5 Surprising Things that Job-Seeking Office Workers Should Know

woman in office setting wearing a telephone headset

Administrative and clerical support makes the world go ʼround.

Clerks and administrative assistants make offices run smoothly in every single industry. They answer calls and emails, keep track of schedules, file paperwork and keep everything organized.

Millions of Americans do these jobs. If you’re one of them, what do you need to know to get the best job possible?

We asked Mike Allen, a veteran Aerotek manager who has years of experience in this field.

If you’re looking for a new job, his advice might surprise you: Not only should you brush up on your Microsoft Excel skills, but you should also perform a credit check on yourself.

Seriously. Here are five important things you should know as you search for a job.

1. A wide-open field of jobs

The clerical/admin field includes at least a dozen different job titles: file clerks, data entry clerks, receptionists, administrative assistants and executive assistants, among others.

And there are a lot of these jobs. American companies employ nearly 4 million secretaries and administrative assistants, 3 million general office clerks and 1.5 million data entry clerks, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Every company and organization needs them,” said Allen, who is Manager of Divisional Operations for Aerotek’s Professional Services wing. “Even though there’s a lot of different job titles, a lot of their functions are similar to each other in some way, shape or form.”

2. What skills do you need, and how will you be tested on them?

To set yourself up for success, you’ll need a combination of “hard” and “soft” skills, Allen says.

Hard Skills: You must be able to type quickly and accurately. And, realistically, you’ll need to show mastery of the most widely used Microsoft Office programs, particularly the word processing program Microsoft Word and the spreadsheet program Microsoft Excel.

Be ready to prove it, too. More and more employers are using online tests of these skills to weed out ill-suited job applicants.

“We’re seeing more pre-employment assessments being given than ever,” Allen said. “We’re seeing a lot more Microsoft Office testing and data entry testing. If you can’t functionally navigate through Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel, that’s probably a red flag.”

If you’re not confident using these programs, take the time to study up. Free tutorials are available online. Free typing tutorials are available, too.

Soft Skills: “How well do you multitask?” Allen asked. “How well do you work with other people in the office? How well can you handle the pressure, day in and day out, of reporting to an executive vice president?

“In these administrative support roles, you touch so many different levels and departments. You’ll need to get to know and work with all those different personalities, and there’s some difficulty with that.”

Be prepared to address this in a job interview. Can you provide a real-world example of how well you’ve handled multitasking?

3. Employers need someone they can trust

Besides requiring you to take skills tests, more and more employers are also performing personality assessments and credit checks on job candidates. Administrative and clerical support is often the glue keeping organizations together, and operating smoothly. Companies want people they can trust and are able to adapt to different personality types.

“We’re seeing more credit checks than we ever have,” Allen said. “It’s far more common than it was five years ago.”

Why is that? Potential employers will look at your credit history to gauge your trustworthiness and responsibility. This is especially likely if you’re applying for a job where you’d handle money, balance books, or have access to the private company or consumer information.

Consider taking the following steps:

Check your credit. The three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — are each required to give you a free credit report once a year. You can get all three at once through the federally authorized website Annual Credit Report.

Dispute errors. One out of every five credit reports contains an error, according to a study by the Federal Trade Commission. If you find a mistake, file a dispute with the appropriate credit bureau. You can do this online for free by submitting information on the disputes page for Equifax, Experian or TransUnion.

Improve your credit. Paying bills on time and maintaining a low balance on credit cards will raise your credit score. Free services like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame can offer you more personalized recommendations on improving your score.

4. If you want a great job, don’t be a job hopper

Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for workers to jump from job to job. But the best employers see that as a turnoff.

“The job candidates that have stronger work histories as far as the duration of their employment within their organizations — they’re really, really sought after,” Allen said. “The candidates that have changed jobs three to four times a year for a quarter pay raise at different organizations — they’re not going to have the same opportunities.”

5. How should you prepare for an interview, and how can Aerotek help?

Aerotek can match you to a job that suits you, and we can give you a real advantage in the interview process. Our recruiters know what expectations an employer has for a particular position when it comes to both “hard” and “soft” skills.

“The candidates that are prepared to go in and win an interview from both a ‘hard skill’ and a ‘soft skill’ perspective are those that I’m seeing get jobs at a higher rate,” Allen said. “But if you go on 10 to 15 different interviews and treat each interview as if it’s the same, you’re running the risk of sounding like multiple other candidates.

“If you can explain how you can impact their culture positively as well as do the job well, you can win the interview.”

Now is the time to visit our job board to find your next great opportunity. Create a free career account today to customize your search. Upload your resume and customize your job search based on your skills and interests. Finally, consider contacting an expert career advisor. Our recruiters are available to provide advice that you can use.