Office Assistants are responsible for a wide range of administrative duties. These may include handling phone calls, scheduling appointments and meetings, data entry, filing, and creating data spreadsheets. This means you want to look out for a candidate who is proficient with word processing applications and has a keen attention to detail, even during repetitive tasks. If your office needs someone with extra skills in a particular area, like event coordination, be sure to add related questions to your list.
A high value Office Assistant will bring a pleasant demeanor to the role, and be eager to provide the support needed to keep the office running smoothly. Pay attention to candidates who appear to be strong team players and who would blend well in your company’s culture.
General interview questions (such as “Can you tell me about yourself?” and “Why are you looking for another job?”) are a great way to get to know your candidate’s personal history, interests and goals. However, be sure to add inquiries specific to the role they’re interviewing for, so you can gain valuable insights into their likelihood of success in that position.
Below are Office Assistant interview questions to help you get started:
What software programs are you comfortable using?
What you want to hear: Computer skills are an essential part of an Office Assistant job. Your candidate should mention a high level of confidence with either Microsoft or Mac, or both. If Microsoft, listen for Microsoft Office Suite, including Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. They should also express the ability to learn new software systems quickly, and an interest in staying current with new software products that may assist the company’s administrative tasks.
Red flag: A candidate who can’t hit the ground running when it comes to navigating the company’s software tools will have to rely on assistance from other office workers until fully trained. Be sure the investment of additional training suits your goals for the role. Choosing a younger tech-savvy candidate might be more valuable than a seasoned, but less tech-savvy candidate.
What has frustrated you the most in your previous Office Assistant jobs?
What you want to hear: A great candidate can answer this question with a high level of self-awareness. If they are already aware of what frustrates them, then they may have already found healthy ways to cope with the issues when they arise. For example, a candidate may say, “I get overwhelmed when I have too many tasks to accomplish on a tight deadline. When that happens, I take a couple of deep breaths or get my blood moving for a few minutes. Afterwards, I make a list of what needs to be done in order from the highest priority to the least. Then I am focused and clear-headed when getting back to work.”
Red flag: A candidate that doesn’t know what frustrates them or says nothing might not have reached a level of experience where they have had to reflect on these issues yet. Frustration is often a normal part of many work days, and examples of coping in healthy and productive ways shows you can rely on your candidate to move past basic frustrations.
How do you deal with someone in the office you don’t generally get along with?
What you want to hear: Some friction between employees is typical of most offices. The real question becomes how your candidate would handle that friction when it arises. Find a candidate who can focus on the business task at hand and not be distracted by personal issues during office hours.
Red flag: A candidate who appears to be easily knocked off their game by personal issues with another employee may be too focused on confrontation to get their work done efficiently. Choose a candidate who can navigate personalities to get the job done under all circumstances.
In your personal life, what was the last gift you gave someone, or the last help you offered to someone?
What you want to hear: This unique question has a purpose. It gives your candidate the chance to offer a personal and emotional response that allows you to get to know them on a deeper level. Their answer will likely be sincere and unscripted. They may mention something special they gave to their spouse or sibling, or the time they helped a friend through a divorce.. Each answer gives you a chance to learn about their thoughtfulness and ability to connect with others.
Red flag: If your candidate can’t remember the last time they gave someone a gift or help they might have trouble connecting with others. Impersonal connections outside of the office can translate to impersonal connections inside of the office.
What kind of documents do you have experience writing?
What you want to hear: An Office Assistant candidate should have experience writing emails, letters, employee notifications, and the like. Align their experience with the types of drafting you expect from the role at your company. If you have one writing task that they will be required to perform repeatedly, such as maintaining an employee announcement board, ensure they are experienced enough or eager to learn.
Red flag: A candidate who can’t share any experience with writing, or doesn’t appear to have the requisite writing skills, may cause productivity issues when the Office Manager or another worker has to assume those tasks.
If you could compare yourself with any animal, which would it be and why?
What you want to hear: This question gives your candidate a chance to be creative and show off their quick-thinking abilities. A great candidate will use this opportunity to put their best qualities on display. For example, they may say, “I would be a dolphin. They work well independently and in a team. They also have a high level of empathy and learn quickly from others.”
Red flag: Choosing an overly aggressive animal without a great explanation can speak volumes about your candidate’s personality and motivations. You probably don’t want a crocodile in your office every day.
What are the steps for properly organizing a meeting or event?
What you want to hear: The most typical steps when organizing a meeting are setting the meeting goals, approving a budget, contacting the venue, choosing a guest list, sending out invitations to the guests and the speakers, arranging travel accommodations, finding a caterer and choosing a menu, arranging multimedia, and set-up the day before the event. How your candidate describes organizing an event allows you to see their thought process and how they will handle similar tasks when asked.
Red flag: Make sure your candidate knows how to logically go through steps to achieve a goal. If they are scattered in their thought process, they might not have the skills to effectively follow through when called upon.
Every interview question can help get you closer to the right fit for your Office Assistant position.
Be sure to keep an eye out for candidates who:
- Are quick learners and computer savvy
- Have strong interpersonal skills
- Know how to stay organized and on top of deadlines
What are your career goals? How does this role help prepare you for your objectives?
Conflict with a co-worker or manager is inevitable. Tell me about a conflict you experienced with a co-worker or manager, and how it was resolved.
You witness an employee taking office supplies from the premises for personal use. How would you react?
What do you consider your biggest professional mistake? How would you react differently in the same situation today?
Tell me about a time you saved costs or improved efficiency in the workplace.
What is your method for staying up-to-date on new office software and digital tools?
Imagine that all of the managers are in a meeting and an angry customer demands to talk to your supervisor. How would you react?
Maintaining an orderly office is important to visiting customer’s perception of our company. What is your method for maintaining a clean and organized work environment?
You are asked to complete a task that you believe is not achievable as requested because of time or resource limitations. What would you do?
Do you communicate more effectively orally or in writing. Why?