The characteristics of a good secretary

February 28, 2018

Becoming a secretary means that you have to have a certain set of characteristics in order to be successful. Every company will look for these certain aspects of your personality before hiring you, which means that it is vital to ensure you gain them or improve them.

Organisational skills

One of the major characteristics of a general secretary is their organisational skills. A secretary routinely has to organise diaries for senior colleagues, keep track of tasks and projects as well as schedule meetings and appointments. A disorganised secretary will not be able to handle this responsibility and may create chaos in the office.

If the secretary provides board members with incorrect times and dates for meetings or causes a senior employee to miss a plane due to incorrect flight information, they will most likely face disciplinary action or even termination. You will need to work on your organisational skills daily in order to gain this much-needed trait of efficient and successful secretaries.

Keeping information confidential

A general secretary may have to deal with sensitive or confidential information, depending on the industry their company is in. This is one of the most important traits of a good secretary, according to the Legal Secretaries International website, and not only in companies dealing with the law.

A breach of confidentiality could mean that competitors are told company secrets, which can be detrimental to your own company’s development. Information leaks can also lead to the spread of rumours around the office or even cause a legal case to go badly. A good secretary knows how to keep information confidential, especially when dealing with information that may cause damage to certain parties.

Communication skills are vital

A secretary deals with verbal and written communication on a daily basis. This means you will have to be able to communicate every message clearly and accurately, in order to avoid any miscommunication disasters.

You will need to be able to write using business formal language, communicating facts quickly and logically in emails and memos. When greeting clients, you should be friendly and professional, avoiding slang and being too curt. Another important aspect of communication is being able to judge when to share pertinent information with the correct parties. Executive secretaries may not be able to share sensitive information with junior employees, meaning they will need to be cautious when communicating facts in memos to the office.

Computer literacy is necessary

Being able to operate a computer is highly important to any office worker, but even more so to a general secretary. You will need to know how to use computer programs that make life easier and your job more efficient.

The programs you should know how to use include word processing programs, calendar programs, spreadsheets, minute taking software and the company’s own communications software. By becoming familiar with this software, you will improve your computer literacy skills and may even climb the corporate ladder. You should aim to master basic computer skills before moving onto more difficult programs and software.


Having a professional attitude and presenting yourself in a professional manner are both important characteristics of a good secretary. There is no way around the fact that people judge others based on their appearance, which means that the manner in which you present yourself is something that you need to take seriously. Always err on the side of business formal, especially if you are the first face people see when they enter your company’s office building.

Professionalism does not stop at your appearance. You will need to be able to conduct yourself in a respectable manner appropriate to the organisation. This requires a friendly attitude and a willingness to help others with reasonable requests, as well as the ability to know when and what information to share with the client. Being professional reflects positively on your company, so be sure to always put your best foot forward.

A team player attitude

A secretary needs to be a team player in order to be a successful part of a company. This is because you will deal with your colleagues on a daily basis, and will need to be able to get along with them. An office which has an incohesive staff can be an uncomfortable one to work in and can cause productivity levels to decrease rapidly.

Another reason why you will need to be a team player is that it opens up lines of communication. You may also be required to come in early and leave later than others, and having an unpleasant attitude towards this may exacerbate an already difficult situation. Being able to anticipate the needs of your superiors and of your colleagues shows that you are paying attention during meetings and even general ‘chats’ which may lead to further promotions too.

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