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The Most Important Admin Skills for Your Resume

Administrative professionals go by a whole host of job titles these days. Administrative Assistant, Office Manager, Executive Assistant, Project Manager, Support Coordinator and any number of variations of the above. Whichever position, whether its entry-level or senior, it usually involves a unique set of both hard and soft skills. Candidates in this field often forget to mention everything they do know on their resume. This is your chance to take a step back and review all the skills you bring to the table.

Hard Skills

By “hard skills” we’re referring to tangible skills. The various tools involved here have become so much a part of our work life – the “air” we breathe – that it’s easy to overlook them when spiffing up your resume. For instance, document creation software like Word, PowerPoint and Adobe Acrobat; popular email systems like Microsoft Outlook and Gmail; telecommunications software like Zoom, Webex, Skype and Facetime; team communications programs like Slack and Microsoft Teams; data storage software like Dropbox and SharePoint; accounting and expense software like Excel, QuickBooks, Expensify, Concur; database software like Salesforce and Oracle; and internet browsers like Google Chrome and Firefox.  If you need a reminder of what you know just scan the programs on your computer. 

But saying you know these programs is not enough. Be prepared to share how you have used them. For example, do you have experience managing multiple calendars, scheduling appointments, and organizing meetings with numerous participants? Or maybe you have experience processing expenses, updating database entries, communicating with board members, and/or preparing meeting decks and materials? And are you the one who troubleshoots basic IT issues, or gets professional help when it’s needed? Don’t forget office supplies too. If you are the one overseeing this crucial area, be sure to include it.

Many admins also handle travel arrangements. If you have, think about everything you have done in that context. Domestic or international travel, flights, cars, hotels, visas, etc.? How have you dealt with sudden changes in travel plans? What software have you used to manage travel?

Event planning is another task that usually falls on the desk of admins. Have you organized the annual picnic, doing everything from booking the venue, ordering food, finding entertainment and down to setting up the tables? Or set up off-site meetings? Itemize all this experience and be ready to provide details in a job interview. If you put in the work, you deserve the credit!

Soft Skills

By “soft skills” we’re essentially referring to being good with people. Successful admins are polished, personable and engaging. They network well. And they’re unruffled under stress, letting a lot slide off their back.

Administrative professionals are jugglers. They can keep a lot of balls up in the air at once – and make it look easy. The key is to be both organized and flexible, structure but not rigidity. You might’ve put hours into a project but suddenly everything goes in another direction. You just have to go with it. Especially in younger, start-up companies where things are constantly changing. 

Being able to work independently is critical too. This encompasses several skills, including the ability to: 

  • Organize your work with little supervision. This means knowing what’s on your plate and the priorities. 
  • Learn what your boss needs from you. This is especially true at the C-suite level where people’s time and attention are in high demand. So, you need to think three steps ahead, anticipating their needs. For example, let’s say that your manager likes to arrive the night before a big meeting. You’ve booked the flight, but you also know what the alternatives are in case the flight gets canceled.
  • Find answers to your questions. Never be afraid to ask questions, especially when you’re new to the job. In fact, jot down your questions so when you meet with your manager the time is well spent. But also learn who else in the organization can help you. Use outside resources, too. Google is your friend!. For example, if you need help with a PowerPoint presentation, you might find an informative YouTube video or article.
  • Manage up. Busy executives won’t notice that you need them. You have to structure time to get the information necessary to support them. A five-minute meeting to touch base every morning or at the end of day may accomplish this. Understand their management style and work with it. 

Flexibility also means being willing to pick up extra duties when it’s “all hands-on deck” time. Yes, your job title is Executive Assistant, but the Receptionist is out sick, and someone needs to step in. Being an administrative professional means wearing many hats and working with everyone to make the company run smoothly. A “no task too small” attitude will not go unnoticed.

Preparing for the interview

So you’ve submitted your application for an Administrative position? What are your next steps? Be sure to review the job description thoroughly prior to your interview and make sure you prepare accordingly. If they are looking for a candidate with experience handling multiple calendars, be prepared to talk about the role where you managed a calendar for the CEO, CFO, and CTO. Additionally, sometimes what an employer is looking for isn’t spelled out in the job description. But by reading between the lines, you can figure it out. For example, to do “complex travel arrangements” you must be very organized. “Timely preparation of presentations” means you have to have strong time management skills. These clues give you guidance.

If you’re working with a recruiter, you’ve got another leg up. Recruiters work directly with the employer and get more “inside” information. For instance, they might know that the employer wants a candidate that can handle a fast-paced, start-up environment or that they’re looking for someone with a certain personality profile. Ask the recruiter for insight about the executive’s management style. And, in the interview, feel free to straight out ask what skills are most important to be successful in the position. Or ask what the previous employee did best and what might’ve been missing. Then flip their answers around and showcase your ability to do the things they are looking for. For example, if an interviewer says the previous Admin didn’t have strong PowerPoint skills, make sure your response highlights your experience creating complex Board decks.  These kinds of questions help you customize your responses, give appropriate answers and share good examples of your experience.

Now it’s time to review your resume and make sure you’ve included all the great experience you have.

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