Businesses rely on office administrative (admin) staff to keep operations running smoothly. These professionals use various hard and soft skills, such as technical software expertise and time management, to help workplaces function optimally. But because of the variety of tasks office staff manage, it can be challenging to pinpoint what you must do to excel in this line of work.
Whether you’re looking to enhance your resume or start an exciting new job, you likely already have many transferable skills employers looking for office staff require. You might just need to cultivate one or two additional office skills to prove you’re qualified.
What are office skills?
Office skills are basic competencies that admin team members possess to help a business function and flourish, like document organization and effective communication.
Admin professionals use these skills to effectively manage tasks, like providing daily support to other employees, keeping the workplace organized, and ensuring business-critical information is accessible and accurate.
Admin roles that typically require comprehensive office skills include:
In addition to their behind-the-scenes work, admin professionals are often an organization’s public face if they have an in-person office, being the first point of contact for potential and existing clients or job applicants.
Top 10 office skills
Job hunting requires showcasing a wide variety of skills. And the job market is tightening for many office roles — customer service roles are declining, as are secretary and admin assistant positions — so effectively demonstrating these competencies is crucial to securing a job.
While the following in-demand skills are invaluable regardless of your field, they’re indispensable when launching a successful office admin career:
Computer and technical literacy: Nowadays, most office tasks are computer-based. Become familiar with office applications like Google Docs or Microsoft Office products such as Word, Excel, and Outlook.
Other nice-to-have technical know-how includes PowerPoint for presentations or bookkeeping applications like QuickBooks.
Customer/coworker service: For both client-facing and internal roles, helping others solve problems with patience, empathy, and a positive attitude contributes to positive relationships throughout the workplace.
Organization and scheduling: Office admins maintain order in the workplace. If applying for an office admin position, you need to be able to locate information in minutes, align meetings with everyone’s busy agenda, and maintain a schedule of events so no one misses an appointment or deadline.
Being familiar with online applications that supplement your organizational skills is also valuable.
Communication skills: Offices rely on various means of communication, whether dealing with a client inquiry via email, answering phones and returning messages, or responding to an in-person request. You should interpret and communicate verbal and nonverbal messages across all scenarios skillfully.
Adaptability: An office is an ever-changing environment, and your employer will expect you to keep up. Whether it’s a new computer application or a change in priorities, you’ll get through challenges successfully if you can quickly adapt without getting flustered or frustrated.
Problem-solving: Unexpected situations often arise in an office, and you must deal with them independently. You should be able to quickly evaluate a problem, develop and assess options, and choose the best solution.
Data entry: Keeping documentation updated using information tracking software or spreadsheets is typically an office admin’s job. Customer details, payment records, and inventory require regular, fast, and accurate updates.
Time management: As an office admin, managing competing priorities is a typical part of the job. Understand how to manage your time to meet expectations while being flexible enough to shift in case another task suddenly takes precedence.
Collaboration and accountability: Teamwork is essential to office work. Your coworkers depend on you, so you must know when and how to support them. Demonstrating reliability and dependability are vital interpersonal skills that will help you keep the workplace operating smoothly.
Attention to detail: Office admins are detail-oriented. Their work should be error-free since they’re often the last set of eyes reviewing content before it’s made public. Top-notch editing and fact-checking skills are key.
Hard office skills versus soft office skills
When reviewing a job description, employers often request a mix of hard and soft skills. Both are equally valuable and contribute to career success, but how do you categorize your qualifications correctly?
The difference lies in acquisition and application.
Hard office skills
Hard skills form explicit knowledge that allows you to perform your job well. These qualifications are usually technical in nature and industry-specific. You typically develop them through training, education, and on-the-job experience.
Here are some hard office skills examples:
Soft office skills
Soft skills are a bit vaguer. People usually classify these qualifications as personality traits or tacit knowledge developed through life experience rather than formal education.
This skill set influences how you do your job, like whether you work independently or in a group. Your soft skills offer care and connection to an office environment, ensuring everyone enjoys a positive and functional workplace.
A few examples of soft office skills include:
One advantage of developing your repertoire of soft skills is that, unlike most hard skills, they’re easily transferable between industries. These important skills serve you equally well if you remain in office admin until retirement or eventually change careers.
Improving your office skills
While these skills are essential to admins and clerical staff, anyone can benefit from adding office skills to their list of qualifications. Here are a few tips to help you improve your work performance by upgrading your office skills:
- Take an online course: You can find online training in almost any subject. Crash courses in computer skills are a great way to update your software application knowledge, and taking a workshop to develop your communication skills is invaluable, no matter your career path.
- Incorporate work habits into your daily life: If you want to improve your office skills, practice them at home. Improve your organizational skills by creating a filing system for your bills, warranties, and other house-related paperwork. Or work on your Microsoft Office skills by using Excel to make your grocery list.
How to highlight your office skills in your resume
The average corporate job receives approximately 250 applications, so you must make your resume stand out from competitors. Here are some tips to help you highlight your office skills and catch a recruiter’s eye.
Review the job posting and note any keywords used. Then, incorporate these terms into the skills descriptions on your resume.
If you’re applying for an executive assistant role, for example, and a listed qualification is timeliness, and this is a skill you excel in, use this same term when describing your experience. When the hiring manager views your application, they’ll quickly pick out this language and see you match their outlined qualifications.
Many companies use applicant tracking systems to simplify recruitment efforts. This software sifts through resumes, indexing them and sending documents with the right terms forward in the application process.
By incorporating keywords into the skills listed on your resume, the software will recognize your qualifications as a match for the job.
Spotlight soft skills
If you lack some of the experience or hard skills requested by the employer, apply anyway, choosing a resume type that highlights your soft skills. Employers often prioritize interpersonal skills over technical ones because the latter is easier to teach.
You can enroll an employee in a course about Google Sheets, for example, but teaching them to collaborate effectively takes more time and a situation-based experience.
Because office admin roles are often the backbone of a company, use real-world examples in your cover letter and resume to convince recruiters you’d be an asset to their team. Many staff will interact with you daily, so a hiring manager wants to know you’re personable, reliable, and trustworthy.
When describing your experience, share specifics like how you organized team meetings so everyone felt heard or that you enjoyed managing after-work events like corporate parties because you like helping different departments connect.
Office skills are life skills
Admin professionals are jacks of all trades. The main goal is to keep a workplace running smoothly, and that involves everything from document organization to conflict resolution.
Now that you know some of the most sought-after office skills, you can improve on any weaknesses to stand out from the competition and excel in this hands-on field.