There are many administrative and executive support professionals out there who can recite their set of skills at the drop of a hat, but it’s important to keep in mind that some interviews may ask more of you. What makes careers in office support unique is that although almost every industry has a need for assistants, the job responsibilities of an admin/executive assistant can differ greatly from industry to industry. Different skills can be developed with each experience. With this in mind, preparation is the key to acing any interview. Here is some expert interview advice for administrative and executive assistants from Erin McCarthy, a Director of our Office Support/HR division who concentrates in office support placement across a wide range of industries.
Research the company and the person/team you’re meeting with
Administrative and executive assistants are often considered the backbone of the organizations they work for because they are responsible for ensuring all operations run efficiently. As a result, it is imperative that during an interview, candidates can demonstrate their knowledge of the company’s mission, values, and services/products they offer. If you can show your interviewer that you understand the company’s objectives and you can explain why and how you can help the organization achieve its goals, you will be sure to make an impression. Erin also instructs her candidates to quickly research the person/team they’re expecting to meet with. “Knowing who you are interviewing with may give you a better idea of what to expect as well as help you prepare your own informed questions about the organization, department, and role.”
Understand the job description
“A day or two before the interview, you should take some time to reacquaint yourself with the job description,” Erin suggests. Every administrative job description can vary depending on the industry, and if you have applied to enough jobs, it is easy to lose track of all the specificities you need to prepare for. It is important to have a complete understanding of the job description so you can anticipate questions and know what skills you will need to highlight.
Have a good grasp of your relevant skills, experiences, and strengths
Once you have reviewed the job description and conducted thorough research on the company, you should know which of your skills and experiences will be most relevant to the position. Answer any questions about your ability to do the job by emphasizing your strengths and giving them an example of an experience where you were able to learn and grow from a challenge. In addition to your qualifications, Erin often advises candidates to be prepared to discuss any weaknesses, because many employers see this as a sign of the candidate’s honesty and ability to take constructive criticism.
Run-through some data-entry activities
Typically, most administrative and executive support level roles call for some data-entry responsibilities. To test your data-entry proficiency, you may be asked to take a typing and/or ten key test. Prepare for these assessments by brushing up on your computer skills, keeping accuracy and efficiency at the forefront of your mind.
Expect to answer questions about…
- Your communication skills – The abilities to communicate clearly and professionally and listen carefully are strong qualities most employers seek in new hires. This is especially important in an administrative and/or executive support role where professionals typically work with all levels of the organization and may be responsible for answering phones, written correspondence, and making various arrangements.
- Technical skills – As an administrative/executive assistant, you will most likely have to manage some office equipment and work with a variety of computer programs. Prepare a list of all your applicable computer and technology skills.
- Your planning and organization skills – In an interview, be prepared to discuss your experience with scheduling and prioritization. The ability to multi-task is integral to succeeding in most administrative and executive support roles. Therefore, it is essential to prepare some examples of experiences where you had to juggle multiple responsibilities and how you prioritized and met your deadlines.
- Teamwork – Most administrative professionals work as part of a team. As a result, you may be asked questions about your ability to work well with others. Have some examples prepared about situations where you were able to make a contribution as part of a team and worked on relationship-building.