By Margot Carmichael Lester
Monster Contributing Writer
Interviewers often ask challenging, sometimes unexpected questions of admins to see how well candidates respond under pressure and think on their feet. After all, those are skills admins use every day in a busy office and on high-stakes projects.
Some are off the wall, like this question, lobbed at Mary Herrington during her interview for an admin position: “What would you do if I threw this crystal ashtray at your head?" Herrington, now a business consultant, was taken aback. “I looked at him and replied: ‘You'd pray you didn't hit me, because I would sue the pants off you, own this company and then fire you without any compensation,’” she says. “He laughed so hard. I was offered the job on the spot and began the next day.”
But other than keeping you on your toes, what are interviewers for admin positions
looking to find out by asking these questions? Besides looking for an employee who can follow direction and be loyal to the company, it seems most employers are seeking out a workforce who can think on their feet, have a decent amount of self-esteem without being pompous, and who can be independent.
To help you prepare for your next admin interview, here are some challenging commonly asked questions and suggestions for how to answer them:
Why Do You Suppose Manhole Covers Are Round?
When Erik Lars Myers was asked this question during an interview for an admin position, he wasn’t sure what to think. “The first thing I said was, ‘Can you repeat that?’” he says.
That request bought Myers some valuable time to puzzle out an answer. “I said, ‘So they don't fall in?’ which, incidentally, is the correct answer,” he says. “It was the only reasonable thing I could come up with.”
This question is asked to test problem-solving skills, which come in handy when the network goes down and your boss is hounding you for a report.
How Do I Rate as an Interviewer?
You definitely want to find some positives to share. Tell them what they did well, and turn any negatives into positives. For example, “I wasn't expecting question x, but you really made me think about why that is important to me.”
Your response shows your ability to be diplomatic as well as your willingness to speak truth to power. These are valuable skills for a trusted admin.
Why Should You Get This Position?
The most important aspect here is to go with your gut and not force an answer. Relay your qualifications
and outline the positions you have previously held. Don’t just tell them you are smart – show them.
This question allows interviewers to see how you react when put on the spot, which happens to admins all the time, and how confident you are in your abilities.
Who Do You Admire Most and Why?
The “why” is typically much more important than the “whom,” so identify someone who has qualities you admire and clearly articulate the specific reasons you respect that person. Avoid someone who could be controversial, if at all possible.
With more businesses focusing on culture and fit, this question allows interviewers to see if your values mesh with the company’s.
What Are Your 5 Favorite Movies?
Angela Watson was interviewing for an administrative support/graphics position with a regional restaurant chain when she got this question. “To show you how paranoid I was, I think I picked something like Schindler's List, Wayne's World, The Big Chill, Silence of the Lambs and Harold & Maude,” she recalls. “I was trying to cover all the bases without being too terribly esoteric.”
More Answering Strategy
If, after all your preparation, you don’t have an answer, acknowledge you weren't expecting that question and ask for a minute to think about it. This is more about thinking on your feet than having a brilliant answer. so don’t ask to skip the question or fail to answer it in any way. That’s much more negative than a lame answer.