with multiple criteria

Most Excel users think that VLOOKUP can only be used with a single criterion; until a few months ago I believed this was also the case.  In the past I had used INDEX/MATCH or helper columns because I had not appreciated how much could be achieved with the VLOOKUP & CHOOSE combination.  We have already looked at this combination when discovering how to VLOOKUP to the left.  But, as you will see, we can take this combination even further.

VLOOKUP & CHOOSE Combination

Let’s start with a basic example.  You work for a company with the following telephone list:

VLOOKUP multiple criteria

Wow! There are lots of people with the first name Paul, and lots of people with the last name of Daniels – that’s funny, what are the chances?  Then your manager asks you to create a spreadsheet, in which you will need to look up the telephone number of certain individuals.  Suddenly, the repetition of the names is not funny, it is now very painful.  How will you be able to separate all of the Paul’s and all of the Daniel’s?

VLOOKUP to the rescue!!! 

We can still use a VLOOKUP formula in this scenario to return the value.  Seriously we can!

VLOOKUP CHOOSE multiple criteria

The formula in cell F6 is returning a lookup to both Column A and Column B to find the telephone number for Paul McCartney.  The formula in this cell is:


Using this formula, it is possible to lookup the First Name and Last Name to return the Telephone Number.  This is an Array formula – which means the formula is entered without { } at the start and end of the formula (we still enter the { } in the middle).  Pressing Ctrl+Shift+Enter will enter the formula, and Excel will automatically add { } to the start and end of the formula.

How does the VLOOKUP & CHOOSE (Array) combination work?

Let’s break this formula down into separate chunks.


The sections highlighted above are the standard VLOOKUP formula which we know.  The only difference is, cells F3 and F4 are being combined with a spacer character.  The result of F3&”^”&F4 is “Paul^McCartney”


The section highlighted above is indicating that column 1 for the VLOOKUP should be the combination of column A and column B separated by a spacer character.  As this is an Array formula this section creates a temporary range of values which would be as follows.

Row 2= “Paul^Daniels”
Row 3= “Jack^Daniels”
Row 4= “Paul^Newman”
Row 5= “Paul^McCartney”
Row 6= “Jeff^Daniels”
Row 7= “Paul^Simon”
Row 8= “Anthony^Daniels”

Assuming a match is found (row 5 in our example), it will then return the value from column 2.


In our CHOOSE formula, column 2 is defined as being cells C2-C8.  Therefore, Paul McCartney’s telephone number is returned as 555-9867

Notes & comments

Here are some things to be aware of:

  • It is possible to use this formula with other techniques presented in this Mastering VLOOKUP Series (such as the double VLOOKUP method for faster calculations)
  • If you click back into the formula and do not enter it with Ctrl+Shift+Enter then an error will be displayed.  You must Ctrl+Shift+Enter every time.
  • Of all the multiple criteria lookup methods this is one of the lowest to calculate.

For other examples of the VLOOKUP & CHOOSE combination read “How the VLOOKUP to the left


Once again VLOOKUP proves itself to be more diverse than it may first appear.  By mastering this technique you will be able to do things with VLOOKUP which most Excel users can only dream of.

Download the Advanced VLOOKUP Cheat Sheet

Download the Advanced VLOOKUP Cheat Sheet.  It includes most of the tips and tricks we’ve covered in this series, including faster calculations, multiple criteria, left lookup and much more.

Please download it and pin it up at work, you can even forward it onto your friends and co-workers.

Advanced VLOOKUP Cheat Sheet

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Download the file: Advanced VLOOKUP Cheat Sheet

Other posts in the Mastering VLOOKUP Series

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About the author

Hey, I’m Mark, and I run Excel Off The Grid.

My parents tell me that at the age of 7 I declared I was going to become a qualified accountant. I was either psychic or had no imagination, as that is exactly what happened. However, it wasn't until I was 35 that my journey really began.

In 2015, I started a new job, for which I was regularly working after 10pm. As a result, I rarely saw my children during the week. So, I started searching for the secrets to automating Excel. I discovered that by building a small number of simple tools, I could combine them together in different ways to automate nearly all my regular tasks. This meant I could work less hours (and I got pay raises!). Today, I teach these techniques to other professionals in our training program so they too can spend less time at work (and more time with their children and doing the things they love).

Do you need help adapting this post to your needs?

I'm guessing the examples in this post don't exactly match your situation. We all use Excel differently, so it's impossible to write a post that will meet everybody's needs. By taking the time to understand the techniques and principles in this post (and elsewhere on this site), you should be able to adapt it to your needs.

But, if you're still struggling you should:

  1. Read other blogs, or watch YouTube videos on the same topic. You will benefit much more by discovering your own solutions.
  2. Ask the 'Excel Ninja' in your office. It's amazing what things other people know.
  3. Ask a question in a forum like Mr Excel, or the Microsoft Answers Community. Remember, the people on these forums are generally giving their time for free. So take care to craft your question, make sure it's clear and concise.  List all the things you've tried, and provide screenshots, code segments and example workbooks.
  4. Use Excel Rescue, who are my consultancy partner. They help by providing solutions to smaller Excel problems.

What next?
Don't go yet, there is plenty more to learn on Excel Off The Grid.  Check out the latest posts:

2 thoughts on “VLOOKUP with multiple criteria

    • Excel Off The Grid says:

      Hi Daniel – that’s an interesting idea, you certainly could use named ranges. Though you would not be able to call them “1” and “2”, as they are not valid names for a named range.

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