We have previously written about hiring for culture fit or transferable skills versus personality matching, but today we are talking about one job that is based mostly on personality and soft skills, an Executive Assistant. Executive Assistants are very important to the executives they assist, they help run their lives and keep them organized. That being said, the hiring process for an EA is of utmost importance as well.
Job descriptions are essential for all openings, but they are especially important for EA positions. The duties of an EA can vary widely for each company, so make sure yours are clear. Will the position be supporting one executive or many? Will they need to assist with personal scheduling as well as professional? Does this role require work after hours and on weekends? What responsibilities, if any, will they take on, on behalf of their executive? Darius Mirshahzadeh, CEO of Money Source explains: “The key is to know who you are and what your needs are. For instance, I am extremely disorganized. I am an impatient person. I can be a poor communicator at times. What I do is think of every weakness I have and or have been accused of having by previous Executive Assistants and by my wife. Actually any significant other will do, as long as they have known you long enough where you can halfheartedly agree with them. I then turn that list into my help wanted ad.” A lot is expected from EAs, which is fine, as long as you let them know what they are getting into from the get-go. Make sure your job descriptions are well-defined and understandable.
Just as personality is important for this role, it is vital to assess candidates’ soft skills. “Every time we ask Human Resource professionals, Training & Development, managers, executives, CEOs, and administrative professionals, “What skills, attitudes and behaviors are necessary to succeed in this profession?” the list contains 90% interpersonal/soft skills and only 10% technical. […] While admins use technology all day, behind the technology are people. And to determine which technology to use and how it interfaces with process flow, one has to use their brains!” EAs aren’t often tested on their technical skills, because it is expected that they are fully proficient and comfortable on the computer. You’ll want to spend more time assessing their soft skills and making sure that you click. An executive assistant is often “in the know” because of their relationship with their executive so they must handle things professionally, and sometimes confidentially. Their values should align with the company values.
After you have established exactly what you’re looking for in terms of a job description and necessary soft skills you will prepare and begin interviews. “Look for someone who will be a problem solver […]. You’ll be able to determine that by conducting behavioral or situational interviews. That is, by asking candidates to describe specific kinds of past experience, or how they would handle a future situation. You might ask: “The executive you work for is out of the office and can’t be reached. Someone calls with an urgent question. What do you do?” Ask if the person has faced a situation like that in the past, how they handled it and what the outcome was.” Other situational questions to ask include:
- “What would you do if the priorities on a project you were working on changed suddenly?”
- “In a training session, you find that the trainer has a thick accent, and you can’t understand what’s being said. What would you do?”
- “What would you do if you realized at deadline time that a report you wrote for your boss or professor was not up to par?”
Situational interviews work best for positions such as an EA; it allows you to see how they handle problems and stress, both of which could arise.
Executive Assistants need to be dependable so your hiring process should be as well. Don’t leave this role to chance. We have AIRS certified online recruiters who can help you with temporary staffing or direct hire search services! Menlo Partners Staffing, a Peninsula based employment agency (650)752-6193.