Clean working environment, low stress levels, and no special requirements on education, or previous experience. These characteristics attract millions of job seekers to the position of an administrative assistant worldwide. You will have to demonstrate right attitude to administrative work, motivation, and readiness for various situations that will happen in the office (meeting a right deadline, having a conflict with a colleague, having to prioritize, etc)
The interview process can consist in one, two, or three rounds of interviews, but in each case you will deal mostly with screening and behavioral questions, relevant for this position. Let’s have a look at them now.
Q. Why do you want to work as an administrative assistant?
Not an easy question to start with. We can hardly talk about a meaningful purpose of the job, about your inner calling you feel to the position.
On the other hand, you should not say that you apply simply because you need money, because you have mortgage to pay, or kids to feed, and cannot get a better job. Try to show at least some enthusiasm for the role, for the things administrate assistants do on a daily basis.
You can say, for example, that you believe the job is a good fit for your strengths and personality. Or you can say that you really enjoy the things administrative assistants do on a daily basis, and prefer routine jobs, so you can leave the workplace each day with a clear mind, and focus on your life outside of work.
Q. What do you want to accomplish as an administrative assistant?
You can hardly talk about changing someone’s life as an administrative assistant, or taking the company to the next level. It is just out of your reach, out of the scope of your duties, and possibilities, at least on this position.
Nevertheless, you should still try to talk about some accomplishments, and ideally you should talk about them from a perspective of your employer (what you can do for them, how you can help them improve their results).
For example, you can say that you hope to help them improve the productivity of work, or that you want to help create the best possible atmosphere in the office, with your attitude to colleagues and clients, being attentive to their needs and feelings, always trying to build a good relationship.
Alternatively you can focus on yourself (though I do not suggest you to follow this route), saying that you hope to learn a lot of things while holding the position, and that you hope to grow professionally in the company, perhaps later on trying to get a job of an office manager, or a similar role.
Q. What are the main responsibilities of an administrative assistant, from your point of view?
Job description will help you greatly. Have a look at it, print it, and read the principal duties and responsibilities. You can just repeat them in your answer, and most interviewers will be happy that.
But you can actually list even more duties (from other job descriptions for office assistants, advertised by other companies and individuals), showing the interviewers that you actually plan to do more than expected from you, that you like to have your hands full and do not plan to hang around checking stuff on your phone.
Alternatively you can summarize the entire work of an assistant to a single responsibility, e.g. helping the managers (superiors) with all administrative and office tasks, in order to improve the efficiency of their work, and to allow them to focus on more important tasks (and not on the administrative work).
* Do not forget to check: Simple guide on how to overcome interview nerves.
Q. This job is repetitive, and it can become boring. How do you plan to motivate yourself in work?
Not an easy question, especially for people with a typical mindset–people who believe that someone else (or something else) should motivate them in work.
The only true motivation, however, one that will not perish in a few hours, or in a few weeks at best, comes from within. It comes from the goals we carry in our heart and mind, from the beliefs and values we follow in our life. That is the only real driving force. What does it stand for in your life?
Obviously you can say that you prefer repetitive jobs, that you do not like to think much in work. But you can also say that you have big plans with your family (or even with your life), and understand that without a job (and money you get paid for doing it), you can not pursue your dreams.
There are several good answers to this question, and your choice depends on your values, and the expectations you have on your life and professional career.
Special Tip: To know how to answer a questions, and to actually come up with a great answer on a big day, when facing a panel of interviewers, are two different things. If you experience anxiety, or generally struggle in the interviews, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to 10 premium answers to virtually all questions you may face in your admin. assistant interview will help you streamline your interview preparation, outclass other job candidates, ace your interview, and get the job. Thank you for checking it out!
Q. What are your weaknesses when we talk about a job of an administrative assistant?
Obviously it doesn’t sound attractive to talk about our weaknesses, especially when we try to impress someone, and get the job in an interview.
But you should understand that your attitude, and your values, matter the most for the interviewers. And talking about your weaknesses in a right way, you can actually show them the right attitude to your self, ensuring them that you constantly try to improve on your weaknesses, and become the best employee you can be.
Admit your weaknesses, show us that you want to improve on them, and tell us how you plan to so so. Perfect employee does not exist. We look for people who are aware of their strengths and weaknesses, people who constantly try to become better in what they do…
Q. What software applications can you work with?
Computer can be your best friend, or your worst enemy. It can make you more effective, and it can slow you down in work. But you should try to befriend it, and build a “strong relationship” with the machine, because unless you apply for an administrative assistant job in one of the least developed countries of our world, you will work with computer all day long.
Make a list of software programs you can work with, and mention each of them in your interview. Tell us how long you have been working with the software, and how it has helped you in your past job (or in your studies), to work more effectively. You can even say that you plan to attend evening computer classes, to improve your skills, or to learn other programs that will help you in your job and life.
Q. What characterize a good administrative assistant from your point of view?
Communication skills, responsibility, loyalty to the employer, typewriting skills, friendly personalty, attention to detail. You can add more things to the list, but remember that your interview presence should correspond with your answer to this question. You should present yourself as a good assistant.
An interesting alternative consists in focusing on a results. You can say that one can recognize a good assistant from an average one looking at the work, how much they manage to do each day, whether they are on task or behind with schedule, and so on.
Special Tip: You can also download a list of questions in a one-page long .PDF, print it, and practice your interview answers anytime later:
Q. Tell us about a biggest mistake you’ve made in your administrative work so far?
Everyone makes mistakes. The key is to accept responsibility, admit that you made a mistake, explain why it happened, and ensure the interviewers that you learned your lesson, and won’t repeat the mistake again.
Do not blame your colleagues, or your former boss, for the mistake you made. Show us that you are aware of your imperfections, and that you consider each mistake an opportunity to learn, to improve in your work, to become a better office assistant. All of that can resonate in your answer to this question…
Q. How do you handle multitasking?
Multitasking is a challenge for everyone, especially because, technically speaking, our brain can not multitask. We can focus on one task at a time only–at least on the conscious level.
It doesn’t imply, however, that we can not do more things at a time. We actually can, because we do some things automatically, without a need to think about them, or focus on them (brushing teeth is a great example).
Tell the interviewers that you try to work simultaneously on tasks you had to focus on, and tasks your hands take care of, without a need to get some guidance from your brain. Alternatively you can say that you excel in planning your work, and organizing your office, and focus on one task at a time only–the most important one, the one with the highest priority.
Other questions you may face in your administrative assistant job interview
- Tell us about your best boss and worst boss.
- What are the three things your former manager would like you to improve on?
- Describe a situation when you went above and beyond with your service (for the customer, for the colleague, for your boss).
- Describe a situation when you reached a goal and tell us how you achieved it.
- Tell us about an obstacle you overcame.
- Describe a situation when you did not agree with the opinion of your superior or supervisor, and knew that they were wrong. How did you handle the situation?
- What motivates you the most in work?
- Tell us about a time when you used logic to solve a problem.
- Describe a situation when you had to meet a right deadline.
- Why should we hire you, and not one of twenty other applicants who also try to get this job?
* If you are not sure how to answer the questions from my list, or experience interview anxiety, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to 10 premium answers to basically all questions you may face in your interview will help you streamline your interview preparation, find the right words in every moment of the interview, outclass your competitors, and eventually get this job. Thank you for checking it out!
Administrative Assistant belongs to popular job titles all around the world, and you will compete with many other people for the position.
It is not easy to stand out in an interview, and different factors will decide who will get the job at the end of the hiring process:
- your interview answers (the most important one)
- the connection you manage to build with your interviewers
- the quality of the answers of other job applicants, people who compete with you for the position
- luck–it always plays some role, though typically a minor one.
Anyway, you should focus on the factors you can control. That’s first and foremost preparing for their questions, and secondly trying to make a good connection with the interviewers. I hope you will manage to do so, and wish you best of luck!
May also interest you:
- Body language in an interview – What do your gestures and movements say about you? Can we control our non-verbal communication? And does it matter in the interviews?
- Salary negotiation tips – The salary range for administrative assistants isn’t a narrow one. Learn how to get as much as you deserve.