Faith Shur has been working in administration for 20 years. She is an executive assistant and consultant for PD Bureau, a Toronto-based temporary administrative staffing firm. Based on what she sees every day, future candidates wishing to work in the administrative sector will have to be patient and able to quickly adapt to a sector in the throes of change.
WHAT IS THE CURRENT TREND IN THE ADMINISTRATIVE SECTOR?
Right now, the administrative sector is depressed. There are still hiring opportunities, but positions have changed enormously over the past ten years. This change is due, in part, to the computerization of office work and to changing mindsets. Formal professional relations are out of place, and employees are no longer tied to a position and a task. The era of the secretary specializing in paperwork is past. Nowadays, company heads do these tasks themselves are give them to employees with no particular background in administration to start with.
WHICH SECTORS OF ACTIVITY ARE SATURATED?
The most popular sectors with candidates are naturally those that are the most difficult to get, since for one ad, recruiters get dozens of applications. They include the media and advertising sectors. The supply is so high in these areas that employers do not need to resort to staffing agencies; they are already buried under piles of applications!
AND WHICH ADMINISTRATIVE FIELDS ARE SHORT OF CANDIDATES?
When we want to hire specialized administrative staff, we know that we will have to make concessions on the number of years of experience or on qualifications if we want to find someone. Experienced and qualified assistants in the health care and legal sectors are increasingly rare. With this relative shortage, those who work in these sectors are much better paid than their colleagues in other fields.
HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT FINDING CANDIDATES IN ADMINISTRATION?
In most cases, they come to us by sending their CVs. However, for sensitive sectors like health care or law, we run ads, generally with a good response rate. When medical assistants leave their jobs to find another one, they get our attention. We try to understand why, despite a good salary, they want to change companies.
WHAT QUALITIES DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A CANDIDATE?
We mainly look for candidates with good interpersonal skills and an excellent ability to adapt, in order for them to quickly fit in with the company. Obviously professional skills are just as important. Candidates are required to have excellent computer skills in particular. Having good references is also a definite asset. It is important to specify that an increasing number of candidates in this sector work part time for extra cash. Those who have specific administration-related training therefore have a leg up on those candidates who just work in the sector occasionally.