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Written by Susan ShorSusan Shor

10 Must-have administrative skills for professionals

8 min read
10 Must-have administrative skills for professionals
The competition is tough and the jobs are few, but a top-notch set of skills can still get you the administrative position you desire.

Looking for an office job these days can be tough. In the old days, a receptionist sat at a desk answering phones and welcoming visitors, but those days are long gone. Now, the number of administrative roles is expected to decline in the next decade.

Attrition will lead to some openings, but administrative professionals have to make themselves absolutely indispensable. How? Beef up the top 10 skills that hiring managers want in roles such as executive assistant, office assistant, receptionist or office managers.

In this blog we will discuss:

  • What are administrative skills?
  • The top 10 administrative skills for professionals
  • Hard administrative skills list
  • Soft administrative skills list

What are administrative skills?

Administrative skills fall into two categories: hard and soft skills. Hard skills, or learned skills such as proficiency in Microsoft Office, are valuable because they help you complete tasks. These skills can be polished on the job or through training courses.

Soft skills comprise your ability to interact with others and to be a reliable employee. Spinning up a beautiful graph of an Excel spreadsheet is admirable, but negotiating office politics is just as important.

The admin skills list below is a starting point for your own resume skills section. Some of these categories can be broken down further to get more specific. For example, always list the exact software you know instead of listing “technical abilities” or “accounting software.” Match your skills choices to the ones mentioned by your prospective employer in the job listing.

Top 12 administrative skills 

Let’s get right to it. Here’s our top 10 list in alphabetical order:

  1. Adaptability
  2. Attention to detail
  3. Bookkeeping
  4. Communication
  5. Customer service
  6. Discretion
  7. Financial literacy
  8. Multitasking
  9. Organization
  10. Problem-solving
  11. Technical proficiency
  12. Time management

Hard administrative skills examples

Of the list above, two are hard skills:

  1. Bookkeeping. Small businesses or individuals may not have a separate bookkeeper, especially if their finances are simple. Understanding the basics of accounting and knowing QuickBooks or other financial software can give you an edge.
  2. Financial literacy. This is adjacent, but not equal to, bookkeeping. You may be asked to perform some financial functions such as tracking spending on office supplies, filing expense reports, or sending and paying invoices. Understanding simple accounting methods or even displaying the ability to sniff out a deal on toner can make a difference.
  3. Technical proficiency. Word processing, spreadsheets, workflow, messaging and calendar apps, even applicant tracking systems, are likely to come under your purview. If you don’t have experience in these areas, consider earning an online certificate to add these important administrative skills to your resume.

Soft administrative skills examples

Admin work requires a host of soft skills. That’s because the job of an office manager, executive assistant or other administrator role is to support the company’s employees and ensure no one misses an important client meeting or falls short of the sales materials they need. 

Expert tip

Proofread your entire application

Don’t undermine your assertion that you are detail-oriented by leaving typos, spelling and grammatical errors and faulty formatting in your resume or cover letter. Use spelling and grammar check, proofread and have a friend review before you hit send.

The best admin resumes will contain most, if not all, of these soft skills:

  1. Adaptability. You may need to switch gears in the midst of a project, or adjust to a new customer service person’s different style of work. Your day-to-day responsibilities are likely to shift depending on what your boss needs or whether HR needs help sorting through candidates. An admin needs to begin each day with a can-do attitude no matter what comes their way.
  2. Attention to detail. Office staff relies on you to arrange their travel, make sure they get a new desk chair if theirs breaks, order the food for in-house meetings and plan the office holiday party. All of that requires attention to detail. Certainly, if the job listing mentions any kind of financial management, you need to account for every penny.
  3. Communication. Really a set of skills, communication is key if you are customer-facing. But even if not, you need to clearly understand what employees need and in relaying important information to them.
  4. Customer service. There is no better way to gain loyalty than excellent customer service. Any experience you have in helping people solve their customer service problems or working with them to ensure satisfaction will go a long way in gaining you an admin job.
  5. Discretion. Admin personnel may have access to sensitive personal or business information. They may overhear private conversations or be the No. 2 to the boss and have inside information on future strategic moves. None of this should end up fodder for the office gossip mill.
  6. Multitasking. OK, you can’t really do two things at once and do them well, but you can juggle several projects or requests at once by prioritizing which one to focus on first while making the deadlines for each. No administrative skill list is complete without a mention of multitasking.
  7. Organization. See multitasking above. How can you manage all your daily tasks, plus the inevitable last-minute request for a hotel in Cleveland or a reservation at a gourmet restaurant to impress a client if you’re not organized?
  8. Problem-solving. Of course the ideal is that every business runs smoothly, but problems are inevitable. What do you do when the boss accidentally double-booked or Salesforce goes down on a busy day? You stay calm and solve that problem or seek out the person who can.
  9. Time management. Admins—especially executive assistants—are charged with managing someone else’s time along with their own. The best administrators are meticulous trackers of schedules, meetings and travel times.
Expert tip

Bonus skill

Consider listing “quick learner” or “lifelong learner” to your skills list or within your cover letter. Technology is ever-changing and acknowledging that you’re willing to stay current shows you want to remain valuable to your employer. This can also help if you don’t have a lot of experience in one area. In that case, you are best off proving you’re a lifelong learner by signing up for a class and listing that on your resume. 

Key takeaways

  • Administrative jobs are on the decline, so if you want to get your foot in the door of a company by managing the office, you’re going to need an outstanding set of skills.
  • An excellent administrative skills list example will include both hard and soft skills.
  • To best impress your prospective employer, get as specific as possible and match your skills to that of the job listing.
  • Your administrative skills should be embedded throughout your resume and cover letter, not just in your skills section.
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