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Making VLOOKUP formulas go wild [VLOOKUP

Posted on November 1st, 2010 in Learn Excel - 16 comments

This article is part of our VLOOKUP Week. Read more.

Often we need our lookup formulas to go wild. Not in the sense of go-wild-and-chomp-a-few-kilo-bytes-of-data
sense. But wild like wild cards.
For eg. In the below data, we may not remember the full name of sales person, but we know that her name
starts with jac. Now how do you get the sales amount for that person?

Simple. Use wild cards. Like this: =VLOOKUP("jac*",$B$5:$E$17,3,FALSE)to fetch the value from 3rd column
for the person whose name starts with jac

Sample File
Download Example File Using Wild cards with VLOOKUP formula

Special Thanks to
Michael Pennington, Lukas for the tip. (Click on the name to see their tip)

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16 Responses to Making VLOOKUP formulas go wild [VLOOKUP Week]


Ram Kapoor says:

November 1, 2010 at 12:40 pm
Hi Chandoo,
To answer the first question we can use VLOOKUP(*ve*,$B$5:$E$17,2,FALSE)


Tom says:
November 1, 2010 at 1:28 pm
This is a great tip, and one I can see applying to other formulas as well. My only concern: what if your
wildcard has more than one answer? Vlookup can only handle one response, correct? And it will only
return one value (im guessing the first record that it encounters where it meets that condition). This
could really mess you up if you just assumed it was right so be careful with Vlookup and wildcards!


dan l says:
November 1, 2010 at 1:48 pm
Works well with a concatenate too


Luke M says:
November 1, 2010 at 3:08 pm
@dan I
CONCATENATE function is a waste of characters (and since we all hate having to work harder than we
have to), especially since you took the shorter (and faster) method of concatenating the words
yourself. A shorter, but exact same re-written function would be:


Gregory says:
November 1, 2010 at 3:56 pm
If you use the formula =VLOOKUP(ja*,B5:E17,3,FALSE) there are 5 possible answers, but the formula
returns 2133, which is the first one encountered. Hence using a wildcard with the VLOOKUP formula
isnt something Ive used in the past, mainly because with a large data set you cant be sure of the

6. Contextures Blog Celebrating VLOOKUP Week says:
November 5, 2010 at 4:02 am
[...] at Chandoo's Excel blog, he's celebrating VLOOKUP week, with helpful posts like VLOOKUP
Formulas Go Wild. Who knew an Excel formula could go wild? I've seen many workbooks where things
have run amok, but [...]

gnana says:
November 10, 2010 at 4:30 pm
How to make Jo* as vlookup value as a range.
The above one will vlookup only for the Sales Person contains letter Jo*. If i want to vlookup value