If you’re looking to hire an administrative assistant, you want to make sure you ask the right interview questions in order to find the best candidate for the job.
These candidates will have skills like:
- Effective organization
- Experience with data entry and scheduling
- Event planning
- Solid communication
- Self motivation
- Problem solving and time management
You can discover a lot of these skills on a candidate’s resume, but an interview is the natural next step. This blog post will list 25 administrative assistant interview questions that you should ask candidates.
It will also provide snippets of sample answers for each question so those preparing for their next administrative assistant interview can appropriately respond to the interviewer. (Tailor each sample answer to your own personality and experiences! They are meant to be starting points—not full answers.)
You want to make sure you have an effective and successful partnership with your assistant. These interview questions will help set that bar. Let’s get started.
1. Can you detail your customer service experience?
A very important question to ask a candidate for an administrative assistant role about their customer service experience. This question will help you gauge:
- Past experience in dealing with customers
- If they’ve had roles where they have to communicate between two parties and what that experience was like
- General communication skills
- Their problem-solving capabilities
All of these experiences are important for an administrative assistant role–especially communication and problem solving.
“My customer service experience is extensive and includes phone, email, and in-person interactions. I’m patient and efficient when resolving customer issues or concerns.”
2. What experiences do you have that fit the position?
Another important question to ask a candidate for a future admin assistant role is inquiring about the experience and qualifications that make them ideal for the job. The answer they provide will depend on the qualifications listed in the job description, but this is a good general question to have them detail their experiences that make them fit for the job.
This question should open the door to other questions that dig deeper on each of these experiences. For example, if an interviewee mentions they worked six months as an assistant during an internship in college, ask them what they did on a day-to-day basis during that position (if they didn’t volunteer that information themselves).
“I have a degree in business administration, and I have previous experience working as an administrative assistant at the dean’s office in college. During that time, I helped the payroll team process reimbursements, schedule catering for events, and connect with the marketing department on how to communicate events promoted by the dean were happening around campus.”
3. How Do You Prioritize Your Work?
A day in the life of an administrative assistant can be very dynamic, always shifting based on what’s needed at a given moment. “Deflect, Filter, Assist, View, and Do” is a core of Jan Jones’ book The CEO’s Secret Weapon. It’s vital an administrative assistant can manage the day-to-day volume of stuff that comes in, making sure the right information gets the person they support, other things get delegated to where they should go, and actions should never stray too far from the priorities of who the admin supports.
“All the different activities I do as an administrative assistant should ultimately allow who I support to flow seamlessly through their day and focus on essential business of the company. If I’m aligned with my executive and understand their top initiatives, prioritizing my work is easier because I know what’s most essential to their success.”
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4. Tell me about your work style. How do you like to work? What work environment suits you best?
It’s very important to ensure the admin’s working style and habits complement the work style and habits of who they support. If an assistant thrives best in an environment of collaboration and high energy, but the person they support is more independent and introverted, it might be poor match. Does the person or team they’re supporting prefer someone who shadows them constantly, or do they prefer someone who is available, but not hovering. Do they want their admin to be self-motivated with little or no supervision, or do they prefer complete oversight? A productive working relationship is crucial.
“I’m extremely self-motivated and adaptable to any environment. As an administrative assistant, I anticipate managing versatile tasks, projects, and activities both on my own and in collaboration with others. Open, honest, and candid conversations with my boss, co-workers, and external constituents are invaluable to a great working relationship because they build trust, confidence, and integrity.”
5. What is your experience with scheduling?
Scheduling is one of the core hard skills for an administrative assistant, and this interview question will help you understand their experience.
Candidates should have experience creating and maintaining schedules for people other than themselves. Assistants are usually the point person on making sure everyone who needs to attend a meeting is available. They also need to make sure certain meetings take precedence over other tasks employees have on their docket.
“I have extensive experience managing schedules for teams and individual executives, and I’ve set company-wide meetings for a company with over 1,000 employees. I can handle any scheduling task, whether it’s for one person or multiple people. I’m also familiar with a variety of scheduling software programs like Microsoft Teams and Asana.”
6. Do you have any experience with bookkeeping?
Sometimes administrative assistants are also responsible for bookkeeping tasks, such as invoicing and tracking expenses. Ask them to be specific with the experience they have. If they don’t have experience, you can ask if they have any skills related to bookkeeping like organization or practice with Microsoft Excel.
“I have previous experience tracking expenses for team-building events on the executive leadership team. I worked hand-in-hand with the budget and expenses department to help the executive team remain within budget for their outings.”
7. Do you have experience with email management?
An administrative assistant may be tasked with sending out emails and managing the incoming and outgoing correspondence with other parties. Candidates should be familiar with a variety of email programs and know how to handle emails based on volume.
For example, have they worked within Microsoft Outlook and scheduled an email to send at a certain time? Have they put together a newsletter and compiled an email list to send it out to? Do they have experience organizing Listservs for different groups in your company? All of these tasks could be what you ask of an administrative assistant.
“I have experience managing large volumes of emails, and I helped my previous employer set up a monthly newsletter about events happening in the office.”
8. Do you have experience with event planning?
Event planning might be delegated to an administrative assistant. Candidates should be familiar with a variety of event planning tasks, such as creating invitations, coordinating catering, arranging transportation, and other items that help the events run smoothly.
“I have previous experience planning events like company parties, promotional events, and team lunches. I used to work as a wedding planner, too, so I can handle a variety of events.”
9. Have you handled any marketing tasks for previous employers?
Administrative assistants often help with various marketing tasks, such as creating and sending emails, drafting proposals, and maintaining social media accounts.
An administrative assistant shouldn’t be handling all of your marketing, but they may be asked to help with some level of communication. Use this question to gauge the candidate’s willingness to help with these tasks or learn how they can help if it isn’t their strong suit.
“I assisted the CFO of my last company maintain regular posting on his LinkedIn. While I haven’t had experience sending out newsletters, I’m more than willing to learn. Are there any resources you suggest where I can get started?”
10. Have you had to handle customer complaints? If so, how did you handle the situation?
Administrative assistants can be the first line of defense for customer complaints, whether that be at a welcome desk or when handling emails for certain employees. Candidates should be familiar with resolving customer complaints, sending customers to the right people when they have questions, and generally providing excellent customer service.
“I used to get customer complaints frequently when I worked at the front desk at a dentist’s office. Patients often had questions about billing and what their insurance did or didn’t cover. I tried to send them to the right insurance and billing experts in the office to answer their questions. Even if they weren’t happy with the answer, I tried to put the customer first and get to the root of their issue.”
11. What is your experience with data entry?
Data entry might be a responsibility you ask of an administrative assistant. Vet their skillset with this task by asking what their experience is with this skill. Have they used Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets? Are they willing to learn and/or get certified with these platforms?
“My career in administrative assistance started with helping organize a sales team’s spreadsheets. I helped organize their client information as well as how they logged expenses. I’m a quick learner when it comes to new tasks in Excel.”
And that leads to…
12. Have you worked in Microsoft Excel?
We’re singling out asking about a candidate’s experience with Microsoft Excel here because it is one of the most widely used software programs in the world. That especially rings true with administrative assistants, who may use it for things like:
- Creating charts and graphs
- Organizing data like phone numbers and other basic information
- Tracking expenses
- Flow charts
- General basic accounting
Both question No. 11 and 12 will give you a decent grasp of their overall technology abilities. You can also understand more about their skills with technology with questions No. 13, 18, and 19.
“I’m very comfortable using Microsoft Excel. I used it for a year at my past job and created an easy system for employees to submit their expenses and it automatically update within the expenses tracking sheet for various events.”
“I’ve only used Excel sparingly, but I’m a quick learner when it comes to learning new applications. I started taking an entry certification course when I learned this position required experience with Excel.”
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13. What is your social media experience?
You might ask your administrative assistant to assist with your company’s social media accounts. (For larger business, it’s suggested you hire a full-time social media specialist or something within that realm to build out a strategy. It’s worth it.)
If you want your administrative assistant to help with this, gauge their skillset with posting to social media accounts like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok for other businesses. This skill can be helpful for base-level marketing of your company while keeping customers informed of what’s going on inside and outside of the office.
“I have a lot of experience with social media. Though not in an official business capacity, I have an Instagram with over 10,000 followers. It’s an Instagram dedicated to food around the city. It’s helped me understand posting etiquette and trends within social media.”
14. Have you supported one person or multiple people as an assistant?
The role of administrative assistants can vary depending on the number of people they are supporting. This will give you some insight into how much experience the candidate has with dealing with one or multiple people. If they’ve only supported one person (or haven’t been an administrative assistant before), ask them how they’d organize supporting multiple people or groups at a time.
“I’ve supported up to three people as an administrative assistant at one time. I made sure to organize each person’s schedule on individual calendars, and I made sure all three people understood the importance of communicating among each other to determine priorities for certain tasks.”
15. What administrative tasks do you have the most experience with?
Sometimes you want the candidate to explain their experience to you, rather than ask them individually about each skill required for the role. Ask them where they have the most experience, and it will lead you to what they feel they are most comfortable with. After you’ve gathered this information, you can vet where the candidate in lacking skills.
“My primary experience is with data entry, social media, and some basic bookkeeping tasks. However, data entry is my strong suit. I’ve worked within Microsoft Excel for three years.”
16. What makes you well-suited to be an administrative assistant?
This interview question is a great way to get a potential administrative assistant to talk about their strong suits. You may learn something about their personality that you wouldn’t in other questions.
“I have excellent organizational skills, I’m very detail-oriented, and I have a lot of experience with administrative tasks. I’m also extremely personable and have strong communication skills, which I think will help me assimilate well within the office and gain trust from coworkers.”
17. Have you been in a leadership position before? If so, describe your experience. If not, do you see yourself in that position one day?
Many admin assistants may not have had a leadership title per se, but many possess leadership qualities they can expand upon when asked this question. This is especially true if the role requires interaction and communication with senior-level leaders, or if the admin acts on behalf of the executive. Good communication is one of the tangible characteristics of an assistant, and it may entail communicating frankly with their boss, delivering bad news, or giving instructions to high-level leaders. Even if a candidate hasn’t been a direct leader of people, they may have been a leader of processes, events, or schedules.
“Although I have not been in a leadership role in the traditional sense, there are many times I’ve exhibited leadership behaviors. For instance, in my prior role as a rental manager, I saw myself in a leadership position because I was the point person and responsible for 50-150 people during an array of events. Vendors, event guests, and security all counted on me for direction, answers, guidance, and trust.”
18. What do you do to motivate yourself with repetitive work?
Administrative assistants may have to do the similar tasks day in and day out. This question will help you know how the candidate deals with monotony in their tasks. Some may like the repetitiveness, and others may have creative ways to make similar work feel different. Either way, you want to know they’re capable of lasting in a job that can feel repetititve at times.
“I like to set small goals for myself so that I can stay motivated. For example, I might try to complete a certain task within a certain time frame and get more efficient at that task. Also, I’ve learned taking short breaks for my own well-being help me break up the day and keep myself fresh.”
19. What organization tools have you used at work?
Organizational tools are essential for administrative assistants. They help keep track of tasks, deadlines, and important information. If your company prefers one tool over another, and the candidate hasn’t used your preferred tool, ask how long they think the learning curve would be or if they’ve seen any similarities between what they’ve used and haven’t used.
“I’ve used a variety of organizational tools in the past, such as Airtable, Calendly, Asana, and Microsoft OneNote. I know the job description mentioned using Calendly, and I used that for team events at my last job.”
20. How do you approach learning something new (like a new software)?
Companies sometimes change what softwares they use for project management, communications, and more. Administrative assistants are often required to learn new software programs quickly so they can 1) use them, and 2) help other people within the company use them. This interview question will help you know how the administrative assistant deals with change and learning something new.
“I usually approach learning something new by taking a step-by-step approach. I’ll watch videos or read tutorials to get a basic understanding of how the program works. After that, I’ll start practicing using the software with real-time application so I can get more comfortable with it. I try to take any official certification or tutorial courses from company if they offer it.”
21. What do you think are the most important qualities of an administrative assistant?
This question will give you some insight into what they feel an administrative assistant does and what kind of a qualities a great assistant has. There really isn’t a wrong answer to this question as long as the candidate is honest and shows an understanding of what their role does.
“I think that the most important qualities for an administrative assistant are attention to detail, strong organizational skills, and the ability to stay calm under pressure. An administrative assistant is often the point person for multiple parties, so they must be able to communicate with everyone effectively.”
22. How do you approach work from your manager that you feel is unnecessary? Please describe specific examples of times you’ve encountered this situation.
As with any position in the office, administrative assistants may feel certain tasks are unnecessary. While they may disagree with the importance of a task, how they handle completing the work is important. Communication and compromise are key.
“In these situations, I try to talk to my manager and get a better understanding of why this task is necessary. In my previous job, my manager asked me to prepare a list of everyone’s favorite desserts. At first, I didn’t see the point of this task. But after talking to my manager, I realized that she wanted me to prepare the list so that we could celebrate everyone’s birthday with their favorite treats.”
23. What is your experience with handling confidential information?
Many companies have information that is confidential. These can include things like:
- Employee health information
- Business ideas/secrets
- Personal data
- Projections/financial reports
- Client data and files
An administrative assistant may have to handle some of this information, and you want to make sure they have experience doing so (or at least comfortable with doing so).
“I’m familiar with handling confidential information, and I take my responsibility to protect this information very seriously. In my previous job, I was responsible for managing the master data set of our company’s sales contact list. I made sure that this data was always stored securely and that no one had access to it outside of the high-level people approved by the owner of the company.”
24. How do you systemize time management for yourself?
Administrative assistants often have to juggle many tasks at once. This question will help you know how the candidate manages their time and how they help others to manage their time.
“I usually systemize time management by creating a list of tasks that need to be completed. Then, I prioritize these tasks based on their importance and urgency. I also take into account how much time each task is going to take me to complete. If I have a lot of urgent and important tasks, then I’ll start by completing those first. I also utilize my project management skills to help me navigate through tough tasks effectively.”
25. Do you have any questions for me about the job?
Always close out your job interview making sure the candidate has been able to ask whatever they want. It allows the candidate to show their interest in the administrative position and the company in general. While the previous 24 questions should cover a large scope of what an assistant does, the candidate might have other details or questions on their mind.
Ask about anything not address in the initial interview here! Ask about job growth within the company or what the hourly expectations are. Do shifts start at 8 a.m. every day, or is the start and end time flexible? Try to avoid negotiating any salary in a first interview, but it is fair to ask what the job pays if it wasn’t listed on the job description or discussed beforehand.
Find Your Administrative Assistant Today
When interviewing an administrative assistant candidate, ask questions that will help you determine if they have the right skills and qualities needed to be successful in the role. Ask questions about their experience, organizational habits, and knowledge of basic office procedures, and you can get a better idea of whether or not they are a good fit for the job. If you’re worried about culture fit, ask a funny question or two.
(You may also ask them general questions about what their weaknesses are or why they want to work at the company, but these are meant to be tailored toward their role and to analyze their ability to do the job.)
The answers provided by candidates can also give you a glimpse into their work style and how they handle challenges. Asking these administrative assistant interview questions will help you find the best possible candidate to fill your vacant position.
If you need help finding a premiere administrative assistant for your business, let us know!