INTERVIEW GUIDE – Administrative Support

Every organization relies on administrative and organizational talent — office professionals with superior communication skills, who can meet deadlines and keep priorities moving forward.

Zero in on the ideal candidate by choosing among our top picks for interview questions arranged by employment title or category.

 

Interview Questions by Position

Administrative Assistant
  1. Please list the top 5 duties of your last role. How did you prioritize them?
  2. Tell me about a situation when you had competing priorities and explain how you tackled them?
  3. What type of confidential documents or information did you have access to? How did you handle proprietary or confidential materials and / or emails?
  4. How many people did you support administratively, and did one take priority? How did you determine what work to put first?
  5. Was it your responsibility to manage the calendar of the person(s) you reported to?
  6. Did you plan or schedule lunches, meetings, and conferences? Please explain (how detailed, how large, how much autonomy and decision making).
  7. Were you responsible for making travel arrangements and if yes, were you involved with international travel, expense claims, security measures?
  8. Do you have experience taking minutes of meetings, and drafting the minutes for approval?
  9. Do you have experience handling internal and/or external correspondence? If so, please outline how it was received and tracked?
  10. Did you compose and/or edit correspondence? If so, what was the nature of the correspondence?
  11. Did you have financial responsibilities such as coding financial information, analyzing data, preparing bank deposits or invoices, or managing petty cash? Did you prepare spreadsheets, how complex?
  12. What type of administrative problems did you analyze, report on, and find solutions to?
  13. Did you maintain equipment, and/or supplies and inventory?
  14. Did you manage projects, or supervise staff?
Executive Assistant to CEO or Board of Directors
  1. How do you skillfully relate to Presidents, CEOs and Board of Directors?

  2. What confidential administrative duties were you accountable for under the Executive Team? In what capacity did you act as the gatekeeper between the Board, and employees or clients of the organization?

  3. Have you been involved in risk management? What items did you flag for review, and how did you handle issues of concern that you became aware of? Were there policies in place regarding risk?
  4. Describe the meetings you planned, your involvement in agendas, meeting packages, action items and follow-up. Did they involve tele-conferencing?
  5. In calendar management and scheduling, did you reply that executives would attend events, or offer regrets on their behalf?
  6. Did you serve as Board Liaison, and how did you facilitate communication? Were you involved in conflict resolution?
  7. Did you track costs associated with travel and major conferences? Did you prepare expense claims and verify receipts?
  8. Did you write speeches, presentations, or press materials?
  9. Describe your involvement and contributions to the Annual Report?
  10. Did you suggest educational opportunities or track courses taken?
  11. Were you involved in Board of Directors remuneration?
  12. Were you involved in the recruitment of new Board of Directors members or Executives,or manage the retirement process for Directors? Please explain.
Receptionist / Switchboard Operator
  1. How many phone lines have you answered?

  2. What was the volume of calls you received daily? (a typical Receptionist will answer 40 to 150 calls per day)

  3. Are you comfortable using a switchboard? (a typical switchboard handles 150 to 350 calls per day)

  4. What telephone system was in place? (Cisco, Nortel/Avaya, Mitel, NEC, Panasonic, etc.) How many lines were there as part of the system? How many extensions or users were there?

  5. Did you take paper messages, email messages, or transfer calls?

  6. Did the company use a back-door or auto attendant system in which users could receive calls directly, and not go through reception?

  7. How do you feel you made a great first impression?

  8. Did you answer calls in any language other than English? If so, which ones?

  9. Did you greet visitors or customers in person and if yes, what was the volume in a typical day?

  10. Do you have experience with couriers? Were you involved with any accounting or bookkeeping duties?

  11. Did you have disgruntled or unhappy callers and if yes, what role did you play to diffuse the issues?

  12. Were there security procedures in place for you to follow, or access control? Did you issue visitor passes, parking passes or maintain logs?

  13. How much detail did you have to provide regarding product or service explanations?

Clerk, Office Assistant and Coordinator
  1. In your most recent role, how big was the office (size of team)? How many people did you support administratively?
  2. Do you prefer working in the frontline of the office or do you prefer to work in the back?
  3. Are you comfortable performing a repetitive task for an extended period of time or do you prefer there to be constant change in your role?
  4. Have you been responsible for photocopying documents? What copiers are you most familiar with?
  5. Have you done document scanning? If so, what type of scanner did you use? How many hours did you scan per day? How was scanned information saved?
  6. How much filing have you done? Did you file materials physically or electronically? Did you keep track of physical files that had been removed from the filing system?
  7. In the context of electronic document systems, were you responsible for retrieval, indexing, storage, distribution and/or security? What EDS did you use? Were there workflows and rules pre-established or did you have to put them in place?
  8. What percentage of the day were you on the phone versus on the computer?
  9. Did you have research to do? If so, what type of research were you doing and for what purpose? How did you know the content you were relying on was accurate? How did you present your findings?
  10. Tell me about a project you worked on which involved extensive data entry. Do you know how many keystrokes you do per hour, and your accuracy rate? Was the data entry you’ve done mostly alpha, numeric or both?
  11. Were you responsible for coordinating couriers? Did you ever have a package that had to get somewhere quickly, and if so how did you handle getting it to the destination on time?
  12. Have you ever worked in a mailroom? Did you sort and deliver mail?
  13. Did you perform word processing duties, such as preparing and printing letters or documents? What software did you use?
  14. Did you use a postage system? If so, which one?
  15. Did you have any physical work to do in these roles, such as lifting and moving boxes, tidying or organizing office space, shredding or other? Please elaborate.
  16. Did you have any financial duties such as invoicing or preparing the bank deposit?
  17. Did you answer the telephone as part of your role?
  18. Did you purchase or maintain office equipment?
  19. Were you involved in providing any basic IT support (hardware, software, telephony)?
  20. Did you run errands, or make purchases for business events?
Office Manager
  1. Describe what was included in office management in your last role. How many people worked in the office? Who did you report to?
  2. How would you describe your management style? What is one skill you would like to enhance as a supervisor and why?
  3. Did you manage the physical premises, in terms of leases, leasehold improvements, equipment, security, facilities management, among others.? Describe your role in maintaining the office premises.
  4. Have you ever been involved in finding a new premise, negotiating or signing a new lease, designing layout, hiring contractors, purchasing telephone and other equipment, overseeing an office move?
  5. Were you responsible for supervising the administrative staff in the office? If yes, how many employees were you supervising? Did you have performance management issues? If yes, how did you handle these? How did you recognize excellent employees? How did you manage the workload?
  6. Did you have bookkeeping functions and if yes, what were they (see bookkeeper tab for additional questions). What financial-accounting functions did you perform?
  7. Were you responsible for tracking and ordering supplies? Did you have a budget from which to operate for supplies and other expenses?
  8. Were you involved in Human Resources such as recruiting, interviewing, hiring, orientation for new employees, on-going training, annual reviews, or terminations? What roles did you recruit for? Were you involved in overseeing your company’s social media policy?
  9. Did you manage attendance? If so, how did you track it? Did you have to deal with attendance discrepancies at the end of the year? Did you have employees who abused attendance? If so, how did you address it?
  10. When a problem arose within the office, who was the primary decision maker?
  11. What is your experience with conflict within the office? What type of conflict? Was it resolvable? What did you do to resolve it?
  12. Were you responsible for Health and Safety? If yes, were you able to take preventive measures to reduce injuries? What was your role in the back-to-work program when someone was on leave? Did you update safety procedures? Did you ever have to address workplace bullying or harassment?
  13. Did you have security plans in place for the office? Describe your emergency preparedness plan?
  14. Did you write office procedures? If so, what type of procedures? How did you communicate them? Did you find new procedures were easily adopted by team members? Did anyone resist new procedures? If yes, how did you approach this?
  15. Were you responsible for office productivity? If yes, how did you motivate good productivity?
  16. Did you provide basic support for operational and technical needs (eg: hook up computers or phones, fix paper jams, etc.)?
  17. Did you write reports, or deliver presentations to management?
  18. Did you manage complaints from customers or employees? What type of complaints and how did you resolve them?
Meeting and Events Coordinator
  1. What type of events did you organize (i.e. annual conferences, board meetings, industry conventions, trade shows, galas, etc.)?
  2. Were you the lead Event Coordinator or did you report to an Event Director?
  3. How large were the meetings-events you coordinated (number of attendees, size of facilities, number of meeting rooms, etc.)?
  4. Were you a decision-maker on the theme, city and/or location in which the events would be held? What was your role in site selection?
  5. Were you responsible for the master budget for the event, and if so, how did you oversee the budget?
  6. Did you negotiate contracts with the main vendors? What was the largest contract you signed in terms of dollars and scope?
  7. What logistics were you responsible for (i.e. hotel, meeting space, registration desk, transportation)?
  8. Did you coordinate guest speakers and/or keynote speakers who were paid for their engagement, or were speakers from the industry provided at no cost? How did you ensure their message would be on-point? Did you ever deal with celebrity speakers?
  9. Did a keynote or guest speaker ever back-out at the last minute? What did you do?
  10. What types of meeting or conference rooms did you organize in terms of layout?
  11. Were you responsible for the technical requirements and equipment, including audio-visual, staging, lighting, screens, multi-media, and more?
  12. Did you organize entertainment and off-hours events or activities? Please explain.
  13. Did you plan menus, meals for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner? How did you handle food allergies or other nutritional limitations or needs? Did you rely on caterers or in-house chefs?
  14. Did you work with a designer for agendas, booklets, signs, banners, etc.? Did you negotiate and order printing?
  15. How did you organize the registration desk (i.e. name tags, bags, onsite payment, etc.)?
  16. Did you hire additional staff for the event? How many people and for what roles? What scheduling was required for event staff?
  17. What was your role on the day-of, or during, the event itself? What was the biggest problem you encountered during a conference or large event?
  18. What was the longest time you were given to plan an event in advance of the date of it, and what was the shortest time?
  19. Did any of the events you planned include an Expo Hall, and how did you engage the interest of potential exhibitors? Who managed the registration of exhibitors, their set-up and take-down?
  20. Did you have to attract sponsors, or do fundraising for any of the events?
  21. What was your favourite theme for an event or convention?
  22. Have you taken event planning courses? Are you a member of MPI (Meeting Planners International)?
Customer Service and Call Centre Agent
  1. What was the nature of the outbound calls you made? Were they business to business calls, or business to residential? Did you have quotas per hour?
  2. Did you handle inbound calls? Were you answering inquiries, resolving problems, and/or up-selling a product or service? When you recognized the opportunity to up-sell, how did you further enhance the call?
  3. Were calls monitored and/or documented? Did you receive feedback on your calls?
  4. What are the 3 most important lessons you’ve learned in providing superior customer service?
  5. Have you worked in a setting with scripted screens? Did you have a knowledge database from which to draw?
  6. Did you conduct research in order to explore the right answer to inquiries?
  7. Have you worked with an automatic dialer?
  8. Did you have set goals? Did you meet these goal regularly? Did you win any awards for customer service or call center performance?
  9. Did you receive any training on handling complaints?
  10. Did you maintain a call center database; which one?
Sales Administrator
  1. What type of interaction did you have with Account Managers? What support did you provide to field sales representatives?
  2. Were you responsible for preparing client presentations and correspondence?
  3. What role did you play when it came to setting up new customer files?
  4. Were you responsible for processing orders , managing inventory, processing online payments?
  5. What involvement did you have with respect to budgeting and tracking expenses? Were you responsible for managing a sales budget?
  6. Did generate monthly or quarterly reports, provide analysis or recommendations?
  7. Did you coordinate trade shows?
  8. Did you track bidding opportunities on public websites for which your firm could bid? Did you coordinate and/or write proposals? Were they to government or private sector, and what was their magnitude (size and dollar volume)?
  9. What sales tracking systems are you comfortable using?
  10. How did you relay customer concerns?
Bookkeeper
  1. Were you the sole person responsible for bookkeeping?
  2. Do you have a diploma, certifications or courses in accounting?
  3. What were your responsibilities (Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, bank reconciliations, general ledger, banking, etc.), and who reviewed your financial work? Did you make collection calls? Did you pay supplier invoices? Did you have a PO system in place?
  4. Were you responsible for payroll functions? If so, how many employees did you pay? Did you handle government remittances, T4s, and/or ROEs? Did you deal with employee garnishment of wages, employee benefits, and/or confirmation of employment?
  5. Do you have experience working with financial statements? What reports did you prepare?
  6. Were you responsible for increasing revenue or reducing costs? Please explain.
  7. Did you assemble information for external accountants, or auditors?
  8. What accounting software have you worked with?

Soft Skills

Verbal Communication
  1. Have you had a lot of telephone communication with clients, suppliers or employees? If yes, what type of verbal conversations and with whom?
  2. Tell me about a difficult phone conversation and how you handled it.
  3. Provide 2 case scenarios that are typical to your business and ask the candidate to explain what they would do. Try not to probe. Allow the candidate to be descriptive or animated. Evaluate their verbal presentation.
  4. Call the candidate and ask them another question. Evaluate how they communicate over the phone.
Written Communication
  1. Describe the type of letters or documentation you wrote in your former role(s). Were you responsible for writing, proofreading and / or editing?
  2. Did your organization have email protocols or could you use emoticons and abbreviations?
  3. Give the candidate an email and ask them to reply. It could be as simple as “Please decline my presence at a meeting.”
  4. Test their proofreading skills by asking them to review a one page document, include punctuation and capitalization issues, grammar and spelling errors.
Fit Factors
  1. How many people did you report to in your last role? Did you get routine feedback? What personality was the best fit for you, and why? Tell me about a difficult personality that you worked with, and how you learned to work together?
  2. What type of instruction works best for you (in person, verbally, by email)? What do you do if you don’t understand the instructions provided?
  3. What one task did you love in your last role? What one task did you dislike the most?
  4. What do you think the difference is between confidence and over-confidence?
  5. Tell me about someone who has inspired you.
  6. Explain a situation in the workplace that would make you angry? How do you behave when you’re angry at work?
  7. What has been the best work environment you’ve experienced and why? What contributions did you make to enhance the corporate culture?
  8. What was the dress code in your last position? Is our company’s dress code appropriate for you?
  9. What hours did you work in your last role? Did you ever go in early or leave late? How often were you asked to take work home or work late for a meeting or conference?
  10. Please provide an example of how you witnessed our company’s culture in action during your visits or interviews here? Why do you think our organizational culture is the right fit for you?
  11. Among important factors that you are looking for, how would you rank your need for a collegial /happy work environment, leadership tasks, new training opportunities, changing duties or recognition?

Software Skills

Microsoft Word
QUESTIONS TO ASK
  1. Tell me about the routine work you’ve done in MS Word. Did your role include creating and saving documents, or was there a requirement to do formatting and creating tables?

  2. Some of the work we do in MS Word requires more intermediate to advanced use of the software. Have you modified templates? Inserted headers and footers? Formatted more complex tables? Did you use track changes and accept / decline changes?

  3. In the context of doing a large mailer, did you have the opportunity to use mail merge? Did you create labels as well?
AN ADVANCED USER WOULD HAVE EXPERIENCE:
  • Creating a mail merge

  • Printing OR emailing a mail merge

  • Creating mailing labels

  • Inserting links to other documents

  • Designing and creating forms

  • Creating master documents

  • Creating bookmarks

  • Tracking edits

  • Protecting document modification

  • Inserting and deleting comments

Microsoft Excel
QUESTIONS TO ASK
  1. Describe your experience and use of MS Excel. What type of spreadsheets have you created? How were they used, and by who? Did you rely on MS Excel daily?
  2. In the worksheets you created, did you freeze/unfreeze cells? Did you create links between worksheets, group and import data?
  3. How do you wrap the text within a cell?
  4. What report formats are available in MS Excel that you relied on (Compact, Report, Tabular)?
  5. Have you ever used H-lookup and V-lookup functions to search for data in a table?
AN ADVANCED USER WOULD HAVE EXPERIENCE:
  • Grouping and/or importing data

  • Using a named range in a formula

  • Using a conditional function (IF)

  • Creating a nested condition formula

  • Using H-lookup and V-lookup functions

  • Creating a drop-down menu

  • Creating a group of data

  • Adding a password protection to a worksheet and workbook

  • Using conditional formatting

  • Creating and modifying pivot tables

  • Installing and managing add-ins

  • Use Data Analysis to analyze data

  • Produce summary reports

  • Create and modify macro commands

Microsoft Outlook
QUESTIONS TO ASK
  1. Is Microsoft Outlook the primary email program you use professionally? If so, to what extent do you rely on it?

  2. Did you make use of the calendar in to create appointments and book meetings with others?

  3. Did you rely on Outlook to manage your contacts? Have you ever created groups of contacts?

  4. What, if anything, would you do with spam emails in Outlook?

AN ADVANCED USER WOULD HAVE EXPERIENCED:
  • Creating a contact group

  • Creating a calendar appointment

  • Scheduling recurring calendar appointments

  • Responding to meeting requests

  • Setting a reminder

  • Marking emails as spam

  • Setting up an email signature

Microsoft Powerpoint
QUESTION TO ASK
  1. Explain how you have used PowerPoint for a presentation. What sort of presentations did you create? Who was your audience?
  2. When building a presentation, did you use existing templates or create and save your own? Tell me about a template you created on your own. What features did it have?
  3. Did you add images, charts or graphs to your slides? Have you ever added sound files or video clips?

  4. Following a presentation, have you ever shared your data with your audience? If so, how did you do this (prepare a handout, export as a pdf, upload to the internet, etc.)?
AN ADVANCED USER WOULD HAVE EXPERIENCE:
  • Inserting sound files and specifying timing, repetition and fading

  • Embedding a video clip into a presentation

  • Creating and saving a new template

  • Creating a custom slide master

  • Copying and pasting content from another program
  • Including a link from another program
  • Creating a link to another slide in the presentation

  • Inserting a link to an email address

  • Creating a graphic hyperlink

  • Creating a self-running presentation

  • Adding and modifying transitions to slides

  • Controlling animations

Adobe Illustrator
QUESTIONS TO ASK
  1. Describe some of the images/graphics you have created using Adobe Illustrator.

  2. What were they used for? Have you ever rasterized your images?

  3. What types of effects have you applied to the images (i.e. pucker, bloat, transparency, etc.)?

  4. Explain how you have applied layers and groups to an image.

  5. Do you have a portfolio?

AN ADVANCED USER WOULD HAVE EXPERIENCE:
  • Creating 3D illustrations and lighting effects

  • Using creative cloud graph tools

  • Prepping files for print and saving files for the web

  • Creating custom brushes

  • Using live trace

  • Applying special effects

Adobe Indesign
QUESTIONS TO ASK
  1. What type of desktop publishing have you done using Adobe InDesign?
  2. Have you designed and saved your own template(s)?
  3. Have you ever imported text from another document?
  4. What paragraph and character styles have you applied and what effect did these have on your project?
  5. Explain what formatting / design styles you have applied to imported graphics.
  6. Have you exported your project to .PDF files and / or uploaded them to the internet?
AN ADVANCED USER WOULD HAVE EXPERIENCE:
  • Formatting shortcuts
  • Treating items as objects globally
  • Importing text from another document
  • Adding advanced layer controls
  • Using frame fitting options
  • Anchoring objects
  • Adding a table of contents
  • Applying advanced text flow
  • Managing long documents

Printable Administrative Support Interview Guide

A great resource that covers a variety of questions for multiple administrative positions.

Download here