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How to hire a skilled secretary for your organization


Today, the role of a secretary has transformed from being a personal assistant to holding a crucial administrative position that keeps the wheels of an organization turning smoothly.

A skilled secretary helps high-level managers and executives be more efficient and focused on key tasks; when dealing with a very high workload in a demanding role, side help becomes a necessity. It’s easy to see why hiring the right secretary can greatly enhance the productivity of the entire organization.

However, finding the right person is not as easy as it sounds.

Secretaries are not just proxy answering machines; they manage tasks like scheduling appointments, coordinating meetings, and ensuring smooth and effective communication.

Knowing how to hire a skilled secretary can make the difference between a well-run enterprise and a chaotic, unproductive workplace

In this article, we’ll discuss: 

  • The role of a secretary in an organization

  • How to find the best candidates

  • What skills to look for

  • How to build an efficient skills assessment to evaluate applicants

  • What interview questions to ask

  • Where to find the right secretary

You’ll also find information about average salaries and a job description template you can copy and adapt to your own hiring needs.

What is a secretary?

Before diving into the details of the secretary hiring process, it’s important to understand the distinction between various administrative roles, as they are often confused and used interchangeably: 

  • An executive assistant is someone who works closely with top-level executives and provides high-level support in tasks like managing schedules, making travel arrangements, and preparing reports.

  • A receptionist, on the other hand, is usually responsible for managing the front desk. They greet visitors, inform you about them, manage incoming calls, and handle basic administrative tasks.

  • Then there are virtual assistants who operate remotely. They use modern technology for tasks such as email management, data entry, internet research, and more.

The role of a secretary can encompass elements and responsibilities of all these functions. Essentially, secretaries assist in organizing and managing tasks and ensure there’s efficient communication within the organization and between team members. They act as a bridge between managers and teams, other stakeholders, clients, and partners, and often have a central position in the company, facilitating the flow of information.  

Skills to look out for in a secretary graphic

Hard skills for a secretary

Secretaries need several hard skills to excel in their roles. Here are the most important ones: 

1. Computer proficiency

Secretaries handle email communication, manage data, prepare presentations and also create certain documents; hence, strong computer skills are essential.

Your secretary must have strong software skills for an admin role and be a proficient user of popular office software such as Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Gmail, and more. 

Your next hire should also be comfortable with learning new tools and software that are specific to your business.

2. Organizational skills

One of the main duties of a secretary is to keep your day organized and ensure everything is running smoothly. They need to have excellent organizational skills and the ability to allocate adequate time for tasks, meetings, and appointments.

Secretaries play an important role in ensuring you’re not missing any important tasks and that you can maintain optimal productivity. They are also responsible for organizing and categorizing digital and physical documents for easy retrieval.

3. Data management

Secretaries often handle data before it comes to you. This could be sensitive information related to clients or internal business processes, so your secretary must understand how to manage and handle data properly. They must also be familiar with different data-management tools for maintaining databases, records, and spreadsheets.

4. Administrative support

Secretaries need to perform different administrative tasks on a daily basis; for example, they might need to: 

  • Manage schedules effectively and make sure there are no overlapping meetings; for this, they might also need to book meeting rooms or getting in touch with others to coordinate appointments

  • Organize travel arrangements and book booking flights, accommodation, and basic itineraries

  • Prepare meetings’ agendas, so that every attendee is aware of the things they need to discuss; share any materials, documents, or information as needed

  • Set up video conferencing calls or meetings through different platforms and virtual collaboration tools – you wouldn’t want to join a meeting in which nobody is present because the others don’t have the right link

5. Functional support

By delegating time-consuming or repetitive tasks to a secretary, you can place all your focus on the highest-value tasks on your to-do list. 

Secretaries need to be capable of basic troubleshooting of software and hardware, reviewing documents for grammatical errors or typos, printing documents, preparing files or presentations, and conducting internet research.

Soft skills for a secretary

Soft skills are crucial for a secretary; the role often requires frequent communication with others, adaptability, and the ability to handle complicated interpersonal situations. Let’s look at the most important soft skills a secretary should possess: 

1. Communication

Effective communication skills are a must-have for any secretary. They answer multiple calls, emails, and direct enquiries each day, so they need to know how to communicate appropriately with the other person and convey any messages with precision.

Active listening is also crucial; it involves truly engaging with others during conversations and being sensitive to their needs or struggles. Secretaries also need to write clear, concise, and error-free emails, reports, and other written documents.

2. Attention to detail

A secretary with meticulous attention to detail will ensure every task is completed on time and without errors. 

This includes writing down and conveying messages promptly, catching typos in documents and emails, jotting down the minutes of meetings, and identifying any discrepancies and inconsistencies that might contribute to the overall quality of the work.

3. Professionalism

Upholding ethical principles, maintaining confidentiality, and acting professionally at all times are essential aspects of the role of a secretary. Often privy to confidential conversations and meetings, they must handle sensitive information responsibly and with integrity. 

Professionalism also includes dressing appropriately and with respect for the role and the workplace.

4. Time management

Secretaries must be skillful in prioritizing tasks and allocating time effectively. They often schedule their manager’s day-to-day plans, so they must be able to prioritize tasks and projects and plan accordingly, ensuring that deadlines are met. 

They are also responsible for blocking time for calls or meetings and conveying a person’s availability to other team members. 

5. Teamwork

Secretaries often work within diverse teams and are responsible for managing communication between team members. They ensure an effective collaboration channel is set up that enables everyone to brainstorm and work together harmoniously to achieve shared goals.

Secretaries forge close relationships with team members and are great for mediating conflicts diplomatically. Their connections help in maintaining a cooperative atmosphere that benefits everyone involved. 

How to test secretary skills

Companies end up wasting a lot of valuable time and resources on bad hires who don’t live up to their expectations and needs.

A resume is a good way to get a basic idea of the candidate, but it doesn’t reflect their actual skills or their ability to work under pressure. So, you can save a lot of time and resources by transforming your secretary recruitment process into a skill-based hiring process.

TestGorilla offers a pre-employment skills testing that enables you to shortlist only those candidates who are qualified to take on the responsibilities of secretary. 

You can combine up to five different tests of your choice to form a customized assessment targeted to evaluate the skills you need most in your next secretary. Some of the skills that you may want to test them for are:

  • Computer literacy: Evaluate whether candidates have the right skills to operate a Windows or Mac computer, manage email, do internet research, and more.

  • Time management: See whether applicants are efficient in managing time and prioritizing tasks to meet deadlines.

  • Communication: Assess the communication skills of candidates to make sure they know how to convey information clearly and effectively. 

  • Attention to visual or textual detail: A secretary who can spot inconsistencies or identify patterns will be able to help you deliver top quality consistently. Look for candidates who have an innate ability to pay close attention to details. 

  • Culture add: Fill out a quick survey and evaluate candidates’ cultural alignment with your organization.

Administrative-assistant skills are easy to assess with the right combination of tests. If you need to evaluate more or different skills than the ones above, head on to our test library, where you can find more than 300 tests to use in your secretary recruitment process. 

Secretary interview questions

Once you assess your applicants’ skills with the help of skills tests, you can invite the best ones to an interview to gain a deeper understanding of their experience and capabilities.

Here are some sample questions you can ask your next secretary: 

  1. How do you prioritize tasks when everything seems urgent?

  2. You're unfamiliar with a software or tool that's crucial for a task. What do you do?

  3. How do you handle interruptions when you're working on something important?

  4. How do you handle a situation where a manager is not happy with your work?

  5. How do you ensure the accuracy of your work at all times?

  6. Describe an instance where you had to solve a challenging problem on your own.

  7. If there's a task for which you've received conflicting instructions, how do you approach it?

  8. How do you handle situations where you have to deny a request from a senior executive?

  9. Multiple senior stakeholders who have conflicting interests ask you to make changes to a meeting's agenda. What do you do?

  10. Would you rather look to prevent a low-risk problem or solve it if it occurs?

If you need more ideas for questions you can ask, check out our executive assistant interview questions and our administrative assistant interview questions for inspiration. 

Where to find a secretary

Finding the right secretary who fits your organization’s needs involves using different platforms and sourcing methods. Here are some of the avenues you can explore when looking to hire a secretary.

1. Recruitment agencies

Many recruitment agencies specialize in helping you find qualified secretaries or admin assistants for hire. They have a large pool of candidates for administrative and secretarial roles and can help you find the best person for your needs. 

If you need your next secretary to be physically present in your office, look for local agencies. Otherwise, online recruitment agencies can help you source the right talent.

Depending on the size of your organization and the responsibilities of the secretary, you can also contact larger recruitment or temp agencies. Temp agencies are especially useful if you are looking to hire someone for short-term support only.

2. Online job boards

That’s perhaps the most common platform to find any employee. 

Post a job ad on professional networking platforms like LinkedIn, Indeed, and Monster to get in touch with applicants. You can also use the internal systems of these platforms to automatically shortlist candidates who meet your minimum requirements.

Connect with prospective candidates and ask them to take a skills-based assessment to find out who truly has the right skills for the role. Then, you can interview the most promising talent.

3. Networking

Leverage your professional network to find qualified and trusted secretaries for your organization.

Referrals are also a great way to find candidates who have proven their skills: Ask employees if they know anyone who might be a good fit. 

You can also try campus recruitment to hire a skilled and motivated recent graduate.

The average salary of a secretary

The salary of a secretary varies based on different factors, such as their experience, field of employment, responsibilities, location, or qualifications.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean annual salary of a secretary was $44,080 per year

Secretary job description template

Position: Secretary at [type of company, f.e. mid-sized law firm]

[Your company name] is a company recognized for its excellence in [specialty, main product, etc.]. We're looking for a skilled secretary to join our team and help us be more efficient and organized in our day-to-day work.

Location: [City, state]

Reports to: [f.e. office manager, chief administrative officer, CEO]

Tasks and responsibilities

Your daily tasks in this role will include to:

  • Provide administrative support to various departments, ensuring smooth day-to-day operations

  • Manage calendars, arrange meetings, and set up conference rooms, ensuring there are no scheduling conflicts

  • Handle incoming calls, emails, and company correspondence promptly and professionally

  • Direct inquiries to the appropriate departments or individuals

  • Create, format, and edit documents, spreadsheets, and presentations

  • Maintain electronic and physical files ensuring information is organized and easily accessible

  • Assist with the coordination of travel arrangements, events, and conferences

  • Monitor office supplies and place orders when necessary, ensuring the office is well-stocked

  • Handle confidential information with discretion and integrity

  • Assist in preparing regular reports and updating internal databases


  • Proven work experience as a secretary or administrative assistant

  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite and other office management software

  • Strong communication and interpersonal skills

  • Exceptional organizational and multitasking abilities

  • Attention to detail and problem-solving skills

  • Discretion with personal and confidential information


For this role, we offer the following compensation and benefits: 

  • Salary ranging [from/to; add range] based on skills and experience

  • Excellent benefits package, including comprehensive healthcare insurance, a retirement plan, and a gym membership

  • Opportunities for professional growth and development

  • Collaborative and positive work environment

How to apply

[Describe your application process and mention skills tests]

Hire the best secretary without bias

Hiring a secretary is a task that requires careful consideration of both skills and personality traits. The role is vital for organizations, because it enables executives to perform at the top of their abilities and concentrate on the tasks that truly move the needle.

Unfortunately, if you only look at resumes, unconscious bias can easily get in the way of making the right hiring decision. 

That’s why we’ve built TestGorilla, a skills-testing platform you can use to objectively evaluate the knowledge and abilities of each candidate and quickly identify the best fit. Whether you want to hire an executive assistant, a receptionist, or a virtual assistant, TestGorilla has the right tests that will streamline your secretary hiring process.

Combine different tests from our test library and for bias-free, stress-free hiring. Start your free trial today to find a smart and skilled secretary in no time. 


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