Landing a Job as an Administrative Assistant
Gone are the days when administrative assistants, often called secretaries, simply answered phones and “took dictation” from the boss to write a letter. Today administrative assistants have a range of organizational and clerical tasks, and some take on duties that were traditionally performed by high level company executives and managers. Individuals interested in pursuing a career path as an executive administrative assistant or in a specialized area may take courses that lead to an MBA degree, a Master of Business Administration.
When you seek a position as an administrative assistant, especially in this highly competitive field, it is important to create a good first impression with your cover letter and resume. Potential employers are interested in what you have done in the past, but they are typically more interested in what you will bring to the table in the position you are applying for. Your job is to create a resume that grabs the attention of the employer and clearly sets forth skills and results that make you the best candidate. However, before you get to a real person in Human Resources and on to the hiring manager, you may have to get past a computer program that selects candidates.
At the very minimum, an administrative assistant is responsible for maintain a filing system, often electronic, for records and messages, distribute incoming mail and email, and answer routine correspondence. Job titles and duties vary, but most administrative assistants are expected to have a strong background in electronics to set up videoconferences, faxes and phone systems. Computer experience is a must for spreadsheets, word processing and managing databases. Managers may expect their administrative assistant to negotiate with vendors to buy supplies and manage resources like stockrooms and libraries.
Administrative Assistant Specialties
Executive administrative assistants, sometimes referred to as executive secretaries, supply high level support to top executives by performing such duties as conducting research, supervising staff and preparing reports. General administrative assistants are found in many sectors of the economy, both in private companies and in governmental agencies. Specialized administrative assistants need special training to perform their tasks. Legal secretaries have the responsibility of preparing legal documents like a summons, complaint or subpoena under the supervision of a paralegal or attorney. Often they are called upon to conduct legal research or review legal briefs. A medical secretary assists physicians with reports and speeches, and they take a patient’s medical history and arrange for hospitalization when necessary. Virtual assistants work remotely from a home office, and may support many different clients, sometimes in different industries.
Occupational Outlook and Salary for Administrative Assistants
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment growth for medical secretaries is expected to increase a whopping 41 percent from 2010 to 2020. For other administrative assistants, the employment growth rate is expected to be around 13 percent, which is the average growth rate for all occupations. In 2010, executive secretaries earned $43,520; legal secretaries earned $41,500; medical secretaries earned $30,530; and other administrative assistants earned $30,830.
The Basics of an Effective Resume for Administrative Assistants
Remember that you only have one chance to make a first impression. Whether you are sending along your resume by email or mailing it, make sure it has a professional look. That means, for most people, fitting it onto a letter-sized 8.5 inch page and using a businesslike font like Times New Roman or Arial in a 10 -12 point font size and black ink. Leave a 1-inch margin all around the page, top, bottom and sides. Consistency is important. Be sure to use italics and bolding for comparable elements, and list company names, location, your position and your responsibilities in a consistent way. If you list the company name in italics first, all companies should be listed that way. Use bulleted lists and phrases instead of sentences.
Types of Resumes
When it comes to resumes, one size definitely does not fit all. If you are an experienced professional with an uninterrupted job history, you can consider a chronological resume which lists the companies you worked for and the positions you held in reverse chronological order. Recent graduates, people changing careers and those who have been out of the workforce for one reason or another can consider a functional resume which includes a Skills section to highlight experience and abilities. These skills may have been acquired on the job, as a volunteer or as part of an internship. The functional resume may not go into where the skills were acquired.
The Modern Resume
Resumes are changing, along with everything else. Employers no longer want to see only a long list of your previous jobs. They are more interested in what skills you can bring to the job at hand. Instead of listing a career objective, which can be limiting, write a brief Career Summary or Profile under your letterhead with your name, address, email and phone number. In two or three brief sentences, tell the story of your accomplishments to date. You can then list your skills in bullet format under the heading Skills Summary. Then comes Professional Experience, Education with your degrees listed, and relevant volunteer activities, honors or awards. Feel free to emphasize any portion of the resume to make it suit your particular credentials.
Tip: Beware of the Bot
The sad truth is that even after all of your hard work, your resume may not even be seen. Nowadays, a computer system called an Applicant Tracking System or ATS may do the selecting. So how to you make sure that yours is one of the resumes chosen for consideration? Experts say you should read the job description carefully and use the same job title and list the skills they want with the skills you have, using the same words. Do not use fancy font, borders or logos.
Sample Resume for an Administrative Assistant
1234 Sunny Drive, Anywhere, NY 123456 444.444-4444 firstname.lastname@example.org LinkedIn URL
(career summary or profile)
Versatile professional administrative assistant adept at providing customer support, streamlining office operations and handling multiple projects simultaneously. Expert at optimizing billing processes, maintaining databases and creating high-impact proposals Committed to fostering interdepartmental collaboration.
(list as many as possible)
- Project management
- Administrative support
- Process improvement
- Operational streamlining
- Program development
- Customer service
(list in reverse chronological order)
Executive Assistant, XYZ Corporation, Bayshore, New York, 2013-present
- Enhanced marketing efforts
- Overhauled employee benefit program
- Fostered company success by streamlining database
- Expedited projects by creating templates
(list in reverse chronological order)
XYZ University, Syracuse, New York: MBA, 2006
ABC College, Farmingdale, New York: BA, 2004