Clerical and Administrative Interview Questions

Are you in a role which is largely CLERICAL or ADMINISTRATIVE in its nature? Then these question and answer ideas should help.

You will need to change the examples given to tasks or activities within your work area but the way of presenting and answering will still apply.

Question areas.

Questions often ask about the TASKS you do and the way you achieve the outcome.

Tell me about the procedure you use to process invoices?
How are returned goods accounted for?
How would customer queries normally handled?
What mechanism is used to track customer complaints?

To answer these type of questions try to be specific -

I receive all invoices and code against the original job order. They are logged and batched to be signed off by the originator before I enter them on to the payments system. I've improved the system recently be setting up a reminder file on the company intranet which I use to speed up responses."

Some rules to apply.

Keep it short and simple - let them ask if they want more information.

Give a rounded answer, note the above takes ownership (I receive), gives process information (code, batched, entered) and shows how you've improved things (a reminder file on the company intranet which I use to speed up responses.")

Expect a follow up question such as "What other improvements have you made"

With the use of COMPUTER SYSTEMS and DATA INFORMATION you can expect task and knowledge questions in this area.

Tell me what you do if you have a network problem?
What access control systems do you have?
How did you learn to use you database system?
How accurate is your input?
What do you find most confusing about your systems?
Which proprietary systems do you use?
What is the difference between a web browser and say Outlook?
Which is the most common data entry error in your unit?

What normally goes wrong questions?

What errors occur within the customer booking system and how do you correct them?
What steps have you taken to ensure it doesn't happen frequently?
Which error are you most prone to make?
When your manager questions your work what is it most likely to be about?

Answer these in a short and simple way, explain the task and your company's system and how errors occur. Anticipate the next question by saying - of course I always find out who or why the problem occurred and take steps to prevent it.

Questions which ask you about your weaknesses or problems.

There are often questions asking you to identify where you make errors or your weaknesses. These are unfair questions but you need to be prepared for them. Don't just say I'm perfect - nobody is. So answer the question, again simple and short works best.

What is your biggest weakness at work?
If I spoke to your current boss what would he say your weakness was?
What would your colleagues tell me if I asked them to say how you most annoyed them?

Don't be flippant and say milk chocolate but choose something which can be also be good. What about - My boss thinks I spend too long sorting out other peoples' problems but if the customer comes to me first I feel responsible. OR "I do get angry when I see colleagues not delivering good customer service - my body language gets quite strong."

The questions about errors in the previous section also fall into this section as well so in this case use "what I've learned" in your answer.

"When I first started I did make errors in getting the codes right so I asked if I could take the list home and I spent a weekend learning the codes and importantly the location indicators - so I'm pretty hot on it now"

Questions about work relationships.

In most jobs you interact with a range of people, your boss, fellow workers, suppliers and importantly customers. What questions might you get in this area?

What do you think customers most want from you?
How do you build relationships with your colleagues?
When you fall out with a colleague what is it usually about?
Tell me about an argument you had that left you really angry?
Describe to me the best boss you've ever had? ---- then expect why?
Describe to me the worst boss you've ever had? --then expect why / what did they do?
What do you think illustrates that a team is working well?
What do you contribute to the team?
How would you react if the team asked you to work in a way you disagreed with?

Questions about YOU and your motivation Why did you apply for the job?
What most attracted you when you saw the advertisement?
How have you developed your career and what is your goal?
Why did you apply for jib x or job y in the past?
Tell me about your favourite hobby / pastime?
Which job do you most regret having done? - follow up Why?
Which job do you most regret not having got? - follow up why?
What would be your dream job? - Why?
How important is money to you?
What do people do if they want to always get the best out of you?
Tell me about the proudest moment in your life - follow up Why/your feelings?
Tell me about the proudest moment in your work - follow up Why/your feelings?

Interviewers see questions like these are a way of finding out about you. They don't require any knowledge of their job / company other than that already provided, so you should be able to excel. People however struggle, perhaps because of lack of preparation but more likely because they feel there is more to the question than there really is.

You must prepare but treat the question for what it is and think about what the interviewer is trying to find out. Take the question "Why did you apply for the job?" there could be a range of answers here but remember to include words which involve the job / company applied for, that are positive.

"I've learnt a lot in my current role but I need new challenges and your job seems just right and the company has a good reputation."

With this type of question keep it short but make it powerful. What about -

"How have you developed your career and what is your goal?" A very fair question to ask but how could you answer?

"I left college with only a general idea of a career but my first job involved lots of customer contact and I found I really excelled in understanding the customers' concerns. This lead to me instructing other staff, I've now been trained as a Trainer and your role as a Call Centre supervisor would be a great next move."

How important is money to you?

The money question can occur in a number of ways, during the salary discussion at the end of an interview or as a more probing question like above. When it comes as a motivational probe like here think about how your answer will be perceived. Is the job in an area where dedication is put above money, for example nursing in the Charity Sector or an on the road salesman where each sales representative has a turnover target and linked reward? You need to tune your answer accordingly.

"I primarily work in Nursing because of my need to help people and to see them healed but like everyone I do need sufficient money to live and I do need to feel I'm valued and fairly rewarded."

"I've always worked in jobs where companies define performance in terms of sales margins and where performance is rewarded accordingly, so in this respect money is an important indicator of success, but it does have to be balanced with other company objectives."