Interesting... I'm interviewing candidates for an administrative assistant position later this week. Hmm...
The best advice I can give you is that you have no reason to be nervous. Your interviewer is simply a person like you who happens to be looking for "the right person" to fill an open position. In general, I look for experience, evidence that the person can multi-task, and professional behavior.
With experience, you either have it or you don't, but many more people have it than realize. For instance, if you've worked anywhere that has required you to deal with the general public, then you have experience handling inquiries, acting as a go-between when needed, and meeting deadlines. So think about what you've done, and try to boil down the points to their generalities. ...not specifics, but the fundamental aspects of your past responsibilities.
Multi-tasking: Ideally, you should have *evidence* or examples of this, rather than simply saying that you can multi-task. So be prepared to give examples of managing different, conflicting responsibilities, and how you handled them. It's a necessity in an academic institution, so be prepared for this.
Professional Behavior: This is obviously important... AdminAssts are often the face of the office they represent. So this means that they have to treat everyone with the utmost respect. For example, address professors with the title "Dr." or "Professor" (if they don't have an earned doctorate). You probably won't know which is more appropriate at first, so go with Professor initially. If some one tells you to call them "Dave" or something, then that's fine. Call him "Dave" when speaking *to* him, but when speaking to some one else *about* him, he goes back to being "Dr." The reason is simple... the other person doesn't know that you and Dave are on informal terms... The same is true when talking with students of course. Professional behavior is also about dressing appropriately (conservative in clothing and jewelery), but you'll do fine there I'm sure.
As to that all important question, "Tell me a little about yourself..." The best you can do here is to simply tell them about yourself. When I'm hiring, I see these folks as people I'll be working with very closely over the coming years. So I *really* want to know something about them. ...to see if I'll get along with them in the office, if they'll be okay when things get tense, etc. So if your family is important to you, then tell the interviewer that you're the mother of two kids (or whatever), been married for X years, etc. If you rock climb every weekend, then tell them that. After a few personal bits, tell them about your work habits (detail oriented, big picture oriented, etc.), how you handle difficulties at the office, etc. ...whatever you think characterizes you at work.
One last tip... Ask questions about the *JOB* when at the interview. You know... When are the busy times of year? What's important to the interviewer to have in their assistant? Can you tell me what a typical day in the office is like? ...those sorts of things. Don't ask about vacation days, sick leave policy, or benefits. Most of the time this info will be volunteered to you. If not, you'll get a chance to ask some one in HR before you actually accept the job. Your interviewer may not know many of these details, so they don't want to be put on the spot for info they don't know.
Don't sweat it. If you don't give them the exact info they want, they'll ask. So relax and just treat it as a two-way interview where you're trying to see if you match well with the place also. You'll do fine. Good luck!!!
Answered By: Dr. Evol - 8/14/2007