You want to hire the right Executive Assistant or Personal Assistant. You’ve weeded through hundreds of resumes, screening candidates, and now you’re ready to conduct interviews. But what questions should you ask? How can you craft questions that don’t just tell you information about what duties a candidate performed at their last job, but really drill down to the essence of how this person works?

We’ve all worked with someone who has all the right credentials but just isn’t the right person for the job. Maybe they don’t fit the company culture, or perhaps their work style just doesn’t gel with the managers at the firm. Beyond the technical skills,  the right personality fit is critical to hiring your assistant.

Picking the absolute right person can be difficult, and there is no foolproof interview process, but the types of interview questions to focus on if you want to learn not only what a person knows how to do, but also how a person executes tasks and operates in a working environment, are competency based interview questions.

Competency-Based Executive Assistant Interview Questions

Whether or not you realized it at the time, you have almost certainly asked or been asked a competency-based interview question. A competency-based question asks the executive assistant candidate to provide examples or tell stories about their past experiences, how they see themselves as an employee, or how they envision using past experiences to inform their future decision-making.

Examples of common competency-based interview questions include:

Describe a time you had to deal with an angry client. How did you handle the situation?

Have you ever had to think outside of the box to solve a problem at work? What was the problem, and how did you handle it? Was your approach successful?

Tell me about a time you worked on a team you loved. What was so great? (And the opposite.)

What is key in all of these questions is that each provides the opportunity for the interviewer to choose areas of competency they want to know more about without having to distinctly ask a question like, “Are you good at working on teams?” The stories tell you so much more than a straightforward “yes or no” question ever could.

A good competency-based question::

  • Lets the interviewee really talk and lead the discussion in directions that can be enlightening
  • Shows whether the candidate has reflected upon past work experiences and learned from them
  • Allows you to learn more about the way the candidate handles various situations, gaining more insight into style and thought process.
  • Provides the opportunity for you to craft the interview to uncover important key competencies, rather than just skills,  for the position

Areas of Focus

We mentioned before that these questions are intended to test certain areas of competency for your interviewee. The areas that you want to focus on will depend on a variety of factors. The skills needed for the job are obviously key, as is the company culture, and personality traits you’d like to see in your assistant.

There are nearly endless competencies to test. When thinking about the core competencies you need for a personal or executive assistant, some of the common areas that you should consider crafting questions around, as well as a good question to consider for each include:

  • Communication skills
    Describe a time when poor or unclear communication, either by you or others, resulted in an undesirable outcome.  What were the consequences, and what would have helped avoid that situation?
  • Ability to work on a team
    Tell me about a situation where good teamwork produced optimal results for you and your employer. Or, tell me about a situation where poor teamwork was an obstacle to a successful outcome.
  • Problem-solving skills
    Describe a couple of instances where you had to think on your feet to solve a problem at work.
  • Temperament under pressure
    Tell me about a time you were working under a strict deadline, with, seemingly endless work left to get done. What happened? How did you handle that?
  • Self-awareness
    What would you say was the biggest thing you learned about yourself from your last job, and how has this insight informed how you move forward in your next role and in your career goals?
  • Organizational skills
    How do you prefer to manage your time and organize tasks?
  • Attention to detail
    Tell me about a time you found an error in your work, how did you go about correcting it and what were the repercussions?
  • Decision-making skills
    How do you handle situations in which you have to make an important decision in your boss’s absence? Please give some examples.

As you can see, not every question has to reference a past job directly, although this is a good way to immediately get the candidate into a storytelling mode, which is where you’ll get the best information. The goal is to learn more about them by letting them speak and provide examples from their personal history. Crafting your questions to provide these examples and insight will result in hiring a better Executive Assistant or Personal Assistant.  

If you have any questions about how to come up with the best possible interview questions for your new personal or executive assistant or need help at any other point throughout the process, C-Suite Assistants is here to help.

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