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45 secretary interview questions (+ sample answers) to help you hire skilled admin staff


Secretaries are some of the most underrated yet important people in the organization. They take care of all the administrative tasks so that business leaders can focus on developing the business and not waste time answering inbound calls or scheduling meetings.

Hiring the right secretary will help you maintain productivity and professionalism within the workplace. However, a resume alone doesn’t provide any indication of a candidate’s actual ability to handle diverse administrative tasks.

It’s imperative to assess candidates thoroughly to ensure they have the necessary skills and competencies. Skill tests combined with the right interview questions will help you identify the best-fit candidates.

In this guide, we’ve provided the best interview questions for secretaries, along with sample answers that will help you evaluate the skills and experience of candidates. 

In addition to that, you’ll find information on what skills you should assess and how you can leverage skills tests to evaluate them near the top of your recruitment funnel, without wasting time interviewing candidates who simply aren’t a good match for the role.

How to evaluate secretary skills

A secretary’s responsibilities can encompass a wide range of tasks, including managing phone calls, organizing meetings, handling emails, maintaining records, arranging business trips, and more. 

They need to be able to multitask efficiently and must possess exceptional organizational abilities, attention to detail, and proficiency in office software. 

Hiring a secretary who doesn’t have these qualities can lead to disruptions and inefficiencies in your workflows and lead to unnecessary delays – so you need to make sure you’re able to find the best candidate for the role. 

Use pre-employment skills tests to screen candidates before going through their resumes and references. This method allows you to shortlist candidates based on their practical abilities and proven skills, rather than on what they say about themselves. Some of the tests that you can use from TestGorilla’s vast library are:

  • Computer Literacy: Computer skills are essential for any administrative work nowadays.

  • Time Management: Secretaries need to manage their time effectively to make sure they can effectively manage all tasks on time. 

  • Attention to Detail: Administrative work requires meticulous attention to detail. Evaluate applicants’ skills with this test. 

  • Communication: Make sure you hire a person who can communicate clearly and efficiently in a professional setting. 

  • Understanding Instructions

  • Critical Thinking: Evaluate candidates’ ability to analyze information and think critically with this test.  

  • Problem solving: Are applicants experienced problem solvers? Find out with this test.

Invite all applicants to take skills tests and look at their results to identify your best talent. Then, invite shortlisted candidates to interviews, which will enable you to take a deeper look into their strengths and weaknesses.

Top 20 secretary interview questions and answers

Below, you’ll find our selection of the best 20 interview questions for secretaries, along with our guidelines on what to expect from candidates' responses. This will help you evaluate the skills and experiences of candidates and compare them to find the best match for the role. 

1. Can you describe your previous administrative experience?

Candidates should provide specific examples of their administrative responsibilities in past roles. Look for mentions of tasks such as:

  • Scheduling meetings 

  • Data entry

  • Handling emails and phone calls

  • Booking business trips

  • Providing general office support

They might also mention their roles in specific projects or events. 

2. What office software are you familiar with?

Candidates should list specific software applications they have used in the past, such as: 

The best responses will not only mention familiarity but also provide examples of how they've used these tools to complete tasks. 

For more insights into applicants’ skills, use the skills tests we’ve linked to above to evaluate their proficiency with each tool.

3. How do you ensure the accuracy of your work when dealing with large amounts of data?

Expect candidates to describe specific strategies or processes they use to maintain accuracy, such as double-checking their work, using software features like spellcheck or formulas, or making use of different data validation techniques. 

Skilled secretaries might also discuss how they prioritize tasks or how they handle discrepancies when they arise.

4. Can you give an example of how you've contributed to improving office efficiency in the past?

Look for specific examples where candidates identified a problem or inefficiency and took steps to solve it, such as implementing a new filing system, automating a manual process, or reorganizing a common workspace. 

The best answers are the ones that demonstrate initiative, problem-solving skills, and a proactive approach to improving workflows.

5. What methods do you use to manage office supplies?

Do candidates have a system to track inventory levels, reorder supplies, and negotiate better rates with suppliers?

Secretaries with experience in large companies might also mention using a centralized supply system or specific software to manage supply requests and distributions efficiently.

6. Describe your experience with managing schedules and appointments.

Responses should illustrate the candidate's ability to juggle multiple schedules, coordinate appointments across different time zones, and use scheduling software effectively. 

They should discuss how they prioritize and reschedule appointments as needed, ensuring they keep everyone in the loop. 

7. How do you handle situations where you have conflicting priorities and deadlines?

Candidates should demonstrate an ability to:

  • Prioritize tasks based on their urgency and importance

  • Communicate effectively with others about potential deadline adjustments

  • Use time management techniques such as scheduling blocks of uninterrupted focus to meet deadlines

Responses that include examples of successfully navigating such situations will show strong problem-solving and organizational skills.

8. What’s your experience with preparing reports and presentations?

Candidates should describe their proficiency in using presentation software, such as Google Slides, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Prezi, along with spreadsheet apps like Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets, to compile data, prepare reports, and tailor their content to the audience’s needs. 

They might also mention their experience with gathering and analyzing data, as well as presenting findings to different levels of management.

9. How do you handle confidential information?

Look for candidates who understand the importance of discretion and maintaining confidentiality. They should mention specific practices like using secure file storage, password protection, and being mindful of privacy when discussing sensitive information in public or semi-public spaces.

10. Describe your experience with travel arrangements and event planning.

Candidates should provide examples that show their organizational skills, attention to detail, and ability to handle logistics. They might talk about coordinating travel itineraries, booking accommodations, managing event timelines, or adjusting arrangements based on travelers’ preferences. 

11. How do you approach learning a new software tool or technology?

This question assesses adaptability and eagerness to improve. 

The best candidates will demonstrate a proactive attitude towards learning new skills and software tools. Expect them to mention specific ways in which they improve their skill set, such as using online courses or tutorials, finding opportunities for hands-on practice, or seeking out others’ help. 

12. Describe a situation where you had to manage a project from start to finish. What was the outcome?

This question enables you to evaluate applicants’ project management skills. Look for answers that detail the way they’d approached planning, organization, and coordination with team members, and give specific information about the outcome of the project. For example, did they need to coordinate a large corporate event hosted at their organization’s office? Or did they lead a document digitization effort of scanning hundreds of hard copies of important files? Or perhaps they ordered new furniture for all meeting rooms? 

Examples should demonstrate strong problem-solving skills and the candidate’s ability to monitor progress and adjust plans as necessary.

13. Can you give an example of how you've dealt with a conflict among team members?

Examples will vary based on specific experiences, but candidates should show they can handle conflict diplomatically and constructively and focus on solutions rather than on differences.

Expect them to describe how they listened to all sides, facilitated dialogue, and helped find an acceptable middle ground. 

Successful conflict resolution is a hallmark of emotional intelligence, which is essential at the workplace.  

14. How would you handle a situation where you accidentally deleted an important email?

This question tests candidates’ integrity, accountability, and problem-solving abilities. 

Ideal responses will not only cover immediate steps they’d take to correct the mistake, such as attempting to recover the email or seeking IT support, but also how they’d communicate the mishap to relevant parties and the measures they’d take to avoid similar errors in the future. 

15. Can you explain how you would handle a task that you don't know how to complete?

A willingness to tackle challenges head-on is key, as is being smart about using available resources. 

Skilled admin assistants and secretaries should talk about breaking down the task to understand its components, researching possible solutions, and reaching out to others for help. 

The ability to acknowledge gaps in knowledge and ask for assistance is a plus and shows a commitment to personal growth – which is valuable for any team. 

16. How would you approach organizing a large corporate event?

Organizing a large corporate event involves meticulous planning, coordination, and execution. Candidates should discuss their methodical approach to ensuring the event is successful, including setting objectives, creating a budget, choosing a venue, coordinating with vendors, creating a timeline, inviting guests, and more. 

Experienced applicants might also mention that they would: 

  • Start planning early, because large events often require booking venues and vendors months in advance

  • Use project management tools like Trello, Asana, or Microsoft Project to keep track of tasks and deadlines

  • Send out engaging invitations to ensure strong attendance

  • Focus on the attendee experience and make sure every element enhances the overall experience for guests

17. Describe how you would handle a disagreement with a manager about a task or project.

Are candidates able to strike the right balance between respect for authority and a healthy dose of assertiveness?

Expect them to explain how they’d express their concerns, offer alternative suggestions, provide reasoned arguments, but also be willing to reach a compromise or follow directives if needed.

18. Your workload has doubled and you’re unable to cope. How do you decide which tasks to delegate and to whom?

Candidates who have strong self-awareness will know what their strengths and weaknesses are and understand that sometimes it’s best to ask for help or delegate tasks to others. 

They might talk about prioritizing tasks based on their urgency, importance, and complexity, as well as on their impact on the organization, and decide what to handle on their own and what to delegate. Deciding whom to ask for support should match others’ availability, skills, and the hierarchical structure of the organization. 

19. How do you approach setting goals for yourself and measuring your performance?

Expect candidates to explain that they: 

  • Set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals and discuss them with supervisors

  • Define ways in which they’d monitor their performance 

  • Review their progress regularly

  • Ask others for feedback and implement it 

20. What’s your strategy for dealing with unexpected visitors to the office?

Ideal answers will show flexibility with adherence to office protocols. Candidates might mention greeting visitors warmly, determining the purpose of the visit, and managing the situation by either accommodating the visitor or politely explaining pre-scheduling requirements.

Evaluate applicants’ ability to communicate clearly and effectively using professional etiquette with our Communication test.

25 extra interview questions you can ask secretaries

If you need more questions to assess candidates’ skills, here are 25 extra interview questions you can ask: 

  • How do you maintain accuracy when working on repetitive tasks?

  • How do you ensure confidentiality in your work?

  • Describe a time when you had to handle a difficult phone call.

  • How do you optimize admin processes?

  • How do you maintain accuracy and attention to detail in your work?

  • A manager asks you to urgently book a meeting room but you notice that all of them are already taken. What do you do?

  • How do you stay organized and keep track of tasks in a hectic office environment?

  • Can you discuss a time when you had to work closely with others to achieve a common goal?

  • An important client drops by and asks to meet your manager but you know they’re very busy at the moment. How do you handle the situation?

  • Describe a time when you had to learn a new system or process quickly. 

  • How do you approach making travel arrangements for a group of executives with different preferences?

  • Discuss a time when you had to take initiative to solve a problem.

  • How do you handle interruptions from others and still maintain your productivity?

  • What is your process for managing emails and correspondence for an executive?

  • How do you manage and organize files?

  • A team member is often late but you're the only one to notice. What do you do? 

  • A manager from another branch of the company asks you for information he's not authorized to access. How do you respond?

  • How would you rate your problem solving skills? How do you think your previous manager would rate them? 

  • How do you set clear expectations when working with multiple executives?

  • Are you more of a multitasker or a deep thinker?

  • How would you tackle an urgent request from a client that comes in right before the end of the workday? 

  • A task is taking much longer than expected and is impacting your productivity. What do you do?

  • Imagine you overhear a senior coworker make an inappropriate comment to a new hire. What would you do, if anything?

  • Have you made mistakes in the past that cost your company money? What happened and what did you learn from the situation?

  • Your manager is asking you to do something that they say should take only a few minutes but you know it’ll take a couple of hours. What do you do? 

Find a skilled secretary with the help of skills assessments and the right interview questions

There are more than 1 million office secretaries in the US – and if you take into account all remote or virtual secretaries, this number is likely much higher. 

Finding the right candidate from such a big pool can be a daunting and time-consuming task. This is where a skills-based approach to hiring becomes useful for screening multiple candidates at once and quickly identifying those who have the right abilities for the role – whom you can then interview to pick the right match. 

TestGorilla offers comprehensive skills assessments you can tailor to the specific requirements of each role. Sign up for a free demo to chat with one of our team members or check out our free trial to see how TestGorilla can help you find the best secretary for your organization.


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