Tips for Administrative Assistants – Resume, Cover Letter and Social Networking

by Sharon Elber

Administrative Assistant

The best administrative assistant jobs are highly competitive. In order to land an interview, you will need to make sure your resume, cover letter, and social networks are all working together to help you get noticed.

This guide will give you the tips you need to make sure you get noticed by hiring managers!

1) Scour the Job Advertisement

Each administrative or executive assistant position is unique and dependent on the type of support required in the role. For example, administrative work at a bank will require a totally different set of skills than at the corporate headquarters of a major retailer. Therefore, it is important to take your time with the job ad for each position you apply for and customize your application materials to emphasize your fit for that particular role.

Pay particular attention to the required and preferred qualifications. If you hold these qualifications, it is critical that they show up near the top of your resume, and near the top of each section. This way, as the hiring manager takes their first scan of the resumes submitted, yours will make the cut.

In addition, think about the likely needs of the employer that may not be explicitly stated in the job advertisement. For example, if you sense that your outstanding abilities to provide flexible, as needed, administrative support to various departments will fill an implicit need of the employer, include that information in your resume or cover letter.

2) The Extraneous Information

If you have been doing administrative work for several years or more, chances are you have developed a very long list of skills and proficiencies. However, they may not all be relevant to the job you are applying for. While it might seem like it would make you seem less qualified to drop these irrelevant skills, it actually has the opposite effect. Keeping your application materials focused on what the recruiter is looking for will help you make the strongest case that you are the top applicant for the job.

3) It’s All in the Details

While it goes without saying that a resume should be proofread, the standards for admin assistants is even higher than other jobs. Since your work will require a great deal of organization, attention to detail, and responsible representation of the company you work for, it is critical that your resume and cover letter are perfect down to every detail. A single typo or spelling error can be enough to land your application materials in the rejection pile.

Administrative Assistant Resumes

1) Resume Format for Administrative Assistants

Resume format refers to the different sections you decide to include and the order in which you place them. The key to deciding on the right format is a matter of deciding what will help you showcase your most important qualifications to the hiring manager. This means that you may have to use slightly different formats for different jobs.

For example, one position may require an associate degree in business, which you hold. Putting an education section before your work history in this case is your best bet. On the other hand, if you are applying to a job that does not require this “extra,” then your education section should probably come after your work experience section.

2) Resume Sections for Administrative Assistants

You do have a bit of wiggle room when deciding on what sections to use for your administrative assistant resume. As noted above, the real key is to organize the information in a way that conveys your strongest qualifications first, emphasizing your fit for each position you are applying to.

Here are some common sections to consider, followed by a detailed look at how to fill them out:

  • Name
  • Contact Information
  • Professional Summary
  • Summary of Skills
  • Education and Certifications
  • Work Experience

i) Professional Summary

About 10 years ago, many career experts encouraged job candidates to use an objective statement However, that is no longer recommended. Instead, consider a professional summary which allows you to craft a 2-3 sentence paragraph listing some of those attributes which make you a very strong candidate for the job you are applying for.

Imagine you are meeting the hiring manager for the first time and he/she asks you: “What makes you the best candidate for this job?” Pretend you have only 10 Seconds to answer this question. Now, having paid close attention to the job advertisement, craft an answer that puts your best foot forward.

Include your most relevant qualifications, accomplishments, and previous responsibilities that show you are ready to hit the ground running. If you can mention previous quantifiable results that demonstrate a key qualification, that is an excellent inclusion. In addition, if there is something about the job, such as a special interest in helping the clientele you will be working with, include that as well to let the employer know you are invested in the success of the company’s mission.

ii) Summary of Skills

A summary of skills section isn’t required, but sometimes it is the right move. For example, the job you are applying to may require specific technical proficiencies such as using data entry systems, cloud based scheduling programs, or specific tools such as Microsoft Office Suite. Or, the job advertisement may list specific transferable skills such as high levels of organization, multitasking, or written communication skills. Using a skills section makes sure the recruiter will see you have just what they need without having to wade through your work experience.

If you decide to use a Summary of Skills section on your administrative assistant resume, be sure that you group your skills into easy to skim sections such as technical and soft skills. Use a bullet list to keep this section easy to read.

iii) Work Experience

When writing about your work experience on your resume, always include your most recent job first, progressing backwards. Under each heading, use a bullet list to describe those responsibilities you held that will best showcase your fit in your new role. If you have outstanding past results that you can quantify, include those as well.

Use action verbs in the past tense to craft phrases that mirror the language of the job ad where possible. Try to avoid redundancy and keep your language brief, direct, and concise.

3) Resume Design for Administrative Assistants

Your design should be focused on making the information on your resume easy to read and skim. It should convey that you are an organized thinker who knows how to present your skills effectively since you may well be expected to craft presentations that will represent the company in a positive light.

Make sure your resume has a good balance between text and white space and conveys professionalism. Avoid strange fonts, more than a few coordinating colors, and heavy use of graphics. Keep it simple, elegant, and focused on showcasing your skills and qualifications rather than distracting design elements.

Administrative Assistant Cover Letters

The cover letter is your chance to really express your passion for the position as well as your most important qualifications and accomplishments that make you the strongest candidate for the job. It is an opportunity to tell your career story, hopefully framed in such a way as to position this job as the next logical step in your career journey.

1) Express Your Enthusiasm

One thing that you can do in your cover letter that is difficult to do in your resume is to emphasize the aspects of the job that you are most excited about. This can communicate to the hiring manager that you are going to be a motivated employee and an asset to the team.

2) Show That You Did Your Homework

Your admin assistant cover letter should demonstrate that you have done some research on the company including their mission, culture, and values. Ideally, you can position yourself as an ideal candidate by emphasizing your fit with these intangible qualities.

For example, the company may promote a high level of community engagement to build their visibility within the local area. You can mention your experience with community building for a nonprofit which will give you the skillset to act as an ambassador for the company and help to establish new connections with your extensive contacts in the area.

3) Don’t Look Desperate

One of the challenges when writing any cover letter is to find the balance between demonstrating some gratitude for the recruiter’s time, without giving up too much ground and coming off as desperate. On the other hand, you may worry about appearing braggadocious.

It is important to realize that the cover letter is your chance to tell the story that you have played an important role in your work in the past, are confident in your abilities, and know that you are the right candidate for the job. Emphasize that others have depended on you and that you always came through, exceeding expectations.

Something else that you may want to include in your cover letter is that you can quickly learn new technology and have a track record of keeping up with the latest tools in your areas of expertise. Emphasize a commitment to efficiency and smooth operations to show the employer that you will play a critical role in helping the office to run like a well-oiled machine.

Networking Tips for Administrative Assistants

While there are many ways to expand your professional network, one of the most powerful tools for administrative assistants is LinkedIn. It is an excellent site for increasing your online visibility, perfecting your personal brand, keeping up with the latest tools, learning about jobs, and establishing contacts with potential employers, recruiters, and the people who are working in each level of your dream career path.

However, if you are new to LinkedIn, or have had a profile on the site for a while but have not been very active, the job search is a good time to put more energy into using this powerful tool to build your professional network. Here are a few tips just for administrative assistants:

1) Complete Your Profile

Take advantage of all of the profile sections on LinkedIn to present a complete snapshot of where you have been, where you are now, and where you would like to go in your career.

Your headline and summary are the first things that most people visiting your page will see. Your headline has a 120 character limit. Use this very short space wisely to convey the key elements of your professional brand; in other words, your unique selling points. It should include your target job title, your strongest area(s) of expertise, and preferably an outstanding achievement to showcase your proven track record.

The summary can be as long as 2,000 characters. However, don’t feel like you have to use all of the space. If you can craft a succinct three short paragraph summary that is concise and direct, it will be more likely to be read and digested by recruiters who land on your page. Sometimes, less is more.

Many recruiters that use LinkedIn to search for top talent will be looking for specific skills. Make sure to take the time to fill out this section of your profile with an honest and comprehensive skills list or risk missing out on your dream job.

2) Engage Regularly

Your visibility on LinkedIn, as well as your ability to build your contacts through connections, is greatly enhanced by participating as often as once a day or a few times a week. Consider options such as answering a question in a group discussion about a tool that you use in your work or reposting an article posted by a colleague.

3) Recommendations

Connect with people with whom you have worked before on LinkedIn. If you had a positive working relationship with them, be sure to ask them to provide you with a recommendation. This can help showcase your skills, work ethic, and passion for the work to any potential hiring manager that comes across your profile.

4) Join Groups

One of the best ways to engage on LinkedIn is to make use of the groups feature to connect with other people that could be helpful in your job search. Connect with the major employers in your area, professional organizations such as the International Association of Administrative Professionals, as well as groups organized around the sector you want to work in such as real estate or finance.

The key to making the most of groups doesn’t stop with joining them. It includes regularly reading your feed, commenting on posts, initiating conversations, and connecting with people who share your professional interests.


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