Administrative assistants most commonly assist managers, directors, vice presidents and c-level personnel with tasks such as scheduling, communications, document production, travel, and clerical duties. They may also assist an entire department with these types of tasks. During an interview, the hiring manager will usually ask questions centering around the candidate's hard skills, soft skills, previous experience and personal work style.
Common administrative assistant hard skills include word processing and spreadsheet programs, light accounting skills, and some writing skills. Certain positions may require additional specific skills. For example, the administrative assistant to a dean of education may need to be familiar with the rules of academic publishing, and the assistant to the chief executive officer of a hospital may need to be familiar with basic medical terminology. Administrative assistant interview questions will often be designed to uncover the interviewee's proficiency in these areas. The candidate also may be asked what types of computer programs she has worked with or may be asked how many years of experience she has in a certain skill area.
Hiring managers will also ask administrative assistant interview questions that explore the candidate's soft skills. This includes areas such as organization and interpersonal communication. For example, a departmental administrative assistant may need to manage the schedules of several people with different functions and different work styles. In this case, the hiring manager may ask about the candidate's ability to elicit needed information from both over- and under-communicators with a minimum of workplace friction.
Many administrative assistant interview questions center around experience because the past offers proof of a candidate's abilities. These questions may address either hard or soft skill areas. For example, a high-ranking research and development officer will need an administrative assistant who can be trusted with sensitive or confidential information, so he may ask the candidate to detail past experience with similar information. An administrative assistant for a newly-formed position or department may need to create a workable filing system from scratch, so the hiring manager may ask the candidate to recount a time when she accomplished a similar task.
Managers and their administrative assistants often work together very closely to achieve a common goal, so it often is critical that their work styles be complimentary. A manager who knows himself to be badly organized will often seek out an administrative assistant who is extremely organized and unafraid to keep him on task. A manager who tends to be temperamental or have less-than-perfect communication skills will frequently select an administrative assistant who is both unaffected by his moodiness and able to 'smooth feathers' of the people he may antagonize. A manager who travels a lot will need an assistant who can function effectively with very little direct supervision.
Candidates should expect to answer administrative assistant interview questions that address personal motivations and work style preferences as well. This is so important that it will often be the deciding factor between equally-qualified candidates. A candidate with a complimentary work style may even be chosen over one with more experience or education.