How to Get a Job as an Administrative Assistant

Businessman and his assistant in modern office
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If you are entering the workforce with a high school diploma, consider a job as a Secretary or Administrative Assistant. You can get an edge in the field by enrolling in an associate degree program or attending a secretarial training program after high school.

In a growing number of sectors, secretaries possess a bachelor's degree or earn specialty-focused certifications like the Accredited Legal Secretary or the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant.

Job Requirements for Secretaries/Administrative Assistants

To work in an administrative position, you will be expected to be comfortable using technology in a variety of ways. You may be required to generate documents, put together slide presentations, create spreadsheets, manage databases and maintain websites. You should be comfortable using Microsoft Office, email, and the internet. For a job at a small business, you may need to be familiar with QuickBooks or other accounting software programs.

Good verbal and written communication skills are essential. When you work at an office job you need to be detail oriented and possess proofreading skills. You should have a solid command of the English language including writing/editing skills. Some job responsibilities may involve creating documents and/or websites. You will need to be comfortable revising or composing communications or web content.

The role of office manager may be part of your responsibilities. To be a successful manager, you need to be able to multitask and be well organized. As a manager, you will often plan staff events like awards dinners and fundraising events or schedule client meetings and arrange schedules for your coworkers.

How to Find a Job as a Secretary/Administrative Assistant

Before you start your search, gather references from previous employers. If you don’t have much work experience, you can use a personal reference.

Employers who are hiring a secretary or an administrative assistant are looking for an individual they can work with comfortably, who will blend well with other staff and who can be trusted with confidential information. Strong letters of recommendation can demonstrate these qualities.

Tap into your networks to get leads on job openings. Reach out to Facebook and LinkedIn contacts, family friends, neighbors, and former employers and let them know you would appreciate introductions to anyone whom they know may be hiring.

If you are focusing your search on a sector like law, medicine, publishing, or higher education, for example, ask your contacts specifically for referrals to any professionals whom they know in those areas of employment.

Applying in Person

You will be a representative of the company who hires you and often provide the first impression to customers or clients. This means a clean-cut image and strong interpersonal skills are important for secretaries and administrative assistants to possess.

If you can find a way to get noticed by prospective employers it may give you an edge as a candidate. With your letters of recommendation and resume in hand, visit local organizations and businesses. Here’s how to apply for a job in-person.

Charm the gatekeepers and ask if you might speak with any of the supervisors or managers about support staff positions with the organization. If managers are unavailable, tell the receptionist a couple of key facts about your credentials and ask if they might be kind enough to share your resume with their bosses.

Search for Jobs Online

Do a Google search for job openings with keywords like administrative assistant, marketing assistant, editorial assistant, medical secretary, legal secretary, and office assistant to generate job listings. Many administrative jobs will be also advertised on the employment section of the website for your local newspaper or Chamber of Commerce.

Interviewing for Administrative Assistant Jobs

Your personal image and interpersonal skills will be evaluated by employers when you interview for an open position. Make sure you are impeccably dressed and groomed. Greet your interviewer with a warm smile and firm handshake. Make appropriate eye contact with each of your interviewers in group situations.

Be prepared for the interview by researching the business ahead of time. Become familiar with what they do in the office and who their clientele is. Also, prepare to sell yourself by highlighting 5 - 7 assets which will enable you to be effective in your role as a secretary or administrative assistant at the organization. For every asset you mention, be ready to reference a role, project or job where you applied that strength and generated some positive results. 

Telling these stories of how you have excelled in the past, can go a long way to convincing employers that you have the right stuff to excel in the job. Carefully review the advertisement or job description for the position and make a list of their preferences/requirements. For each qualification, think of an example of how you exhibited that quality or applied that skill.

Prepare answers to other common questions for administrative interviews like your weaknesses and challenges which you have met in the past. Employers will likely ask you about relationships with supervisors in the past so be ready to reference how you have worked well with bosses and dealt with challenging personalities effectively and have those written references handy.

Follow Up After the Interview

Immediately after the interview, compose a thank you card or letter which clearly indicates that you would like to work with that employer. Express how much you appreciate them taking the time to meet with you and briefly explain how you are an excellent fit for the position.

If you have met with multiple interviewers, try including something different in each communication to show that you are an extremely motivated and thoughtful individual.