What questions should you ask an administrative professional before you hire them?

If you’re ready to hire a new administrative professional, asking the right things is vital. Their role is to work closely with you and be privy to information that is often sensitive. You need someone who has the discretion, experience, and work style to operate well with you.

In addition to asking the right questions, it’s invaluable to do an exercise to assess exactly what you need in an AP.

An Admin Roadmap is designed to uncover your specific administrative needs. This includes narrowing down the questions that will help you to find the right sort of administrative professional. That means that you may ask for different specifics according to what you’ve identified, especially related to your core values. Here are some typical questions:

#1. How will you judge one year from now if your time here has been a success?

This question helps to uncover how much the candidate understands your particular needs for an administrative professional. Their answer will determine if they’ve given thought to what success in the role entails. What will be working well if they’re doing their job well?

How a candidate judges success can also say something about their own values. For example, if teamwork is one of your core values, do they talk about helping the team in their answer? What exactly do they define as success? Listen out for any non-answers or downplaying the importance of the question, too.

#2. Tell me about a time when…

You can probably gather from the headline that this is the beginning of a behavioral-based question. These are important to ask because they determine how a candidate has behaved in the past, so can indicate how they might react in the future. (Unless they specifically told you what they did, and how they’d do it differently if they could try again).

Behavioral-based questions should center around the key things you’ve identified as being important to you for the AP role. For example, if mastering technology and implementing innovative processes is important to you, then you might ask something like “tell me about your most significant technical accomplishment and the project that you’re most proud of?”

Or, consider how fluid or flexible an AP might have to be in their role. You might ask something like “tell me about a time when you had to adjust an executive schedule or plans due to unforeseen circumstances.” You can always add on to these behavioral-based questions with “is there anything you would do differently in hindsight?”

#3. What would you do if another senior executive asked you about confidential information you are privy to?

Navigating office politics can be tricky in some workplaces. You may need to know that your new administrative professional can appreciate the nuances of different relationships and how to respond when confidential information is at stake.

It’s fairly simple - if the AP is privy to confidential information, it shouldn’t go any further than your own discussions with them. What will they do if another senior executive tries to probe them for information? Answering with something like “I would politely tell them I have no information to share,” is what you’re looking for. They don’t need to engage in any speculation or get in the middle when it comes to office politics.

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#4. Tell me about something you have taught yourself in the last six months

Administrative professionals need to adopt an attitude of continuous learning. Best practices, processes and technologies change over time, as does the marketplace in which your business operates. You want to know that the AP candidate is an enthusiastic learner and that they take steps to learn for themselves.

#5. What is your process for setting up a meeting with people who are difficult to schedule?

Administrative professionals often find themselves trying to nail down a slippery schedule with executives or others who are notoriously busy. The short of it is, APs are expected to make difficult things happen, so what is their process to get the task done?

You’re looking for someone who considers all the angles and has
some different answers for different situations. For example, do they arrange a teleconference while the person is in-transit to the airport? Do they use technology to help compare schedules and suggest a mutually convenient time?

You might also throw in a behavioral-based question here to see what they’ve done to handle pressing or difficult challenges in the past. For example, “tell me about a time when you’ve had to find a solution for your executive in a hurry. What did you do? What was the outcome?”

#6. What are your strategies for managing your time when you have multiple urgent tasks?

Administrative professionals typically have to handle multiple tasks at any given time, several of which may be urgent. When you ask how they manage their time, you’re gaining insights into how they prioritize. Do they handle time-pressure well? What tools do they use to help them prioritize?

Look for answers with clear strategies for balancing multiple priorities. Do they use software? Do they have to-do lists? Do they ensure they leave buffer time when they schedule so that they can find space to deal with the unexpected?

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#7. Tell me about your last administrative professional role…

Most APs should be coming from a previous AP or at least senior administrative role. Ask them about that role, including what they enjoyed or any pain points. Your aim is to get a glimpse of the company culture they’ve been used to working with and whether yours will be a good fit for them.

You can also gain insights into the values and overall attitude of the AP. They should answer thoughtfully, without dwelling on any negatives. For example, if a pain point for them was that they felt the role was a bit quiet, they should simply state something like “I found it to be too quiet, so I’m looking for a role that is more challenging.” Of course, if there’s anything that they didn’t like about that last role that will be a key part of the role you’re hiring for, that’s a good indicator they won’t be the right fit.

#8. What do you believe an administrative professional brings to the company?

This is an interesting question to ask an AP candidate because it will give you an indicator of their motivations and passions. Again, you can figure out if they’re going to be a good fit culturally in your organization, and if their idea of what the role delivers lines up with what you expect them to do.

When assessing for fit, it’s important to understand whether a new hire is likely to get what they’re looking for in the role. The AP role usually takes a little time to settle into, as a new hire learns the routines and preferences of their executive. It’s not something you want to be hiring for again a year from now!

Final thoughts

These have been just a few examples of the top questions to ask when hiring an administrative professional. We always recommend conducting some kind of assessment, such as an Admin Roadmap, first. This will help you to tailor questions so that they’re designed to find the person who will be the best fit for you.

If you need help finding the right administrative professional, that’s where Worxbee comes in. We recruit top administrative professional and take care of the screening process. The result? High-quality candidates who are likely to be a good fit. We can help with those interview questions too! Talk to us today to find out what we can do to bring you a great AP.