10 Essential Office Manager Interview Questions and Answers
Behind every successful office is an expert office manager—the face of the company, well rounded and well versed in a variety of areas and skills. Since the job is so broad, it can be overwhelming to prepare for an interview; a good office manager knows a little bit of everything. Fortunately, we’ve done the heavy lifting for you and put together this list of the top 10 office manager interview questions and answers.
- What is your understanding of the office manager role?
- How do you keep yourself organized when dealing with multiple tasks and requests?
- In your opinion, what are the key personal strengths of an office manager?
- What office management software are you familiar with?
- Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult client.
- Which office manager duties do you enjoy most and least?
- How do you manage confidential information?
- Do you work well in a team environment?
- Have you applied to any other job opportunities?
- What sets you apart from other candidates that we’re interviewing for this position?
Office managers do a lot of different things. This question is meant to test your understanding of the role and the skills needed to succeed in it. Prior to your interview, be sure to study the job description. It will tell you what this particular company expects of an office manager, and you can tailor your response accordingly.
“An office manager is a Jack-of-all-trades, responsible for ensuring that the office runs smoothly. While specific tasks vary from office to office, office manager responsibilities often include supporting and monitoring staff performance, composing documents, invoicing, basic accounting, communicating with clients, managing office supplies, and providing executive support.”
An office manager needs superlative organizational skills to keep the office, other people, and themselves on track. You’ll often be fielding requests from multiple people and departments on a daily basis. To answer this question, highlight your organizational and time management skills, as well as your ability to stay calm under pressure. Share how you keep track of your many tasks (and their respective deadlines) and how you separate the less-important tasks from the urgent ones.
“I pride myself on staying organized, and my number one trick is to keep a log of every incoming request. In addition to a paper to-do list, I use Trello, a list-making application, to make my lists online and update them from anywhere. When I have a big project, I break it into smaller, more manageable parts and work through each component. I also set reminders, and alarms, on my calendar to make sure I don’t forget anything. If I’m ever overwhelmed, I simply speak to the various stakeholders to assess which projects are high-priority and which can be pushed back.”
In addition to understanding what an office manager does, you should understand what type of person is most likely to succeed in the role. While plenty of jobs consider certain social and communication skills “nice to have,” an office manager should be a soft-skills master with a sparkling personality. Look for keywords in the job description, and then remind the interviewer that you have all those must-have strengths in spades.
“An office manager should be very personable and positive, as they’ll be collaborating with coworkers, managers, and, often, clients. Because of that, they should also have great communication skills. Attention to detail and the ability to problem-solve are also key. Finally, a great office manager needs to be a strong leader, as they often manage support staff and act as an office mediator. I’m excited to bring all of these strengths to the role.”
As an office manager, your to-do list will be miles long and always changing. Office management software can make your life much easier, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with popular options before the interview. In addition to knowing Microsoft Office Suite like the back of your hand, you should learn the basics of a couple of other popular project management tools. If you can figure out what your potential employer uses in advance, all the better. If not, assure them that you’re a fast learner.
“I’ve been using Microsoft Office Suite for the past 10 years, including Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. I use Google docs to share documents, and I use Asana to manage my daily tasks and ongoing projects. Finally, I use Slack to communicate with teams on a day-to-day basis. I love learning new technology so I can be even more efficient.”
You won’t be able to please everyone, and that’s okay. Your interviewer is looking for confirmation that you’ll be able to handle yourself, without compromising the business, when a challenging situation arises. For a strong response, use the STAR method to describe a specific example of when you previously dealt with a challenging customer. In telling your story, briefly describe the negative part of the situation, and then concentrate on the resolution and positive outcome.
“In my last position, a client came into the office and told me he had an appointment with one of the managers. I politely asked him if he had the right date and time, as his appointment wasn’t on the calendar. He became very frustrated, very quickly, and I was worried that it would impact our business with him. Since that manager was out of town, I brought the client tea and asked him to have a seat. Then, I found another manager who was available, and asked her to meet with the client and take careful notes. The client calmed down, the meeting went well, and I forwarded the notes to the other manager, so that he could take over with ease when he was back in the office. I find that empathy and calm are the most important traits when dealing with a difficult client interaction.”
Every job has its positives and negatives, and this question tests your individual preferences and your honesty. In your response, focus on the positive. When you discuss what you least enjoy, highlight a duty that is not a core job function. Then, focus on how you’re working to make that task less stressful and more enjoyable.
“I really enjoy working in a busy office and interacting with different people all day long. I love helping employees work together in a more productive way by implementing helpful processes. Additionally, I find the challenge of meeting tight deadlines and navigating conflicting schedules to be a fun exercise in problem-solving. That being said, I find it stressful when things are disorganized. So, if I see someone who needs some help in that area, I’ll step in and offer my assistance.”
Office managers have access to a lot of private information, including executive schedules, client contracts, and employee files. Your answer should reassure the interviewer that you appreciate the sensitivity of confidential information. If you’ve handled confidential information in the past, let the interviewer know.
“Having worked on student records in the Office of Student Life, I’m well versed in protecting confidential information. I always keep it locked-up or password-protected, and I clear my desk of all paperwork, particularly confidential files, any time I’m away. I would not give out personal or private information to anyone unless the appropriate individual had authorized it in advance. Even if the person requesting the information insisted, I would not give it out—though I would try to verify their authorization, if at all possible.”
As an office manager, you need to be a team player. You’ll likely be supervising a team of other administrators to effectively manage office needs. To answer this question effectively, provide an example of how you’ve successfully worked on a team in the past. Key skills to highlight include delegation and communication.
“Yes, I love working as part of a team. Brainstorming with other people is inspiring; it’s how I do my best work. Additionally, I’ve found that having a close-knit team is crucial during busy or stressful periods. My approach to managing others would be based on trust, delegating work based on everyone’s strengths and interests. I find that keeps the team happy and engaged in their work.”
Your interviewer likely expects that you’ve applied to other jobs. The key to answering this question is to be honest, but make the interviewer feel like their company is your number one choice. Be as specific as you can to show that you’ve done your research.
“Yes, I’m actively pursuing a few different opportunities. However, working for your company is my first choice, based on the office culture and your professional development opportunities. Additionally, I’ve heard great things about the company from a friend who works in marketing here.”
This is your chance to make a great final impression, so let yourself shine. Take this opportunity to sell your interviewer on why they should select you over anyone else. Highlight some of your personal strengths, relevant work experience, or awards and accolades that you didn’t previously get to cover. Here’s how to sell yourself:
“If you select me as office manager, I’ll be able to hit the ground running, thanks to my three years of hands-on experience. I’m an extrovert through and through, so I have great people skills and can quickly build rapport with almost anyone. Having volunteered across a variety of community organizations, I’ll be able to adjust to the office environment quickly and work well with a diverse group of people. Additionally, I have my own blog, so I’ve honed my writing and design skills, which will be very useful in this role.”
Leave office politics behind by preparing your own answers to these 10 office manager interview questions in advance. Before your first interview, be sure to review our interview prep page. Then, let your friendly personality shine through!