While I was employed as an Administrative Professional instructor, my students and I watched the help wanted advertisements in the local paper.  We wanted to find out what skills employers were looking for most when they hired administrative assistants.  My students, especially, wanted to be sure that they were learning everything they would need to get a job when they completed their course.  And of course, I wanted to make sure that I gave them all of the tools they would need to find employment.

Watching the employment ads in the classified section of the newspaper is a great way to find out what skills you will need to get the job you want.  It is also a good way to find out if you need to get more training.  You can also watch the online job banks.

One of the things you might notice – and that we noticed, too – is that there is a great deal of variety in the skills that employers are looking for.  That is because administrative assistants are needed in almost every industry and as a result, some skills are industry specific.  But there are many skills that are required of administrative assistants, no matter what industry you wish to work in.

These are the top 5 skills that employers want when they are hiring admin assistants, no matter what their industry is:

  1. Microsoft Word.  Administrative assistants will use Word on a daily basis likely and 55% of employers specified that a good knowledge of Word was necessary for the job they were hiring for. Memos, reports, and informal and formal documents are usually created with Word.  PDF files can also be created with Word 2007 and newer versions.
  2. Microsoft Office and Windows.  As many as 50% of employers felt that the person they hired would have to be knowledgeable in using Windows and Microsoft Office software.  This includes Word but it also includes Excel, Power Point, and Microsoft Office e-mail.  This software is understandable for most office employees but the administrative professional is expected to have professional knowledge of them.
  3. Microsoft Excel.  45% of employers specifically requested that those who applied be proficient in Excel.  Excel is often used to create spreadsheets that allow others to find and use information in a useable format.  With columns and rows, data can be presented in a manner that is easy for others to understand.
  4. Proving the public with information and working with the public.  Employers that were hiring for administrative positions expected candidates to have this skill 70% of the time.  This would include good verbal skills as well as writing skills.  A large part of the admin assistant’s job includes relaying information by phone, in person, and by email.
  5. Verbal communications. Greeting customers, either in person or on the phone, is an important part of the admin assistant’s job so it should come as no surprise that 50% of employers expected candidates to possess this skill. 

Note that the data collected for this information came from job ads in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.  However, an examination of jobs for administrative assistants in other areas such as Calgary and Vancouver, showed similar results.