How to Identify a Candidate’s Ability to Learn New Skills

— Jun 7, 2019 —

You’ve decided to employ a personal assistant. But, you don’t just want someone to fetch your coffee and pick up your dry cleaning. You want someone who can assist you in the many, highly varied facets of your life that need managing.

Perhaps you plan charity dinners, and need someone who will excel at event planning. Or maybe you manage a full staff at your home and you need to find a personal assistant who can take on personnel management duties. Perhaps you will require your assistant to learn bookkeeping skills in order to manage your bills.

Whatever your situation is, you need to find a smart personal assistant who not only has a great background, but who has the capacity to learn whatever you throw at them.

Why is Learning Ability Important?

Dr. John Sullivan, internationally known HR thought-leader and author of 10 books on the subject of talent management, believes that learning ability is the number one predictor of top performance. He notes that “even though hiring managers still need to look at an individual’s “capability” to do the job, they also need to realize that it’s equally important to be assessing a candidate’s ability to continually learn new things.”

In our technology-driven world, the ability to learn is more important than ever. From changes in scheduling software to new apps popping up every day, your personal assistant needs to be on top of changes in the world around them. You don’t want to be the one having to catch them up every time a new or better way to perform a task comes around. They should be surprising you by consistently modernizing your life!

The capacity to learn new things is especially important in a job like a personal assistant job that encompasses a variety of tasks. It is almost impossible to find the perfect person who has already learned to perform 100% of the types of tasks you require, as well as any potential future tasks you think you may require them to perform.

How to Identify Candidates Who Learn Well

Anyone can tell you that they learn quickly, but assessing whether they actually do is the tricky part. You will need to take learning ability into consideration when deciding who to bring in for interviews as well as when putting together interview questions.

What to Look for on a Resume

Dr. Sullivan suggests that the best learners will mention learning in some way on their resume. They may detail how they have sought out information in past positions, or may list personality traits that indicate an aptitude for learning. You can look for keywords such as:

  • Quick study
  • Passion for learning
  • Self-taught
  • Benchmarked
  • Training
  • Curious
  • Intellectual

You want to look for indications that the candidate has sought out opportunities to learn in the past. This might show up more obviously in professional development courses and certifications, or may appear more subtly, in increasing responsibilities within a position.

What to Ask in the Interview

The interview will prove more informative than the resume when it comes to sussing out your candidate’s learning style and ability. Here are some sample questions to find out whether your potential personal assistant has a passion and aptitude for learning.

  1. What is something you taught yourself on the job in a previous position?
    Here, you are wanting to see a few things. Firstly, how did your candidate discover that they needed to learn something new? Secondly, how did they go about gathering the knowledge they needed?

    In the beginning, you may be available to show your personal assistant how to do things and to answer questions, but ultimately they need to be able to seek out information on their own in most instances. And, in a perfect world, you want them to be able to identify the need to learn something new even before you feel the need.

  2. Ask them to detail their learning process.
    This is a good example of an open-ended question that will show you how your candidate views learning. You can ask follow-up questions based on the direction they take things, but hopefully the candidate will walk you through the steps of how they tackle a new or expanding area of knowledge.

    A candidate with natural aptitude for learning will mention a few different sources they might use, likely including you. If this question trips them up, provide an example of something you might expect them to learn, such as how to plan a dinner or how to organize a family vacation.

  3. What is something you plan to learn for this job?
    This will tell you whether the candidate has really paid attention to the job description and identified areas of potential growth. It is rare to read a full job description and check off every single box, so a serious candidate will already have a plan in place to learn more about certain subjects, and may even already be doing so.

Whatever facets of your life they will ultimately manage, you need a smart personal assistant who is excited to learn new and better ways to assist you. The first step to employing your perfect personal assistant is finding them and then screening them for this key learning quality. It’s a time consuming process.
That’s where C-Suite Assistants comes in. We consider an aptitude for learning a key trait in any of our top-notch assistants. With years of personal assistant recruitment experience and a massive network of talent, we can help you find a personal assistant who is perfect for you.

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