Administrative Assistant's and Secretary's Handbook

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  • Edition: 3rd
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2008-04-09
  • Publisher: Amacom Books
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This updated third edition of the successful handbook for administrators includes new photos, current shipping information, and updated tables and content on software and technology. Chapters and topics have also been added that cover time and stress management, dealing with computer problems, electronic records management, communication skills and more.

Author Biography

James Stroman (Dallas, TX) has worked as an executive assistant to an army general, a governor, and the owner of an NFL football team.

Kevin Wilson (Acworth, GA) is Vice President of Videologies, Inc., a company that specializes in training administrative professionals in Fortune 500 companies.

Jennifer Wauson (Atlanta, GA) is President of Videologies, Inc.

Table of Contents

General Proceduresp. 1
Overview for the New Administrative Assistantp. 3
Daily Routinep. 7
Telephone Usagep. 18
Mail Services and Shippingp. 33
Travel Arrangementsp. 56
Meetingsp. 77
Time Managementp. 90
Keeping Accurate Recordsp. 94
Office Equipment and Computersp. 101
Office Machinesp. 103
Telecommunications Equipmentp. 11
Computer Hardwarep. 121
Computer Softwarep. 135
Database Managementp. 154
Computer Networkingp. 159
Emailp. 165
Using the Internetp. 186
Web Conferencingp. 198
Spreadsheet Softwarep. 206
Data Securityp. 212
Keyboarding Skillsp. 219
Word Processingp. 224
Desktop Publishingp. 232
Using PowerPointp. 248
Troubleshooting Computer Programsp. 265
Office Ergonomicsp. 278
Glossary of Computer Termsp. 287
Business Documentsp. 307
The Business Letterp. 309
Other Written Communicationsp. 331
Forms of Addressp. 343
Legal Documents and Termsp. 361
Language Usagep. 375
Grammarp. 377
Language Usage and Stylep. 403
Common English Usage Problemsp. 419
Spellingp. 437
Pronunciationp. 458
Punctuationp. 463
Numeralsp. 478
Financial Activitiesp. 489
Bookkeeping and Accountingp. 491
Business Taxesp. 504
Bankingp. 508
Special Business and Financial Information for the Small Business Administrative Assistantp. 521
Weights and Measuresp. 530
Career Advancementp. 537
Your Futurep. 539
Presentation Skillsp. 546
Communications Skillsp. 552
Office Management and Supervisionp. 558
Indexp. 565
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.




As an administrative assistant, you are hired to relieve your busy employer of a great deal of work, especially the details of office procedure and other matters that do not require your employer’s personal involvement. You’ll act as a liaison between your boss and the rest of the company. Sometimes you’ll act as a buffer. Depending on the size of the com¬pany, you may also be called on to perform tasks normally outside the secretarial role in sales, banking, billing, payroll, accounting, advertising, public relations, purchasing, and more. Everything you do for your employer must duplicate as closely as possible what he or she would do if not absorbed in work that couldn’t be delegated.

Every businessperson dreams of having the perfect administrative assistant, and every administrative assistant dreams of having the perfect boss. Hopefully, you and your boss will become so well adjusted to each other that you’ll work as a team, each trusting the other to carry part of the load in harmony.


It’s helpful to know what an employer expects of a “perfect administrative assistant” so that you can present yourself at your best during both the job interview and those criti¬cal first weeks on the job. Here are a few of the most important qualities:

 Punctuality. An employer wants an administrative assistant who is consistently punc¬tual and always on hand during office hours. An administrative assistant who contin¬ually arrives even a few minutes late or who is ill frequently can cause havoc in a busy office. The employer knows from experience that such an administrative assistant may not be truly interested in the work. This person will be passed over or terminated in favor of someone with greater respect for the job—an administrative assistant who is always punctual and always there when needed.

 Dependability. An employer considers the applicant’s disposition and personality, try¬ing to judge whether he or she is dependable. For example, would the candidate rush home at precisely 5 p.m. despite an office crisis, or would he or she take enough responsibility to volunteer to remain after hours if an emergency arises?

 Ability to learn. An employer wants to know the extent of the applicant’s education— not only formal programs and degrees but also self-instruction and single courses. This information indicates the applicant’s willingness and capacity for learning. For example, an employer may hope that you know the specific computer software the company already uses, but he or she may not be too concerned if you aren’t familiar with it if you show the potential to learn quickly.

 Willingness to follow instructions. An employer wants a candidate who follows instructions carefully and willingly. Of course, a good administrative assistant soon takes initiative and performs certain tasks differently to save time or improve results. But the administrative assistant who always demands complete control may ultimate¬ly become unwilling to follow instructions, debating or questioning every one of the boss’s directives. Though intelligent input from an administrative assistant is prized, an employer usually prefers not to argue points that he or she has already decided. The employer is concerned with more important matters than explaining all the reasons for pursuing a particular policy. Therefore, the employer looks for an administrative assis¬tant who will execute a decision no matter how many alternatives may seem obvious, or no matter what a former boss did in the same situation. In other words, the employ¬er wants someone whose personality will be an asset rather than a handicap.

 Loyalty and confidentiality. Although these qualities are impossible to discover dur¬ing an interview alone, every boss wants his or her administrative assistant to possess them. In an office, there is nothing more unwelcome than the “human sieve” who con¬stantly chatters about every conversation heard, spreads idle rumors like wildfire, and must constantly be screened from confidential projects and information. No matter how efficient, how educated, and how experienced that administrative assistant is, his or her employment will be short-lived.

 And something else. A keen employer wants more in a prospective administrative assistant than these general qualifications. During an extended interview, the employ¬er is looking for quick-wittedness, flexibility, commitment to work, a certain quality and level of conversation, and a sense of courtesy. This last attribute is essential in establishing cordial relations with clients and fellow employees.


During your interview, it is wise to be as relaxed as possible despite a natural tendency to be nervous. Appear on time, of course, and be well groomed and neatly dressed; oth¬erwise, the appointment may be canceled at the receptionist’s desk.

If you try too hard to sell yourself, you’ll make a poor impression. Allow the employ¬er to form his or her own first impression. After all, he or she knows what kind of admin¬istrative assistant is needed and, in addition, may prefer to work with a certain type of person. If you’re not what the employer wants, it’s better for both of you that another applicant be chosen.

During an interview, the employer may try to see where your attention is focused, asking such questions as how many sick days you used on your previous jobs and how many outside activities you engage in. Previous sick days can and will be checked, so don’t lie. If you have many outside interests, mention only those that in some way con¬tribute to your job, such as night courses or professional associations. You don’t want to give the impression that you’re “too busy” to work.

If you receive a job offer, the salary may be less than what you think you’re worth. There’s often a discrepancy between what we’d like to make and what we can make. Job applicants fresh from school, in particular, may feel this way until they become more familiar with what the market is actually paying. Before refusing a position on the basis of salary alone, first be sure you know what the salaries are for comparable secretarial and administrative assistant positions in your area and for someone with your education and experience. Then find out whether you’ll be eligible for a raise after a short period of probation. Finally, consider whether the position has opportunities for increased responsibility and advancement. While it may not seem true to you right now as a job applicant, a big salary is rarely more important than professional satisfaction.


Even if you are already well experienced, once you have a new position, you must be prepared to serve an apprenticeship with your new employer. Your past experience may be useful only in that it has taught you to learn quickly and to evaluate new situations. At your new office, there may be a different method for almost every daily procedure, even for distributing and opening the mail. No doubt, there will be a filing system you haven’t used elsewhere. You may be asked to use letter formats, paragraphing, punctua¬tion, and abbreviations that were vetoed by a previous employer.

You may also discover that your new boss has an extensive vocabulary with many words you’ll need to learn, or just the reverse—a poor vocabulary that needs your assis¬tance. Will your new boss wish you to type a letter exactly as dictated, or do you have permission to “add to and take from”? Or will the boss furnish only the essentials of what he or she wishes to convey and request that you put the letter together in proper form yourself?

Your need to be flexible extends to the computer system in the new office. You may find many differences between the hardware and software you used in school or at a past job and what you must use now. Even an updated version of the same software package may have a different user interface and functions. You need to familiarize yourself with the new computer and software, even if it means staying after work to read the manual and to experiment.

Stimulated by your brand new environment and your past experience, you may find yourself coming up with dozens of ideas and suggestions within your first few weeks on the job. When you have a suggestion to offer, remember that it may very well have been made before and rejected for excellent reasons. When one of your ideas is refused, don’t take it personally. Soon, after you’re more familiar with the company and its operations, you’ll be able to make a better suggestion. At the same time, don’t be reluctant to give input freely when the boss asks for it.

A new employee’s overeagerness to offer advice, recommend changes, and carry over methods from old jobs may just disguise a need to be recognized for his or her capa¬bility. In this situation, the best way to prove yourself is to do your best, learn quickly, follow instructions accurately and intelligently, and cooperate with fellow employees. Show consideration for others beyond the call of duty. A little extra giving will cost you absolutely nothing and will bring huge dividends in trust and friendship among your co¬workers and with your employer.

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