Any industry you can think of has an “admin” component to it — document management, communication scheduling, recordkeeping, and process administration among other things. So it follows that people with strong administrative skills are always in demand.
But what exactly are those skills and how do you convey them to a potential employer? This guide offers a lowdown.
What are Administrative Skills?
Administrative skills are personal traits and expert qualities that help you manage business operations. In essence, a good administrator ensures that every company member and the workplace as a whole operates at high levels of speed, effectiveness, and efficiency. They need to be nimble in actions and strategic in their thinking.
Administrative professionals have various operational and business-related responsibilities such as:
- Recordkeeping and document management
- Project, event, and travel planning
- Workspace space management
- Internal and external communication
- Procurement and facilities management
- Customer/client relationships
- Stakeholder management
- Business process optimization and more!
The scope of administrative assistant duties differ a lot depending on:
- Seniority level — executive assistant vs office manager
- Industry — education, healthcare, financial services, tech, government, etc.
- Role — some administrative assistant roles are more focused on client relationships, whereas others may be more technical in nature.
What stays the same in each case is that you need to demonstrate a range of marketable hard and soft skills to land a great job.
6 Groups of Administrative Skills To Put on a Resume
The nature of work is changing rapidly and that puts some administrative professionals at risk.
According to “The Future of Jobs Report” by the World Economic Forum, the demand for “Executive Secretaries” and “Executive Administrative Assistants” has been continuously diminishing over the past ten years.
If you check any recent job post for an administrative assistant role, you’ll quickly notice that employers want people who are not just good at picking up the phone and doing clerical tasks but can perform complementary duties such as:
- Handle baseline accounting tasks
- Manage meetings and events, across multiple programs and interfaces
- Facilitate communication with multiple stakeholders (across locations)
Your resume has to clearly communicate that you are capable of excelling across a wide range of workplace service delivery duties.
The best way to communicate that is to bring up the following administrative skills examples in your application.
1. Organizational Skills
Organizational skills indicate your ability to create an effective structure for your personal work and your ability to make others work effectively.
In other words — you know how to best use your time, energy, and abilities to achieve the set outcomes as effectively as possible.
Now how do you convey these qualities in your resume? Try adding the next power words and describes:
- Time management
- Task management
- Status updates and reporting
- Contract management
- Process ownership
- Personal accountability
- Office coordination
- Office space management
- Appointment booking and management
- Meeting scheduling and notes circulation
- Calendar management
- Data entry
2. Digital Skills
McKinsey estimates over 25% of workers, primarily using basic cognitive and manual skills in their work, will need to develop new digital literacy skills to stay employable in the future.
Digital literacy stands for your ability to work with different software and progressively discover new ways to gain value from emerging technologies.
At the very basic level, digital literacy is represented by general Internet and computer proficiency. That is your ability to work with standard business apps and online communication tools.
But, as Amanda Carpenter, Director of Department of Career Development and Alumni Engagement at California State University Channel Islands noted:
“Data analytics skills are critical technical skills that stand out to employers in today’s market [for administrative assistants].
That makes sense given that many basic clerical tasks can be automated with software, leaving administrative assistants with a chance to focus more on analytical work and people management.
So if you want to show that you are a competitive hire, bring up the following digital skills on your resume:
- Project management software
- Task scheduling and management apps
- Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software
- Customer relationship management (CRM) software
- Online meeting tools
- Employee engagement platforms
- Self-service business analytics
- Data visualization
- Presentation design and delivery
- Asynchronous communication tools
- Digital document management systems
- Corporate file sharing systems
- Employee mobility tools
3. Interpersonal Skills
Administrative jobs assume a lot of liaison between different parties — employees, upper management, suppliers, contractors, clients, etc. So typically, the profession requires top-notch interpersonal skills.
Interpersonal skills indicate your ability to effectively communicate and interact with different people.
While they’d mostly come across during your interview, leaving several quick resume skills “markers” in this category can help you make it past the dreaded ATS. Here are some ideas:
- Written communication
- Public speaking skills
- Listening skills
- Stakeholder management
- Team building
- Trust building
4. Customer Service Skills
Some administrative assistant positions assume direct customer interactions. This is often the case in service industries, where clients regularly visit the office.
Similarly, administrative positions in marketing, sales, or customer success departments can also involve a lot of face-to-face customer time. If that’s the case, show that you can act as a reliable, helpful, and pleasant representation of the employers’ brand.
You also need to have a high level of emotional intelligence. That is your ability to manage and recognize personal emotions, as well as anticipate and proactively manage the emotional responses of others. A recent study found that 74% of leaders believe that emotional intelligence is a skill employees at every level must possess.
Here are some good examples of customer services skills for an administrative assistant to highlight on a resume:
- Mental resilience
- Courtesy and politeness
- Conflict management
- Persuasive speaking
- Inclusive language
- Taking responsibility
- Positive attitude
- Continuous learning
- Cultural competence
5. Problem-Solving Skills
Let’s be real: no workplace can run without a hitch. So more times than not, you’d have to put down fires and step up to help with some pressing issues. In many cases, you’ll have to act without direction from the above since not every issue is worth being escalated to your boss or another manager.
So having strong problem-solving skills is a must for every administrative job. As a former executive assistant to Jeff Bezos of Amazon recounts, they can also help you get hired on the spot.
When Ann Hiatt applied to Amazon, she was a junior hire with few marketable skills under her belt. Yet, she was bent on putting her best foot forward during the job interview. As it was easy to expect, Jeff Bezos didn’t probe her with the common interview questions.
Instead, he asked an unexpected one: “I want you to estimate the number of panes of glass in the city of Seattle. I’ll do the math.”
Hiatt felt puzzled at first. But then went on to present how she plans to tackle the problem. She broke the tasks into smaller, manageable steps, thinking of different ways to first calculate the number of household glass panes, then those of the vehicles, and so forth.
Bezos was really impressed with her thought process and made a job offer straight on the spot.
Obviously, not every interview will go just like the above. But still, it is worth practicing your replies to some weird interview questions (if you are after a startup job).
As for your resume, demonstrate your strong problem-solving and conceptual skills using the following keywords:
- Scenario modeling
- Data analysis
- Critical thinking
- Logical reasoning
- Data synthesis
- Creative thinking
6. Business Acumen
Business acumen indicates your knowledge and experience of dealing with different business situations in a fast, competent, and effective manner.
People with high business acumen already possess a bunch of “mental models” and “operational frameworks” for efficiently handling standard business processes and resolving common workplace issues. They know how to act to achieve the desired outcome.
The simplest example of business acumen for an administrative professional would be the ability to create and maintain an effective organizational chart or handle workspace reservations in the office effectively.
Such core competencies are mostly developed on the job. But you can also easily transfer business acumen from one domain (and profession) to another. For example, your bulk of knowledge in customer service management can be easily adapted to employee experience management.
The best way to communicate your business acumen is to share quick examples in your cover letter and specific accomplishments on your resume. Apart from that, it also makes sense to use some of the following describes:
- Business process management
- Standard operating procedures
- Finance management
- Domain knowledge
- Business model optimization
- Service catalog management
- Workplace services delivery management
- Operational planning
- Strategic planning
- Business analysis
- Growth thinking
FAQs About Administrative Skills
Below are answers to several common questions about administrative skills.
How do you describe administrative skills on a resume?
The best way to describe your administrative skills on a resume is by incorporating relevant skills and keywords from the job ad into the description of your duties and accomplishments in the work experience section. You can also bring up some of your most marketable skills in a resume summary section in the header area. Or create a shortlist of skills in the sidebar. Try out different resume templates to see what works best for you!
What are the top 3 skills of an administrative assistant?
If we were to narrow it down to just three skills, that would be — strong organizational skills, high levels of digital literacy, and well-rounded interpersonal skills. This triumvirate is what most employers look for in administrative assistants. These skills can also help you advance your career to higher positions.
How to develop administrative assistant skills?
As with the other types of skills you have three options:
- Self-education: There’s no shortage of free and paid online classes, tutorials, and training guides for administrators across industries.
- On-the-job training: Ask your current employer for extra training or upskilling opportunities. If none are available, pitch a course or a program you’ve found yourself.
Mentorship: Find a more senior person and ask to “job-shadow” them. Or look for a more formal mentorship program outside of your workplace.