How to prep for your administrative assistant interview
Get ready to be quizzed about your hard and soft skills. Here are some interview questions to expect.
At many companies, administrative assistants often wear more hats than a hat rack. They're experts in office software and online research; they track and organize their managers’ projects and schedules; and they diplomatically represent their bosses at all levels of the corporate hierarchy.
Because an admin’s duties are so wide-ranging, expect interview questions for an administrative assistant job to be wide-ranging as well. In particular, anticipate being quizzed about both your technical and interpersonal skills. Here's a guide to help you get ready for your next admin interview.
Hard-skills interview questions
Good administrative assistant interview questions delve into where and how you applied certain hard skills, says Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam, a Menlo Park, California temporary staffing firm. For example:
- You list Microsoft Excel on your resume. What's the latest version you've used?
- Have you used Macs or PCs?
- Give me examples of the things you've done with Excel. Have you started a spreadsheet from scratch and created formulas or entered data into an existing spreadsheet? How often did you export Excel into PowerPoint graphics?
If you’ll be managing travel, expect questions along these lines:
- What is your proficiency with travel coordination?
- Have you coordinated domestic travel? International travel?
- What visa issues have you encountered, and how did you solve those problems?
- Were you responsible for processing expense reports? How were they completed?
Soft-Skills Interview Questions
How you answer the technical interview questions will tell the hiring manager whether you’re capable of performing the work. But to uncover how you’ll perform those tasks, expect questions about your soft skills as well.
Lynn Taylor, author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job, says a great interview question is:
- How would your former bosses describe your ability to manage them?
Make sure your answer highlights your value-added abilities, such as a can-do attitude, organizational abilities, time management and creating a positive impression for the manager, Taylor says.
Soft-skills questions may be tailored to the specifics of the job, says job interview coach Pamela Skillings, author of Escape from Corporate America: A Practical Guide to Creating the Career of Your Dreams.
For instance, if you’ll be working for multiple people, expect questions about time management:
- How do you handle stress and deadlines?
- Tell me about a time when you had to prioritize a heavy workload. How did you approach it?
- When have you had to communicate with a client or senior manager on behalf of your boss?
- Who was the most challenging customer -- internal or external -- and how did you satisfy that person?
If the job will involve project management, expect questions similar to these:
- Describe a complex organizational project that you managed recently.
- What is the most interesting project you have worked on?
- How have you used calendar management in past positions? How many calendars have you managed?
Also expect questions about your relationship with previous bosses:
- Describe your relationship with your current or most recent manager.
- What would have made you stay at your last job?
- What qualities do you consider most important in an administrative professional?
- How do you prefer to communicate?
Finally, be ready to discuss your preferences with regard to corporate culture:
- Describe the working environment you're looking for.
- In what type of office environment do you thrive?
- What was the corporate culture at your last job?
The company is looking for someone who wants to work in an office setting similar to its own. Someone who prefers working on a team will die of boredom in a small law firm with three attorneys who are out most of the day. Someone who likes to work in a quiet office with the door closed will suffer in an open office with constant interruptions.
Go one step beyond
One general administrative/support interview question you should expect is:
- Do you feel your experience as an administrative assistant has gone beyond the scope of pure administration? How?
Your answer to this interview question gives you the chance to discuss other skills you can bring to the job, such as office management, team building, bookkeeping and phone screening. Have a strong answer ready, and you'll have a good chance of sealing the deal on the job.
Learn more about administrative careers.
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