Superhero Business WomanI’m likely dating myself, but I still remember when the work content of most admins  fell into just three simple buckets  –  managing  the bosses calendar,  preparing and managing the bosses communications to others,  answering phones/triaging callers.  When PACE took a request to find an administrative assistant, it was a matter of knowing how many bosses the admin would support, the software package used in their department,  if they needed to take notes at board meetings, or prepare financial reports.  Know those things and you had the profile.

Most admin job candidates were female.  Winning candidates were most often selected because of their “executive polish”, their ability to be loyal,  and, of course, their record of handling confidential material discretely.

That day is long gone.

Today, the requests we get for Administrative Assistant or Executive Assistant roles are just as detailed as any request for someone to fill a professional or managerial role.    The recruit for the right admin is more like an executive search than a recruiting assignment.

Today’s admins still support specific executives, but they also support the teams of people who report to those executives.  Their daily work and skill requirements are highly specialized, with each opening distinctively unique.  And the candidates for EA and AA roles are just as likely to be male as female.

Changes in Admin Work Content

The actual work content – what admins do – has evolved significantly over the last decade.   With more and more managers and executives using technology to do some admin tasks on their own, the work of many admins no longer is about supporting the work of others, but doing important work on their own.

Most are:

The specifics of work content are almost never cookie cutter, but customized to meet the specific needs of specific departments.

An admin who supports a sales department, for example, will often play a key role in assembling the data for a sales projections, calculating  and approving bonuses for the sales staff, interfacing with existing and prospective clients at some point in the sales or service process.

Healthcare admins are required to have a working -knowledge of the complex regulatory requirements facing the healthcare industry, and need to be comfortable interfacing with internal and external stakeholders who touch the regulatory, financial, IT and marketing elements of healthcare.

When “good communications” is listed as a screening requirement for an AA or EA, what is typically referenced is the ability to speak the “inside language’ of a wide range of people who come in contact with their team.  It is no longer good enough to clean up the communications of others, as most admins handle  a variety of communication channels on their own.  Many write newsletters, prepare proposals, conduct meetings, and dispatch delicate information diplomatically – all without the specific direction of the senior members of their team.

Hiring Admins Who “Fit”    

As a direct result of the upgrade in work content, the candidate selection process has become much more specific.  Each job has its own profile, a unique combination of work content and candidate requirements.  To find the EA or AA candidate who is the right fit for a specific department, your recruiter needs to know a lot about what the person will be doing .

At PACE, we prefer to gather up this information first hand by talking with the incumbent admin directly. It is in those meetings that we typically update an outdated job description with information important to focusing our search on the right fit.

-What will the person be doing – daily, weekly, or monthly?

-What is the prevailing leadership style?  How does the team work together?

-What are the typical challenges this position will face?  How are they best dealt with?

-What type of projects or assignments are reoccurring?  What project management methodologies are most frequently used?

-Does the person need to supervise the work of others – either formally or informally?  If yes, at what level – do they hire, fire, and  administer performance reviews?

*Avoiding generalities and assumptions about the specifics of the admin role is critical to placement success.

Screening candidates based on work experience or education level is common place, but has its pitfalls.

Even highly experienced EAs who have been wilding successful in some work environments, may not be successful in other work settings.

Nor is someone highly experienced always the best fit when compared to a less experienced but more talented and flexible counterpart.

Experience in the same or similar industry is typically a plus in the short term, but in the long term may not play out as the best choice.

Specific skill or talent assessments are often needed if the candidate must have a certain level of technical skills to do the work.  We are finding that in today’s marketplace, AA or EA admins are expected to have fairly advanced and specialized computer skills.  Almost all AA and EA jobs require high level expertise with Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint, but some roles also require knowledge in desktop publishing, or even graphic design.  Agility with project management software is also becoming a more commonplace requirement.  Some admins in first responder roles (i.e. providing technical support to others on their team) often need solid understanding of computer operations, networks, and application software.

Any time specific skills are important to an admin role, we suggest that candidate finalists be tested before they’re hired.

What you pay for your Admin depends on the experience level you require – how much expertise and savvy you need right out of the gate.   

If the work requirements are complex and you want your admin to be up and running quickly, brace yourself for pay rates that are likely to be more than you anticipated.  While most temporary roles pay slightly higher than a permanent role, in the local marketplace, we are placing experienced Admins in jobs that pay anywhere from $32 to $65/hr.  For direct hires, the annual pay rates range from  $65K up, with $65 being the price you’ll pay for a high potential admin without a track record to verify their talent.

Admin Pay and Career Advancement

For employees considering a career in admin, the potential for increasing your pay and advancing your career, is good. It would not be uncommon for an admin looking to upgrade their role and level of responsibility to get a 10-15% pay increase as a result of a job change.

For employers, while eliminating turnover amongst your admin team is almost never possible, if you provide your admins with an opportunity to move up in terms of pay and responsibility, your chances of retaining them for several years is good.  By nature of their role, admin staff are loyal to their teams, and won’t make a job change unless their current job is stifling their development. .

An interesting observation is that during periods where employers need to cut back on their staffing commitments, their talented and productive admins are often not subject to lay offs, particularly if they are able to move into roles once held by other members of their team.


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The PACE Staffing Network has been placing talented admin professionals for other 40 years in a variety of temporary or direct hire roles.  If you need to add to or replace a member of your admin team, we’d like to connect.  We can provide specific information on the local marketplace – the availability and competitive pay roles for the type of candidate you want to hire.  We’ll also help you create the candidate profile that best matches actual job content.

For a personal consult call our Partnership Development team at 425-637-3312or email us at




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