If you are a Professional of any kind, hiring a great Office Administrator isn’t as easy as you think. To find the  proverbial Pepper Potts, you must be clear about what you wish for. We’ve hired a ton of Office Administrators in all kinds of professional offices, but in Professional Offices, there are truly no two Administrators the same because there are no two bosses the same. If you want to avoid frustration and turnover,  think about behaviors in addition to skills and setting so that you will know what it looks like when it is right.

You don’t know how much detail you need handled.

Let me ask you this: How detail-oriented are you? We all say that we want someone to handle detail for us. But if you are already highly detail-oriented, it could be that what you really need in your Administrator is someone to handle the interactive part of your job: phone calls, scheduling, calling vendors, and intersecting with clients, other employees, and departments. If you are detail challenged, by all means go for detail in a big way. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much detail is necessary in the job you are calling an Office Administrator? The answer is often in understanding your own behavioral strengths and hiring an Administrator who complements your weakness.

[Tweet theme=”basic-full”]If you want to avoid frustration and turnover, think about behaviors in addition to skills[/Tweet]

You are not giving assistance and support to your Administrator.

Have you ever made an Administrator cry? I am not condoning a(&%$#-ism or calling you one, either, but everyone wants support and feedback. However, some people have a tolerance for less support and some definitely thrive when there is more. If you are proud of being a loving, supportive supervisor, then be sure that the person you hire will thrive in that environment. If you are a cold fish, a hardliner, results-oriented, or just plain absent, make sure that you are hiring a person that also has some of these same traits and a tolerance for your methods. Think it through or face a ton of turnover.

Your Administrator needs a high level of interaction with you, your clients, customers, and coworkers.

Some people are “people people.” Some people are “systems people.” Sometimes a person is both, but rarely. Which do you want most, someone who is a “people person” and loves to talk and interact with others, or someone who handles detail and systems?  People who love people will find the opportunity for lots of interaction. If you don’t provide it, they will find it. Consider the Administrator who posts on Facebook all day or walks to another office and leans on the doorframe. If your job requires interaction with others, be sure you have a people person. If your job requires systems, get a systems person. Your ability to articulate this will save you mountains of grief. Prioritize before you fill your job.

You want your Administrator to make decisions on their own.

When we are hiring, we often imagine the perfect person: the one who finishes our sentences and knows just how we like our coffee, plane seat, and pillow. But let’s be clear, some people are comfortable making those decisions for you, while others are going to be happy with your insistence in making those choices. Lots of Office Administrators I’ve met complain that the boss supposedly wants them to think for themselves but then strips them of authority because the boss really wants to make those decisions. So which way is it? Decide up front. Hire someone who EITHER loves to think for you or who follows orders religiously.

You don’t want personal interaction with your Administrator.

Do you get frustrated when your Administrator is chatting? Do you get frustrated when you are giving instructions and she looks like she isn’t listening? Again, the amount of interaction each of us needs is relevant to getting the best Office Administrator. It takes an understanding of what you need and how to complement your own behavior. Need someone who listens, is interactive, and acts as your sounding board? Hire for it. If you need someone who processes data, handles routines, and creates systems, then don’t expect the former.

[Tweet theme=”basic-full”]Hire someone who EITHER loves to think for you or who follows orders religiously.[/Tweet]

You want your Administrator to report to you before taking action.

How much authority do you want them to have? Lots can go wrong when people in any job (but especially someone working as closely as an Office Administrator) aren’t clear about their level of authority. Are you just delegating work and expecting that they will check everything with you? Do they consult with you and then act? Do they act and then report to you? Or would you really like someone who will handle business without your intervention at all? Not only is it worth thinking about, it is mandatory that you communicate this simple desire with any employee whose success you are committed to.

Your Administrator is expected to work without supervision.

Not unlike needing your attention or the ability to make decisions, to be or not to be supervised is a critical distinction to make when hiring and working with an Office Administrator. This is at the root of the decision to have a virtual Administrator. The big question to ask yourself in term of supervision is this one: Does your Administrator only work for you, or would it be acceptable for them to be their own boss and have multiple clients? Let’s say you fill less than 40 weekly hours with one Administrator, and you don’t mind if they take other clients, then this will determine both the behavior profile and possibly the location of your Administrator. Even if your Administrator isn’t virtual or part-time, articulating this level of supervision will be critical to your job match.

You don’t know how much technical savvy your Administrator has.

We may say that we want a technically savvy Administrator, but what does that mean? If you hire someone who can build websites, write code, inspect your firewall, and stop a cyber security breach, then be sure that you have that work to do. If you hire someone to post articles, respond to social media, and host your webinars, then have that work ready. If you need someone who will pick up a phone and actually call the airline, and effectively sort your Outlook calendar, hire for that skill. You will create an unhappy employee if you tell them that they are going to put your bills into Quickbooks and then ask them to improve your SEO. Decide exactly which technical skills you need and then test them to be sure they have what you are looking for before you hire.

You want flexibility with your Administrator.

Fact: Some people love routine. Some people love to mix it up. What does your job require? If you are a mix-it-up person, you may really need someone who stays behind and handles what you would consider to be inane routine. But if you hire for routine, nothing will make that person happier than becoming the queen of your castle. On the other hand, you may need someone who can keep up with you and handle your unpredictability. If you are a routine person, you may need someone who can mix it up on your behalf, or it may unnerve you to work with too much variation. Hire for this behavior trait and make yourself much happier.

Your Administrator needs to understand the rules of your industry.

Let’s face it, Professionals have constraints. Does your Administrator need to know those constraints when they come through the door? You must decide whether to hire for behavior first or skills first. If you are looking for a skilled and experienced Administrator who already knows your trade, be clear—and be ready to pay for it, as it is valuable. Get your candidates to prove what they know by testing them so that you weed out those who claim to have industry skills but don’t. For many, available talent or the price may deter this hire. If this is true for you, hire for behavior first and teach industry rules. Whichever way you decide to go, you must still be clear about the successful behaviors of the position and assess your candidates before you hire.

Written and verbal communication are equally important to you.

Truly, a gift with words is a gift with words. But the written word and the oral word are remarkably different talents, and they indicate a different behavior style. Before you hire, decide if your Administrator will be writing more or talking more. Are they presenting publicly or helping you to speak publicly? Nothing will frustrate you more than having a brilliant writer who is terrified and mousy on the phone or running your board meeting. Conversely, few things are more frustrating than a magnetic charmer who everyone adores but whose note taking is incomprehensible. Prioritize the use of language and be happier in the long run.

You want your Administrator to handle pressure with urgency and calm.

What is best for you: urgency or calm? This isn’t as easy to answer as you may think. For most of us, we want people to react one way in some situations and another way in others. But people come pretty hard-wired, and this is a behavior to think about up front. Ask yourself this: How do you respond to pressure and deadlines? What would make your life better? Typically we suggest that you complement yourself. If you are a calm person, bring in some urgency to help with timelines and procrastination. If you are an urgent person, bring in a calming influence. However, your opposite will sometimes frustrate you. Is it worth that frustration, or will meeting calm with calm and urgency with urgency suit you better? Decide and hire appropriately.

[Tweet theme=”basic-full”]Create a job profile, test for the skills, and assess behavior style before you hire[/Tweet]

Your Administrator needs a tolerance for a high level of interruption.

Does the phone ring, the email box ding, while you are texting and coworkers are asking questions? Then your Administrator may need to have a high tolerance for interruption in their behavioral profile. Is your office quiet with just the tick-tick of the keyboard as reports are being compiled in an orderly fashion? Then a high level of steadiness and discretion is what is needed. Put in someone who loves the crazy place, and the quiet will unnerve them. Conversely, someone who needs quiet and concentration will not thrive in the crazy place. Profile the place, then profile the people.

What will save you time, money, and peace of mind? Create a job profile before you hire, test for the skills you need, and assess the candidates’ behavior style. We call this a behavioral job match. And it is critical to your happiness with an Office Administrator. More than you can ever imagine.


Ruth Schwartz

Ruth Schwartz is the author of "The Key to the Golden Handcuffs". She is a high performance business consultant and leadership coach. Connect with Ruth to participate in the conversation. Google+, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube .