Clerical Assistant - What They Do

General office support workers prepare correspondence, reports, statements and other material, operate office equipment, answer telephones, verify, record and process forms and documents such as contracts and requisitions and perform general clerical duties according to established procedures. They are employed in offices throughout the public and private sectors.

Job duties

This group performs some or all of the following duties:

  • Prepare correspondence, reports, statements, forms, presentations, applications and other documents from notes or dictaphone
  • Respond to telephone, in person or electronic enquiries or forward to appropriate person
  • Provide general information to staff, clients and the public regarding company or program rules, regulations and procedures
  • Photocopy and collate documents for distribution, mailing and filing
  • Sort and file documents according to established filing systems, locate and retrieve documents from files as requested and maintain records of filed and removed materials
  • Maintain and prepare reports from manual or electronic files, inventories, mailing lists and databases
  • Process incoming and outgoing mail, manually or electronically
  • Send and receive messages and documents using fax machine or electronic mail
  • Assist with administrative procedures such as budget submissions, contracts administration and work schedules
  • Maintain inventory of office supplies, order supplies as required and arrange for servicing of office equipment
  • May perform basic bookkeeping tasks such as preparing invoices and bank deposits
  • May sort, process and verify receipts, expenditures, forms and other documents
  • May organize the flow of work for other office support workers.

Job titles

  • ward clerk - hospital
  • warranty clerk
  • aircraft records clerk
  • technical records clerk
  • file and classification clerk
  • medical records clerk
  • records filing-system clerk
  • office assistant
  • office clerk
  • general office worker
  • administrative clerk
  • filing clerk
Employment Requirements

This is what you typically need for the job:

  • Completion of secondary school is usually required.
  • Completion of secondary school or college business or commercial courses is usually required.

Essential Skills


  • May read memos regarding new systems, employees, policies and procedures. (1)
  • May skim incoming mail to see if they can deal with it, or if it has to be forwarded to another employee. (1)
  • May proofread letters, reports and presentations that are being sent out of the office to clients. (2)
  • May read minutes from staff meetings to establish a distribution list. (2)
  • May read business magazines or other industry-specific material to obtain an overview of developments in their industry. (2)
  • May read forms that are relevant to their job, such as letters of credit and completed payroll and billing adjustment forms. (2)
  • May refer to computer manuals to learn how to perform certain functions or how to use new software packages. (3)
  • May interpret policy statements from management in order to determine how they affect their work. (4)

Document use

  • May look up phone numbers and addresses in phone books and office directories. (1)
  • May read labels on supplies, shelves and incoming mail and produce mailing labels for outgoing mail. (1)
  • May scan supplier catalogues when preparing purchase orders. (2)
  • May read indexes in computer manuals. (2)
  • May complete a variety of forms such as supply order forms, courier waybills, bill payments, invoices and fax forms. (2)
  • May enter information into work schedules that are in tabular form. (2)
  • May complete a retroactive payroll and billing adjustment form when there are discrepancies in cheques. (2)
  • May obtain information from graphs and charts in financial reports and modify them to create updated reports. (3)
  • May complete daily register sheets and balance sheets. (3)
  • May complete accounts payable and accounts receivable reports. (3)
  • May interpret original graphs and charts from rough sketches or raw data for inclusion in financial or other reports. (4)


  • May write e-mail messages to supervisors and co-workers. (1)
  • Write notes to themselves as reminders and notes to co-workers to clarify instructions or obtain information. (1)
  • May write letters to clients regarding overdue accounts and respond to client requests for information. (2)
  • Write letters and reports from rough drafts given to them by managers. They organize the information, insert any missing information and make minor revisions. (2)
  • May write reports to justify action taken, such as the reasons for calling in security when there was a commotion at the front counter. (2)
  • May write contracts and financial reports. These are usually based on the format of previous documents. (3)
  • May write the minutes of staff meetings. (3)


Money Math

  • May handle the petty cash in the office and pay bills, such as rent and utility bills. (1)
  • May accept payments by cash or cheque from clients and issue receipts. (1)
  • May prepare invoices and billing reports for clients. (2)
  • May complete the payroll ledger by entering the gross salary, calculating and deducting unemployment insurance, Canada pension plan and income tax to find the net salary. (3)

Scheduling, Budgeting & Accounting Math

  • May enter receipts and expenses in the bookkeeping system and check the totals by adding and subtracting. (2)
  • May balance the daily debits and credits in the accounting records. (2)
  • May process purchase orders for office supplies. (2)
  • May prepare and monitor weekly work schedules for a number of employees, making adjustments as required. (3)

Measurement and Calculation Math

  • May weigh mail to determine the cost of postage. (1)
  • May when preparing complex documents, convert between fractions, decimals and percentages to make precise alignments for footers, margins, headers and columns. (2)

Data Analysis Math

  • May make simple comparisons of data, for example, comparing monthly reports. (1)
  • May calculate the average volume of various types of work activities over a period of time to establish workload trends. (3)

Numerical Estimation

  • May estimate office supply requirements, such as photocopy paper, based on an analysis of past usage and knowledge of planned activities. (1)

Oral communication

  • Interact with other employees, in person or by telephone, to share information about tasks, meetings, deadlines, work methods and the location of various documents. (1)
  • Talk to clients, in person or on the phone, and provide them with information. They are often the clients' first contact with the office. (1)
  • Interact with couriers to clarify pickup and delivery times. (1)
  • May page employees over an intercom system. (1)
  • Talk with contractors and suppliers to discuss discrepancies in invoices or to order supplies. (1)
  • Receive instructions from supervisors and discuss tasks and priorities with them. (2)
  • Maintain contact by phone with managers who are away. They relay essential information to them, including details of emergencies and questions from clients and suppliers which they can't answer. They also clarify situations regarding clients' cases. Miscommunication could result in a loss of time and/or money. (2)


Problem Solving

  • May have trouble getting tasks completed within a set time frame, such as when a document is held up at the printing office. In that case, they may have to adjust their schedule to make sure they will be ready to give priority to the delayed document as soon as it arrives. (1)
  • May notice an error in a document. They contact the individual who produced the document to find out what wording was intended. (1)
  • May find discrepancies in the dollar figures when reconciling the accounting ledger. They compare slips and ledger entries to find the error. (1)
  • May have mail to clients returned as undeliverable. They check with co-workers or make phone calls to locate a correct address. (1)
  • May encounter a malfunctioning computer or photocopier. They try to fix the problem themselves or call a technician. (2)
  • May encounter computer crashes when the payroll is due. They consider various options to get pay cheques out on time. (3)

Decision Making

  • Decide when to interrupt telephone conversations and put people on hold. (1)
  • Decide to whom to refer callers, based on the subject matter and the availability of staff. (1)
  • Decide when to schedule appointments or set up meetings to best accommodate participants' schedules. (2)
  • Decide the priority of items of correspondence and process them accordingly. (2)
  • Decide which software package is best suited for a specific assignment or project. (2)
  • Decide what office supplies are needed and when to place the order. (2)

Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking information was not collected for this profile.

Job Task Planning and Organizing

General office clerks organize their own job tasks based on priorities set by their organization. Their tasks are mostly repetitive but are frequently interrupted by phone calls from clients or suppliers or requests from supervisors. They often do work for several managers and need to juggle deadlines to ensure that service is provided to all of them in a balanced way. (2)

Significant Use of Memory

  • May remember the individual format and style preferences of all the officers or managers they serve and what letterhead is required for their correspondence.
  • May remember a variety of rarely used procedures in the software manual.
  • May memorize file codes and safe combinations.
  • May memorize established procedures and regulations for processing paperwork efficiently.

Finding Information

  • Look up names, addresses, phone numbers and sources for supplies and materials in the white and yellow pages of the phone book or in supplier directories. (1)
  • Refer to databases to locate information on clients or companies. (1)
  • Obtain financial, legal, medical, security and policy and procedure information by contacting co-workers or departments and checking reference books. (2)
  • Use computer manuals for assistance when using computer programs. (2)

Digital technology

  • They type reports, memos and letters. (2)
  • They respond to prompts on a screen when looking up information for a client. They then transfer this information to a paper copy for the client. (1) They also enter client information in a database. (2)
  • They may enter credits and debits into a computerized accounting system. (2)
  • They may send e-mail messages to co-workers and to clients. (2)
  • They may prepare charts and graphs for reports using graphics software. (3)
  • They produce spreadsheet tables using software such as Lotus. (3)

Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

General office clerks mainly work independently. They may work as members of a team or with a partner or helper on large tasks, such as the preparation of proposals or when completing tasks with a strict deadline.

Continuous Learning

General office clerks learn about new computer programs, software and applications and must keep up to date on changes in policy and procedures. They may take courses offered by their organization in subjects such as finance.