Updated December 2023
Administrative assistant sounds like a fairly straightforward job. Don’t assistants just answer phones, get coffee, and do filing?
Not exactly. Maybe this job used to be simpler—before the internet, complex office software, and growing demands on business administrators.
But today, administrative assistants play an absolutely vital role in every successful company and organization. Filing and phones are part of the job description, but there’s a lot more to it.
So why is this role so important, and what does an admin assistant really do? Let’s break down the 10 most common tasks and responsibilities.
Take a look at what the position involves and see if office administration is the right career for you.
1. Answering phones, emails, and online inquiries
Admin assistants are the first point of contact within a business or organization. That means they respond to all incoming inquiries, including:
- Phone calls
- General emails
- Website comments and questions
- Social media inquiries from official company accounts
Twenty years ago, dealing with incoming questions was a much simpler affair. Now it’s a multi-channel challenge.
Administrative assistants must keep track of inquiries coming in from several different directions. Throughout the day, you may be juggling numerous phone lines, managing a few different email accounts, and handling various online requests for information.
2. Handling reception
Some admin assistants get hired as full-time receptionists. Others may only fill in at reception some of the time, in between other duties.
No matter your situation, working the front desk always involves these main responsibilities:
- Greeting clients and visitors
- Issuing visitor badges/passes
- Directing people to the appropriate office or meeting room
- Answering phones and emails
- Receiving and distributing deliveries
Handling reception requires excellent communication skills. You must be friendly and welcoming, professional and polite.
When the phones are busy, urgent emails are coming in, and visitors arrive at the office—all at the same time—you must know how to juggle tasks and stay calm under pressure.
3. Organizing and updating files
No matter what type of organization you work for, organizing and updating files will be part of your role as an administrative assistant.
You will be expected to:
- Set up new client files
- Ensure existing files are kept up to date
- Ensure confidential information is properly safeguarded
- Develop or maintain an effective filing system (where files are logically organized and easy to find)
A lot of companies struggle to create efficient, well-organized filing systems. Part of your job description as an administrator may be to implement better solutions.
A good administrative assistant program teaches students about information management—including how to store files and records for easy retrieval in both print and digital form.
4. Scheduling appointments and events
Appointment scheduling is usually done using some sort of office software or online tool. Microsoft Outlook is a common example.
However, there are many scheduling tools out there, and each company has its own preference. You’ll need to adapt to whatever system your employer is using.
What kinds of events will you be arranging?
- Client meetings
- Team meetings
- Employee interviews
- Travel arrangements (flights, hotels, etc.)
- Employee birthdays, celebrations, and corporate events
5. Setting up for meetings
Whether it’s a team meeting or a client presentation, part of your job is to make sure the room is ready. Admin assistants are usually responsible for the following tasks:
- Confirming the meeting with each participant ahead of time
- Ordering and setting out any snacks and drinks in the meeting area
- Printing and distributing any required documents
- Setting up for PowerPoint or other media presentations
- Taking detailed minutes at the meeting
- Tidying up after the meeting
6. Entering data
The type of data you work with will depend on your employer and the scope of your responsibilities. However, most administrative assistants perform standard data entry tasks like:
- Filling in forms
- Entering numeric data into Excel files
- Updating client or employee files
- Transcription (converting a recorded audio file into a text document)
- Updating the company database
Data entry may also include editing or verifying the information you’re adding to a document or system. Accuracy is crucial, along with good keyboarding skills.
7. Ordering supplies
In a small organization, admin assistants are often responsible for inventory. They keep track of supplies and place orders with vendors when needed.
Most companies use an inventory management tool to make the process easier. This is another situation where having decent technology skills is important for office assistants.
8. Providing customer service
Many administrative assistants are client-facing. This means they interact directly with clients, prospects, and industry partners.
It goes without saying that excellent customer service skills are a core requirement for this job.
These responsibilities include:
- Responding to inquiries in a timely manner
- Dealing with criticism and complaints with grace
- Maintaining a friendly and professional attitude at all times
- Going the extra mile to resolve problems and provide solutions
9. Preparing documents and reports
This may include anything from simple data entry to creating documents from scratch.
Admin assistants spend a lot of time processing and communicating information, much of it in digital form. Common examples include:
- Writing inter-office memos
- Editing and formatting reports
- Editing and preparing presentations
- Formatting and collating documents
- Writing emails and letters
- Printing and distributing documents
You need to be totally comfortable using standard office software, such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. It’s also important to be familiar with office equipment, like printers, scanners, and projectors.
A quality office assistant diploma will help you get comfortable with the latest technology.
Look for a college that provides an internship, so you can gain confidence using common office tools and software. If you're totally new to the field, an internship is also really important for gaining work experience for your resume.
10. Processing incoming and outgoing mail
And last but certainly not least, administrative assistants are usually responsible for processing incoming and outgoing mail. This includes regular correspondence and any special deliveries.
If you’re working reception, you’ll need to distribute the mail when it arrives at the office. You’ll also need to sign for any packages and make sure they get to the right person.
If an important document or parcel needs to get mailed out, you will make the arrangements and track progress to the destination.
You are the communications hub of the office. Much of the routine correspondence and deliveries will go through you.
You need to make sure they get to the right place, at the right time!
Are you the right fit?
By now it’s clear that admin assistants do a lot more than get coffee and answer the phone. This role requires a very specific skillset, which includes the following strengths:
- Excellent verbal and written communication
- Up-to-date technology skills (office software and equipment)
- Good keyboarding skills
- Organization and the ability to meet deadlines
- Grace under pressure
- Friendly attitude, good interpersonal skills
- Accuracy and fine attention to detail
- Independent problem-solving
- Professional self-presentation
- Superior customer service
Are you the right fit? Do you have the natural strengths needed to excel in this role?
Learn more about administrative Assistant Training and Careers
If you need more information on becoming an administrative assistant, your next step is to talk with admissions. An admissions advisor will walk you through training, explain career options, and help you determine if you're suited to the job.
Get started by exploring the administrative assistant diploma program from Herzing College Winnipeg. This training is delivered online.
Click to learn more about the program and chat live with an advisor today. We're here to help!