What Skills Do You Need to Become an Office Assistant?

Office assistants work in every sector of the economy. From schools and healthcare organizations, to big corporations, banks, charities, government, and local businesses—office assistants are the engines that keep daily operations running smoothly. 

Office assistants don’t make leadership decisions. But they do perform the clerical work and communications tasks that businesses need to thrive. In fact, no growing company can be successful without the help of a good administrative team. 

So what do employers look for when hiring for these roles? Exactly what skills do you need to become a valued office assistant? 

Whether you’re just starting out, or looking to qualify for more advanced positions, you will need to prove your abilities in several key areas. These are the competencies you’ll want to list on your resume and highlight in job interviews.  

This is what every employer is looking for when hiring a new office assistant.

 

Office computer software 

No matter what type of company or organization you want to work for, you will not get hired as an office assistant without strong computer skills. Proficiency in MS Office is absolutely essential for this role. 

You need a good grasp of Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Outlook and Access. You must understand functions and commands for each application, and be completely comfortable with tasks like: 

☑️ Setting up and managing a database 

☑️ Data entry 

☑️ Spreadsheets 

☑️ File management 

☑️ Generating reports 

☑️ Linking with other programs 

 

These skills do not come naturally to most people. You may be comfortable with Word, but feel lost when it comes to managing a database with Access. Or, maybe you’ve never worked with Excel spreadsheets and formulas? 

If you want to become an office assistant, you may need some training to expand your computer skills—or learn them from scratch. A good office assistant course will focus strongly on MS Office. 

You need confidence using every feature and preparing every type of document used in administrative work. For most people, a training course is the fastest way to develop those skills. 

 

Document preparation 

One of your main tasks as an office assistant is to prepare documents. This includes: 

☑️ Emails 

☑️ Memos 

☑️ Reports 

☑️ Presentations 

☑️ Forms 

☑️ Graphs 

☑️ Charts 

☑️ Spreadsheets 

 

In some cases, you will create the document yourself. In other situations, you’ll be asked to proofread, edit or finalize a document your boss created.

This is why solid knowledge of MS Office is so important (these applications are used to create most kinds of documents). But you will also need a good eye for detail to catch errors—and know how to present documents professionally (with company branding, letterhead, style guides, etc.). 

Whether you’re sending an email on behalf of your boss or finalizing a PowerPoint presentation for a client meeting: each document is a representation of the company and must be flawless. 

 

Customer service 

Many office assistants answer client questions, deal with complaints, or work the reception desk. In this role, you’re often the “face” of the company.  

If you’re sitting at reception, you are the first person a client or visitor sees when they enter the office. If someone calls or emails to inquire about services, you will likely be the person who responds. 

Customer service skills like patience, politeness, listening, and diplomacy are key to getting hired as an office assistant. You also need good conflict resolution skills, and the ability to respond well to feedback and criticism.  

 

Good written and verbal communication  

If you look at any office assistant skills list, you will see “communication” right at the top (see examples herehere and here). 

Why is this skill so crucial for administrative staff? Because preparing documents, responding to clients, greeting office visitors, and working with a team all require good written and verbal communication skills. 

Almost every task office assistants do relies on their ability to communicate effectively and professionally. Employers are looking to hire assistants who are friendly, articulate, and mature, with a solid grasp of spelling, grammar, and business writing. 

 

Independent problem-solving  

An important package you mailed out goes missing.  A client arrives at the office without an appointment and wants a meeting with your boss. 

The printer is jammed, and you need documents printed right away. Your boss wants a last-minute flight and hotel room to attend a conference... 

Office assistants deal with all kinds of unexpected situations and challenges. There are definitely times when you have to ask for help. But, in many situations, you’ll be expected to resolve the issue on your own. 

That’s why traits like adaptability, resourcefulness, and independent problem-solving are considered very valuable among office assistants.  

Employers want assistants they can count on to think quickly, stay calm, and handle whatever the day may bring. 

 

Time management and multitasking 

Deadlines are a fact of life for every business and organization. There are deadlines for taxes, proposals, forms, presentations, and projects. Almost every task has a timeline and a due date. 

Part of your job as an office assistant is to ensure those deadlines are met. This means you need good time management, project management, and multitasking skills.  

On a daily basis, you’ll be checking the calendar, monitoring upcoming events and projects, and keeping track of approaching deadlines.  

Office assistants must know how to prioritize tasks and organize their work, so everything gets done on time. 

 

See a Quick Overview of Herzing's Office Assistant Program

 

Anticipating needs 

A great office assistant doesn’t wait to be asked to complete a project or do an important task. Notice office supplies are running low, the company contact list is out of date, or the filing system could be better organized? 

Take the initiative and get it done. Employers really appreciate assistants who anticipate needs and don’t require constant supervision. 

 

continuous learning 

Businesses must evolve if they want to survive. The same is true for the people who run them, including administrative assistants. 

Take office software, for example. There are new project management tools, filing systems, and communications technologies coming out every year. Just think about how many office assistants now work remotely! 

Many administrators are updating the company website, responding to questions on social media, and using email automation software to stay in touch with clients. 

If you want to become an office assistant, you must be open to change and prepared to learn new skills. This is particularly true if you’re hoping to advance to an office supervisor or manager role. 

 

Getting started with office assistant training 

Think you have the traits needed to become an office assistant and build a successful career in business administration? 

Your first priority is to ensure you have the complete skillset needed to get hired. Do you need help learning office software? Want to know more about preparing and editing documents, managing projects, or running reception? 

Find an office assistant training program that teaches the skills you need. We strongly advise meeting with an Admission Advisor at each school you’re considering, to make sure the program fits your needs. 

The Advisor will discuss your strengths, interests, and career goals. You can ask questions about which skills are taught in class and where graduates are qualified to work. It's also a good opportunity to talk about tuition costs, financial aid options, and class schedules.

There are many business administration programs out there. Meeting with Admissions will help you find your best match.  

Get started by exploring the Office Assistant diploma program offered at Herzing College. This training is available:

☑️ On campus

☑️ Online

☑️ Full-time (6 months)

☑️ Part-time (11 months)

 Click below to see a course list, admission requirements, or chat live with an Admissions Advisor. We’re here to help! 

Explore the Office Assistant Diploma Program