The following exercises help you assess the skills of Office Manager candidates during your hiring process. Feel free to modify any Office Manager skills assessment for your needs.
What do office managers do?
Office managers oversee workspaces, ensuring an efficient and productive work environment for your team. For this reason, they are often called happiness managers or vibe managers. They mostly work independently but occasionally consult with senior executives and provide administrative support. They’re the keepers of your company office’s keys, credit card, supply cabinet and any other resources employees need to do their jobs. They also manage the General & Administrative (G&A) department budget.
Office managers have a wide range of responsibilities, from liaising with vendors (e.g. facility management, catering) to booking travel, planning activities and preparing reports. Because of all these duties, they must know your operational and administrative procedures inside and out and possess the following soft skills:
- Organizational skills: Office managers need to juggle many tasks, like organizing meetings and planning in-house or off-site activities. Strong organizational skills are critical for completing all these tasks properly.
- Communication skills: Office managers must be excellent communicators as they must liaise with staff, suppliers, clients and visitors. Both verbal and written eloquence are important and the ability to build rapport helps office managers work more effectively.
- Problem solving skills: Office managers will face several unforeseen issues during the day. It is important that they can think quick without panicking and find the most mutually satisfying solution.
- Time management skills: Office managers need to hand in accurate and timely reports and run errands. For these reasons, they should be able to plan their day and schedule their to-do list properly.
- Software use skills: Office managers use a wide range of software to complete important duties, like managing budgets, preparing letters and presentations and coordinating with the IT department on office equipment. This means they must be tech-savvy and quick to learn using new software.
Ways to test administrative assistant skills in interviews
To test the skills of office managers, use questions and exercises inspired from real-life scenarios that could come up in the day-to-day work of office managers. Ask candidates to provide an answer or solution and a short explanation of their thinking process. Most of the questions don’t have one right answer, but how candidates approach each problem matters. Here are a few exercises to test the most important office manager skills:
1. Organizational skills assessment
An overseas business partner is coming to your office for a meeting with your CEO. This partner has never met your CEO and has never been to the city or your office. Please write a sample meeting confirmation email you would send them. You can include all the information that you believe they need to have a pleasant stay. What would you add if your CEO instructed you to go the extra mile for their arrangements?
What to look for: Candidates should show proactiveness by sending an email including accurate and complete information (e.g. proper spellings and links), suggesting the easiest transportation routes, best restaurants and noteworthy sightseeing and entertainment options. Ideal candidates would ask this business partner if they have any dietary specifications (e.g. vegetarian, no sugar diet) or if they need special accommodations. Strong candidates would go the extra mile and suggest including a calendar invitation that includes a link to your office address and contact details.
Red flags: Inaccurate or incomplete information, like the wrong time zones and lack of useful links, is a red flag. Also, candidates who would neglect to open a dialogue by asking about the partner’s needs may not be well-suited for this position.
Imagine you have the following tasks to complete today. Explain how you would prioritize them and why:
- Reply to an employee in the company’s messaging app who is asking you about the conference tickets she needs to have today (since the conference is tomorrow).
- Restock the office’s medical kit.
- Welcome the marketing candidate for their face-to-face interview.
- Book tickets and hotel for six employees going to an important and popular conference in Amsterdam next week – there are not many seats left.
- Book tickets/hotel for the CEO’s business trip next week.
- Seek three offers for our Christmas party, which is taking place on the 23rd and is a rather busy day for corporate events in the specific venues we are targeting.
- Order business cards for a VP who is leaving next week to a sales conference and needs to have them ready in three days.
- Order marketing collateral and two roll-up banners which need to be printed and shipped by next week for an event we are sponsoring.
What to look for: An experienced office manager will know what criteria are more important. For example, the medical kit should be near the top of the list, since safety comes first. Great candidates should demonstrate the ability to prioritize tasks based on urgency too. For example, they should book the conference trip before the CEO’s trip, since tickets and accommodation related to a well-known conference tend to disappear very quickly.
Red flags: A lack of prioritization skills should immediately disqualify a candidate. Also, trying to do everything at the same time or seeming to want to “please the boss” before anyone else are bad omens, as are being unaccommodating or panicking.
2. Communication skills assessment
Imagine it’s your first day with us and our CEO receives an email from a vendor who wants to meet and present their services. They mention they have been referred by a professional contact. You don’t know how close this contact is to your CEO but you believe your VP of Sales could meet the vendor in the CEO’s place. However, both your CEO and your VP of Sales are on a business trip and not reachable. How would you handle this? Please include the text of your potential email(s).
What to look for: Here you should check first for diplomacy and politeness. A competent office manager wouldn’t go directly to the CEO but they would try to determine who is the next suitable person to address this issue. Look for candidates who wouldn’t give out too much information – like disclosing the fact that both the CEO and the VP of Sales are away. Candidates should ask the appropriate questions to help the vendor to the extent they can. Depending on the vendors’ answers, candidate should provide correct guidance on how, when and whom to contact.
Red flags: A good office manager must be assertive and discreet. Candidates who resort to dismissive answers, like “sorry, I don’t know, they’re all away,” or give out too much information on their executives’ trip details, purpose or returning dates, may not be qualified for the role.
Next Thursday you’re celebrating your company’s 4th birthday. Your company has a few too many employees to be able to talk over dinner so people have suggested drinks and light snacks. Make a suggestion for a place and time and explain what special preparations you’d make.
What to look for: A competent office manager will show creativity and proactiveness. They will show they understand the concept of the event (whether corporate or more informal), mention that they would chase the best offers from vendors, correctly calculate the costs (including unexpected over-budgeting), draft the invitation and send transportation options and routes.
Red flags: Over-budgeting happens often, but your office manager candidate should show they are willing to put in the work to get the best offers and negotiate. Another red flag would be putting too much of a personal touch on the event (e.g. only playing country music because that’s the office manager’s preference.) A corporate event must be well-balanced in terms of music, food, location and theme
3. Problem solving skills
Some people in the office have complained that they don’t have enough healthy options for snacks. How would you handle this issue and how would you develop suggestions for healthier snacks?
What to look for: An experienced office manager would do some research before making decisions. They should poll colleagues by sending out a survey, research snacks that have ingredients that could help during working hours (energy, concentration, stress-relief) and make an effort to accommodate most needs. Thorough research of vendors will also result in the best financial decision as well.
Red flags: Office manager candidates who would opt for buying the most expensive or popular snacks, or buying everyone what they ask for, might not possess enough negotiation skills or assertiveness.
4. Time management skills assessment
Our CEO has to cancel a meeting with a visitor in the last minute. The guest is a very busy person and you know it’ll take more than one working day to get a reply from their secretary and, due to a time zone difference, you may get a tentative reply. You need to reschedule quickly and you only have tentative slots from your CEO. Tell us how you would handle this and feel free to include the potential email(s) you would send.
What to look for: This exercise reveals an office manager’s ability to be flexible, punctual, think quickly and follow up. They should make sure they check all possible communication channels in order to get the message delivered in a timely manner.
Red flags: Candidates who appear stressed out with the question and say they would send more emails than necessary wouldn’t handle this situation well. Also, neglecting to follow up is a red flag.
5. Software use skills assessment
You are in Athens and need to arrange a meeting between your CEO who is in Boston and a business partner in San Francisco. Please draft the Google Calendar invitation and take a screenshot.
What to look for: Good candidates for this role would take into account the different time zones and schedule appropriately. They should also mention they are including the correct location links and email addresses (including the executives’ personal assistants).
Red flags: Failing to pay attention to time zones is a red flag. Creating an email with incorrect information (e.g. links or email addresses) and forgetting to include PAs, are also problematic.
The formula =SUM(B4:F4) in cell G4 is copied down the Total column. If I delete the values in the range B4:F11, how will this affect the formulas in the Total column?
What to look for: There’s one correct answer to this question. Each total amount of each product in column G will be reduced by the respective amount in column B.
This Office Manager skills assessment was written by Eleni Kostopoulou, IWA’s Office Manager.