Administrative Skills: Definition and Examples

Updated 23 November 2022

Applicants to administrative fields are often confronted with ever-changing requirements. Increasing digitalisation and implementation of new technologies set the stage for newer and more advanced administrative skills. It's no surprise that administrative professionals now are required to perform a variety of different tasks. In this article, we explore what administrative skills are and why they're important, and how you can learn and improve them.

What are administrative skills?

Administrative skills are required to complete actions related to the management and running of a business. This could mean duties such as filing, meeting visitors and stakeholders, answering telephone enquiries, inputting data and compiling documents or presentations.

Administrative jobs are not limited to any industry or field and are omnipresent in the job market. Depending on the industry and field of work, the administrative skills required also vary.

Examples of administrative skills

Written and oral communication

To be a successful administrator, you should be proficient in both written and verbal communication. Administrative assistants are often responsible for handling telephone calls and emails, and the ability to manage company correspondence professionally and quickly is the hallmark of a good administrator. Administrative assistants are in constant contact with both customers and clients, and so should be able to respond quickly to enquiries. In addition, the role requires you to be good at expressing yourself in a polite and cordial manner. Administrative assistants should be articulate and able to convey messages clearly and purposefully.

Discretion and confidentiality

Perhaps the most crucial administrative skill is discretion because this is how you develop a trusting relationship with others. As an administrative assistant, you will gain unparalleled insights into the present and future actions of your company and customers. For example, you may be the first to know when layoffs are coming, or you may be responsible for setting up important meetings.

If you work in accounting, you might find out about losses and red figures in the company's finances before others in the company are made privy to this information. All this information is highly confidential and your actions need to indicate to the company that you can be trusted to keep it to yourself. Some companies make administrative assistants sign a confidentiality agreement before taking up a position to ensure that sensitive information remains secret.

Computer literacy

For an administrative assistant, a computer is one of the best and most useful tools to use. You will be expected to create spreadsheets, type e-mails, and/or write documentation, and thus, you should be familiar with commonly used software. In addition to this, some companies may also require social media management skills or knowledge of content management systems and statistics programs, so it's best to have a cursory knowledge of these programs too.

Related: A guide to the benefits of visitor management systems (VMS)

Organisational skills

Administrative work can sometimes require balancing a large number of tasks with tight deadlines. One minute, you are composing a text, when an urgent client e-mail arrives, and then the phone rings enquiring about another urgent matter. Therefore, multitasking is an important administrative skill. In addition to promptly responding to queries, you will also be expected to coordinate appointments, which requires a high level of time management and organisational skills.

Related: What Are Organisational Skills? (Types and Examples)

Records and document management

The process of records management includes the archiving, administration, and control of digital and/or written documents. These days, most documents are developed and stored in an electronic format. This is advantageous in that these documents can be found and used instantly, regardless of location. It also ensures transparency, thus avoiding long processing times and constantly growing paper archives. Sometimes, the requirement of easy storage and accessibility prompts the need for digitisation of company documents. Digital management of documents is done through document management systems (DMS). As an administrative assistant, you should be proficient in using these systems.


Employees who spend a large part of the day in front of the computer, especially those who are confronted with repetitive tasks, sometimes find it difficult to maintain concentration for long periods of time. However, this skill is essential for you to be able to complete your tasks flawlessly and deliver results while meeting deadlines. As an administrative assistant, you should therefore constantly ensure that you're at peak productivity and concentration levels.

Regular breaks between work, sufficient sleep, and keeping your body hydrated are also tools to help maintain concentration. Furthermore, you should ensure that you avoid distractions during working hours, by muting your private smartphone and blocking out the surroundings in case you work in a noisy workplace.

Research skills

Today, the internet offers access to an infinite pool of answers and solutions almost instantaneously, making it an excellent source of information. However, this is a two-edged sword since this overabundance of information can make it quite difficult to filter out the right sources and distinguish fake news from genuine information. Anyone applying to work in administration therefore should have the ability to research and find the desired information in a targeted manner, and to critically evaluate the results.

The competent use of search engines to find relevant information is just as much a part of your research skills as an effective search strategy and the assessment of the quality of the results.

Related: Research Skills: Definition and Examples

Customer orientation

In some administrative assistant roles, such as reception and secretarial roles, you will deal with Add Comment different types of people every day. To maintain a good and cordial relationship with them, it's important to respond to their individual needs and to maintain a constant dialogue with them. This requires a certain degree of empathy for their situations, in addition to strong communication skills.

You should also be able to deal confidently with customers who might choose to be difficult, by not allowing yourself to be provoked and by not taking complaints personally. Instead, show understanding and always choose your words carefully so that conversations with customers can end on a positive note.


As mentioned earlier, a huge part of administration is dealing with recurring and repetitive tasks regularly. For you to still be able to do your work effectively and enjoy it over time, a certain amount of self-motivation is essential. This can be achieved by setting goals and breaking down your tasks into smaller steps. This will help you in keeping your eye on the ball and provide the opportunity to motivate yourself through small awards when you reach these self-set goals.

Related: How to Overcome No Motivation to Work With Causes and Steps

Tips for improving your administrative skills

  • Keep training. Explore your options for training within your company or consider asking your employer whether they can sponsor your participation in external training that's relevant to your role. By keeping on top of the trends, you can keep your administrative skills sharp and current.

  • Join a mentorship programme. If your company has a mentorship programme, consider joining and choosing a mentor who can help you sharpen your administrative skills. If your company doesn't have this option, consider searching for external mentorship opportunities by contacting someone who you feel you could learn a lot from.

  • Do volunteer work. To diversify your administrative skill set, look into opportunities as a volunteer. Taking on a role in another industry helps you utilise different administrative skills that you may not need to use in your current field.

Which jobs need administrative skills?

Administrative skills are needed in many, if not all, career fields and are in both the public and private sectors. Here are some of the job roles requiring administrative skills:

  • Administrator

  • Administrative assistant

  • Secretary

  • Receptionists

  • Executive assistant

Ways to highlight your administrative skills to employers

If you are planning to apply for an administrative position, you should know the best ways to highlight your administrative skills in your cover letter, your CV and during an interview. Here are some strategies you can use:

  • Write a clear CV. Make sure that you tailor your skills that you list to be specific to the job posting to make them more relevant to the company. Also, it's not enough to simply string together your qualifications – include examples of where and when you acquired these qualifications, how you used them and what those opportunities taught you.

  • Use keywords. These days, employers and recruiters use software designed to scan thousands of CVs to find the most suitable candidates by detecting keywords. This narrows down the search with a click of a button, making the recruitment process easier for recruiters. However, applicants need to know how to work this to their advantage. So, scan the job profile for the words that appear most often and are most relevant to administration work, and be sure to include these in your CV.

  • Proofread your CV. Be sure to check your application for typos and grammatical errors before sending it. Considering that the administrative field requires written expression and attention to detail, your application should be 100% error free.


  • CV Format Guide: Examples and Tips

  • 7 best CV writing services to consider (with key benefits)

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