If you’re wondering what questions are asked in an administrative assistant interview, then this article is for you.
No matter what industry you’re in, there are some common administrative assistant interview questions that you’re going to be asked – and they can be the deciding factor in your job search. So we’re going to look at how to answer those questions while mistakes that can cost you the role!
Then we’ll also look at how to prepare for an administrative assistant interview overall, including: What you should expect, what you should wear, what questions to ask them, and more. So make sure you read until the end!
Let’s get started…
Common Administrative Assistant Interview Questions
Describe your administrative experience
This is the first thing the interviewer is going to want to hear about (besides maybe asking, “Tell me about yourself” as an ice-breaker). So be ready to provide details about what you did recently as an admin.
Or if you don’t have this type of experience, prepare to talk about what you’ve done that’s most similar. In this case, you should say, “I don’t have this exact experience, but…” and then share the relevant experience you do have (such as working with customers, managing projects, etc.)
Why would you succeed in this position?
Next, the employer is likely to ask a question or two about why you’re confident you’d do well in the role.
They might ask very directly, like, “Why should I hire you?” or they may phrase it differently.
Be confident and answer directly. This isn’t the time to be shy or humble. Your answer should sound like this:
“You should hire me because I have a background in ___ and ___ and have been doing this for X years. In my last job, I accomplished ___, and based on your job description, it sounds like you need similar work here. That’s why I’m confident I can succeed in this role.”
What is your greatest professional accomplishment?
To answer this, pick one achievement, ideally something from the past 3-4 years, and explain how you worked hard and used your strengths to accomplish your goal. Also talk about what the outcome was or what result you got.
This is one of those admin interview questions that they don’t always ask, but if they do, it sounds really bad if you say, “I’m not sure.” So don’t skip this when preparing!
Multiple example answers can be found here.
What type of boss do you prefer to work for?
Most employers will want to find out the type of manager you like to work for. They’re not going to feel comfortable hiring you if you don’t seem like you’ll get along with the management team.
So one of the best tips I can offer is: Be ready to explain how you can work well under a variety of management styles. It’s okay if there’s one management style you like best, but make sure to show that you can work well with all types of people when you describe your ideal manager.
What type of work environments do you prefer?
There’s a good chance the business you’re interviewing at will want to make sure their administrative assistants will fit with the overall office environment. So in the job interview, expect a question about this.
It’s best to sound like you can work well in a variety of work environments. For example, you could say, “I’ve worked for businesses with very different environments. For example, in my last job, I was working in a small start-up environment, handling the schedule for multiple Executives, and enjoyed the challenge. Before that, I was in a much larger corporation and was an administrative assistant to one single Executive. That’s how the entire administrative team worked in our department, and I enjoyed that, too.”
How do you stay organized?
Next, you can expect a question or two about organization and time management skills. This is not something you want to say you’re trying to improve; try to sound like an expert or someone who is already very good at organization and time management.
If they ask about how you handle complex projects, tight deadlines and schedules, etc., it’s best to sound like you have a system or plan you follow for each new project. That will make them feel confident that you’ll be successful for them.
That’s one of my favorite tips: To sound like you have a system you follow to overcome complex situations and tasks. This is also true if they ask, “how do you make decisions?“
What were you responsible for in your most recent position?
Employers always value recent work the most, so be prepared to talk about what you did in your last job.
Even if it’s not 100% related to admin work (for example, customer service/support), you still need to be ready to show how you were successful, and how those skills will allow you to succeed in this next job.
Make sure you’ve researched the company and read the job description so you know what this next job involves. You can’t highlight the most relevant pieces of your past if you don’t understand this next job!
What interested you about this particular role?
Next up… you should also expect to be asked why the job caught your attention or why you chose to apply. Saying, “I’m unemployed and just need a job” is NOT good enough. So have a specific reason or two why you chose to apply, based on the job description.
They might also ask, “why do you want this job?” – which is the same idea but even more direct. So prepare for that, too.
What do you feel are the most important skills an administrative assistant should have?
This is another one of the most common administration interview questions, and employers ask this to make sure you understand the role and its purpose.
Be ready to name two or three skills that you feel are essential. And most importantly, explain why.
So you should format your answer like this: “I believe the most important skills for an administrative assistant to have are communication, attention to detail, and the ability to work accurately under a tight schedule. I believe this because ___.”
(Make sure to explain why. That last part is key).
Also prepare for questions like, “What do you feel is the purpose of administrative assistants in a company like ours?”
This is going to be much easier to answer if you’ve carefully read the job description, so make sure you do that before every interview.
What software systems do you have experience with?
This is another one of the must-know admin assistant interview questions to prepare for. Most administrative personnel are required to use specific software, they’ll want to know what you’ve used in the past.
Don’t get discouraged if you haven’t used the exact software they use. Just explain what you have worked with. Be sure to include desktop software (like Excel) as well as online software (like Google Calendar).
If the tools you’ve used are different than what this employer uses, explain how you’d approach learning the new software (like watching tutorials, studying user manuals, etc.) That way, you’ll put their mind at ease that you’ll be able to use the resources around you to learn quickly.
Behavioral Administrative Assistant Interview Questions
Now let’s look at some scenario-based interview questions for administrative assistants (also known as behavioral questions). These are questions that start with phrases like, “Tell me about a situation where you had to…” and require a specific story or example.
Tell me a time you were under a tight deadline
The first type of behavioral interview question to expect as an administrative assistant is something related to deadlines/schedules.
Be ready to demonstrate you’re “battle-tested” and have worked in high-pressure situations in the past. This can be helping your team get a last-minute project completed for a customer or client, helping your team improve an area that was causing problems, etc.
You don’t need to sound like you love this type of scenario, but you do need to sound like you’ve been through it and are comfortable/ready for it.
Have you ever had to juggle multiple tasks? Tell me about how you stay organized
Next, the company will want to know about your ability to multi-task and organize multiple projects.
So be ready to share an example of that, too. They’ll feel a lot more comfortable hiring you for the job if you can tell a story about how you have been successful while managing a high number of tasks. Show that you have great communication skills, that you’re able to manage and organize lots of “moving pieces,” etc.
Tell me about a time you made a mistake at work. How did you handle it?
The business will also want to know that they’re hiring a candidate who can own up to mistakes and recover when mistakes do happen. Nobody’s perfect, so don’t try to act like you’ve had a mistake-free career.
Instead, show them you’re a candidate who is honest, upfront, and accountable. Talk about a time you made a mistake, and how you recovered from it through communicating, problem-solving, etc. And then how you learned from the mistake and have made sure it doesn’t happen again. This is what hiring managers look for with this question.
Tell me a time you had to think outside the box to solve a difficult problem at work
Employers also value creative thinking, so any time you can demonstrate this in your job search is a win. Sometimes you’ll be asked directly about this, so be ready to name a specific instance where you had to do some out-of-the-box thinking to overcome a problem.
Show them you’re a candidate who can adapt, and they’ll be more confident in trusting you to work as an admin in their organization.
Questions to Ask in an Administrative Assistant Interview
Along with the questions we’ve covered for administrative assistants, you should also expect to be given an opportunity to ask questions of your own. Here are good questions you can ask:
- “What are you hoping a new person can bring to this role?”
- “Has anyone failed in this position, and why?”
- “What does a typical day look like?”
- “Can you show me examples of projects that I would be working on?”
- “How much interaction with clients or customers will I have?”
- “What abilities are most important for a new person in this job?”
- “What would success look like in the first three months in this role?”
- “What are the biggest challenges for a new person in this role?”
- “What have people in this job gone on to do in the company?”
- “When can I expect to hear feedback about the next steps in the hiring process?”
- “When do you expect to make a hiring decision?”
For a list of further questions to ask employers, read this article.
And if you’re speaking with a recruiter, here are 10 good questions to ask recruiters.
What You Should Wear to an Administrative Assistant Interview
You should wear professional attire or business casual attire for your administrative job interview. If in doubt, dress slightly more formally than you think is necessary. Being slightly over-dressed won’t hurt your chances of getting the job, whereas being slightly under-dressed certainly will.
Further reading: What to wear to an interview.
Recap: How to Prepare for an Administrative Assistant Interview
You should now know what to expect in an admin interview. If you follow the tips above, you’ll be well-equipped to land your next administrative position.
To recap, make sure you do ALL of the following:
First, make sure to study the job description and know about the role before going in.
Next, make sure to practice all of the administrative assistant interview questions we looked at so you sound confident when answering. This is especially important for the behavioral questions we covered – because you’ll need to be ready to name specific situations and scenarios, and walk the interviewer through detailed stories of what happened.
And as a final step – dress for success, practice your handshake, and arrive 5-10 minutes early so that you’re not stressed at the beginning of your interview.
We didn’t cover these last minor steps in-depth, so if you need more help with general preparation steps, we have a complete interview preparation checklist.