Updated November 2022
Prospective employers want to learn a number of things about you during a business admin job interview.
They'll be considering your personality and how you'd fit with the team, your technical skills, your experience in similar roles, your trustworthiness, and of course, the "soft" skills that are so important in business admin—communication, organization, problem solving, etc.
How will they get to the heart of your qualifications and overall suitability for the job? By asking questions. A lot of questions!
So it's key for business college students to anticipate some of those questions and work out how they'll answer them well in advance of their first interviews after graduation.
Let's get to it! Here are five questions you're sure to be asked, plus a few tips on how to respond.
1. Are you familiar with the office software and computer applications we use?
Every office job will demand familiarity with the Microsoft Office Suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, etc.). Your business administration training will have prepared you to use these tools, so when asked, you can mention that your diploma involved hands-on training in the latest version of Office.
However, businesses tend to rely on additional programs and applications, such as a project management tool like Basecamp or Asana. Or they may use Google apps like Docs or Sheets to prepare and share information.
Does the role include updating the website and social media channels? You may be asked about a content management system like WordPress, or a social publishing tool like Hootsuite or Buffer.
The role you're interviewing for may also involve bookkeeping duties, in which case you'll be asked about a specific accounting software, such as QuickBooks or FreshBooks. Didn't learn that exact software at college? No worries. Mention the accounting package you are familiar with, and that you're prepared to quickly learn a new program.
1. When asked if you're comfortable using a specific app or piece of software, don't just say "yes." Follow up with a quick example of how you've used it in the past, whether in training, during an internship, or at a previous job.
2. Never heard of the "common" tool your interviewer mentions? That's fine. Admit that you're not familiar with it, but add that you're quick to learn new computer programs and you welcome opportunities to expand your technical skills.
2. How would you handle a busy office with multiple phone lines?
This question is getting at your ability to prioritize and multitask in a fast-paced environment. When you're just starting out in business, you will likely interview for assistant roles. These will usually involve client services and reception tasks, handling emails and phone calls, scheduling appointments, and many other administrative support duties.
When answering this question, emphasize prior experience you've had coordinating a team and working under pressure. This may be a volunteer role or a previous job. Highlight your commitment to polite, efficient client service, and emphasize that you're more than ready to take on the challenge of a fast-paced office.
3. What special administrative skills or strengths would you bring to this position?
In other words, what makes you the ideal candidate for the job? This can be a tough question to answer without sounding cliché. When coming up with ideas for how to respond, it's absolutely crucial to review the job listing.
What specific attributes is the company looking for? What keywords appear in the job description related to tasks or characteristics?
If you notice "making travel arrangements" or "working occasional overtime" are highlighted as important, be sure to frame your answer around those skills. Likewise, if you notice "teamwork" or "the ability to work independently" are emphasized, you'll want to showcase your abilities in those areas.
Do not memorize and use the exact same answer to this question for every interview. Really look at the role and what's listed as important. Explain how your strengths and abilities relate to these most-wanted skills.
4. What is your weakest administrative skill?
Many interviewers like to ask about candidates' weak areas. It gives them a chance to evaluate your honesty and self-awareness. But this question is never easy to answer. Again, it will be important to consider the job listing when forming your response.
You don't want to admit that a high volume of work in a busy office really makes you nervous and you have trouble staying calm—particularly if working under pressure is a top requirement for the job!
Likewise, steer clear of obvious answers, like "I work too hard" or "I'm a perfectionist," as these come across as totally insincere.
Better examples include:
1. Sometimes it's difficult for me to ask for help. I get focused on challenging myself to learn new things, and forget that it's OK to ask for a hand.
2. Sometimes I volunteer for too many extra tasks! But I've learned to balance things better so I don't take on too much and feel stretched too thin.
Remember: You have the power to flip the script on the "weakness" interview question. Use it as a springboard to highlight obstacles you've overcome and challenges you're ready to tackle.
5. What questions do you have for me?
Job interviews are not a one-way street. While the interviewer is busy assessing your qualifications, you should be busy evaluating the company and whether it fits what you're looking for. Plus, at the end of the meeting, you'll probably be asked if you have any questions, and don't want to draw a complete blank.
It's a good idea to prepare two questions for each interview. Good examples include:
1. Why did the person who previously held this position leave?
2. What were their greatest strengths?
3. What is most important for a person in this role to accomplish within their first 90 days on the job? (key performance milestones, new skills learned, etc.)
4. What do you enjoy most about working at this company?
Take a look at this list for more ideas on what to ask your interviewer.
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