Updated August 22nd, 2018
| Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.
Question 1 of 25
Do you always double check or proofread your work?
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Often, as a secretary, you will be the last person to see written forms of communication before they go out to clients and vendors. Double checking and proofreading are essential parts of a job well done. Assure the interviewer that you are diligent when it comes to submitting good, clean, work.
"Spelling and grammatical errors are a pet peeve of mine. I will triple check my work if there is time! I feel that it is critical to submit error-free work."
Entry Level Example
"I am so accustomed to working under pressure and tight deadlines from my time in University. Lack of proofreading would cost me precious marks, so I always proof before sending!"
"Yes, I do always double check my work before it goes out. It's important always to have professional communication. Rest assured, I will always submit excellent work."
Some administrators handle cash regularly, and many handle the petty cash for their office. Simply share any cash handling experience that you have even if you were not in an administrative role at the time.
Remember working at that fast food restaurant or grocery store as a teenager? You can draw off of that experience, as well. Share where you worked, how often you handled cash, and if you were responsible for balancing your drawer at the end of each shift.
"I have been handling cash on the job since I was a teenager. It's no problem for me. I have strong attention to detail and can ensure there are no discrepancies."
Entry Level Example
"I have not yet had the opportunity to handle cash in any previous roles; however, I am very trustworthy, excellent with numbers, and able to handle the responsibility that comes with the task of handling funds."
"I have handled cash for many years - first, as a cashier at a grocery store, then as a bank teller, and now in my roles as a professional administrator. In my current position, I am required to count and balance any cash at the end of the day, and deposit it at the bank in the night deposit slot before I go home. I have never had a discrepancy."
Have you ever coordinated an event? How did it go?
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The interviewer would like to know you understand the ins and outs of event coordination. If you have coordinated an event, pick your favorite one that turned out the best! Explain why you were organizing the event, what steps you took to coordinate everything and provide a brief overview of what the event entailed. How many people were there? Finally, be sure to express how pleased you were with the outcome of the event, and share any kudos you received from event attendees regarding the execution of the event.
"I coordinated my first event last month, helping my boss throw a client appreciation party. The party was for approximately 200 people. I helped find the caterer, had the invitations designed and sent, and then was responsible for the follow-up thank you's post-party. It was a great event, and I loved every minute of the planning process. Will there be event coordination responsibilities in this role?"
Entry Level Example
"If you have not coordinated an event, that is okay! Just tell the interviewer that you have not had experience organizing an event, and you look forward to taking this on as part of your duties! Then, share that you would seek out a mentor, such as another co-worker, the first time around to assist you with the process to ensure you execute the event flawlessly."
"Yes, I have thrown a variety of events in my career as an administrator. I have a plethora of people in my Rolodex for catering, invitations, bartending, music, and more. The events I have helped to coordinate have been client appreciation, tenure parties, and holiday parties. The majority of recent events I've been involved in have been for 50-500 people."
How does this administration position fit into your career goals?
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Is this particular position a good fit? Is it a step up in your career or - a stagnant move that you are just complacent with taking until something better comes along? Assure the interviewer that this position will be challenging for you, is a step up in responsibilities, and that it fits with your overall career goals.
"My primary goal in my career as an administrative assistant is to eventually work my way from an Administrator level to an HR professional role. I feel that what your organization offers is a strong path towards those goals and I am excited about what this position has to offer."
Entry Level Example
"My primary career goal is to find a position where I can stay long term. Because your company has such a strong reputation for workplace culture, it fits perfectly with my desires for a long-term fit."
"This position aligns nicely with my career goal of continued growth. The role is in my comfort zone, but a new enough approach that will intrigue me, and the company size is adequate to support growth."
Be honest with the interviewer about why you left your last job ensuring that you focus on yourself instead of the company. Talk about why you made the decision to leave the company to better yourself.
You might say, "I chose to leave my last job for a job with better hours that would allow me to spend more time with my family"
You may state, "I really liked my last job, and I could tell I was starting to outgrow my responsibilities. I want to find a job that is more challenging."
You might mention that you left for a higher paying job at another company, a promotional opportunity, or the opportunity to work for a company that you have had your eye on for a long time. If you were laid off from your last job, simply say you were laid off.
What happens if you were terminated from your last job? It can be a bit uncomfortable to talk about, but you need to be honest with the interviewer. Share why you were let go from the company taking complete responsibility for your actions that resulted in your termination. Finally, share what steps you have taken to ensure you are never let go again.
"I chose to leave my last job for a job with better hours that would allow me to spend more time with my family"
Entry Level Example
"I left my last role because the company went under. I enjoyed the work and would have stayed otherwise. I don't like to jump around from position to position and would like to find a long-term fit for my next opportunity."
"My previous position had a major change in hours, and the organization wanted to put me on a night shift. I cannot accommodate evening shifts as I have two young kids. I am seeking an opportunity that will meet my need for an 8-5 type of schedule."
6. Tell me about yourself. When an interviewer asks an open-ended question like this, it can be difficult to know where to begin...and end! This question haunts many individuals who may accidentally go a little too in-depth into their personal lives. It happens. Keep your reply light, and work relevant. Share how you became interested in this career path and what you enjoy about it. This is an excellent opportunity to describe yourself by discussing the strengths and qualities that you bring. Here is an answer example: "I am a competitive individual who is driven and likes to win. In addition to my successful admin career, I also spend time playing competitive sports. I give back by volunteering at the local animal shelter and working for a variety of annual fundraisers in our community." Here is an entry level answer example: "I am a very active individual who loves to workout and goes to the mountains on the weekend. I feel that my level of activity on my off time greatly improves my work during the week. I have a high amount of energy to offer!" Here is an experienced answer example: "I am a passionate, excited team player who loves to learn on the fly, take the lead when possible, and I have a proven track record of success. I'm loyal and have shown that through my decade-long career at one employer. I have risen through their ranks, and am ready to take on the next challenge. Outside of work, I love to travel and do DIY projects on my home."7. Have you ever taken a role in a company that hasn't fit into your long-term career plans? Most people have taken on a position that was not a fit for them in the end. It's best to openly discuss any positions that you have held that were not a fit. This will assist the interviewer in being able to place you within their organization accurately. Be sure to end your answer on a positive note, discussing how you bounced back from the misstep. Here is an answer example: "Yes, you will see that from March to May 2007 I held a role as Executive Assistant with Company XYZ. This particular role was not what I was expecting and had little to do with administration and more to do with cold calling from the phone book. This wasn't nurturing my plan to grow the admin side of my career, so I resigned after just two months. Luckily I landed a wonderful job immediately after and grew with that company for the following six years." Here is an entry level answer example: "I have not taken a position simply to have a job. I am cautious who I work for and am happy that my discretion has worked well for me and my career path." Here is an experienced answer example: "Sure, when I was younger and just starting out on my own, paying the bills is very important. You can't sit around and go bankrupt waiting for your dream job. That said, I never wanted to take advantage of anyone. For that reason, I stuck primarily with temporary admin positions through a temp agency."8. Describe a bad customer service experience you have had in the past and how you handled it? The interviewer would like to know that you understand the ill effects that follow poor customer service. Focusing on a time when you received terrible customer service is a great way to approach this question.
Think about a time when you received bad service. Explain where you were at, the poor service you received and how you reacted. Next, share how you would have handled the situation differently if you were the one in the employee's shoes, and mention how outstanding customer service is to maintain the company's positive reputation. Here is an answer example: Here is an entry level answer example: "I recently visited a lawyer's office where the receptionist was very dismissive. It didn't make me feel comfortable, so I ended up leaving and finding new representation. I understand that a secretary or receptionist is the first impression of any business which is why I will be ready with a warm welcome for anyone who comes through your doors." Here is an experienced answer example: "I have had many bad experiences yet also some great ones, related to customer service. Generally speaking, the worse experiences have been in a mall or retail environment where little training is offered, and pay is minimal. I am sure to give great customer service because I understand that I am often the customers' first impression."9. What signs of trust have you demonstrated in the past while working? Being a trustworthy employee is incredibly important in any career path. As an administrator, you are often working independently without much direct supervision, and employers need to be able to trust that you do not take advantage of the situation. Discuss the ways that you demonstrate that you are trustworthy. Here is an answer example: "I show trust in the workplace by being one step ahead of my employer, at all times. I am ready to take on any challenge they give me, without complaint. I also spend time learning new skills and expanding my existing skill set. I do this through reading, taking workshops, and staying up to date on new software trends." Here is an entry level answer example: "Trust can be demonstrated in a variety of ways, such as:
- Always arriving to work on time.
- Completing your daily tasks.
- Being consistently open to feedback.
- Being a team player and helping out when needed.
- Accepting changes to processes and procedures with a positive attitude.
- Always having a balanced drawer, if you handle cash.
- Displaying a willingness to learn new duties." Here is an experienced answer example: "Trust is something you earn over time with people. I will lead by example and be transparent in my communications. Trust happens when people deliver on doing what they say they will do. I take the approach of under promising and over delivering to accelerate the trust process. With strong trust, teams can accomplish great things together."10. Tell me about a time when you improved communication between yourself and a co-worker or client. Possessing the skills to improve communication in the workplace is a very valuable asset. Talk to the interviewer about your ability to improve communication in the workplace. Here is an answer example: "In my current position I have one particular client who was an exceptionally brief communicator. If I asked 2 questions, he would answer just one. I learned quickly that he would not acknowledge anything he did not have a direct answer for. I began to ask him questions in a different way. For example, I would say 'Do you have an answer for me on question X?' and he would say yes or no. We would then go from there. This was an effective method of communication for that particular client." Here is an entry level answer example: "I had a client who often missed email updates. It caused us to cross our wires a few times. I suggested that we book a quick call every week to review any outstanding areas that need to be addressed. This process worked really well for us." Here is an experienced answer example: "Recently, we were working with a client who continued to change the direction of our work. Our team was heading down one path and before we knew it, the client expected us to go another direction. We resolved to hold a weekly status touch base call to ensure two-way communication between our team and the client. When work was being done, we could explain why and if the client wanted changes to be made, we could catch them before time and resources were wasted."11. You have been asked to set up a meeting. Quickly go over the steps you take to make this meeting happen. Easy!
- You send out a meeting request via your calendar scheduling system. If necessary, you call any parties who need to be included and are not able to access the scheduling system.
Before the meeting:
- You ensure the room is prepared with any necessary supplies including paper, pens, and various technology. You also make any photocopies of materials that everyone will need for the meeting.
- Double check that the room is neat and tidy ahead of time. Draw the blinds/curtains if the sun will be peering in to create a better environment. Ensure the lights are turned on.
- If visitors are attending the meeting, you have water, coffee, soda, and a few snack options available.
- You ensure you are present to greet any visitors when they arrive for the meeting. Here is an answer example: Here is an entry level answer example: "If I were asked to set up a meeting, I would first contact all involved parties and find a time that worked best for them. Once a common time is arranged, I will then send out a calendar invite to all." Here is an experienced answer example: "Setting up meetings quickly, and efficiently, is incredibly important. You are dealing with busy professionals, so accuracy is of utmost importance. I will send out a calendar invite for a time that works best for my boss, with the option for others to adjust the time if necessary."12. Why do you want to be an office administrator? The interviewer wants to know what draws you to the office administration field. Perhaps you love being in an office or corporate setting. Maybe mingling with clients is the best opportunity for you to feel energized, socially. You may even have a hospitality background, and this role as an office administrator will allow you to utilize that experience.
Do you enjoy knowing that you play a vital role in the background of essential office meetings and events? The interviewer wants to hear that you are passionate your field of work. Show that you will stay engaged in the environment. Here is an answer example: "I want to be an office administrator because I love organizing people's day, arranging appointments, helping customers, and being a friendly face." Here is an entry level answer example: "I want to be an office administrator because this role will allow me to take my experience in retail and customer service while learning new skills. I love to learn new things, and this would be a perfect way to blend these skills." Here is an experienced answer example: "I have been an office administrator for the past five years. I enjoy this line of work. Creating new methods of working, organizing other peoples' days, and helping businesses to succeed is passionate work for me."13. How proficient are you with Microsoft Excel? Use terms such as beginner, intermediate, or advanced user. Then, give a few examples of things you commonly utilize in Excel for such as creating charts/graphs, making pivot tables, or analyzing data. Your response will help the interviewer understand what type of training you should be provided, should they hire you. Here is an answer example: "I have used Excel for about four years now, and would rate myself as an intermediate user. I am capable of making charts and graphs, and some other intermediate level tasks." Here is an entry level answer example: "I am newer to Excel in a professional setting but have used it in a personal setting for quite some time. I am going to assume that I am a beginner level user in Excel." Here is an experienced answer example: "I have approximately twelve years experience with Excel and would rate myself as an advanced user. I can create pivot tables, charts/graphs, and analyzing data. Are there specific tasks you are looking for me to complete in Excel?"14. Explain your greeting and how you handled phone calls at your previous employment. Begin by sharing how you answer the phone. You might state that you always answer the phone with a 'good morning' or a 'good afternoon.' You might say that your standard greeting is, "Thank you for calling ABC Company. This is John. How many I help you?"
Next, share how many phone calls you typically receive in a day as well as your company's approach to calls. Do you take messages for them? Do you route each person to voicemails? Do you check with the recipient to see if they have time to take the call now? Also be sure to mention any switchboard experience you have, and how many phone lines you can comfortably handle. Here is an answer example: "Thank you for calling ABC Company. This is John. How many I help you?" Here is an entry level answer example: "I am always very friendly on the phone and can memorize any greeting that you require of me. I am new to my role as a secretary so I would say that my skills will increase over time; however, I am quite good with multitasking and am confident that I could handle multiple phone line." Here is an experienced answer example: "My standard greeting is 'Thank you for calling Company ABC; this is Amy speaking How may I direct your call?'. It's pretty basic, but I can certainly put more customization in. Whatever you need. In my current role, I handle a six-line phone system and take approximately 200 calls per day."15. How many days were you absent from work last year? A part of being a diligent employee is to ensure that you are always on time and present when expected. It's great to even be 10 minutes early rather than just showing up right on the dot. Talk to the interviewer about your attendance. Here is an answer example: "I had zero unexcused absences last year. In total, I took 12 vacation days out of my 15 allotted days. I was sick just 2, and a note from my Doctor accompanied those. Once I was late due to a terrible snow storm, and I always try to be 10 minutes early for my shift." Here is an entry level answer example: "I cannot recall the exact number, but I think it was around three days total. All absences were excused and with notice." Here is an experienced answer example: "I think I missed ten days, counting vacation time. Of those, five were for my vacation. For three days, I was excused under a doctor's note. The other two absences were pre-approved family days."16. Do you prefer doing work on a routine day-to-day basis or do you prefer mixing up your routine occasionally? Are you the individual who prefers to know what the routine will be, or do you thrive on the challenge and excitement of unpredictability? Here is an answer example: "I prefer working in a more predictable environment because I can be more effective in my tasks. With that said, I can certainly work in an unpredictable environment from time to time." Here is an answer example: "I am comfortable either way, but I would probably grow bored if nothing ever changed. Having a few days of status quo now and then is good for my sanity though." Here is an entry level answer example: "I am accustomed to working in an unpredictable environment and tend to prefer that pace. It's fast and makes every day different. I certainly enjoy the challenge!"17. Tell me about your relationship with your previous boss. When you answer this question, be sure to remain positive, even if the experience wasn't. Avoid talking about any previous drama and do not speak poorly of your employer. Keep your answer short and respectful. Here is an answer example: "My previous boss and I had a great working relationship. We were in sync when it came to accomplishing things we needed to do in our department. We scheduled weekly touch base meetings to stay current on our progress and address any issues that came up along the way. I learned a lot from them on leadership while adding great value to the team." Here is an entry level answer example: "If you had a good relationship with your previous boss: "I had a very healthy relationship with my previous employer. She was easy to approach, and we would bounce ideas off of each other quite often. I would sum it up as a relationship lead by strong mutual respect." Here is an experienced answer example: "If you did not have a good relationship with your previous boss: "I have had healthier relationships in the past with previous employers, but we did the best that we could. Our communication styles were very different which made it challenging at times."18. Looking at your resume, it seems there are specific skills necessary for this position that does not stand out. How do you think you will be able to compensate for these missing skills? Most job descriptions will have a long list of requirements. Hiring managers are aware that, to find a candidate that checks ALL of the boxes, can sometimes be impossible. If you are missing some of the 'nice to have' or even the 'must have' skills listed in the job description, do not fret! Be open about your shortcomings and discuss with the interviewer how you plan to compensate for those. Here is an answer example: "I realize that I may not check off all of the boxes for this position; however, I can assure you that I am a rapid learner. The main point I am missing is experienced in QuickBooks, but I am very well versed in another accounting program called Sage. I think that I can pick up the required knowledge quickly." Here is an entry level answer example: "I am fully committed to learning, and mastering, any skills I do not currently have. Could you share with me which skills you do not see as a stand-out on my resume? " Here is an experienced answer example: "My resume, although comprehensive, is not a complete snapshot of my experience. Which specific skills are not coming through?"
Once the interviewer lets you know where they feel your experience is lacking, you can then overcome the objection by discussing any exposure you've had to that particular point. "19. How do you handle a larger than average workload? The interviewer wants to be assured that you can handle the workload required of you in this position and that you will not become overwhelmed if/when workloads unexpectedly increase. When workloads increase, stress levels do too. How do you react? Here is an answer example: "When I have a large workload on my plate, I do not stress over the tasks that are in front of me. Rather, I make a simple plan of which tasks are a high priority and which tasks are a lower priority. The higher priority tasks, I complete first. Through this system, I can focus on my tasks individually, rather than stress out by the multitude of tasks ahead of me." Here is an entry level answer example: "Here are some suggestions on how to handle a large workload:
- List your tasks and prioritize them
- Think of which functions add to the company's bottom line, and start there (Closest to the money!)
- Exhale. Relax for a minute and collect yourself
- Organize your tasks by which ones you can complete independently and which ones you need help with
- Take sufficient breaks, so you do not exhaust yourself
- Communicate your struggles with your leadership or team" Here is an experienced answer example: "I first take a step back and make a list of all the deliverable work that I have. Then, I prioritize the list by deadline and ease of completion. I always try to hit the easy tasks first and get them off my to-do list. Feeling like I am making progress keeps me motivated."20. Have you requested extra responsibilities in any of your previous roles? The interviewer wants to see that you have a desire to learn, grow, and try on new challenges! No hiring manager wants to hire the complacent employee so show them you are willing to see opportunity when it arises!
Your willingness to take on additional tasks, with a positive attitude, gives the interviewer all the more reason to want to get to know you better. Hiring managers are looking for people who will be proactive and help to carry the team. Here is an answer example: "In my current role I asked my boss if I could take over the social media marketing. We are a small company, and my supervisor was struggling with it. Being a millennial, I am always on social media, and I understand what types of posts gain attention. After taking over the task, I grew our Instagram following from just 400 to 2000 in 2 months! I am always game for taking on new tasks, especially when they are in my wheelhouse." Here is an entry level answer example: "Here are some ways you can gain extra responsibilities in the workplace:
- Talking to your boss about your career goals and having a conversation about new tasks that may help to get you there
- Offering to take work off of a colleague's plate, if they seem stressed.
- Studying hard to become a SME (Subject Matter Expert) in software or topic that your boss would find useful
- Just jumping in and take on a new responsibility!" Here is an experienced answer example: "The extra responsibilities that I currently ask for include some social media management, training the interns, and reorganizing the filing system. I like to keep busy and show my boss that I am capable of a multitude of tasks."21. How do you handle stress? You should anticipate a little bit of stress in any job. Consider it unavoidable. The best thing you can do is equip yourself with the tools to deal with that inevitable stress. Knowing how to handle pressure will help you to navigate the ups and downs in a continually changing environment.
Take some time to think about what you would do when you are busy at work, feeling your heart rate rise and your nerves begin to shake. Your coping skills outside of work might be difficult to apply, as you can't stop what you're doing and run to yoga class. However, you can take deep breaths and allow yourself to take a break in between customers, for example. Here is an answer example: Here is an entry level answer example: "I handle stress very well. I keep very detailed 'to-do" lists and project files. I also communicate regularly with my coworkers and teammates." Here is an experienced answer example: "I am accustomed to working high-stress jobs. If I find that I am deep into a stressful situation, I will take a minute to take a few breaths and reassess my progress."22. Judging by your resume, you appear to be overqualified for this secretary position. What would keep you here, if you were offered the job? Sometimes, hiring an overqualified individual can mean that they will leave when a better opportunity arises. Talk to the interviewer about why this position would be satisfying for you, long-term. Here is an answer example: "I do have more years' experience than what you have outlined in your job posting; however, there are aspects of this position that would be new and exciting for me as well. For example, I would enjoy the exposure to more financial based clientele. Despite my level of experience, there would be much for me to learn here." Here is an entry level answer example: "I do not think that I am overqualified for this role. I do believe that I bring a lot to the table, but my last few roles were with smaller companies where everyone wore many hats and had time to handle more responsibility. I like the idea of focusing on one job for a change." Here is an experienced answer example: "The job titles in my last two roles do make it appear that I am overqualified for the role. They were big titles but, rest assured, this position is very much in line with my current skill level."23. Have you ever broken a confidentiality agreement? Companies will have confidentiality agreements for a variety of reasons. These could be to protect their trade secrets or to ensure that you do not bring clients over on the occasion that you leave their company. Talk to the interviewer about your thoughts on confidentiality agreements. Here is an answer example: "I never have, to my knowledge, broken a confidentiality agreement. Despite my reasons for leaving a position, I would never choose to hurt a previous employer in any way." Here is an entry level answer example: "No. I have only once had a confidentiality agreement and had no problem adhering to it." Here is an experienced answer example: "Confidentiality agreements are necessary and important to protect an organization. I understand the need for confidentiality and take those factors very seriously. I have never broken the trust of my employer."24. Do you have any questions for me? Before your interview, make sure you conduct research on the company and thoroughly review the job description for any clarification you may need on the position. Asking intelligent questions demonstrates to the interviewer your level of interest in their company, and the position.
If you are not prepared for the interview, and you need to think of questions off the top of your head, ask questions regarding company culture, traits they are looking for in the ideal candidate, and if there is anything not listed in the job description that this position will be in charge of. Typically, pay is not discussed during phone interviews, so avoid asking any compensation related questions in the phone interview. Here is an answer example: Here is an entry level answer example: "Here are some sample questions:
- When would you like to have this position filled?
- How long has this role been vacant?
- Is this a replacement search or a newly created role?
- What is your favorite part about working here?
- What is the company's primary goal for this position in the next 12 months?
- Is there anything from my background and experience that I can clarify for you?
- What do you see as the most significant change in this industry over the past three years?
- Is there any reason why you would not move me to the next stage of interviews?" Here is an experienced answer example: "Thank you for asking - I do have a couple of questions. What are you looking for in an ideal candidate? Also, is there any reason you would not hire me for this position?"25. What are the top duties of your current position? A great way to prepare for your interview is to reflect on the main tasks in your current position and how that experience would make you a strong candidate for the job for which you are applying. The interviewer wants to know if you have the knowledge and skills required to be successful in this position. Make sure you are familiar with the job description before your interview! You will want to draw on that valuable information. Here is an answer example: " Here is an entry level answer example: "I am new to the workforce; however, I can tell you that my top skills include my ability to make conversation with anyone, I am resilient to stress, and have excellent writing skills. I know that my current position aligns perfectly with the skill set you're looking for for this position." Here is an experienced answer example: "Currently my role requires many different tasks, and I enjoy the fact that every day is different. I spend the bulk of my time managing an eight-line telephone system, answering customer service emails, and replying to general web inquiries. I will bring these skills, and more, to my role in your organization."
Author of Secretary Answers and Questions
Rachelle Enns is a job search expert, executive headhunter, career catalyst, and interview coach. Utilized by top talent from Fortune companies like Microsoft, General Electric, and Nestle, she helps professionals position themselves in today's competitive digital marketplace.
Rachelle founded Renovate My Resume and Executive Resume Solutions, two companies focused on helping job seekers get their edge back. She helps everyone from new graduates looking for their first placement, to CEO's who want more out of their career.
Rachelle coaches students to executives on how to master the toughest interview questions and how to handle the most bizarre interview situations; all with confidence and poise.
Rachelle trains other career coaches, recruiters, and resume writers, globally. A big part of her job is also spent coaching HR professionals on how to bring the human touch back into their interview and hiring process.
First written on: 12/18/2014 Last modified on: 08/22/2018
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