What Qualities Make An Administrative Assistant Stand Out From The Crowd?

Does it all

Think anyone can handle the job of an administrative assistant?   Think again.   With the state of economy, assistants are being asked to handle increased workloads and wear many more hats than they have in the past.    For larger companies, they consistently perform 2-3 different job functions, and the longer they have been in their position, the more responsibility they carry.   Administrative assistants for smaller companies have always had this burden, but usually at a reduced pace.

Whether you are looking to hire a full-time, part-time or virtual assistant, here some qualities that you must actively look for during the hiring process:


Because of the amount of responsibility placed on most administrative assistants, it’s important that they are both reliable and dependable.   You need to know that your assistant will first, be there when you need them, and that they can be counted upon when an urgent situation arises (a weekly occurrence in most office for which I’ve worked).    You also need to know that their work will be reliable when it comes to day-to-day work; you need to be able to trust that things are getting done correctly without having to micromanage.

Communication and Customer Service Skills

Communication, interpersonal relationship and listening skills are one of the top desired qualities in an administrative assistant. Your assistant will likely be the first point of contact for clients/customers and workers.   A great administrative assistant knows that she is in the customer service business, and reacts to external customers the same way he/she does to internal co-workers.  In order to reduce unnecessary pressure and interruptions, a great assistant should be able to manage your time by handling questions or concerns so you can run your business with minimal disruption.  By the same token, your assistant should be able to recognize when issues arise that do require your immediate attention.   Again, this sounds easy, but can be challenging when confronted with clients or workers who are upset, confused or unhappy.  Your assistant should be able to listen, interpret and react appropriately.  In addition, your assistant should be able to accurately relay information.  Internal and external experiences with your administrative assistant are a reflection on you.

Organizational and Time Management Skills:

Stating the obvious here… If you are looking to hire an assistant, it’s likely because you have too much to do on your own and are very busy.  You are looking for someone to help alleviate some of the stress that comes with day-to-day operations and handle a multitude of responsibilities.  Prioritization and organization go hand in hand.   If your assistant cannot prioritize, chances are that they are not the best at organizing either.  You need to look for someone that can keep track of multiple projects and reprioritize as necessary – whether it’s booking meetings, filing, or starting to plan for an important event 6 months down the road, they need to have a handle on their assigned tasks.

You also need to be assured that your assistant can find information quickly.   It’s wise to ask a potential assistant how they set up their computer filing system.  If they don’t have a system, then that’s a pretty good indicator that they will have challenges finding important files or data when needed.  Your assistant should not only keep their time and work organized, but should be assisting you in the same way.

Being consistently late to meetings or phone calls is also a red flag.  Not only is it a show of disrespect for others’ time, but it’s a reflection on their time management, dependability as well as customer service skill sets.


Administrative assistants are present during important discussions, client deals, as well as development plans for your business.  Being privy to this abundance of information comes with great responsibility.   A great assistant knows not to disclose information regarding client or business matters, as well as not to weigh in office griping or gossip.   It can be lonely not being a part of the top team in terms of operational direction, as well as not really being one of the “workers”.   A great assistant understands this balance act and comports his/herself appropriately.


Lora Zibman


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