Using an Outside Staffing Firm to Hire an Executive Assistant

— Jul 10, 2014 —

Hiring an executive assistant through a recruiting company can be a dream come true or your worst nightmare.  Finding the right recruiting company to partner with—for administrative assistants or otherwise—is no easy feat. 

The best staffing agencies specializing in administrative assistants boast a robust database of candidates whose skills have already been tested and who have already been interviewed in person by the agency.  These two pre-screening steps—testing skills and interviewing—save you an enormous amount of time; placing an ad on a job board site will only inundate you with candidates who do not all fit your requirements, and sifting through these resumes can take weeks.  A good agency will ensure they only present candidates with the skills, experience, and professional demeanor necessary to perform successfully in the role.  These candidates, because they have been pre-screened, are available for your consideration almost immediately, and there is no time wasted passively waiting for resumes in response to an advertisement.  It is up to you, however, to provide the agency with clear and concise information about yourself and the firm before they can be effective.

For best results, before you sign on with an agency, do your homework: make sure they have a strong bench of pre-screened candidates (interviewed and skills-tested).  Think carefully about what the job entails, the kind of support needed at your firm, and the type of person that will best fit in with your company’s culture.  

Here are a few key strategies to keep in mind….

About the Job
When conducting any search for a new team member, whether they are a receptionist or a CFO, it is important to outline all of the details of the job, not only for your company, but for the recruiting agency you will be working with.  What will be the primary responsibilities of this new hire?  What will be their secondary duties?  What skills are required to perform successfully in this position?  In addition to the “must-haves,” make a second list of “nice-to-haves,”—if two candidates had the same set of skills and were equal in all other areas, what extra skills would distinguish one from the other?  Perhaps fluency in another language, or mastery of additional software would do the trick.  Specificity about the job is critical for your business and the agency working with you in order to source candidates that meet your business’s specific needs; every company has a different set of standards.  Outlining the job requirements for yourself will also give you a better understanding of the caliber of candidates you want to see as well as the pay grade.  A good recruiting agency will help benchmark salary requirements with you given the specific duties of the job and skills required to be successful in the role.

About You
The kind of administrative support required varies depending on the person in need of the administrator; the Chief Marketing Officer will require a different breed of admin than the Chief Executive Officer.  In addition to the specific requirements needed of the administrator, carefully consider the person the potential hire will be supporting.  Executives in the creative scope may prefer an executive assistant with Illustrator, Photoshop or InDesign skills as their “nice-to-haves.”  Executives with functions in the numerical sphere, such as Chief Financial Officers, or Accounting Departments may feel partial to an administrator with a degree in accounting, mathematics, or finance, for example.  Chief Administrative Officers or Chiefs of Staff may benefit from an executive assistant who has gone above the call of duty and gotten PMP or CAP-OM certified.  The details of the person requiring the support and their day-to-day activities will give you additional insight as to the ideal candidate for the role.

Professional Chemistry
Company culture is an important factor when considering a potential hire.  A company that is buttoned-up will find that they’ve made a mistake in hiring the person who, although articulate and well-versed in their trade, arrived at the interview five minutes late and wearing jeans and a T-shirt.  A company with a more casual environment will feel suffocated by a new hire that can’t take a joke or participate in company outings for fear of seeming too unprofessional.  A new hire should hold the same values as you company while understanding your mission, and consistently working toward accomplishing your goals.  Professional chemistry is a piece of the company culture puzzle, and especially important when hiring a gatekeeper for an executive.  Executive assistants and the individuals or teams they support interact with each other constantly, day-to-day for at least 8 hours every day.  It is vital for the two parties to understand one another on a deeper professional level.  Clients with EAs who stay on board for years attribute their retention to a mutual understanding, “they just ‘get’ each other.  [The EA] knows when to joke around, but more importantly, she knows exactly when to buckle down and get stuff done.” 

When it comes to using a staffing agency or recruiting company to assist in finding administrative talent for your business, focus on what matters: the job that needs to be filled, the individual or team the new employee will support, and the mission, goals and values that make up your company culture.  Keeping these three points in mind will help expedite the search process, and aid the agency in finding the best possible fit for you and your team.

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