Can Vlookup Be Used to Fetch Data in Excel?

Explore how VLOOKUP unlocks the power to fetch and retrieve specific data within Excel. Learn its functionalities and step-by-step usage to effortlessly extract information across your spreadsheets.

Vlookup Be Used to Fetch Data in Excel

In the world of Excel, the VLOOKUP function is highly regarded for its ability to fetch data from the right side of a selected range. It has been a go-to tool for many data management tasks, swiftly retrieving information adjacent to the lookup column. But what if the desired data is on the left side? Don't worry; there are ways to overcome this challenge.

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Meet the dynamic duo: INDEX and MATCH. While VLOOKUP may struggle with left-side data retrieval, the clever combination of INDEX and MATCH offers a powerful alternative. This duo can accurately locate and extract data from the left side of a table or range. By using these functions together, Excel users can go beyond the limitations of VLOOKUP and effortlessly fetch the elusive left-side data.

In this article, we will have a closer look at how to fetch data with the help of VLOOKUP to the left in Excel. Read on!

Steps to Use VLOOKUP to Fetch Data from the Left Side in Excel

VLOOKUP function in Excel


Understanding the Challenge:

When it comes to data retrieval with the help of VLOOKUP to the left in Excel, it's necessary to start by understanding the challenge.

Traditionally, VLOOKUP is great for getting data from the right side of a chosen range. But, when you need information from VLOOKUP columns to the left, VLOOKUP faces a challenge. Its design prevents it from directly extracting data from the left side of the table or range.

Adjusting Reference and Lookup Columns:

  • Modify table structure: To work around VLOOKUP's directional limitation, you can try reorganizing your data. Simply move the column with the data you want to retrieve to the left of the lookup column. This clever rearrangement ensures that the required data is on the right side, aligning perfectly with VLOOKUP's usual function.
  • Update formula structure: After adjusting the table structure, make sure to update the VLOOKUP formula to match the new column arrangement. Since the reference column is now on the left side of the lookup column, you'll need to modify the formula to ensure accurate data retrieval. Adjust the column index number in the formula according to the new order so that VLOOKUP can effectively fetch data from the rearranged layout.

Using INDEX and MATCH Functions:

INDEX and MATCH functions


INDEX and MATCH are powerful combinations that offer a great alternative to fetch data from the VLOOKUP column to the left in Excel. Unlike VLOOKUP, which has limitations in terms of data retrieval from the left side, INDEX and MATCH provide flexibility. They allow users to fetch data from any position within a table or range, regardless of its location.

Here's how they work together:

The INDEX function is pretty effective because it lets you pick a range and grab a specific value based on its row and column position. MATCH, on the other hand, is like a detective. It helps you figure out where a particular value is within a range. When these two functions team up, they can find and fetch data from the left side in a jiffy. The usual formula setup involves using MATCH to find the position of a lookup value and then plugging that result into INDEX to get the data you want.

Exploring Advanced Techniques:

  • Leveraging CHOOSE function: If you're someone who's drawn to the ease of VLOOKUP, you'll be delighted to know that the CHOOSE function can enhance its abilities. By combining CHOOSE with VLOOKUP, you can adjust the column index to fetch data from VLOOKUP to the left Excel. This clever technique offers a different approach to retrieving left-side data, all while keeping some of the familiarity of the VLOOKUP function intact.
CHOOSE function in Excel with formula examples


  • Handling errors and edge cases: It's essential to consider possible issues that could come up when retrieving data from the left side. Whether it's dealing with pesky errors like #N/A or situations where the lookup values can't be found, it's crucial to understand these situations and provide solutions. Luckily, there are techniques you can use, like error handling in formulas or using IFERROR, that can help solve these common issues and make the process of retrieving data much smoother.

Comparing Different Methods:

Now, let's do a quick pros and cons analysis of traditional VLOOKUP, INDEX-MATCH, and CHOOSE methods:

The traditional VLOOKUP method:

Pros: It has a straightforward syntax that is easy to implement and widely recognized.

Cons: However, it has some limitations. It can only retrieve data from the right side, and for data on the left side, column rearrangement is necessary. Additionally, it is not as flexible as other methods.


Pros: This feature is incredibly versatile as it can retrieve data from any column without the need for rearranging columns. It adds flexibility and dynamism to your work.

Cons: The formula structure might be slightly more complex, which could be a challenge for users who aren't as familiar with functions. However, with a little understanding, this can be easily overcome.


Pros: The integration with the widely-used VLOOKUP function allows for a seamless transition. It also offers a different way to handle left-side data while still maintaining familiarity for VLOOKUP users.

Cons: When compared to the INDEX-MATCH function, there is a limit to the flexibility it offers. It requires additional manipulation of the column index and may not be as reliable when dealing with intricate data structures.

Now, here are some recommendations you should consider using:

  • For Simplicity and Basic Usage: If your data consistently follows a right-side retrieval pattern and you don't mind reorganizing columns when necessary, sticking with the traditional VLOOKUP method is a reliable choice. It's a straightforward approach that is widely known and understood.
  • For Flexibility and Advanced Needs: Consider using INDEX-MATCH for its incredible versatility. This approach eliminates the need to restructure your data and provides the ability to retrieve dynamic left-side data. It's the perfect solution when working with a variety of datasets or when the column order has the potential to change.
  • For Transitional Ease: If you're moving away from using VLOOKUP and would like a similar approach with a small twist, you might want to consider using CHOOSE in conjunction with VLOOKUP. This method allows you to retrieve data from the left side while still maintaining some familiarity. However, it's important to remember that CHOOSE with VLOOKUP does have some limitations when compared to the more powerful INDEX-MATCH method.

Why Outsource Excel Management to a Virtual Assistant Instead?

Reasons to outsource tasks to a VA

There are several fantastic benefits to outsourcing Excel management to a virtual assistant rather than trying to handle everything internally:

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Virtual assistants who specialize in Excel are highly skilled in using complex functions and are equipped to handle intricate data manipulation tasks. Their expertise goes beyond basic functions and includes advanced formulas like INDEX-MATCH, array functions, and VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) programming. With their advanced knowledge, they can efficiently and accurately handle data, especially when working with complicated datasets or complex calculations.

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Experienced virtual assistants offer more than just technical Excel skills - they have the analytical ability to interpret data effectively. They can uncover important findings, analyze trends, and create meaningful visual representations from raw data. By translating data into actionable insights, they empower businesses to make well-informed decisions and strategic moves based on thorough analysis.

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Virtual assistants with expertise in using Excel are highly skilled in automating tasks using macros, scripts, and other automation tools. By automating repetitive tasks, they can save time while also minimizing the risk of human error. Their ability to streamline workflow processes enables them to process data quickly and complete tasks efficiently.

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Customized reports and dynamic dashboards play a crucial role in presenting data in an easy-to-understand way for decision-makers. Virtual assistants who excel in Excel can create personalized reports and interactive dashboards that are perfectly suited to your unique business requirements.

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Having accurate data is extremely important when it comes to making informed decisions. That's why virtual assistants who specialize in Excel are here to help. They go through the data with a fine-tooth comb, making sure it's accurate and reliable. They use advanced error-checking techniques, validation rules, and conduct thorough data audits to ensure that the data you're working with is of the highest quality.

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VAs can improve collaboration by establishing shared workspaces, implementing version control, and managing access permissions for shared Excel files.

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VAs also offer personalized training sessions, guides, and ongoing support to enhance Excel skills for individuals and teams.

Why is Wishup the best place to hire a Virtual Assistant?

benefits of hiring Wishup's VAs

Wishup, a renowned platform for virtual assistant services, is known for its dedication to excellence. Being a premier virtual assistance agency, we carefully select the top 1% of applicants and guarantee unmatched expertise and competence to our clients.

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To retrieve left-side data in Excel, strategic restructuring or alternative methods like INDEX-MATCH can be used instead of VLOOKUP. However, outsourcing Excel management to virtual assistants can be a valuable solution. Their expertise can overcome VLOOKUP limitations and improve data accuracy, automation, and analysis.

Leveraging a VA's skills can maximize Excel's potential, enhance productivity, and refine data management. Elevate your Excel game by scheduling a free consultation with Wishup's skilled VAs or contacting [email protected] for seamless Excel management and increased efficiency in your business.

VLOOKUP to the left in Excel: Frequently Asked Questions

How do you do a VLOOKUP lookup to the left?

To perform a VLOOKUP to the left in Excel, you need to rearrange your data columns. Place the lookup value on the right side of the data you want to retrieve and adjust the VLOOKUP formula to reference the new column arrangement.

Can VLOOKUP be used right to left?

The VLOOKUP function works from left to right, so it searches for values that are on the right side of the lookup column. It doesn't have a built-in feature for right-to-left retrieval. However, you can rearrange columns or use alternative functions like INDEX-MATCH to retrieve data from right to left successfully.