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How do you make sure a candidate really has the admin skills necessary for the job?

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Question: “What are the right questions to ask candidates during interviews for administrative aide positions to find out whether they have the technical skills necessary for the job? During the interview, I try to get a good feel of their abilities to perform a specific job. Most claim they have the skills, but when tested, fail or fall well below the expected scale.” — Jonnie Barkley


Our company tests before interviewing and then only interviews truly qualified candidates.

Our Vacancy Announcement lists the following: "Performance samples will be requested from applicants selected for interview. These will include (1) producing a letter with Microsoft Word, (2) developing a flyer in Microsoft Publisher" [or a spreadsheet in Excel, etc - dependent upon what the position requires.] The length of time to complete the tasks are also noted and used in making the final recommendation.

I would suggest giving real situations of projects or putting out fires and ask how they would handle the situation. For projects have them give an overview of steps they would take. For emergencies you could ask them to give you examples of past incidents that they handled well.

I agree with Freda. Ask program or task specific questions. For example (if looking for beginner Advanced skills): "Describe a word document you had to format. Did you use the Styles and Formatting task pane or Auto format...?" If they have a confused look on their face, you have your answer. If you're still not sure, then ask them to format a letter or design a page while their in the office as part of the interview. Give them a time limit.

Many staffing agencies offer skills testing. At our agency, we take the top 10-12 resumes, arrange for testing for those people, and interview the top five or six testers. This way you know they have the skills before you even interview them.

I found that testing applicant prior to the interview is the best method. It can add another step to the process but in the long run it certainly weeds out the applicants who do not meet the skill levels required of the position.

I agree with gamehen and Ellen. We always test prior to bringing anyone in for an interview. It definitely weeds out those who do not qualify.

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