Hiring the right Executive Assistant can be difficult. Here are four things to ask yourself before/during the hiring process.

As a busy executive, what is my schedule like?

President Truman greets winners of the Voice of Democracy contest. L to R: Dr. John W. Studebaker, Janet Gerster, Rose Mudd, President Truman, Alice Tyree, Laura Shatta, and Sen. James Murray.

An executive assistant is an extension of his/her boss.  They should be available during the same hours as you are in order to provide the best administrative support possible.  If you are a night owl, structure your assistant’s work hours around a schedule that works for the both of you.  If you work best in the morning, it is important to ensure you hire an assistant who doesn’t mind waking up before the sun.  Consider the responsibilities a potential hire may have outside of the office, as those responsibilities may dictate the kind of schedule he/she can keep, and their ability to maintain flexibility throughout the week.

What kind of work do I primarily focus on?

Assistants with specialized skills are just as valuable as assistants with a multitude of skills; it just depends on the way you work.  For executives who travel frequently abroad, hiring an assistant with extensive experience coordinating travel arrangements and obtaining visas is to your benefit.  For small business owners, an assistant who knows the ins and outs of accounting software, such as Quickbooks, could help expedite expense tracking, A/R, and tax documentation required for submission to your main accountant.  Alternatively, assistants who are well-versed in a variety of topics may be well-suited for entrepreneurs or founders of start-ups where the work is varied and constantly changing due to the business’s growth and transformation over short periods of time.

How globalized are my business practices? 

For executives whose offices have headquarters in other countries, or who do business with vendors stationed abroad, we strongly encourage hiring an assistant who speaks another (relevant) language.  

According to the 17th edition of “Ethnologue: Languages of the World,” a web-based publication containing statistics for over 7,000 languages and dialects released in 2013, the top 5 most widely spoken languages in the world, in descending order, are: Chinese (Mandarin), Spanish, English, Hindi (which includes multiple dialects), and Arabic.  In this highly technologically-driven world we live in today where globalization of business is practically a default, multilingual assistants may be an invaluable asset to your business, even if it is not yet international.

What is my leadership style?

You have likely worked hard to get to where you are today.  However, you are still human, and humans have their faults.  When hiring an executive assistant, it is important to take an honest look inward and evaluate your leadership style.  For example, if you are a perfectionist, you will want to hire an assistant who is truly attentive to details – someone who will look over each draft meticulously and proofread the final draft several times.  If you are someone who doesn’t take a break, an assistant who can multitask and prioritize your schedule will be of the utmost importance.  Your assistant must be able to juggle your confirmed, cancelled, and potential appointments without skipping a beat.  Good professional chemistry is an absolute must between an executive and his/her assistant.  If you tend to be the kind of leader who is focused on the bigger picture, you may need an assistant who knows how to push you to answer the “right now” questions.  If you are an executive whose forte is not patience, hiring an assistant who has thicker skin and understands the matter-of-fact nature of business may be in order.  Of course, disrespectful or offensive behavior should never be tolerated by either party.

What other factors do you take into consideration when hiring an assistant?  What other qualities are important for your gatekeeper to have?  Let us know in the comment section below!
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Image by Abbie Rowe, 1905-1967, Photographer (NARA record: 8451352)

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