Secretaries are often not given the credit they deserve, but they help keep things going smoothly and in many instances are the first impression a client or visitor will have of the boss, and by implication the whole company. So it’s important that you have the right man or woman for the job.
Do you need a receptionist, secretary or executive administrator?
First things first, let’s distinguish what position you need to fill. There are differences between a receptionist, secretary and executive assistant, though they might be subtle. A receptionist is responsible for the front desk where visitors check in, and answers and transfers in-coming calls. A receptionist might also do the most basic of office tasks.
A secretary is responsible for more specialised office tasks, which are generally related to a specific boss, rather than the whole office. These office tasks include typing and copying dictations, organising files, running errands, answering phone calls and making appointments.
An executive secretary is responsible for more than simple clerical tasks. For example, he or she may be required to arrange and accompany the boss to meetings and take notes, review memos, supervise other staff, draft correspondence or prepare statistical reports.
With a small business, there might be one person responsible for all these roles, in which case the names would be interchangeable. In larger businesses, however, all three of these employees might be present.
Qualities to look out for
A secretary generally needs some form of formal training. Look out for applicants who have attended secretary courses. This is because administrative work can get quite technical. Besides a certificate as evidence, make sure you find someone who is computer literate and comfortable with all the relevant programs.
One of the most important personal qualities you’ll need to look for is being organised. For instance, correspondence would need to be responded to immediately. A secretary will need to help organise someone else’s day, so if she is not organised herself, then that could have serious consequences.
A secretary also needs good people skills. There are certain interpersonal skills that a secretary can’t do without, because they will be interacting with the boss, employees, suppliers, clients and more. He needs to be able to communicate well, in person or by phone, be sensitive to interpersonal dynamics, and be able to manage conflict efficiently.
You also need someone who is professional and presentable at all times. Remember that first impressions count, and to a large extent your secretary might be responsible for that. Think of the impression you’d have of someone or their business if they had a secretary who couldn’t be bothered to greet you in a friendly manner, slouched at their desk, and chewed gum when they spoke to you.
While the tasks of a secretary may seem menial to some, they are vital to the successful operation of an office environment. So don’t underestimate the importance of getting the right person for the job and make sure you keep a lookout for the right qualities.