When interviewing for an administrative position, the employer will be assessing two key factors that could determine your success at the organization: your technical skills and personality traits. To do this, hiring managers often have a range of questions at their disposal. While some may be trickier than others, many office support professionals find themselves stumped by some of the most commonly asked interview questions.
“Since interviews can be predictable to a degree, job seekers tend to overlook the importance of preparing well-thought out responses to commonly asked questions,” explains Lauren Pearce, a Senior Associate within The Execu|Search Group’s Office Support division. “This is a mistake because these questions aren’t as straightforward as they may sound. Rather than looking for a definitive answer, the interviewer is trying to gauge whether or not you plan on being a long-term hire, how accurate a fit you are for their team, and what your overall career goals and ambitions look like.”
As a result, not answering these types of questions effectively can prevent you from moving forward in the process. While it’s difficult to anticipate every specific question, there’s a strong possibility that you’ll be faced with at least one of the following. Here’s how to craft a response the employer is looking for:
The Question: Can you tell me about a challenge you’ve faced in the workplace?
As an administrative professional, you may be responsible for resolving problems on a daily basis. Whether they are as small as a scheduling mix-up or as large as a flight cancellation, the interviewer needs to ensure you can be prepared for any situation. As a result, your response to this question needs to highlight your approach to overcoming challenges or conflicts. Prove you have strong problem solving and critical thinking skills by discussing a challenge you faced, and how you reacted to address the issue to reach a positive outcome.
The Question: What would you say is your biggest weakness?
This is a question that’s easy to be stumped by, and it’s all too easy to fall back on a cliché answer like “I’m a perfectionist.” However, there is no reason to reference a true character flaw. “You don’t want to bring attention to anything that the employer can’t see on your resume,” warns Lauren. “Instead, review the company as well as the job description to identify and address any concerns they may have about your background.” If you don’t have any industry experience, for example, that’s your answer. Just be able to assure the employer that you are a quick learner and can get yourself quickly up to speed. Alternatively, you can identify a required technical skill that you need to become more proficient in. When doing so, be sure to explain how you plan on doing this.
The Question: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Employers typically ask this question to assess your career goals, specifically whether your plan involves working with the company in the long run. While it might be tempting to impress the interviewer with your lofty career aspirations, it’s important to keep yourself grounded by focusing on the opportunity at hand. “You don’t want to imply that you only see this job as a stepping stone,” advises Lauren. “A good response touches upon the reasons why you are a great long term fit for the position. This can help prove that you are looking for an opportunity to build your skills with the right employer over time.”
The Question: Why are you interested in working here?
To answer this question successfully, you first need to do some research on the company. Learning more about the company’s history, mission, and plans for the future will help you identify the reasons why you’re the person the company is looking for. “When responding, demonstrate your passion for the organization by citing any recent accomplishments or company attributes that you admire,” says Lauren. “You should also be prepared to discuss how your background, transferable skills, and personality make you a strong cultural fit.” Remember, the hiring manager’s intent is to determine your level of interest in the role, while assessing whether your goals align with those of the company.