WHAT SKILLS MAKE A GREAT ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

​Struggling to find a great administrative assistant? Or, been looking for an assistant job and haven’t had much luck? The challenge may be that the focus hasn’t been on the right skills. Identifying the right skills can mean the difference between finding a good administrative assistant and finding someone that is great. Here are 8 skills to look for in order to identify a great administrative assistant:

1. VERSATILE

Every day for an administrative assistant is different and often subject to the needs of others in the office. This means that a great administrative assistant is someone capable of adapting to any situation. A few experiences that can illustrate a candidate’s versatility are:

  • A diverse professional background. Thriving in varied professional settings can be a sign of a truly versatile professional.
  • Experience in fast-paced environments. Keeping cool when things move quickly means that the person can support your team through a challenging time.
  • Experience as a receptionist. Anyone who can keep a positive attitude while answering multiple phone lines is capable of adapting to any situation.

2. STRONG COMMUNICATION SKILLS

Strong communication skills are a must for a great administrative assistant. This includes both verbal and written abilities. Spot a candidate with strong communication skills by looking for someone that:

  • Has no typos or grammar errors. A candidate who can’t spot typos or grammar error on their own resume isn’t going to spot them on your business communication. Definitely, a red flag that signals move on to the next candidate.
  • Asks questions. A strong communicator will ask questions to understand the situation and leverage their active listening skills in an interview.
  • Answers questions. A candidate that answers the question they are asked means that they are a great listener and that they are capable of communicating well with clients, colleagues, and vendors.

3. PROBLEM SOLVER

Administrative assistants are frequently the go-to person responsible for solving unexpected challenges in any office – from broken coffee makers to event planning and everything in between. This means that a great administrative assistant must be a capable problem solver. Here are a few ways to spot an administrative assistant with strong problem-solving skills:

  • Independent decision-making. An administrative assistant that has been given independent authority in a prior role means that the employer trusted that person to get it done.
  • Additional responsibilities. A candidate that has been asked to take on more than the traditional administrative assistant functions (i.e. bookkeeping, graphic design, human resources, etc.) is definitely someone with strong problem-solving skills.
  • Trouble-shooting experience. Someone with experience trouble-shooting situations from people to technology knows how to solve a puzzle. Ask to learn more about challenges that a candidate has fixed to see how they tackle a problem.

4. TECHNOLOGY PROFICIENT

Technology is central to every business, but not every business or department has a dedicated IT person. So, a great administrative assistant will bring some knowledge to troubleshoot the technology of the office or department. Here are a few ways to spot an administrative assistant proficient in technology:

  • Software knowledge. A great administrative assistant is skilled in a variety of business software like Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and a number of industry-specific programs. These software programs should be on the candidates resume, but it is important to ask about their proficiency to understand the candidate’s skill level.
  • Hardware knowledge. Administrative assistants are the first people in the office alerted when the hardware breaks (i.e. photocopier, printers, coffee makers, etc.). A great candidate will be willing to learn to perform the basic troubleshooting to address these breakdowns for others in the office.
  • Knows when to ask for help. A great administrative assistant knows their limits and can prioritize their workload. This means that a candidate who knows when to ask for help with technical challenges and when to resolve it on their own is definitely a keeper.

5. ORGANIZED

Multi-tasking is often a must for most administrative assistant roles. This means that a candidate will need to be capable of staying organized and on top of deadlines. A few ways to spot a candidate with great organizational skills are to look for candidates with:

  • Experience in fast-paced environments. Someone that has worked in a fast-paced or high volume work environment previously has mastered multi-tasking and stayed organized. Find out more about this candidate’s organization skills by asking about a time when they had multiple projects and could only complete 1 at a time.
  • A job while in school. People who work while in high school or college have managed the demands of class while maintaining their work responsibilities. This requires an impressive amount of time management and organizational skill.

6. PROACTIVE

A great administrative assistant will take the initiative to ensure that the job gets completed.  This means that a great candidate will have a demonstrated proactive approach or a strong work ethic. A few ways to spot an administrative assistant candidate with initiative include people who:

  • Worked as the only assistant supporting a department or office. Any candidate that has worked as the only assistant in an office or department must be highly proactive to juggle the competing demands.
  • Have time management skills. A candidate with strong time management skills will be focused on accomplishing projects rather than being distracted by social media or gossiping with people in the office.
  • Ask questions. A candidate who asks questions about the expectations for the role means that they are interested and want to understand the needs. It also means that this person will likely ask questions when they are given a new project so that they can get it done correctly.

7. DISCRETE

Administrative assistant roles often encompass the handling of sensitive information. This could include client billing information, bank accounts, personal health information, etc. So a great administrative assistant will demonstrate their ability to maintain such confidences with the appropriate discretion. A few ways to spot an administrative assistant candidate that can handle confidential information with discretion include people who have:

  • Financial experience. A candidate that has worked in banking, financial services, or been responsible for bookkeeping has handled some of the most sensitive data for another employer. This means the candidate will likely bring the same knowledge and skill to the sensitive data of your company if hired.
  • Experience in a law firm or health care provider office. Health care providers and lawyers work with confidential information all the time. An administrative assistant that has worked in these settings will be highly skilled in managing confidences and protecting sensitive information.
  • Held responsibility for security systems or programs. Many offices have security systems to admit guests and track the removal of company property. Any administrative assistant that has been asked to administer or follow such security programs will be skilled in managing confidences.

8. CUSTOMER SERVICE

Every administrative assistant role requires someone who is highly skilled in customer service. This means that the candidate will need to demonstrate their ability to serve the internal customers (i.e. colleagues, other departments, leadership, etc.) and the external customers of the company. A few examples of a candidate with great customer service skills:

  • Restaurant or retail experience. People who have worked in retail and restaurants in any capacity understand the importance of customer service and probably have worked with some terrible customers. Any length of time in these industries means that the candidate is probably quite patient and has impressive customer service skills.
  • Sales experience. Anyone that has worked in sales knows that a customer first approach is crucial to closing a deal and will bring that same attitude to an administrative assistant role.
  • Executive assistant experience. A person that has worked directly with other executives previously has managed the needs of a particularly important internal customer and high-level clients. This means the candidate will know what it takes to serve the highest levels of organizations and should bring the same skills should they be hired for your company.

Someone with all 8 of these skills is a great administrative assistant. To find out if a candidate has these skills start by looking for these skills on the candidate’s resume. Then, set up the interview process to best determine the proficiency in each of these important skills that make a great administrative assistant. During that time, it is important to also make sure that the person is the right fit for the culture of your company.

​Having trouble finding someone that has the skills of a great administrative assistant and that is a cultural fit for your organization? The recruiting team of the Contingent Plan is highly skilled at finding talent and identifying cultural fits for organizations of all sizes and industries. In fact, we are always working with some great administrative assistants. Contact us today to find out if our administrative assistant candidates are a fit for your needs!

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With years of experience in the job acquisition field, Kathy has delivered exceptional service by providing in-depth knowledge about recruiting qualified employees, and crafting the perfect resume. The Contingent Plan comprises a team of expert recruiters, resume writers, and outplacement experts—all ready to help you! Read Kathy’s blogs, and discover simple tricks and tips to help you land the job of your dreams.