A file clerk’s main job is to maintain and protect the files of a company or organization. He or she is typically responsible for managing all paperwork that needs to be retained, from personnel records and client profiles to receipts and tax forms. The job is usually considered entry-level, but is often very important to a business’ success. Well-organized files help things run more smoothly, and can save a lot of time and money for a company over time.
Routine Organizational Tasks
One of the first things that a file clerk must do is learn the company’s system of organization, or create one if there is none in place. The specifics are usually dictated by how the company does business. Medical clinics typically have separate systems for patient files and office-related paperwork, for instance; similarly, law firms often maintain robust files for cases and issues lawyers handle alongside individual client and expense files. Clerks must be able to quickly identify where a certain document belongs, then put it away appropriately so that it will be easy to find again in the future.
Familiarity With Technology
Most modern businesses require their file clerks to use both paper-based and electronic systems for keeping files organized and stored. Clerks are often responsible for building online databases and keeping track of information that arrives in digital form. The best clerks are usually familiar with the newest systems while also being comfortable with older technologies like microfiche. They must usually be able to locate a file no matter where it is — and ensure that it is forwarded to the right person in the most convenient format possible.
Updates and Coding
Clerks typically update records to reflect changes while pruning those that contain outdated or inaccurate information. Most companies have schedules dictating when these sorts of updates or modifications should occur, but clerks must usually be on the lookout for any changes that may be needed to files they are handling.
Routine verifications and spot-checks are also important, particularly in large offices. Ensuring that all files are accounted for helps clerks keep track of those that may be lost or misplaced. Clerks who use a coding system can often do these sorts of checks very quickly. Codes are usually based on number, letter, or sometimes color designations, and are used to enforce order and make mistakes easy to spot. It is usually easiest to code a file the moment it is created, then store it with others in its category.
Copying and Transportation Services
In addition to filing papers away, clerks are usually also responsible for retrieving them when needed. They must be able to quickly respond to employees who request specific documents, either by producing the needed files in full or photocopying, faxing, or e-mailing whichever pages the person needs. In some cases, the clerk is also responsible for actually getting the file from place to place. Most of the time this requires little more than an elevator ride or a quick walk down the hall, but it can sometimes require clerks to either arrange or personally undertake trips across town — or at least to the nearest post office.
Importance of Accuracy
A file clerk must be very detail-oriented, and must be sure not to lose track of information. This is particularly important when medical records are concerned — when someone’s health is on the line, it is imperative that a patient file is both accurate and up-to-date. Doctors and others rely on these files to create treatment plans, which means that mistakes or omissions can be very costly.
Most of the work that file clerks do is for internal employees, though they may also have some limited client interactions. When law firm clients need documents that pertain to their case, for instance, it is usually the clerk that relays the relevant information; similarly, when patients need copies of their files to bring with them when they travel or to share with other specialists, clerks are usually the ones who make these arrangements.
Schooling and Needed Training
The educational requirements for becoming a file clerk can be easily met for most. Generally, a high school education with a willingness to be trained on-the-job are sufficient for employment. College courses in business, computer science, or office management are usually beneficial, however, and can help an applicant stand out. Though file clerks are usually somewhat low-level employees, there is usually a lot of possibility for advancement, and larger corporations often offer competitive benefits and compensation packages for clerks with strong potential.