5 Questions Executive Assistants Must Have Answers For

— Oct 22, 2013 —

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Finding and hiring the right executive assistant to join your administrative team is no easy feat. There are hundreds of details to take into consideration; how many years of experience do they have, what types of skills do they possess, are they client-facing or back-office admins, do they have a large network of so-called “ins” around town, is the compensation they seek within the company’s budget… and the list goes on and on.

A good professional match is the difference between a bad hire and a long-lasting, successful EA/Executive relationship. Executive Assistants whose values, work ethic, and communication styles align with the person they will support are more effective in their roles since both the EA and the Executive are “on the same page” so to speak. Interviews, an important part of the hiring process, afford hiring managers and executive the time they need to inquire about the qualities executives and their assistants must share. To maximize the efficiency of interviews, ask potential hires these questions.

How did you get into the field of administration?

Part of understanding who a person is today is understanding where they came from. The reasons they chose administration, or the sequence of events that led them to administration can be very telling.

What has been your biggest success?

Successes are based on the aspects of a person’s life they feel are most important. For example, “My biggest success was successfully running, from inception to completion, our company’s annual conference which had over 500 attendees,” would place emphasis on career goals. Another example, “My biggest success was completing my Masters in Business Administration” places emphasis on a person’s desire for educational advancement and growth.

Tell me about a time you made a mistake.

Sure, in this case, the mistake may be important; “I double booked the Executive I supported for two client meetings on the same day in two different cities.”  That could be a make or break moment, however, focus on the way the admin handled the situation after.  Everyone makes mistakes, big or small, but it’s the way those errors are handled that truly reveal the character of an individual. Look out for remorseful tones since they are generally good indicators of whether the person learned from the mistake—and whether they are likely to commit it again.

What is your best administrative asset?

This question opens the door for an admin to give you their elevator pitch; it’s the why choose you over someone else? question. Think about your weaknesses.  Your ideal Executive Assistant should complement your skills and excel where you’re lacking; processes and procedures, organizational skills, task management, time management, complex travel coordination, drafting correspondences, creating collateral material, and utilizing the Microsoft Office Suite are just a few examples of what administrative professionals do best.

Why do you want to work here?

Each of your employees has their reasons for being employed at your organization. As your gatekeeper, it’s important that your EA shares the same professional beliefs as you do, and that they’re not just in it for the money (although that’s always a nice perk). Choose an EA whose values align with yours and, ultimately, those of the organization.  Choose an EA who is passionate or can become passionate about the industry.  Choose an EA who believes in your product and can proudly stand behind it.  The biggest mistake you can make is hiring an admin for admin’s sake.

Most importantly, when choosing an executive assistant, remember that, as your gatekeeper, they are your representative in your absence and the first point of contact for you both internally and externally.

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