It’s not easy to find a competent office assistant. Selecting someone who has the right skill set and can find a comfortable spot in your company can be challenging. But it’s not impossible. Knowing what you want is a first step.
Finding great assistants is hard enough; keeping them can be just as challenging. Still, if you know what you’re looking for and you’re committed to building a solid working relationship, then it’s more likely that your great assistant will do a good job and stick around.
Administrative assistants today are expected to perform a multitude of activities and, like you, must juggle many responsibilities on a daily basis. The ability to handle many tasks at once is paramount, as is the knack for maintaining a positive attitude. Are these superhuman, impossible-to-find qualities? Not necessarily. Here are some useful tips for finding and keeping an assistant you can count on:
- Listen to your gut. An impressive résumé is hard to resist, but if you have the feeling that something is missing — say, a sense of commitment — during the interview, listen to your instincts. That doesn’t mean you should abandon the candidate altogether. He or she may come with sparkling recommendations and you’d hate to miss out on an employee who could be nearly perfect. But you do need to probe and try to determine the origin of your gut feelings.
- Aim for professionalism. Naturally, you’ll need to provide some on-the-job training, but for the most part you want to hire an assistant who brings a baseline degree of professionalism. For instance, the person you hire needs to dress and speak appropriately, demonstrate a high degree of integrity, and give you every reason to trust him or her when it comes to running the office. Ask yourself, “Could I let this person exercise his or her judgment when I’m not around?”
- Know each candidate’s computer/technical skills. Just because a candidate says he or she is a quick study when it comes to computers and technology doesn’t necessarily mean that this is completely true. In some cases, it’s OK to be wary about someone’s technical expertise. When you check references, make sure to include some questions about technical acumen. You need to make sure that the person you hire does indeed know his or her way around a computer keyboard, a copy/fax machine, a scanner, and every other piece of equipment that helps keep your company functioning. These days knowing how to type letters and answer phones is simply not enough. Of course, you can’t expect every candidate to have all the skills you need right from the start. Read Ten Employee Training Tips to learn how to implement an effective training program for your staff.
- Look for an expert time manager. Time-management skills are essential for anyone running an office. Knowing the value of time and being committed to organization should be important priorities for your office assistant. Make sure, then, that when you’re searching for the perfect candidate you inquire about these critical skills and values. A solid applicant will understand that time management plays a central role in managing an office. If someone minimizes this skill, then this person is probably not right for the job.
- Find the right fit. Hiring a candidate with the right personality — one that fits in at your company — will make your life (and the applicant’s) easier. If you work in a fast-paced company, for instance, you probably want to fill the position with a person who’s comfortable in an environment that moves quickly. A one-hour interview might not give you enough information, so don’t be afraid to schedule another meeting to make sure the individual is, indeed, the right person for the job. In the end, the extra time you spend on a second interview may be well worth the investment.
- Hire someone you can trust. This may seem obvious, but you might be surprised at how many people neglect this important criterion. Your assistant must be able to demonstrate and maintain confidentiality. He or she is going to be privy to information (such as salaries, performance reviews, and budgets) that others do not have access to. You need to make sure that he or she understands that confidentiality is part of the job and breaking a trust could result in termination.
Be sure to read Top 10 Hiring Mistakes to be certain you don’t make one when screening potential candidates.