Data Entry in wonderland: A Tale of Two Worlds

a2aBusinessLinkMaybe you have a backlog of PDF files that need to be converted to MS Word documents or Excel spreadsheets. Perhaps you need certain data from customer feedback forms manually entered into a database. Or maybe you need someone to gather information online to complete the final column of a worksheet. While you might think someone on your team can handle these tasks in between their other duties, this type of work requires a great deal of attention to detail and focus. Multitasking isn’t a good idea. So if you have files, records, and incomplete spreadsheets piling up virtually, hiring a data entry expert could be just what you need to resolve the problem.



As the name suggests, data entry specialists enter data, usually into a spreadsheet or other type of document.

Sometimes what they’re actually doing, however, is converting data from one format to another—and that takes more than just a little copy-and-pasting. When converting PDFs into Word docs, for instance, typing speed is less important than knowledge of conversion software tools and an eye for spotting and fixing problems that occur during the process: odd line breaks, symbols inadvertently substituted for letters, formerly invisible coding characters that show up in the copy.

Some data entry tasks require a strong command of English as well as typing speed and accuracy. Others take a high level of comfort dealing with lots of numbers. Finding the right data entry specialist for the project can pay off in terms of quality, efficiency, and even cost.

For one thing, data entry requires great attention to detail, which in turn requires a stretch of time uninterrupted by phone calls, IMs, and other tasks. Someone who has to fit data entry in among other work is likely to get sidetracked.



Don’t assume that data entry specialists are interchangeable and that you should make price your only criterion. The following tips will increase the likelihood of finding the best talent for your needs:

  • Consider the type of data you need entered.

Different tasks require slightly different skill sets. For instance, if the project entails inputting a long series of numbers, you’ll want a clerk with experience in 10-key data entry—working with the numeral keys that appear to the right of standard keyboards or on a separate keyboard attachment. Ten-key data entry is a distinct specialty; someone who can type 70 words a minute might not be the most efficient when dealing with strings of numbers.

When the task requires inputting data extracted from sources such as questionnaires and documents into a spreadsheet, however, 10-key typing may not be important. What would be vital is the ability to quickly and accurately scan documents to cull the correct information, and a strong command of the language. If the specialist needs to extract the data from websites or social media, familiarity with the web is also important.

  • See if candidates have experience in your field or market sector.

This can be helpful if you work in a specialized field, such as insurance or banking. It’s certainly not crucial, but a specialist who is already familiar with the types of forms or spreadsheets you use will likely require less time to get up to speed.

  • Make sure the candidates are experienced with the software and any other necessary equipment, such as optical scanners.

Also make sure they have a reliable Internet connection.

  • If privacy regulations are an issue in your industry, ask candidates what steps they take to ensure compliance. a2aBusinessLink

Don’t assume that a professional’s computer is equipped with encryption software or that they have a lock on their office door, for instance. If HIPAA, PCI, or other types of regulatory standards are required, be sure the professional can meet them.

  • Ask the candidates how they ensure accuracy.

Speed is important, but not if accuracy is the trade-off.

  • Spell out your expectations in advance.

This is critical to any successful working relationship, but it bears emphasizing. Let candidates know the turnaround time, the volume of work, the particular needs of the task, and how you want to communicate before you hire.

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