looking up names in seperate excel lists

New Contributor

I work in HR and I frequently have to cross reference lists with names of Employees.

Often the names are written in a different order from list to list i.e. List A: First name[space]Family name  then

List B: Family name[space]First name


I was thinking if it was possible to lookup the values based on all the letters they contained. A way to do this might be to sort the letters in the name alphabetically for each cell and then look up the sorted values. Maybe using a text sort function e.g. TEXT([value],"abc")


List A: Williiam Flynn = afiilllmnnwy             List B:Flynn William = afiilllmnnwy

Now the two columns could be compared using a lookup function.


kind regards,




P.s. I know in an ideal world Employee IDs would always be available but I live in the real world:-)

7 Replies
Hi William
Yes, that's not ideal. Your variant could work. If your lists are always in same format, i'd suggest to use INDEX MATCH combination. If you have
2 List1 List2 Position in List1
3 John Smith Flynn William 3
4 Bill Gates Smith John 1
5 William Flynn Gates Bill 2

formula inserted in D3
RIGHT($D3,LEN($D3)-FIND(" ",$D3)) &
" " &
LEFT($D3,FIND(" ",$D3)-1),
- ROW($B$2)
and copied to D4:D5 gives you numbers as above.

If you List have another column from which you'd like to pick-up values to List2 use =INDEX(ref column, MATCH(as above)). And instead of lists better to use tables.

Sorry, Reply editor disappeared here, could use Quick Reply only.

Hi Sergei,

Thanks but I couldn't get your formula to work. You said to put the formula in D3 but there was also a reference to D3 in the formula so I got a circular reference.

You also appear to have a column that gives the location of the value in the "to be compared" column. How can this be achieved when you have hundreds of names that are constructed differently (just the problem I am trying to resolve).

Probably just me being a bit slow on the pick up so I apologise.

kind regards,


Without Rich Editor can't add the sample, i'll send you in-private message bit later. If it works, never tried here.

Fantastic, editor appeared back. Anyway, i've already sent the link with in-private message.


Hi Sergei,


Well it appears to work... I actually make a similiar (but not the same) formula but it always runs into trouble with double Barrell names like John Edward Smith or Edward Van Emeren. Yours seems to cope with those. I hope to try it tomorrow on some real lists.

I usually use =mid(A3;Find(" ";A3)+1;45)&" "&left(a3;Find(" ";A3)-1) but as I said trips on double barrel names.

I will let you know how it goes.




William, if you expect maximum 3 spaces you may use to convert string which is in A$3 in reverse order

TRIM(MID(SUBSTITUTE($A3," ",REPT(" ",LEN($A3))), (4-1)*LEN($A3)+1, LEN($A3))) & " " &
TRIM(MID(SUBSTITUTE($A3," ",REPT(" ",LEN($A3))), (3-1)*LEN($A3)+1, LEN($A3))) & " " &
TRIM(MID(SUBSTITUTE($A3," ",REPT(" ",LEN($A3))), (2-1)*LEN($A3)+1, LEN($A3))) & " " &
TRIM(MID(SUBSTITUTE($A3," ",REPT(" ",LEN($A3))), (1-1)*LEN($A3)+1, LEN($A3)))

It converts

"one two" => "two one" and

"one two three" => "three two one", etc. More max possible spaces - add more TRIM(...) lines. The only difference is (N-1) in the middle of formula.

As everything in Excel above could be done by few different ways.

Perhaps entire your task much easier to solve with use of Power Query, but that's fully different story.



This is a completely different approach, but I've had success with the Fuzzy Match tool from Microsoft Labs.