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Becoming An Administrative Assistant: The Complete Guide

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f you like to organize, get tasks done in an efficient manner while constantly staying busy, then you may want to consider becoming an administrative assistant. In this job, you will regularly be communicating with others in person or over the phone, use computers to draft documents and do other tasks, and play an essential role in helping your company run well.

It can be an exciting field to get into as each admin job is different depending on the company. You can have the flexibility to do your work in many different industries, and find the place that is the perfect fit for you. 

In this blog, we’ll cover the following to help you become and successful administrative assistant:

  • What does an administrative assistant really do?
  • How to become an administrative assistant 
  • Salary and job prospects 
  • How to prepare for the job interview 
  • 10 interview questions with example answers 

What does an administrative assistant really do?

The job duties can vary depending on who you work for and what their business model is like, as well as what they prioritize and how they operate. The job title of an administrative assistant can sound vague and all-encompassing, but there are some general duties that are involved in most admin jobs such as: 

  • Use spreadsheets, word processing, desktop publishing, and slideshow or presentation software to create documents such as reports, invoices, memos, letters and more 
  • Booking, scheduling, and organizing meetings along with creating agendas or recording minutes
  • Deal with correspondence such as letters, emails, faxes, or other inquiries including sending, sorting and responding
  • Manage supervisor’s appointments and other commitments using digital calendar systems and setting reminders
  • Maintain filing or record management systems including making digital copies of physical files and preparing expense reports

You may do more or less than this depending on what your job wants from you. Since technology is changing, the duties of this job are changing as well, so be prepared to learn new things while you’re on the job too. 

This video by ALIS provides more details of what you can expect as an administrative assistant: 

How to become an Administrative Assistant 

While it is not technically required to get an education to become an administrative assistant, many employers require people in this role to have some type of post-secondary education

The most common and successful route to becoming an administrative assistant is by enrolling in and completing a one or two-year administrative assistant diploma program that will not only teach you skills in the classroom but also have a work experience component that will give you practical experience in the workplace. 

When pursuing this career, there are some qualities and traits that are generally expected in what employers are looking for. This can include communication skills, time management, taking initiative, and being motivated while working by yourself or in a team. If you already have these types of traits, then this job might be very enjoyable for you. 

Salary and job prospects

The average entry level salary in this role is $21.48 per hour with the overall average going up to $25.93 per hour. There are opportunities for advancement as many organizations like to invest in their employees and give them additional resources to advance their skills and learning. As well, once you have enough experience you can also move into supervision or managerial roles. 

In the last two years, 44 per cent of employers recruited administrative assistants. The job is expected to have an annual growth of 1.7 per cent with at least 445 positions opening up annually, and perhaps more if the number of small businesses grows. 

How to prepare for the job interview 

The best way to prepare for the job interview is to revise all the important concepts that you’ve learned in your administrative assistant education or experience, and research the companies that you want to apply to and work for. Think about what their needs are, and how you can meet them with your acquired skills to help them expand and increase their reach. 

Make sure to practice and have mock interviews to help you. Think about the key points that you want to convey and allow them to flow from you naturally. Since many interviews are being conducted online now, make sure you have a quiet, private space where you can talk and deal with any technical issues beforehand. 

10 interview questions with example answers 

  • What have you done to develop your skills and knowledge of the administrative field?

First and foremost, the employer wants to know about your background. Where have you studied, where have you worked, and how have you become a well-rounded administrative assistant? Tell them specifics about what you learned and your experience. 

“I completed my Administrative Assistant Diploma at ABM College where I learned how to be proficient in various computer software, aspects of business communication, bookkeeping and other administrative skills. I did my practicum at XYZ Company where I was taking calls, creating documents, filing, booking appointments, which helped me to understand and appreciate the role better.” 

  • What do you like best about being an Administrative Assistant? 

The employer is looking to see if you have enthusiasm for your job, as it might get quite hectic, so there must be some things that keep you motivated and driven to do the tasks that you need to do. Try to be sincere with this question and not just answer what you think the employer wants to hear. They want to know your relevant, but genuine answer. 

“What I like most about being an administrative assistant is that I get to keep on top of everything that’s going on in the office. I also really enjoy being able to interact with people over the phone and in-person or with clients. Seeing what I can do to help them find what they need is really fulfilling for me.”  

  •  What office equipment and software do you know how to use? 

This is one of the most important questions because it is crucial to the job. You need to be comfortable using the machines and software that the company needs to keep things running quickly for them. It lets the employer know that you have confidence and you’ll be able to keep up with the everyday assignments that need to get done.

“I’m proficient in both Microsoft Office and G Suite for documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and more, and I’m also familiar with Microsoft Teams. I took courses on them and also utilized them during my work experience, especially Excel and PowerPoint which I was using on a daily basis. I also know how to use equipment such as computers, printers, fax machines, scanners, and multi-line telephones.”

  • How do you ensure you’re working at the same level of quality if you can’t be in the office? 

Work from home culture has become a popular reality because of COVID-19. The employer wants to ensure that you can work just as well (if not better) at home as you would if you were in the office. Let the employer know the steps and measures you’re taking to make sure that your productivity won’t dwindle.

“I have full confidence that I can work well from home. I have a separate home office set up where I do all my work and a scheduler that helps me be conscious of tasks and deadlines. Due to this, I can focus on my work and deliver the same quality of materials that I would otherwise. I also have all the equipment I need such as a phone line, computer, and printer to handle all the work.” 

  • How would you approach a task you're given to do with minimal instructions?

This is about taking initiative and being open to a challenge. You should convey that you’re open to taking on a situation that might be complex or where you might be a little bit uncomfortable. The employer also wants to know that you’re not afraid to ask for help when the situation really calls for it, and can make the right decisions when it’s needed. 

“First, I would just start doing the task. Sometimes once I start on something, even if I don’t fully understand at first, I can figure it out along the way and it becomes clearer to me what exactly needs to be done. If I don’t understand, I’ll see if it’s some type of information that’s easily accessible and do my own research on the web or other resources available. If I am truly stuck, then I will of course ask for assistance and help from either the person who assigned me or someone else who would be knowledgeable on it.” 

  • Describe a time when you made a mistake, how did you take responsibility and what did you do after?

The employer wants to know that you have the maturity to take ownership of your mistake, and rectify the situation as soon as you’re able to. Mistakes happen to everyone in various capacities, so it’s better to tackle this type of question head-on, instead of trying to tip-toe around it. The important thing is that it was a learning experience. 

“One time there was an error in the Excel calculations and I didn’t realize, so one part of the financial statements came out incorrect. It was almost the deadline when I realized this, so I took responsibility for the mistake and apologized to my supervisor, notifying them that it would be coming in late. What I learned from this was that I need to be more meticulous with my work, and since then I have been more careful and precise with my work.”

  • How do you prioritize your tasks, especially during a busy day or week? 

This question is asked to know whether you can manage and complete multiple tasks on the go, and have the ability to know what to do when and why. Identify a method that works for you and establish how working your method keeps you as productive as possible. 

“I really focus on what immediately needs to be done based on the deadlines and use that as a guide. If there’s multiple items, I figure out what tasks take less time to do that I can finish first, and focus on the things that take a bit longer afterwards. That way I can continue to complete tasks one by one which for me, makes it less stressful and more efficient.” 

  • Why do you want to work for our company? 

Administrative assistants have the freedom to work and use their skills in any industry they wish. The employer is curious to know why you sought them out and applied to them specifically, instead of other jobs and industries that are available on the market. 

“I’ve always been interested in engineering, but realized it wasn’t the route for me. I was interested in somehow being a part of it where I could still play a key role. I really appreciate the environmental initiatives that the company is taking and wanted to use my administrative skills to help a cause and an industry that I feel passionate about.”

  • What traits or skills do you think are most important for being an Administrative Assistant? 

While the employer might have their own view of what skills are important in the role, they want to know what you think and why. They might be looking for a new perspective or want to know more about you as a person and employee, and what you value in the workplace.

“I think having good communication skills is one of the most important things to have. When talking to customers and clients, it’s important to be friendly, approachable yet professional so they have a pleasant experience dealing with the company. Not only that, it’s important to communicate to coworkers and supervisors about projects and other work so that we’re all on the same page with no surprises. Without communication, things can go downhill really fast.”  

  • What type of management style do you prefer? 

This is asked to establish whether or not you can be independent in the workplace. If the job is remote, the employer may prefer you to be mostly independent. It also helps so the employer knows your work style and can work with you accordingly, or to know whether or not your style aligns with how the company runs. 

“I prefer to be given tasks and key information about the assignment as well as deadlines and allows me to get the job done from there. I always ask questions when I need help or clarification with anything, but I believe that I can organize my time well and work independently, so I don’t require constant supervision or check-ins.” 

We hope this was helpful in your quest to become an administrative assistant. For more information you can learn about 7 Administrative Assistant Duties That Make The Job Worthwhile.


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