Five Tips for Hiring an Office Manager
An office manager can take on a wide variety of responsibilities depending on the type and size of the company, but the bottom line is that he or she ensures the office runs smoothly and deals with the day-to-day supervision of employees. In other words, you want someone reliable, trustworthy, and adaptable. There are a few common threads that make for a stellar office manager – read on for the skills and hallmarks to look out for when hiring.
While communication is key to any job, it’s especially crucial for an office manager. From explaining assignments to discussing ideas with employees to corresponding with clients and resolving conflicts, the manager has to use effective communication on a daily basis. And the manager sets the tone for the overall group dynamics, so in order for the company to run smoothly, these skills are a must.
Look for experience working with teams and in office settings, and ask for examples of situations that required clear communication and teamwork. In addition, pay close attention during interviews. Listening is a central element of effective interaction – how is the applicant paying attention and responding? How clearly is he or she answering questions and explaining himself/herself? An interview isn’t necessarily the be-all-end-all, but it’s a good litmus test to see how an applicant interacts and conveys ideas.
2. Organization and attention to detail
Every workplace has a host of minutiae going on at any given time, and avoiding chaos is the manager’s job. Keeping the staff on track and meeting deadlines, arranging meetings, ordering supplies and maintaining facilities; spotting and solving problems – a manager’s task list requires a great deal of organization and attention to detail. An ability to multitask and balance different responsibilities is also essential.
But how do you tell who’s actually up to the duty? Some of this can be gleaned from previous experience and responsibilities. The other option is to simply ask. What’s their organization method? How would they deal with X (situation)? The more specific and realistic, the better. A winning candidate should be able to set a game plan or at least come up with ideas for how he or she would handle the issue.
3. Leadership and interpersonal skills
As the job title indicates, one of the key functions of an office manager is administering the staff. Unsurprisingly, then, a top-notch manager needs to have excellent leadership and interpersonal skills. The best indicator of this is previous experience, so look for past roles managing teams/employees, and ask for examples of initiative and ability to direct others.
You want someone who can keep a cool head, maintain order and efficiency yet also inspire and motivate, and be perceptive enough to identify individual and group dynamics and coordinate a team to work at its full potential. Another good technique is to pose hypothetical situations – a conflict or an issue with an employee, for example – and ask how a candidate would approach the instance. This requires some imagination from all parties, but it will help give you an idea of how a candidate might fit into and enhance the company.
4. An analytic and problem-solving approach
However it may seem, an office manager is not a babysitter. His or her job is not only to oversee the workplace but also to constantly evaluate and improve the workflow and operations. This calls for acute analytical and problem-solving skills, for everything from managing a budget to fixing gaps in staff communication. Once again, your best bet for determining these traits is likely presenting potential circumstances – or better yet, actual areas that need improvement.
How would a candidate cut costs in a certain area? How would he or she improve staff coordination or deal with a crisis such as a computer malfunction? Keep an eye out for a willingness to truly study problems (see point No. 2 about attention to detail), as well as strong decision-making skills and an ability to handle stressful occasions.
5. Relevant experience
The last point is pretty straightforward, and easily gleaned from a resumé. Although a business administration degree can be helpful, there’s no specific education or degree to qualify one for an office manager role. However, there are some areas of experience and expertise that are highly beneficial. Previous office or secretarial experience is a big one, and customer service experience can also be helpful (especially for a consumer-based company).
Strong writing skills are a must, vital for creating reports and correspondence, as is knowledge of software such as Microsoft Office. Newly hired managers will likely need to be trained in company systems, and you can decide if there’s any industry-specific software applicants need to be familiar with, but candidates should come in with these basics already in hand.
Office manager isn’t necessarily an easy position to define, occupy, or hire for, but it fills many crucial functions. And if you want an efficient and efficacious company, it’s worth taking the time and effort to hire a candidate who checks all the boxes.