As the US job market continues to experience growth, businesses across all industries are adding more and more employees to their ranks. And with companies increasingly hiring people for mid- to senior-level roles, the need to find administrative professionals to support these individuals is becoming more demanding than ever. However, hiring managers aren’t just looking for job seekers who can complete simple tasks like filing or answering phones; they’re looking for people who can assist with a broad spectrum of work.
Since hundreds of professionals can apply for any one particular role, it’s important to make sure you stand out. In order to do so, there are several aspects of your professional persona to focus on improving. By adding on these increasingly sought-after, but rare, skill sets, you have a chance of hedging yourself above the rest of the pack.
Before you send out applications for your next administrative role, consider your aptitude within the following skill sets:
Before you go in for an interview, you will want to know your personal words per minute (WPM) count. Typing abilities, and especially your typing speed, are becoming an increasingly sought-after skill among hiring managers looking to employ administrative professionals. While this skill may seem dated, many job seekers don’t realize just how important your WPM still is to employers.
If you don’t know your current WPM, consider taking an online test like this one from TypingTest to see where you currently stand as far as typing speed goes. According to Lauren Pearce, an Associate within The Execu|Search Group’s Office Support and Human Resources division, a “solid WPM count is 65 words or more,” so strive to land within that number when you test your speed. If you fall below 65, consider taking some time out of your day to focus on typing speed and accuracy. You may find it frustrating at first, but you’ll thank yourself later when you find yourself being asked to take a typing test before or during an interview!
More advanced Microsoft Office proficiency
Similar to WPM, your level of ability in Microsoft Office programs, especially Excel and PowerPoint, is becoming more desirable in the eyes of a hiring manager. During the interview process, you can impress a hiring manager by demonstrating more advanced capabilities in both programs.
“Assistants who possess intermediate-level skills in Microsoft Excel, such as the ability to create or utilize Pivot Tables and V-Lookups, can be of major assistance to the executive they support,” says Lauren. “Therefore, taking the time to enroll in an online tutorial can put you a step ahead of your competition.”
Also, consider having a PowerPoint Presentation tucked away in your portfolio. Unless you’re a more seasoned professional, try to keep anything you put together in college out of the picture. While it might be impressive, a hiring manager will be more interested in seeing something you created in a professional setting; it gives them a better idea of what you can bring to the company should they choose to hire you.
More so than in any other profession, your interpersonal skills matter when you work in a support function. If you’re an Administrative or Executive Assistant, you will more than likely serve as the face and voice of your respective company or department, and will be interacting with people internally and externally on a regular basis. Because of this, it’s important to be cognizant of any verbal or physical tics you may currently have, and then think of ways to improve upon them. For example, look out for any filler words such as “um” or “literally.” As an administrative professional, you need to be as polished as possible, and these words can distract the person you are communicating with from your ultimate message.
If you’re worried you might have a subconscious verbal habit that could impede your chance of landing a job, ask a friend to practice interviewing you. Have them ask you a set of questions and, instead of focusing on your answers, ask them to focus on how you’re answering them. According to Lauren, a friend can better identify how many times you drop a particular verbal filler or phrase. She also advises asking them if they notice any nervous behaviors you may have, such as running a hand through your hair or clearing your throat. From there, you can work on eradicating these things from your professional persona and mold yourself into someone who can adapt seamlessly into a role.