The Human Resources team has spent some time speaking to people working in administrative roles. In this post John Doe*, an administrative assistant for the Census Bureau in the United States Department of Commerce, explains the benefits and challenges of his role and offers valuable insight into the skills and experiences necessary for anyone hoping to become an administrative assistant.

Check out our hiring profile posts for other positions as well to gain more tips for succeeding in the work world!

What Skills and Experiences are Must-Haves for an Administrative Assistant

  • Problem solver: You have to be a problem solver and be very creative when dealing with the complex nature of recruiting. Not a lot of people want to work for the Census Bureau so you have to be innovative and forthright when you’re trying to recruit people.
  • Knowledgeable about the agency or the job that you are recruiting for: When interested parties ask for more information, we want to include details that are not in the position description.
  • Interpersonal skills: Recruiting requires the ability to be patient and motivated. I may recruit individuals that express interest in the position, complete the application, successfully pass the interview and drop out at the last moment. Recruiting is not an easy job. I come to work each day, motivated to do my best. I mostly recruit over the phone, and from experience, if you’re jovial throughout the process and put on a beaming smile, applicants may not see it. Still, they’ll feel more open and expressive towards you.
  • Communication skills: I don’t table or present in front of a live audience so strong verbal communication skills over the phone is a necessity. You want to present employment opportunities as if you are physically present. It will strike a good note.
  • Decision making skills: There may be ten highly qualified candidates for one position, but since we’re only hiring one person, I need to narrow down the pool to the top five. Strong decision making skills is a must when performing these selections.
  • Innovation: You must be innovative to maintain a constant flow of recruits. We do not have a hiring freeze as we must have enough workers to perform our decennial outreach across the entire nation this year.

Common Interview Questions for an Administrative Assistant

  • Do you have anything negative in your background? Have you been involved with the law? Misdemeanor? Felony?
  • I am looking for someone that is a good people person. Do you have the ability to talk to families and households persuasively?
  • I may also provide situational based questions such as “What would you do if…?” I want to judge your behavior and see how you will act if I give you a scenario.

What He Loves Most About Being an Administrative Assistant

  • Work Schedule: I am on a fixed Monday to Friday work schedule. I start at 7:30 AM and leave at 4:00 PM. Our regular tour of duty is from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM. Depending on how far other employees live, they may request to change their schedule around and choose a schedule they see fit. I factor in my daily commute time to avoid driving during rush hour. You know how heavy traffic is!
  • Opportunity: I have prior military and law enforcement experience, and with my current federal civilian experience here, I see this as a stepping stone to other employment opportunities with higher responsibilities, trust, and pay.

What Challenges He Faces Day to Day

The main challenge I face is recruiting in areas with small communities. Small communities may be tight-knit, and everyone knows everybody, but this narrows down the candidate pool as available talent reduces. We base pay off of their geographical areas, so this may also be a problem for individuals who are looking for higher pay.

Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree (minimum), Master’s degree (preferred): any field in humanities is sufficient
  • Military experience: not required but great to have, especially with service-connected disability/veterans preference
  • Administrative experience: I hold the title of administrative assistant, but recruitment was a duty that was specifically assigned to me

Possible Job Titles for Administrative Assistant (Recruiter):

Recruitment CoordinatorRecruitment and Placement SpecialistHuman Resources AssistantAdministrative Officer
Human Resources ManagerHuman Resources SpecialistRecruiting AssistantAdministrative Assistant
Lead RecruiterHuman Resources Recruitment SpecialistRecruitment OfficerRecruiter
Director of RecruitmentPlacement CoordinatorHiring TechnicianAdministrative Recruiter

*The interviewee asked that his real name not be used, so the name John Doe was assigned to him.

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