11 June 2013
Author: The ExecuSearch Group
There’s no single cut-and-dry job description for most office support positions. Administrative and Executive Assistants, for example, overlap in duties—data entry, correspondence—but differ greatly depending on the industry they’re working within. So, naturally, when finding the right fit, a lot of emphasis is put on the specific skills and experiences of each individual candidate. However, many make the mistake of thinking that applying for an office support position is simply a matter of checking off a list of qualifications. Proficient with Excel? Check. 3 years’ administrative experience? Check. What many job seekers often don’t understand is that there is much more to such positions than their calendar experience or Microsoft Office knowledge, known as “hard skills.” These skills may land you the interview, but it’s the “soft skills” that ultimately earn you the job. We’ve talked about such technical skills and their importance in the past. But in many office support roles, soft skills like etiquette, a friendly disposition, patience, and the ability to effectively manage stress and time are key. In a position in which you’ll largely be the middleman between your supervisor and the people who wish to reach him or her, these are the characteristics that build trust and respect in you as a professional and, since you’ll be representing him or her, your boss as well. Most of an assistant’s duties require these skills. Should your supervisor be unable to make a meeting last minute, can you cancel it while maintaining a respectful image for both of you? If an urgent matter comes up while he or she is already overwhelmed, will you be able to approach the topic in a calm and organized fashion? An assistant usually spends a great deal of one-on-one time with the executive, so knowing how to maintain a professional but enjoyable relationship is an important skill—and a skill that not everyone has. “One of the best ways to help keep your employer happy is to maintain a smooth schedule for him or her whenever possible,” advises Komal Shah, Staffing Manager of The Execu|Search Group’s Office Support and Human Resources division. “This requires not only the hard skill of maintaining a calendar, appointments, and travel arrangements, but the soft skill of being receptive to change. Executives are busy, and it’s common for plans to be changed at a moment’s notice. Just as they may often have to change their itineraries, an assistant has to be flexible with them.” In order to demonstrate that you’ll be a good fit for these positions, make sure you can let your soft skills shine through while interviewing. Demonstrate through your answers and your follow-up email that you have great verbal and written communication skills. Maintain a professional, but friendly, demeanor. Plan out some of your answers ahead of time in order to best demonstrate these skills and use your past experience to back them up—for example, saying “I have excellent time management skills” is a lot less effective than describing a time in which you had to use those skills. Remember, hiring managers are looking for candidates who will represent the firm they are interviewing for well. If you want to show them that you’re the right choice, act during your interview as you would on the job.