Who Do You Need: Administrative Assistant or Office Manager?

Keely Teynor

interview hiring trends

Is the greater part of your day taken up by responding to emails or fulfillment requests, creating reports, setting up meetings with clients or trying to keep your organizational system straight? Ever needed to print something quickly only to realize your printer has just run out of ink and you don’t have a refill? What about updating the office safety protocols or keeping track of your operational costs?

As a business owner, watching your business grow and taking on more work can be fulfilling, but also a little hectic. Demand is up and the day-to-day tasks are taking over – it’s time to grow your team.

So, who do you need? There was a time where business owners could put out a call under the label “secretary” and a variety of experienced candidates would arrive, capable of meeting a broad range of office needs. But with the evolution of business, technology, and work spaces, support positions have also evolved. The title Secretary is outdated and a job ad using this term is unlikely to find candidates who have the experience and skills that you need. At the same time, roles often overlap in a small business, so finding someone with the experience to meet your needs comes down to asking the right questions.

Candidate Strengths and Experience

An experienced Administrative Assistant can offer you and your team administrative support in a variety of functions. While usually reporting to a manager or supervisor, this team member can be expected to improve the overall efficiency of your business and free you from some of the small daily tasks involved in running a business.

An experienced candidate would have excellent communication skills, both written and verbal, and will be able to formulate a method of organization for new and existing data. They would also have advanced word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software skills, and would be able to analyze relevant company data to create reports. This person will come to know the ins and outs of your business functions, including who you are meeting with and the numbers that you are using to track business efficacy, so finding a candidate who will be a good fit for you is going to be important.

An Office Manager would also be able to offer you peace of mind regarding office operations – from coordinating personnel work to balancing the budgets and ordering supplies. Impressive organizational skills are again a must for a candidate applying for an Office Manager position, and someone who has worked in your industry will mean that they are better able to anticipate future company needs.

When interviewing for the role of Office Manager you should ensure that they have basic knowledge of state and federal office safety laws in order to implement and update guidelines for office personnel. Experience with bookkeeping strategies and software will certainly be a skill to look for, along with an indication of where they would source office supplies for your business.

In contrast, someone who is looking at a job posting for a Administrative Assistant would expect to need to have general knowledge of word processing and spreadsheet software, as well as knowledge of business functions such as filing, and screening or transferring calls.


Salary expectations for candidates largely depend on two things: geography and experience. Candidates who can demonstrate relative experience and in-depth knowledge will expect appropriate compensation for their expertise.

In Colorado, a candidate for Administrative Assistant who has 1-3 years of relevant experience can expect a salary offer between $40,000 and $62,000, but a candidate with three to five years of experience would be looking at a range from $48,000 to $75,000. Alternatively, an experienced Office Manager would be reviewing jobs that list a salary range of $58,000 to upwards of $106,000 depending on the size of the office and the expected responsibilities.

What You Stand to Gain

It will take time to train any new employee so that they know the way that your business works, how you structure your data for company use, and what inputs are needed to make the business work, but the long-term benefit of freeing up your time – and your mind – cannot be overstated.

Instead of spending a majority of your day simply trying to keep your business running smoothly, you should be using your industry knowledge to grow your business at the macro level. When you have the right people in the right roles, the details take care of themselves.