Administrative Assistant Skills: Definition and Examples
Updated 30 May 2023
Administrative assistants support daily office operations by performing clerical and administrative tasks, such as answering phone calls, sorting mail or recording notes. Administrative assistants use hard and soft skills to perform their job and efficiently assist the company and its employees. If you're considering becoming an administrative assistant, it's useful to understand the different job-related skills and know how to hone them effectively. In this article, we explain what administrative assistant skills are, share eight valuable abilities for you to develop and provide ways you can showcase them to employers.
What are administrative assistant skills?
Administrative assistant skills are traits, qualities and abilities that professionals use to manage a workplace and its daily operations. Administrative assistants use these skills when supporting colleagues such as managers, directors and team leaders. For instance, they rely on organisation and customer service skills to schedule meetings and attend to phone and front-desk enquiries.
Examples of administrative assistant skills
Study these examples of administrative assistant abilities to help develop your skill set:
Administrative assistants regularly correspond with many colleagues throughout an organisation. They develop effective communication skills, including verbal and written abilities. For example, they may take messages from clients or convey written instructions to other colleagues. In addition, they use listening skills to understand meetings and schedule resources to ensure office operations run smoothly.
Organisational skills help administrative assistants develop efficient sorting and filing systems to manage the large volume of paperwork and information. This allows employees to easily access and retrieve the information they want. Administrative assistants either use physical filing or operate computer systems to electronically catalogue documents and work.
Administrative assistants often interact with colleagues or guests when performing their tasks and clerical duties. For instance, they may receive guests at the office, answer incoming calls or address written client requests. They understand the nuances of non-verbal behaviour and apply this knowledge to build rapport with customers. Administrative assistants are empathetic and often use their interpersonal skills to collaborate with different teams to achieve common business goals.
Administrative assistants practise active listening in their job. They interpret non-verbal cues, such as tone or facial expressions, to understand other individuals and respond appropriately. Understanding a speaker's intent allows administrative assistants to maintain professional decorum and act accordingly. It also conveys sincerity and helps customers and colleagues feel valued and appreciated. This improves workplace relationships and creates a more positive and productive work environment.
Planning and coordination
Administrative assistants are strategic planners who manage numerous calendars, schedule meetings and supervise office operations, which can help maximise operational efficiencies. Administrative assistants plan and host workplace events and functions, such as conferences, training or parties. They understand the basics of budgeting and planning to organise successful events for the company.
Attention to detail
Administrative assistants are meticulous when reviewing documents, notes and other clerical tasks, including data entry or editing. They proofread and check for any omissions, spelling or grammatical errors, ensuring that content adheres to the company's guidelines. This helps to maintain the company's professional brand image. In addition, administrative assistants coordinate calendars and forward emails between multiple parties with accuracy and attention to detail. These skills ensure that they direct correspondence to the right recipients and that any sensitive or confidential information is accessible to individuals with clearance.
Due to frequent engagements with clients and guests, administrative assistants may encounter unforeseen challenges. They use their critical thinking and problem-solving abilities to find optimal solutions to possible issues. For instance, administrative assistants may identify a scheduling conflict and decide to reorganise meetings. They understand resource constraints and use their knowledge of best work practices to resolve problems in the workplace efficiently. Administrative assistants also rely on different problem-solving skills, such as adaptability and creativity, to find innovative ways to streamline operations and improve efficiency.
Administrative assistants are proficient at setting daily schedules and prioritising deadlines to ensure employees can complete tasks on time. They allocate resources for meetings and other corporate events for colleagues and executives. Administrative assistants have excellent time management skills to plan travel arrangements for employees and teams. A clear and orderly schedule enables employees to become more productive and keep track of their ongoing duties and projects.
How to improve administrative assistant skills
You may follow these steps to learn how to improve your skills as an administrative assistant:
1. Enrol in training
Consider taking additional training if you want to strengthen your administrative skills. For example, you can enrol in courses, complete certification programmes or earn a diploma. Enquire with human resources or speak to your manager to check if you can voluntarily pursue external training to improve your office and administrative skills. Other useful professional development courses include accounting, business ethics or project management.
2. Find a mentor
Regardless of your role or position, having a mentor for career advice and guidance is helpful. Suitable mentors are usually colleagues with more direct experience in the field, ideally someone in a senior position. They might offer insightful advice about your performance and show you ways to improve your skills as an administrative assistant. For instance, office managers who previously served as administrative assistants may share tips to help you be more efficient in routine tasks.
3. Apply for professional memberships
You may apply for professional memberships to network and meet other like-minded and established individuals in the field. This allows you to connect with potential employers and stay up to date on industry developments and new opportunities. Professional administrative associations also offer career development resources to build your skills and reputation in the field, including training and outreach activities.
Administrative assistant skills in the workplace
If you want to improve in this field, consider applying these administrative assistant abilities in the workplace:
Volunteer for extracurricular activities. Volunteer to help the company organise extracurricular events and activities, as you can get exposed to new challenges that can aid in your professional development. This provides an opportunity to develop useful skills, such as leadership, time management and coordination, which are relevant abilities for the role.
Develop a workflow. As you gain experience and become more familiar with office operations, it's helpful to develop a consistent workflow that enables you to gather, sort and document information faster. For instance, you can develop a new filing system to help the organisation store and categorise documents so that information is readily available for retrieval.
Use project management software. Administrative assistants can benefit from using project management software to monitor and manage different tasks or projects. This enables better time management to schedule and prioritise your work more efficiently.
How to highlight administrative assistant abilities
Follow these steps to learn how to highlight administrative assistant abilities and attract the attention of employers:
1. Administrative assistant abilities for a resume
Specify your abilities and provide details in the professional summary or skills sections. Start by listing five of your most valuable skills as an administrative assistant. Alternatively, you can study the job description and find keywords relating to specific abilities. For example, companies may prefer candidates with written communication skills to document client meetings. You can also use active language and phrases with figures to provide additional context. For example, the phrase maintained printing and paper supplies that reduced inventory costs by 5% per annum allows employers to associate the impact of your skills with the improvement in office operations.
2. Administrative assistant abilities for a cover letter
A cover letter allows you to explain your interest in the position and detail relevant job experiences. You may elaborate on your personality to show that you're a qualified administrative assistant. Consider highlighting specific volunteer or part-time work experiences to exemplify useful skills, such as patience and time management, in your cover letter.
In addition, mention real-world examples to show how you've used your skills and their outcomes. Aim to quantify your accomplishments using metrics and figures such as numbers or percentages. This can help hiring managers better assess your skills and check whether you meet their requirements for an interview.
3. Administrative assistant abilities for a job interview
Interviewers may ask you to provide examples of how you've contributed to the organisation or improved efficiency and productivity in the workplace. The STAR framework is useful for answering such situational and hypothetical interview questions logically and concisely. First, outline the situation or problem and share your responsibilities or tasks. Then explain the actions you took to address the issue and the result. For instance, you can share how your coordination skills helped colleagues in the office to maximise meeting room utilisation rates by 20%, which improved overall productivity.
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