Employers Looking for Top-Notch Soft Skills in Front Office

Phone operator wearing headset
Front office staff such as receptionists, administrative aides, file clerks and secretaries are currently in high demand, as companies take full advantage of the contributions of these roles to the overall success of the organization. The job outlook for receptionist positions, for instance, is projected to grow 10 percent between 2014 and 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

So what should employers look for when recruiting office and clerical staff? Are there specific tactics they should be employing to make sure they’re hiring the right person for the job?

Screen for soft skills
“Soft skills are ever-critical when hiring office staff. In many cases, they’re nearly as important as hard skills,” notes Michael Allen, Aerotek manager of divisional services. “Because of this, most employers are actively screening for soft skills.”

Although definitions of soft skills vary, CareerBuilder notes that employers are chiefly looking for six core competencies:

  1. Communication
  2. Active listening
  3. Problem-solving
  4. Collaborative teamwork
  5. Multitasking
  6. Resilience
Because the front office can be such a visible representation of the company, Allen says, it’s also important that workers present a warm and professional environment to any visitors.

Increased awareness of the importance of soft skills, Allen adds, means additional scrutiny on one benchmark area of candidate screening – job references.

Contacting past employers
“References are incredibly important when you’re validating a candidate’s soft skills,” says Allen. Combined with first-hand impressions gleaned through the interview process, speaking to previous supervisors allows you to ask specific questions that will provide insight into important issues:

  • How a candidate handled difficult situations at a previous job
  • How their skills stack up against what they list on their resumes
  • How well they work with others
“Someone who has come from a company where he or she reported to just one person may be challenged if a new job includes multiple supervisors assigning tasks on a regular basis,” says Allen. “How a candidate handles conflicting demands, prioritizes the workload and integrates into the team dynamic will give the interviewer insight into how successful that candidate is likely to be.”

Importance of market-rate wages
Once you’ve identified the right candidate for the job, make sure you know what other employers are paying for the same caliber of talent. Increased competition for top talent in these positions is reflected in higher wages across industries for these office and clerical roles, and competitive pay is essential to attracting top talent.

“What you paid three years ago doesn’t translate,” says Allen. “It helps to know what other companies are paying for the same skills sets to ensure you aren’t missing out.”

Employers who are looking specifically for candidates who have specialized skills and experience in systems such as enterprise resource planning software (ERP) or Systems Applications Products (SAP) may pay a premium for those skills. To cast the widest net, hiring managers may find it advantageous to hire more entry-level staff and train them in the required programs once they’re onboard.

As employers increasingly invest in all public-facing aspects of their company’s brand, they’re putting more emphasis on front office staff members. By carefully assessing a candidates hard and soft skills, rigorously checking references and ensuring competitive pay, you’ll position yourself well to secure the talent you need to help your business succeed.

Want to learn more about hiring for office and clerical positions? Contact Aerotek now.