Job-hunting tips for those in administrative fields

Question: I have noticed that most career articles, like the one you wrote for The Daily Herald, tend to give advice to people in the sales, money or marketing professions. What about those of us who work in the administrative field? We need help too!

I have extensive experience in administrative support and secretary positions for schools and offices. I want to make my resume and e-mails instantly impress prospective bosses, but after contacting so many employers, I know my documents are getting stale. Do you have any suggestions?

B., Everett

Answer: Yes, it’s true that sales, marketing and finance careers are ideally suited for career articles. Their daily challenges make great stories. Plus, people in these fields usually produce tangible achievements, such as dollar amounts or lists of prestigious clients to showcase on a resume.

But let’s face it. Administrative professionals are the backbone of every successful organization. You create and oversee the systems, processes and daily procedures that are essential to running a business and keeping it afloat. Your contributions may not include as many dollar signs and percentage points, but they are vital and should not be taken for granted.

Here is some advice to make hiring managers sit up and take notice:

Speak the right language. Different kinds of employers have distinct requirements for hiring qualified candidates. For example, schools often need hands-on assistants who can establish a friendly yet professional rapport with students, parents, teachers and board members. Corporations may seek out executive assistants with poise, exceptional multitasking abilities and sensitivity to confidential issues. Get to know the culture of the industry and organization you are targeting in your job search. Create documents that match.

Differentiate yourself. Too many administrative professionals get lost in the crowd by submitting boring, jack-of-all-trades resumes. Figure out what makes you stand out and highlight this information in your presentation. Try something like this: “Proven ability to represent a company to the media and public with composure, confidence and an eloquent speaking style.” Or this: “Demonstrated expertise balancing multiple projects, changing priorities and tough deadlines without missing a beat.”

Show your value. You don’t need to be a sales, marketing or finance specialist to add real value to an organization. Use your resume and letter to emphasize your ability to boost efficiency and cut costs.

Let’s say that a salesperson at your firm closed five new accounts in a week and brought in $100,000. Very impressive, right? In the same time frame, you revamped the entire filing system. No dollar signs. No new clients. But you simplified procedures (which saved money) and made the workday easier on personnel (which increased retention and therefore lowered hiring costs). These details can be just as striking to a hiring manager.

On your resume, you can phrase it like this: “Overhauled the company’s filing system to reduce manual processes for all departments. The effort dramatically improved operations by streamlining tasks and decreasing labor hours. Completed the morale-boosting in one week.”

One final note. In order to make an outstanding impression as an executive or administrative assistant, your documents must be impeccable. Create a flawless presentation with zero spelling errors. And use clear, concise statements to call attention to your communication skills. Good luck!

Contact Eve at

More in Herald Business Journal

Strange and wonderful creatures come through door of Bothell clinic

At Center for Bird and Exotic Animal Medicine, vets treat snakes, hedgehogs and even kangroos.

Glitches slow Boeing, SpaceX plans for human spaceflight

Boeing has an issue with its abort system that may cause the spacecraft to “tumble.”

Best foot forward: Ferndale company to make custom shoes easy

Long specializing in insoles, Superfeet is putting 3-D machines in stores to make customized shoes.

Planemaker joins forces with auto-industry supplier Adient

The new venture poses a threat to Zodiac Aerospace and Rockwell Collins

Alaska Airlines has selected destinations for new service from Paine Field. (Alaska Airlines)
Alaska Airlines will fly from Everett to 8 West Coast cities

Two destinations that didn’t make the list were Spokane and Hawaii.

Port of Everett CEO Les Reardanz has been called up and will be spending much of the year away from his office. He is going to Afghanistan. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Port of Everett CEO reporting for duty — in Afghanistan

Les Reardanz has been called to active duty with the Navy for an eight-month deployment.

Boeing opens new $17 million training center in Auburn

Workers and dignitaries marked the grand opening of the facility Monday.

Trump’s company fights efforts to shed the president’s name

“Our homes are worth more without the Trump name.”

Airbus floats shutdown of A380 superjumbo

The aircraft is so big that some airports had to expand runways to accommodate the 550-seat plane.

Most Read