The process to hire administrative professionals should include an interview that lets you assess whether candidates are a good fit for the job and your team.

Whether you're filling an administrative assistant position or are looking for the right person for a call centre representative role, it's a good idea to look for general skills that apply to a wide range of administrative support roles, including:

  • Communication, both written and verbal.
  • The ability to multitask and keep a number of balls up in the air while remaining professional, pleasant and precise.
  • Organization, including time-management skills and the ability to keep information, processes and people organized and working in the right direction.
  • Tech-savviness, including experience with office equipment like copy machines and knowledge of computer programs such as word processing, spreadsheets and presentation software.
  • Teamwork and strong interpersonal skills.
  • Reliability, both in showing up to work on time as well as performing work as needed.

general interview questions to ask when you hire administrative staff

   •   describe your ideal work setting?

This question helps you understand if the candidate would be happy working for your company. If you have an open work space with a lot of hustle, for example, someone who's ideal space is a quiet office may not be an ideal fit. 

   •   do you have experience working remotely?

It's a question you should be asking any admin professional these days, because the pandemic has made it apparent that employees may need to work from home in some circumstances. Even if you prefer administrative staff to work at the office, they need the ability to work cooperatively with remote teams and vendors.

   •   what do you enjoy most about administrative work?

Open questions that let candidates show off some of their personality are a good idea in any interview. Asking someone what they love most about a type of work can help you determine whether they understand what your position really is and whether they might enjoy it long-term.

   •   what skill do you think is most important for administrative work?

This question tells you a lot about how a candidate perceives admin work. If they come up with a skill you'd never even think of, it might indicate they have a completely different outlook on the work than you do — which can be good or bad depending on the situation and context.

   •   how do you juggle competing priorities?

Being able to explain the tools and resources they use to get multiple things done and keep all the balls in the air is important. You want to hire administrative professionals that have already figured out what works for them. Otherwise, you'll have a less experienced admin pro relying on trial-and-error to figure it out — while they're on your clock.

questions relevant to computer and digital skills

   •   are you comfortable using x software? 

Base this question on your specific business needs. Administrative staff in a sales organization should be comfortable using CRM software, for example, while data entry staff in a financial firm would need to be familiar with accounting software. You don't necessarily need candidates who know your exact system; consider asking them to talk about the systems they have used to see if there are cross-over skills. 

   •   are you well-versed in using microsoft office?

Word, Excel and PowerPoint are often musts when you're hiring administrative staff. Even if you don't use those exact tools, you probably use something like them. An admin candidate that can't handle at least basic spreadsheet use may not be an ideal fit for many jobs. 

   •   what tools do you use to stay organized?

From time-management apps to tried-and-true tools like planners and bullet journals, organizational tools are critical supports for successful administrative professionals. If your candidate can't talk about a few tools they like easily, they might not have thought enough about how important organization is. 

ask admin pros these questions to assess team fit

   •   describe a situation where you took ownership of a mistake.

It's not just that your applicant was able to solve an issue or correct a mistake — though that's definitely important. How they worked it out tells you a lot about their interpersonal skills and whether they're a good team player. 

   •   describe a situation where you needed to be discreet and how you handled it.

Administrative assistants and other similar staff often have access to sensitive information or need to be part of discreet communications. Asking an applicant to demonstrate those skill sets with a story from their past can be helpful for evaluating their ability to fit into your team.

   •   tell me about a time you resolved a conflict at work.

How someone deals with conflict — whether they're proactive or reactive, what actions they took and how the issue was resolved — are important considerations. They help you understand how someone will work with existing team members.

   •   have you ever had to report to multiple supervisors? how did it go?

Reporting to multiple people can be challenging and requires a wide variety of skills — from tact and strong boundary setting to excellent communication and organization. If an administrative professional successfully juggled this situation in the past, it can speak well about their ability to deal with multitasking and communication issues in the future.

get more sample questions to ask in interviews

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