Preparing to Interview Administrative Candidates

August 21st, 2015

You’ve recently published an opening for an administrative professional and you’re starting to receive a steady flow of resumes in response. Now you’re ready to schedule some interviews and find a candidate who can handle the requirements of the job and represent your company and your personal brand to the world. You’ll need a problem solver, a positive person who’s pleasant to be around, and someone with the rapid multitasking ability and tech skills to quickly dispatch whatever challenges the day delivers. That’s what you need. But here’s what you have: a stack of nearly identical resumes and a lobby full of fresh faces that don’t reveal much about the minds and personalities behind them. Use these interview tips to sort through the haystack and find your perfect needle.

Skip the obvious single-answer questions.

Go through your list of questions and delete everything that can be answered with a single word (like yes or no) and every question that comes with a fairly obvious answer (like, “Are you a hard worker?”) These questions won’t help you at all. Instead of giving your candidates an easy pop-quiz, use the meeting to launch a conversation. Then read between the lines and use the conversation to make your decision.

Ask for stories.

Ask your candidates to tell you a story (or a series of stories) that will provide insight into their preparation for the job. For example: “Can you tell me about a time when you set a goal, gave it your all, and fell short? What happened and what did you learn from the experience?” You can also ask your candidates to review the past and tell you a story about a workplace conflict, a leadership challenge, a difficult deadline, or any other event that might tell you something about the person’s character and communication skills.

Explain the most unpleasant aspect of the job.

This can be a very telling moment in an administrative interview. If you have one especially nasty client, or a dirty chore, or a tedious responsibility that comes with this job title, describe it and ask the candidate what he thinks. How will he handle this odious task? If he answers with enthusiasm and doesn’t bat an eye, that’s a good sign.

Ask about the filing systems and scheduling tools she’s used in the past.

Listen to the sound of her voice as she answers. Is she comfortable learning to depend on new technology that she’s never seen before? Is she likely to pick up new tools and new methods quickly and without complaint? Will she thrive within the status quo? If so, she’s probably the perfect match for this position.

For more on how to identify and hire winning administrative candidates, reach out to the staffing team at PSU.

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