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You’d be forgiven for thinking that getting candidates for admin roles is a piece of cake because they’re a dime a dozen. But, nope. It’s not even close to being the case! Sure, if you’re a recruiter that primarily works on temporary admin-based roles, you might find it easier to attract applicants, but (and this is a big but…) admin skills are probably the easiest ones for candidates to fake. So again, this is another classic example of having to place more importance on quality over quantity. Today, we’re going to give you the lowdown on the top 5 skills that you should look for when recruiting for admin positions, as well as what candidate traits to look out for in order to determine whether or not they actually possess these skills. Remember, an employee with impeccable admin skills is a rare find and someone that you should want to hang onto forever!
Skill #1: Attention to detail
Why it’s an essential skill: Let’s not forget how much simple admin mistakes can cost a business. Spelling errors are one thing, but sending out an email to the wrong client, entering incorrect information into a spreadsheet that’s being sent to the board of directors, or filing important documents incorrectly, to the point that they will never see the light of day again? Well, that’s another story entirely. ‘Attention to detail’ is a term that rolls off a candidate’s tongue very easily, but talk is cheap. If you’re recruiting for an admin role, particularly one that is data-entry heavy, there’s no way that you should simply take a candidate’s word for it.
What to look out for: In order to determine whether or not a candidate actually does have good attention to detail, the first thing that you should do is go back and review their application, as well as any communication that they have had with you. Can you find any silly mistakes in their emails or CV? During the interview, take note of the dates and details that they give you, then make sure that you cross-reference these with the information on their CV/LinkedIn profile. Someone that genuinely possesses attention to detail will have this information consistent and sewn up seamlessly. It’s also worth giving candidates a short clerical ability test as part of the interview process to see how they fare.
Skill #2: Organisation
Why it’s an essential skill: There’s a quote by Benjamin Franklin that says “For every minute spent organising, an hour is earned”. There are no two ways about it, when it comes to organisation as a necessary skill for an admin role – would you trust a person to carry out an urgent admin task for you when they have half of their wardrobe draped across their desk as well as stacks of paperwork and old coffee cups? Probably not. When it comes to admin, there HAS to be a place for everything, a system, a process, a procedure. Without this, not only will mistakes undoubtedly happen, they’ll also be severely difficult to rectify.
What to look out for: Ask the candidate if they have ever found a better/easier way to do something in their previous roles. It could be something like setting up a new filing system or suggesting a different method for reporting. A good sign of a candidate that is organised is someone that takes pride in their work. They should be able to give you concrete examples of their past achievements without hesitation. People with good organisational skills will always find a way to make something better or more efficient – they either have it or they don’t!
Skill #3: Good Phone Manner
Why it’s an essential skill: It goes without saying – a professional phone manner is vital for someone in an admin-heavy role to possess. It’s all well and good for a candidate to promise that they are ‘good on the phone’ to you, but how will they be when something breaks in the system and all of a sudden they have to juggle calls from angry customers or clients, putting them on hold, transferring the calls to different departments, all the while trying to get the official line from management as to what the problem is, and when it will be fixed. Not always so easy to manage!
What to look out for: One thing that you really need to be wary of is the candidate who never seems to answer their phone. If the process is at the on-site interview stage, ask yourself the question ‘Have I ever actually spoken to this person on the phone?’ Perhaps you called them to let them know that they’ve been shortlisted for an interview, but they didn’t pick up so you left a voicemail and sent an email instead. Did they call you back, or simply respond to your email? It’s likely that this could have happened several times in the lead-up to the interview, which could be a red flag for a candidate who is not big on phone conversations. If you’re conducting a phone interview at the first stage of the process, pay close attention to their phone manner – do they interrupt you while you’re speaking? Do they wait for you to finish your question before they start answering it? Are they articulate in what they are saying? Customer service skills and good phone manner go hand in hand, so you need to make sure that your new hire can handle the pressure.
Skill #4: Self-Motivated
Why it’s an essential skill: We’ve all been there. A temp comes in to do admin work, and no one is available (or willing) to fully train them in. Really not ideal, but more often than not, that’s the world that we live in. So the temp is given a project to work on. But what happens when they finish up the task – do they come and ask for another job to do, do they take it upon themselves to work on something else, or do they just sit quietly at their desk until someone asks them how they are getting on? You want to hire someone who can take the initiative and doesn’t need to be micro-managed, but also won’t turn the place upside down in the process!
What to look out for: Ask the candidate about the management style in their current or past organisations – do they work independently or part of a team? Do they work closely with their direct manager, or just have occasional check-ins? Then ask them how they like to be managed. From here you should be able to tell quite easily if they like to be told exactly what they need to do, or if they like to have a little bit of wiggle-room to veer off in their own direction, so long as it’s in the best interest of the company.
Skill #5: Focus
Why it’s an essential skill: Let’s face it. Admin tasks aren’t always. shall we say…stimulating. Sometimes a position might require a candidate to update a database by copying and pasting from Excel spreadsheets into a new software platform. So having a candidate that can thrive in this type of environment is essential, because lost focus generally equals lack of consistency, which leads to mistakes being made. Do you see where we’re going with this?
What to look out for: If the position is one that’s quite monotonous, you have to make this very clear to the candidate. Let there be no misunderstandings – don’t be tempted to sugarcoat the job in any way. If the position requires the candidate to copy and paste files for eight hours a day, give it to them straight. You will know almost immediately from their reaction whether or not this is something that they aren’t necessarily able to do, but often willing to do. It’s also worth asking them honestly how they feel about this type of work. Some will have no problem demonstrating how they’ve worked in similar roles that have required complete focus, and others will ask questions about the possibility of positions in other departments. From there you can easily separate the two.