11 June, 2018
By Mike Simpson
They say behind every successful business executive is a good administrative assistant secretly running the show.
While the statement is meant to be funny, there’s a pretty solid core of truth to it.
A competent, qualified, and enthusiastic administrative assistant is worth their weight in gold and hiring managers utilize precision administrative assistant interview questions in order to weed out unqualified applicants on their quest for the best of the best.
What Are Administrative Assistants?
Modern administrative assistants are like the Swiss army knife of employees and are required to know an enormous amount of information and possess a multitude of skills. Gone are the days where a good administrative assistant was the person who made the best pot of coffee and had the best voice for answering phones.
Today’s administrative assistants are often the right hand of CEO’s, assisting with the day-to-day tasks of running a business. Administrative assistants coordinate calendars, schedule meetings, manage basic office needs, and often act as a liaison between the CEO and other departments.
They can also be tasked with more traditional assignments, like answering phones and emails, preparing reports, and maintaining informational databases and filing systems. And yes, brewing the occasional pot of coffee can also fall into the realm of tasks an administrative assistant will be asked to do.
Because the role of a good administrative assistant is so wide-ranging and varied, hiring managers are going to be on the lookout for candidates who possess a multitude of skills. This means, if you’re going in for an administrative assistant interview, you should be prepared to answer equally wide-ranging and varied questions that cover both hard and soft skills.
You also want to make sure that while you’re answering the questions the interviewer is asking, that you’re also demonstrating these skills.
We won’t lie to you…nailing an administrative assistant interview can be difficult…but it’s not impossible…and we’re here to help you!
Our 4 Best Tips For An Admin Assistant Interview
Here are 5 of our best tips to make sure you are ready for your next administrative assistant interview:
It’s important you start thinking like an administrative assistant long before you ever step foot in that interview room. As we mentioned above, a solid administrative assistant is someone who can help manage and facilitate the day-to-day for busy executives, and if you can demonstrate that skill to the hiring manager through your application, your odds of getting the interview will go up significantly!
That means making sure your tailoring your cover letter, your application and your resume specifically to both the job you’re applying for and the company that’s hiring. Make sure the skills and abilities you have that match what the company is looking for are clearly highlighted in your cover letter and resume.
A hiring manager is going to be much more likely to pull you in for an interview if they can see at a glance that you’re perfectly matched for the job. Making their job easier makes it easier for you to land the position you’re applying for!
2. Use Concrete Examples From Your Past
Again, one of the key components of a good administrative assistant is the ability to help make the jobs of the manager or executive you’re assisting easier. Make sure you give the hiring manager solid examples of ways you’ve helped make the jobs of your superiors easier both in your cover letter as well as in person during the interview.
3. Take a Hard Look at Your Soft Skills
We’ve covered soft skills before on this blog here. Make sure you go over this list and really focus in on the soft skills the job requires and how they match up to the soft skills you have. Being technically proficient on your hard skills as an administrative assistant is only half the job. Having a solid grasp of the soft skills you need for the position you’re interviewing for and showcasing them in your cover letter, resume and interview will help turn you from job seeker to employed!
4. Get Hands-On With the High Tech
One of the tasks you’ll probably encounter while working as an administrative assistant will involve working with common office equipment. Making sure you know how the computers, copiers, fax machines and other standard office equipment (yes, even the coffee pot) work, even on just a basic level, is a skill any hiring manager will appreciate of a job candidate.
While you probably won’t be expected to know how perform any critical repairs or major equipment overhauls, having a working knowledge of how to use the equipment and how to perform basic maintenance (replace ink, paper, toner, filters, etc. and when to call in a specialist) will help highlight your ability to manage a smooth running office environment.
Top 5 Administrative Assistant Interview Questions
Now that we’ve got the tips covered, let’s take a look at 5 common administrative assistant interview questions and why these questions get asked to help get you prepared.
Remember, as you read through these, think about how you would answer them and how you might be able to best highlight your specific skills and knowledge as they relate to both the company’s needs and the job you’re applying to.
Don’t forget to include successes from past jobs as well!
1. “Why did you apply for this job and what makes you think you’ll be a good administrative assistant?”
This one is pretty much a no-brainer. No hiring manager is going to bring someone onboard who isn’t ready to be a good administrative assistant and the best way to prove that you’re up for the job is through concrete examples from your past work experiences.
Be open and honest when answering this question and focus on the aspects of being an administrative assistant that you really enjoy.
Is it thinking outside the box? Getting to see how the company is run from the inside out? Maybe it’s the constant variety of tasks and the ability to work with different departments?
Whatever it is, focus on that and make sure to include the ways you’ve taken those things you enjoy and used them to create victories for yourself and your employer in the past.
2. “This job requires you to spend some time answering phones. How comfortable are you with multiple lines and high volumes of incoming calls?”
Yes, I know, we said modern administrative assistants are often tasked with much more than just answering phones, but the reality is, you’ll probably have to man the desk now and again, and knowing not only how to do it, but how to handle what can potentially be a stressful situation with grace and calmness is only going to benefit you.
While having actual experience handling high volumes of calls would be the best example to use when answering this question, you can still answer this question even without that experience by highlighting your efficiency, your courteous phone manners, and your ability to quickly prioritize and organize.
3. “Would you consider yourself a team player? Do you work well with others?”
No man, or woman for that matter, is an island…at least not as far as administrative assistants are concerned. Being a good administrative assistant means being comfortable with working with a wide variety of people and teams within the organization.
Being able to both lead as well as take direction and being comfortable with collaboration are key skills for a good administrative assistant.
Questions like this one are a great opportunity to use the STAR method to answer!
4. “How do you work when faced with stress or pressure?”
This question can be a bit tricky. When a hiring manager asks this, they want an honest answer…but knowing how to strike the balance between being honest and too honest can be tough.
First off, don’t lie and tell them they don’t have to worry because you never get stressed.
Nobody will believe you. No, really. Nobody.
Being an administrative assistant means you’re pretty much guaranteed to have to handle some stressful situations now and then, and a hiring manager wants to know you’ve got the perseverance and ability to hack it without crumbling like last week’s sugar cookies.
Speaking of last week’s sugar cookies, no hiring manager is going to want to hire someone who has zero coping skills when it comes to a little extra work pressure, so while we said be honest…don’t go overboard.
The tricky part is finding a way to strike a balance between admitting you do get stressed while also highlighting how you handle those tough moments without folding like a card table. Good things to focus on when answering these types of questions are organizational skills, redirecting stress energy into creative energy, and what steps you take when faced with a crisis to prioritize what needs to get done over what is just going to cause more stress.
5. “Tell me about a past job you had that you really enjoyed and why you liked it.”
While this isn’t technically a question, a hiring manager is using it as a way to get to know you better and find out what makes you tick. Because being an administrative assistant means wearing lots of hats and tackling diverse types of problems, a hiring manager is probably going to avoid any job seeker who talks about past experiences that involved lots of sitting around and doing repetitious jobs.
Key things to focus in on when answering this question include tackling challenges, thinking on your feet, problem solving, prioritizing tasks, teamwork, leadership experiences, organization, anticipating problems and coming up with solutions.
Before wrapping up your interview, odds are your hiring manager will ask you if you have any questions for them.
While it’s tempting to bail as quickly as possible (we get it, interviews usually fall pretty far down on the list of things you’d rather be doing), resist the urge to bolt, and instead, take the time to ask your own questions. Not only will it show the interviewer that you’re genuinely interested in the position, but you might just learn something about the job you didn’t know before.
Prior to the interview, make sure you do your research on the company and prepare your questions based off of that research.
Good questions to ask are:
- Can you describe a typical day in this role/department?
- If hired, what would my duties and responsibilities include?
- Where do you see this company going in the next five years?
- Is there room for growth in this position?
- How are the departments structured? Who do I specifically answer to?
- If I were to talk to your past assistant, what would they say is the best part about working for you? What is the worst?
- Describe your perfect assistant. What are the best qualities you’re looking for?
- Tell me about your worst assistant. What did they do that made them the worst?
- Can you describe your performance review process to me? How often are reviews held? Who conducts them?
- Does this company reward employees or encourage them?
- Do you or the company encourage and/or support ongoing education programs? Are employees encouraged to attend further education programs or go back to school?
- Are there any professional organizations that you encourage your employees to join?
- What are the expectations for overtime and/or weekend hours?
- What is the vacation policy? What is the sick time policy?
- What do you personally like the most about working here? What do you like the least?
Of course, this list is just our list of suggestions. Based off of your research and your own personal concerns, feel free to come up with your own questions you’d like to ask the hiring manager.
Putting It All Together
Making sure you’re prepared for an administrative assistant interview position means doing your research beforehand, putting yourself into the right mindset, focusing on your past work experience so you can draw out relevant, targeted examples to interview questions, and making sure you’re not just ready for the job interview, but the actual job itself.
Of course, as a student of the the Interview Guys this stuff should be a snap!
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