They say behind every successful company is a team of hardworking admins. Undoubtedly the unsung heroes of the office, administrative assistants work to ensure the efficient operation of the workplace – often behind the scenes.
If you’re looking for a job in administration, be prepared to carry out a wide range of duties. Being tasked with such an important responsibility – running and coordinating the day-to-day administrative duties of an organisation – means companies are looking for staff with strong organisational and communication skills, as well as someone who is capable of multitasking, or managing competing deadlines.
If these are your strengths and you’ve secured a job interview, congratulations! However, before you turn up for your interview, make sure you’re prepared.
What are the main skills employers want in an Administrative Assistant?
Administrative assistants often act as the professional face of a team or organisation, supporting reception, greeting clients, customers and guests, and answering phone calls or emails.
So, it goes without saying that professionalism is particularly important as someone who will be representing the company.
Of course, strong organisational, communication, and interpersonal skills are also essential for administrative staff.
Other essential skills include:
- Industry knowledge
- Software and social media proficiency
- Budget savvy
- Ability to create efficiencies around processes and procedures
- Ability to work under pressure
How to prepare for an Administrative Assistant interview
Before you even begin preparing your answers for those administrative assistant interview questions, take the following steps:
1. Research the company
As far as interview prep goes, researching the company to which you’ve applied is a standard first step to interview success, but administration staff are often the backbone of the organisation.
That means you’ll be expected to demonstrate more than a passing familiarity with the company, more so than other professional roles: their mission statement and values, for example, as well as their business goals, their products or services, and how your role fits into it.
2. Understand the job description
Fundamentally, what does the company want from someone in the role of administrative assistant? Every role is different, so make sure you’re aware of what sets this job apart from others, and ensure your response is tailored to it.
3. Run through your job application
Just as every job is different, so too should your job application. Which means, if you’ve applied to a lot of different jobs, it can be easy to forget what skills you may have emphasised, or how you may have framed your experiences for the hiring manager.
Reacquaint yourself with your own application.
4. Prepare your elevator pitch
Most interviews will open with some form of the question, ‘tell me about yourself?’ That’s why it’s helpful to come up with an elevator pitch: a 30-second summary of who you are, what you’ve accomplished, and why you’re the ideal candidate for the position you’re interviewing for.
Whether you want to rehearse a short speech or just the highlights, you should be able to reframe your elevator pitch depending on how the question is asked.
5. Familiarise yourself with how you will respond to the more common interview questions
Of course, the elevator pitch only addresses that first question. It can be helpful to run through some of the more common interview questions and how you will respond to them.
Top Administrative Assistant interview questions
Our recruitment staff specialise in hiring administration professionals across many different industries. These are some of the more common administrative assistant interview questions they ask as part of their screening process.
1. What experience do you have in administration?
Be honest. This is a broad question, so don’t just blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. Take a moment to consider all the events that have led you to this interview.
A good place to start is your first, most relevant experience, working through to your current job. Make sure you communicate all the information, but be concise.
Don’t forget to include technical/hard skills, any relevant qualifications, and those important soft skills.
2. What hardware and software are you proficient in?
Outline the software you’ve used in the past or have had training in. If you haven’t had the opportunity for either, don’t lie or exaggerate; your manager will be able to figure out your deception pretty quickly should you get the job.
Don’t forget to include the more common office equipment: printer, scanner, fax, and even multi-line telephones.
3. How do you deal with stress and high-pressure situations?
The best way to answer this question is to provide an example. Use the STAR method here:
- Situation: describe the situation
- Task: outline the task you were responsible for in that situation
- Action: explain the steps you took to address the task
- Result: share the outcome you achieved
4. What tools do you use to stay organised?
As an Administrative Assistant, you’ll be expected to not only organise yourself, but organise the people around you. And you’ll often have to do so while balancing lots of different tasks and deadlines. So this question doesn’t only tell me a lot about your organisational skills, but it also tells me a bit about how confident you are using technology and understand how it can benefit your job.
It also gives me more insight into that earlier question about high pressure situations and what you do to ensure these situations don’t happen in the first place.
Consider some of the tools you use during your work, such as Google Docs to easily share documents whilst managing version control, or tools such as Asana, to view projects, manage tasks and set deadlines.
Don’t forget to explain why you use each of the tools and how you feel they could help you in this new role.
5. Have there been times when you have gone above and beyond?
Think about whether you are proactive in your work, put in extra time when needed, or bring additional skills to the job beyond administration. This is another example of when to use the STAR method to structure your response: describing the situation, explain why you decided to go above and beyond, outline your actions, and then discuss the outcome.
6. What are your greatest professional strengths and/or weaknesses?
When discussing your strengths, most people have the tendency to be too humble or they pick a strength that isn’t relevant to the job. You don’t want to come off as bragging but you don’t want to undersell yourself. The best way to discuss this then is to be able to provide a solid example of your strength in action.
Talking about your weaknesses can be more challenging, however, so to combat this, we recommend:
- Talking about a weakness that isn’t integral to doing the job, and
- Providing an example of how you’re working on improving your weakness.
Keep it positive, and answer confidently.
7. Describe a time you had to use discretion on the job and how you handled it.
This is another question in which to use the STAR method. Outline the situation, describe your actions and the outcome.
8. Describe a situation in which you made a mistake. What did you do?
You’ll need to be able to provide an example of a mistake – but not one so big that it would rule you out from the pool of preferred candidates.
Frame your response using the STAR method, and be clear about what you’ve learned from your mistake in order to avoid it in the future.
These Administrative Assistant interview questions are a good place to start your interview preparations. For more job interview advice, click here.