Looking to hire an administrative assistant? These 6 interview questions will help you identify standout candidates for this critical role.

If you already have a great administrative assistant, you won’t need reminding how important this role is to your team’s success. But what if this linchpin hands in their notice and you need to find a replacement in what remains a punishingly competitive hiring market?

Assuming you can assemble a promising candidate shortlist — we’re happy to help if you can’t — how you handle the interview could determine whether you make a decent hire or a stellar one. To steer you towards the latter outcome, here are six administrative assistant interview questions all hiring managers should have up their sleeves.

why do you want to work for our company?

An administrative assistant is the hub of any team, so it’s critical they understand your organizational culture and feel like they can thrive within it. This interview question helps you determine whether the candidate is simply looking for their next paycheck or is genuinely drawn to your employer brand.

how will you contribute to the success of this team and organization?

This administrative assistant interview question gives the candidate a chance to showcase their homework. You’re looking for someone who has researched your company’s mission and thought about how their skills and experience could add value to your team.

what kind of work environment do you excel in and why?

Whether you’re advertising for a remote, on-site or hybrid position, you need to know that the candidate enjoys working in the specified environment. Not everyone is cut out for working from home. On the other hand, a professional who has worked remotely since Covid struck may struggle to articulate why they want to return to the office.

what’s your favorite software program?

The days when support staff dabbled only in Microsoft Word and Excel are gone. Spurred on by the challenge of keeping teams connected during the pandemic, the modern administrative assistant may have tamed Trello, aced Asana and slayed Slack. If your firm or team has a digital-first business strategy, a tech-loving administrative assistant could be a huge asset.

what are the most important skills for an administrative assistant?

Interviewees tend to fall into one of two camps when answering this question. There are those who will give you a laundry list of technical and soft skills that are vaguely relevant to the role — a box-ticking answer that tells you little about the candidate. Then there are those who home in on must-have administrative and support skills, adding context and anecdotes to illustrate why these competencies matter. Your ideal hire is almost certainly in the second camp.

what was your biggest professional failure?

This is a better administrative assistant interview question than “What is your greatest weakness,” for which most applicants will have a well-drilled answer. A good candidate will use this question to tell a cautionary tale with a happy ending — sure, they made a mistake, as everyone does, but they learned from it and became a better administrative assistant as a result.

Great interviewers are made, not born. To sharpen your Q&A skills and improve your chances of identifying top talent in this format, read more of our insights on the art of interviewing.