As a small business owner, you may be wondering if the time is right for you to hire an administrative assistant (or a similar role, like an office manager or receptionist). An administrative assistant can improve the efficiency of your business, but it can be difficult to find the right person and train them. We will walk you through everything you need to know about hiring an administrative assistant, from writing an administrative assistant job description to a salary guide, including:
- Free Administrative Assistant Job Description Template
- How Do I Know If I Need an Admin? 3 Key Questions
- Different Kinds of Administrative Assistants
- How to Hire an Administrative Assistant, From Job Posting to Offer
- How to Train An Administrative Assistant
- What Should You Pay Your Administrative Assistant?
Free Administrative Assistant Job Description Template
Below is a job description template that you can customize for your Administrative Assistant job posting. As we’ll explain in a minute, administrative assistants can fill many different roles, so you should customize your template based on what your administrative assistant’s job responsibilities will be. An administrative assistant role is critical for both the business and for the culture of an office. Having a solid job description is how you will find the right person who can do the role well and also work well with the team (or person) that they are supporting. You can also access this template here as a Google Doc and here as a PDF.
ABC Company provides/makes (short summary of your business). We were founded in (year) and are located in (city, state).
We are looking for an experienced and organized Administrative Assistant to join our team. This position requires a versatile individual who has experience in (list your top 3 needs; i.e. calendaring, email answering, answering telephones, etc…). We are looking for someone who is supremely organized, efficient, and who is a great team player while also being able to work on and complete tasks independently. This is a role that will be crucial to the senior management, the team members, and the clients.
Duties & Responsibilities:
- Answering phones for the office and management team
- Managing calendar and scheduling tasks for the CEO
- Managing emails for the CEO
- Making PowerPoint presentations that are client-ready.
- Willing to run errands of all kinds such as getting lunch, dry cleaning, etc. as needed
- Ordering office supplies and keeping inventory of office supplies
- Other ad hoc tasks as needed
- 3+ years administrative assistant experience.
- High school diploma required. Associate’s degree or Bachelor’s degree preferred.
- Strong computer skills including intermediate/advanced MS Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
- Strong proofreading and editing skills.
- Advanced communication skills (verbal, written, electronic) and superior phone skills.
- Multi-tasking ability and able to function under pressure and tight deadlines.
- Able to lift and carry materials for the office (up to 20 lbs).
- Thrives in a fast-paced environment.
Office Environment Details:
This role will be (in an office/sitting in a cubicle/at a reception desk/remote).
Our office tends to be (describe the noise level/ environment: is it noisy, quiet, full of clients with phones ringing?).
The ideal candidate will thrive under a manager who is (insert 3 adjectives to describe what the manager is like for this role).
Salary range is ($XX per hour or $XX annual).
Benefits such as health insurance, dental, and vision are available after XX days.
Performance bonuses are available on an annual basis.
2 weeks (10 days) PTO and 1 week (5 days) of sick leave are provided after XX days.
How Do I Know If I Need an Administrative Assistant? (3 Questions to Ask Yourself)
Before we get into the different types of administrative assistants, are you wondering if you actually need to hire one or worried if it is worth your time or money to hire one? Go through these 3 questions to help you get to your answer:
- Do you spend several hours each week scheduling meetings, scheduling calls, entering data, or on other tasks that could be handled by someone who doesn’t have your business or industry expertise?
- Are there multiple tasks that an administrative assistant could take over from you? (e.g. handling email, answering the phone, greeting customers/clients, editing Excel spreadsheets)
- Would hiring an administrative assistant allow you to focus on more important business matters or give you better work/life balance?
If you answered yes to two or three of these questions, then you would likely benefit from hiring an administrative assistant. He or she can help improve business efficiency by completing a range of tasks, allowing you to focus on other things.
If you’re on the fence or unsure of the value an administrative assistant could bring to your business, you could test the waters by hiring a virtual assistant. A virtual assistant (i.e. one who doesn’t work at your office) costs less than hiring someone in-house, but they can complete basic business tasks. Read on for more information about virtual assistants.
Different Kinds of Administrative Assistants
There are several job titles out there that have developed over the past 10 years that are similar to administrative assistants. These roles are all related to an administrative assistant, but mean slightly different things and include different responsibilities. We will explain the differences in this table.
*Note that we do not include “Secretary” in our table as it is an outdated term that is no longer used.
|Position Title||What This Role Does||Salary Range*|
|Administrative Assistant||This role is assigned to either a person or team and can complete all administrative tasks like scheduling, meeting arrangement, paperwork, answering calls, and more. This is a very broad term.||$9-$20/hour+ ($18K-$40K+ annual)|
|Virtual Assistant||This role is similar to the Administrative Assistant but does not work on-site (usually from their home).||$9-$20/hour ($18K-$40K annual)|
|Office Manager||This role may have the duties of an Administrative Assistant, as well as inventory of the office, ordering supplies, coordinating company events, and potentially some basic HR functions. Salary increases with size of the office.||$15-$30/hour+ ($30K-$60K+ annual)|
|Receptionist||This role is in charge of the lobby or greeting area for a business, and the person will answer phones, greet clients, and keep lobby clean. This role may also do some lighter administrative tasks.||$9-$17/hour ($18K-$42K+ annual)|
|Executive Assistant||This role is a higher level administrative professional who has years of experience being the “right hand” of a high-level executive. This role may have done all the previous roles in this table in the past and worked their way up.||$50K+ annual (can be upwards of $100K)|
*Salary range will vary based on your location and if the position is full time with benefits (versus part time, hourly, and/or from home). More on salary below.
Virtual Assistants vs In-House Administrative Assistants
You might be wondering if a virtual assistant can be easier and cheaper than an in-person employee. Let’s take a closer look at what the differences are between having a virtual assistant versus having an employee be in-house (aka in the office).
|Situation/Scenario||Virtual Assistant||In-House Administrative Assistant|
|Hiring Process||Instead of an in-person interview, a video call like Skype or Google Hangouts will be important for you to really “meet” the candidate; you might also want to give a test assignment to confirm their skills (like editing an article or editing a presentation)||The normal process of phone interview, in-person interview, and checking references should be completed. You could also give a test assignment (like editing an article or editing a presentation)|
|Training||You will need to maintain a regular schedule of phone or video calls to train the person. You should have everything necessary either in a web-based or cloud system like Google Drive.||You need to be prepared but you have the luxury of training someone in person and communicating any time there is confusion. Consider having the new hire shadow you for the first week.|
|How Much to Pay||If you hire through a system like Upwork, your person will either get an hourly rate or a flat weekly fee. A perk of virtual employees is a lower hourly rate versus an in-office person.||You will need to decide if you will pay hourly or annually, full time or part time, and set your new hire’s schedule in advance. You may need to offer benefits and other perks you offer to other employees.|
|When You Need Something ASAP||You will need to create a system for this - Will you text the person? Email? Call?||Since the person is on-site, you can just stop by their office with questions.|
|Tracking Progress||You will need to be very organized about the goals you set with timelines for your administrative assistant. A project management system like Basecamp could be helpful.||You will want to make sure that your new hire and you have meetings monthly to discuss progress and set new goals.|
Executive Assistant vs Administrative Assistant
There are a few notable differences between an executive assistant and an administrative assistant.
- Training – An Executive Assistant might take 6 months-1 year to train whereas an Administrative Assistant should be fully running within 90 days. This is because an Executive Assistant is a long-term investment member of your team. Many Executive Assistants stay with the company as long as the executive they are supporting does, and take on more and more responsibility as time goes on.
- Complexity of Tasks – An Executive Assistant should be able to represent a C-level (e.g. CEO or CFO) or Vice President in their tasks, versus an Administrative Assistant will typically be doing more clerical items and will be less visible to important clients (although not always depending on the size of your business).
- Work History – An Executive Assistant should have experience working directly for a VP, CEO, CFO, President, or another similar role. An Administrative Assistant will have more general experience supporting a department or office, or perhaps another fellow small business (versus a Fortune 100 CEO).
- Education- An Executive Assistant will typically have some sort of Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree, and an Administrative Assistant will typically have a high school diploma or above.
So what does this mean? What if you want to hire an Executive Assistant?
- You’ll need to pay more (about 33% more according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).
- The position will need to be full time and salaried with benefits.
- You will need to be prepared for a true professional who might not have patience with a startup or chaotic atmosphere. Make sure the person is aware that you are a small business.
How to Hire an Administrative Assistant From Job Post to Offer
In this section, we will walk through the steps to hire an in-person administrative assistant for your company.
We will go over:
- Administrative Assistant Job Description
- What Job Boards to Post On
- How to Organize and Rank Applicants
- How to Phone Screen for an Administrative Assistant
- The In-Person Interview for an Administrative Assistant
- Administrative Assistant Offer Letter
Administrative Assistant Job Description
Our free job description template for an administrative assistant above is a good start. However, you will want to look at the below questions and customize the template for your own business. To follow along, click to download our template as a Google Doc or PDF.
Try to think of what the administrative person will be doing. Who will they be supporting, what department, and why? What will be their broad overview – will it be mostly talking to people and clients or is it more “behind the scenes work” like data entry or answering emails?
Duties & Responsibilities
On one side of the spectrum, an administrative assistant’s duties can be as simple as answering phones and emails. On the other hand, they may fulfill a range of functions, such as being your voice to the media, speaking to clients in a pinch, or putting together client materials. Think of what you want the administrative assistant to do on a daily, weekly, and even monthly basis. What about 6 months from now?
Some common skills required of an administrative role are:
- Microsoft Office skills (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)
- Copywriting/ written communication skills for email correspondence and presentation writing
- Calendaring skills for setting up meetings and conference calls (GCal, Outlook)
- Verbal communication skills for answering phone calls, speaking to customers who come in the office, and more working with management and team members
- Multi-line phone skills (if the person will be handling receptionist duties and using multiple phone lines)
- Event planning skills for planning company outings or for employee celebrations
- Note-taking skills for meetings and/or conference calls if they will take minutes
This is an important one! Is your office just you and the potential new admin? Say it here! Is your office full of loud customers constantly? Put that here! This will start to attract the right candidates for the role since many administrative assistants thrive in one environment over another.
This is where you will want to outline if this is an hourly, part time, or full time position, salary details, and if you will be providing benefits. If you don’t want to provide this information, be prepared for the phone screens that the candidates will want to know this information ASAP.
What Job Boards to Post On
Administrative Assistant positions are incredibly popular with job applicants. When I was recruiting for one in Los Angeles, I got no less than 550 applicants within 3 weeks’ time! Though the amount will vary based on your location, you will want to get the word out there in a controlled way.
Indeed is a good job board for all locations in the United States. We recommend posting your Administrative Assistant job there and using social media to locally spread your posting. You can also boost your posting via a free $50 ad credit to get your post in front of more applicants.
Some other good options depending on your location and what you are hiring for:
- Craigslist can be a great resource for Administrative Assistants and Office Managers.
- ZipRecruiter also is an excellent way to find Administrative Assistants, Office Managers, and Executive Assistant.
- Upwork is excellent for finding virtual assistants (especially since you can see reviews of previous work).
Pro Tip: Create a special email address for the applications to funnel to (I.e. email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org). This way you will avoid your email getting slammed with applicant notifications.
You can learn about more the best job posting sites in our article here.
How to Organize and Rank Applicants
Once you post your Administrative Assistant role, you’ll want to set aside time to go through the applications. Having your role up for about a week or so should generate plenty of applicants, and then you can pause the job posting in order to play catch up and review the applicants (Indeed, our recommended job posting site, has this great feature).
Whichever way you choose to organize your applicants, you’ll want to sort them into 3 piles:
- Great applicants who you definitely want to interview
- Ok applicants who you are not sure about
- Applicants who do not qualify or who need to be rejected for other reasons (i.e. job jumping)
How Do I Tell A “Great” Applicant from an “Ok” Applicant?
Think about the personality fit you need for you and your office. This is commonly the biggest area of importance for hiring an Administrative Assistant or a role like it.
Why? Because this is the person who you will need to call in an emergency, who will need to plan a holiday party last minute, and who will have to keep the office going in a snowstorm or if someone is sick.
An Administrative Assistant will see the office at its best and worst times and will need to eventually be trusted with confidential items, like your email and your phone messages. You need someone you and the rest of your team can get along with.
Also, remember, it’s ok to eliminate someone who is qualified but doesn’t fit your company! Interviewing someone who has a great resume but who has worked at Fortune 100 companies may not make sense for you and your small business.
How to Phone Screen for an Administrative Assistant
To save time, create an email template to send to all of the candidates you would like to phone screen that says something like this:
Thank you for applying to our Administrative Assistant role at ABC Company
- Are you able to work the schedule provided which is (insert days/ hours)?
- What hourly wage/ salary range are you looking for?
- Are you able to commute reliably to our location?
- Are you able to provide references from past employers where you performed a similar job?
- What is your availability for a phone interview during the window of 8 am- 3 pm on Tuesday, November 15th? Please also provide a phone number to call.
A template like this puts you in control of the applicants in a few ways:
- It lets you see their penmanship/written communication skills in their responses.
- It lets you see if they can follow directions.
- It will eliminate those that either do not answer professionally or who raise red flags or who are super expensive.
- It closes the gap on scheduling–provide 1 large window in 1 day to get these all done (versus 8 emails going back & forth to set something up).
Once the applicants have answered and you have decided who will phone interview, send them an email confirming the date and time you will be calling them. On the day of the phone screens, make sure you are prepared to focus and have every candidate’s resume and contact information ready to go, as well as a place where you can take notes.
Learn more about phone screens, tips for being organized, and more in our article on phone screens.
5 Minute Phone Screen Template for Administrative Assistant
***Remember, ask all candidates the same questions in the 5-minute screen to be fair and to help you compare candidates.***
Hello, this is Mary Jones from ABC Company calling for Joan. Is this Joan?
Great, is now still a good time for us to talk for 5 minutes regarding the Administrative Assistant role?
Wonderful. This will be a very short interview with a few set questions. If you could, why don’t you tell me, in 30 seconds or less, why you are a great fit for this role?
(cut person at 30 seconds, or close to it)
Thank you for that. We are looking for someone who can do all of our scheduling and calendaring functions. Can you tell me what calendar systems you have worked with in the past and how many people’s schedules you have controlled at one time?
Great. Now, tell me what you would do if I gave you a presentation to edit that was due in 2 hours, answering my 50 emails by end of day, and I also wanted you to plan a company happy hour for the following week. How would you prioritize and go about this to-do list?
Why are you leaving/did you leave your last position?
Two options to end the call:
If candidate seems like a good fit:
Excellent, I am very impressed with you in these few minutes. What is your schedule like coming up for an in-person interview? If selected, I can then save time by trying to work in this schedule.
Thank you for your time. I look forward to speaking with you again. Goodbye!
(follow up with interview invitation for an in-person, within 48 hours)
If candidate should be rejected:
Thank you very much for your time today, Joan. We have just started in the hiring process and are doing these quick 5 minute calls. I will be circling back to you with our decision within 48 hours if we want to move forward. Please look for an email from me.
(follow up with rejection email within 24-48 hours)
Thank you for your time today. Goodbye!
The In-Person Interview for an Administrative Assistant
Once you are ready to schedule in-person interviews, 3-5 candidates should be on this list. More than 5 and you might start to confuse candidates; less than 5 and you run the risk of losing a candidate to an offer that comes faster (as well as you need to count on that most likely one will be a dud!). In-person interviews should be about 1 hour long, and with candidates who are really a fit, you may go naturally longer.
Once your candidates are scheduled for their in-person interviews, you may want to know about how to actually conduct an interview and what to be aware of.
Top 5 In-Person Interview Questions for an Administrative Assistant
- Why do you think you’re best qualified for a position as an administrative assistant? For this job in particular? What made you choose this career path?
- Can you tell me about a conflict you were involved in as an administrative assistant and how you handled it? It can be with a customer or a supervisor or a colleague.
- Can you share some criticism a manager has given you? How did you adjust and what did you learn?
- What type of manager helps bring out your best performance as an administrative assistants?
- Are you willing to work with me if I need you to stay late on a rare occassion or in the case of an emergency?
Top 5 Red Flags from an Administrative Assistant Candidate
- Impatience – Does the candidate seem easily frustrated or like they want to be somewhere else? You want your potential new hire to be present and ready.
- Lack of attention to detail – Was there a typo on their resume, was the candidate late without calling, or did they seem to let details fall through the cracks? Imagine when the new hire is stressed out and working on your emails. Not good!
- Distraction – Did they keep their cell phone out or lose track of your questions? Imagine them on the phone with an important client doing this.
- Short-tempered – Did they get upset when you asked about critical feedback from past roles, or tell you they have never needed feedback? You want your administrative person to be able to set the mood for clients and for team members.
- Lack of professionalism – This candidate may be the face of your office. How they dress and their communication skills are extremely important, especially if they will be representing you to customers and clients.
Administrative Assistant Offer Letter
You can check out our offer letter template if you think you are ready to give a candidate an offer. That article will also walk you through how to make the offer.
You should ask yourself the following questions when filling out the offer letter:
- How much should I pay? – Look up other similar roles in your city and what they are paying (try Indeed postings, Salary.com, or PayScale.com). If you are fair with your offered pay, you will put yourself in a better position with the candidate.
- Will you provide benefits? – What will you provide for benefits and when? If you do not provide benefits, should you pay the employee more? Be prepared to answer questions on benefits from the potential new hire. It is usually the first question asked- “Explain your benefits to me.”
- When do I want this person to start? – Think about when you want this person to start. Christmas week, for example, is a bad idea. You should think about a work week where you (or whoever will be training the individual) will be in the office the entire week.
Once those questions are answered, you should be able to fill out and present your offer letter to the candidate. Give your candidate at least 48 hours to consider your offer, but not longer than 1 week’s time. If possible, discuss any offer letter questions with the candidate in-person to avoid miscommunications.
Administrative Assistant Salary Guidelines
What to pay someone is always a tough part of the hiring process. A bare minimum of $9/hour, up to $20-30/hour, is what you might need to pay for an administrative assistant based on your location and the experience level you are looking for. This is a large range from $18K-$60K annually.
Here are some general guidelines for Administrative Assistant salaries:
- Businesses in major cities will generally have to pay more than those located in suburban/rural areas, usually due to cost of living and also due to competition for qualified applicants.
- Virtual resources can vary greatly in cost, ranging from $3.50/hour for someone overseas to the same price as having someone in-person. They will vary widely by skillset, experience, and education. Click here to see our recommendations of the best virtual assistant services and how much they charge.
- For this role in particular, a seasoned Administrative Assistant can charge a premium. If you are willing to train someone, you can save a lot of money (but, do you have the patience for it?).
Administrative Assistant Salary Ranges by Location
|Location||Administrative Assistant Salary Range|
|New York City, NY (Manhattan)||Average salary is $44,000; the salary range typically falls about $37,000-$64,000.|
|Cleveland, OH||Average salary is $37,000; the salary range typically falls about $32,000-$43,000.|
|Green Bay, WI||Average salary is $36,500; the salary range typically falls about $32,000-$42,000.|
|Denver, CO||Average salary is $33,000; the salary range typically falls about $30,000-$50,000.|
|Los Angeles, CA||Average salary is $43,000; the salary range typically falls about $38,000-$50,000.|
*Sources for all cities are PayScale and Glassdoor.
Here are some tips to get to the right price for your potential new administrative assistant salary.
Pro Tip #1: Use an email template/ask upfront
We recommend asking the candidate what range they are looking for in an email template once you know you want to interview them. This just helps save time from candidates that are not in alignment with your budget, and it also can give you perspective if what you are budgeting for the role is appropriate. Is every candidate asking for double what you are wanting to offer? Then you need to come up in your rate.
Pro Tip #2: Use online tools
Find out salary data for your city by looking up similar roles on job boards or by using tools like Salary.com or PayScale.com.
Pro Tip #3: Ask other business owners
If you have fellow business owner friends in your community, ask them what their opinion is as well (you don’t need to ask what they pay specifically, but you can ask for a range).
Pro Tip #4: Be honest with your budget
What can you truly afford? Would it be worth it to look at virtual/ on-demand resources or should you be looking for someone part-time instead? Would you rather have a high quality candidate for 10-20 hours per week or a lower quality candidate for full time? Consider a contract to hire situation as well, such as 60-90 days.
Pro Tip #5: Don’t panic
There is a candidate out there for every job. It’s very normal when hiring, especially if the role has never been at a company before, to need to go back to the drawing board to rethink it, and that usually starts with salary/ budgeting concerns. You’ll find the help you need!
How to Train An Administrative Assistant
Now that you have ideally hired an Administrative Assistant, you need to train the person. This is a difficult process, especially if you have never have an assistant before and if you have an “I’ll do it better myself” attitude.
Initially, training an administrative assistant might be more work for you and less time that you can devote to other tasks, but this helps ensure the person really gets a good grasp on how to complete the work correctly.
Some techniques to train the person include:
- Job shadowing – Have the new Administrative Assistant shadow you for 1-5 days and take notes on your tasks. Set aside time at the end of the day for questions.
- On-the-job training – Let the new hire “have at it” with a task and let them make mistakes (yes!) in order to learn from it. A good example would be calendaring. Have them play around with a few fake scenarios in your calendar system.
- Create protocols – If you have a certain way you way you want the phone answered, write it down. If there can be a system or procedure put in place, put it in and let the person learn by repetition.
Once you’ve decided on how to implement training, here are some helpful steps for both you and your administrative assistant to get the most out of training and ensure it is successful:
Step 1: Make a list over a week or so of the tasks an administrative assistant can do.
As you are even recruiting for this role, you should be tracking a list of tasks this person can take over. Be both general and specific. Think of some larger picture tasks the person might be able to take over in 6 months or a year depending on their talents (i.e. complaining customers, client presentation composition, email marketing).
Step 2: Get in the right mindset and get over privacy.
Separate your business and personal matters ahead of your administrative assistant starting. Whatever you are not willing to share will make it complicated for the person to take over voicemails, emails, meetings, and calendaring. Separate it now or be open to sharing. Get used to marking private meetings as such.
Step 3: Create a schedule for training with timelines and goals.
Create a detailed schedule for the first week and then continue with a weekly schedule until a rhythm of success is happening. This is especially important for virtual assistants because they may have multiple clients or work in a different time zone. Tweak the schedule as necessary and start to realize what goals and timelines are realistic. Ask for input from your new hire as well!
Step 4: Keep a schedule of daily check-ins and time for questions.
Set aside 15-30 minutes at the beginning of each day to check in with the day’s agenda and tasks for your administrative assistant. During this time, the admin can also questions about anything he or she didn’t understand in training so far. Many business owners continue this every day past training, although some move to weekly meetings after 3-6 months. Resist the urge to cancel this time in order for you to stay organized and for your assistant to continue to provide more.
Step 5: Give upfront, constructive feedback.
Don’t like something? Tell your new administrative assistant how you want it done and why. Be honest but also constructive. Nip any issues in the bud right away to avoid festering problems.
The Bottom Line
Having an effective Administrative Assistant can be a game changer for you and your small business. However, it does take time, diligence, and effort to find one and then train the person.