Secretary belongs to the most popular jobs among women. That means one thing for you – you will face a tough competition in your interview.
Do you wonder what questions the interviewers will ask? Or how you can make a good impression on them? And do you know what decides the winner at the end of the interviews?
I will try to answers all these questions. My name is Jacob Gates, I have been working in recruitment for twenty years, and today I will try to help you to get a job. Welcome!
What will decide a winner in a secretary interview?
Typical secretary interview can hardly be compared to any other job interview. Personal preferences play a much more important role than they usually do, especially if we speak about interviews in small and middle sized companies.
Some people call it unfair, or even a discrimination, but I would not call it that way. Every position has some specifics, and some requirements for the job candidates.
Think about a flight attendant position–a bad looking person, or obese one, will hardly get the job. Looking good (or at least charismatic) is definitely one of the job requirements for flight attendants.
And secretaries, they simply spend a lot of time with their bosses. This relationship just won’t work if there is not a right connection between the two, the right chemistry.
You do not need a modeling experience, however, to have a chance to succeed in this interview. It is more about your personality, about a smile you bring to the office–and that has nothing to do with physical beauty, but everything with your attitude to work and to other people.
Answers to interview questions
Having said that, the times when nice smile and deep neckline sufficed to get a job are long gone.
You will deal with some tough questions, and you will have to demonstrate your listening skills, social skills, and understanding for the job.
On the top of that, interviewers will ask you several behavioral questions, trying to foresee your behavior in various work relates situations. See the questions and simple hints on how to answer them below (click on a question to see an in-depth analysis and sample answers to a particular question):
Many women want to become secretaries, as they believe it is an easy job, where they will just sit on the phone and drink coffee. But you should come up with different reasons for your job choice. Talk about your strong communication and organizational skills, about your ability to make the others feel good around you.
Interviewers want to hear that you apply for the job not because it is good for you, but because you believe it would be good for them to hire you…
Managers want to hire loyal secretaries, women who will stay with them for a long time, and who will be happy with their daily job.
Therefor you should not talk about promotion, or another job you want to have in five years time. Oppositely, try to convince them that you will be happy to work as their secretary, once the years fly by…
Needless to say, you do not need to stay with them for a long time – you can stay a month, a year, or ten years. But once they interview you for a job, try to convince them that you want to stay…
Interviewers observe a lot of things while you answer each of their questions. Asking you to tell them a little about your experience, “a little” is exactly what they want to hear. Do you have good listening skills? Do you talk to the point? What matters the most for you in your professional career and life?
Your answer to this simple question helps us to understand all of these things. Try to talk about your achievements from past jobs, the value they brought to your past employers, important lessons you learned along the way, etc.
Average secretaries often believe that all they should do is making coffee and answering phone calls. But you do not want to look like an average secretary in this interview, do you?
Try to show them that you can organize your day, that you like to be busy in work, that you always have something to do (and now I do not talk about checking your Instagram account :)).
Can you work with MS Office? How would you rate your skills with the software?
A good applicant for this job should have at least some knowledge of MS Office (or of similar software administrative workers typically use in your country). Tell them how long you have been working with the software, how it helps you in your daily work (or how it has helped you with your studies, if you are applying for your very first job).
On the other hand, try to be humble in your self-assessment. Interviewers can always give you a practical test, asking you to retype a page of text to MS Word, or to do some simple operations with MS Excel. An over-confident assessment of your computer skills can easily backfire in such a case…
Modern HR managers should recognize your strengths and weaknesses without inquiring about them. On the other hand, the person leading your interview does not have to be an HR professional.
Many small-business owners, or managers, have no real experience with hiring secretaries, or any employees for that matter (secretary, or administrative assistant, is often the second employee of a small company, right after the owner).
One way or another, you should mention strengths that are highly relevant for the job, and weaknesses that are not essential for the position of a secretary…
When we were interviewing women for secretary positions, we gave them this question every single time–doesn’t matter if there were any business trips planned.
If the candidate got very excited about the proposition of traveling, in most cases we would not hire them (they would just not be happy in their daily job).
Your answer to this question says a lot about your flexibility. If you can not go for the trips becasue you need to be at home at four each day, it is a clear sign of your inflexibility–which can be a problem, but it does not necessarily have to be a problem (everything depends on the offer and the specifications of the job).
Everything considered, I suggest you to pick a neutral answer. Do not get too excited about the proposition of traveling. Just say that you would not mind accompanying boss on trips, if it was a part of your job…
You should always ask some questions, and you will always get a chance to ask them in a secretary interview. Try to focus on relevant things, such as the working environment, the schedule, next steps of recruitment process, or anything that relates to their business (their products, values, reputations, etc.)
But I would not suggest to inquire about salary. First of all, if they consider hiring you, they will start to talk about money. And it leaves a bad impression anyway…
Other questions (answers only in the eBook)
- Why do you want to work here (at our school, in our office), and not somewhere else?
- What makes you a better personal assistant (secretary)?
- What do you want to accomplish on this position?
- Would you mind working overtime?
- How would you cope with an angry customer, or business partner?
- Tell me about a situation when you were under pressure. How did you handle the pressure?
- Have you ever prepared a weekly schedule for someone?
- Do you have experience with preparing letters, reports, bulletins, handbooks, etc?
- When can you start?
Practical tests in an interview
To talk about doing a job is one thing, to really do it another one. Interviewers can ask you to work with an office software, or with a scheduling software.
For example they may give you a printed page with specific layout, and ask you to retype the text, and format it in the software.
Doing this, they can easily see how fast you can type, and how well you work with the software. A simple yet effective way of assessing your computer skills.
If it happens, if you have to deal with a practical test, try to stay calm. Do it as you would do it back home (or in your previous office job). Position the paper on the right place, adjust the computer screen, and concentrate on the task.
What else to expect?
If you are interviewed in an agency, you can encounter a simple personality test, or even an IQ test. While it is possible to prepare for the personality test in advance, you can hardly prepare for an IQ test.
Sometimes, if there are many applicants for the job, the employer may invite you for a group interview. Nothing changes for you in this case, however–success is always about brilliant answers to interview questions, about making a good impression, and about building a good connection with your interviewers.
Whether they interview you online, on the phone, in the group, or alone–it doesn’t make a big difference for this particular role.
Special help with your preparation
It is not easy to succeed in an interview, and enjoy a great job of a secretary. It is difficult becasue the job is popular, and you will sometimes compete with as many as twenty other job seekers in your interview.
Your task is not only to do well. Your task is to do better than the other applicants who compete with you for the job.
If you want to be sure you did your very best to get this job in an interview, you should have a look at my eBook, the Secretary Interview Guide. Brilliant answers to difficult interview questions and winning interview strategies will represent an ace in your sleeve, your unfair advantage…
Jacob Gates, Your Personal Interview Coach