How to Hire the Right Executive Assistant

It goes without saying that executive assistants are integral to the day-to-day successes of a company. They hold the keys to the castle for the executives, help facilitate smooth business operations daily, and wear multiple hats to ensure leading teams are operating full steam ahead.

When it’s time to hire an executive assistant, it’s important to choose a candidate that not only has the necessary skills, but is also a great personality fit. After all, executives and executive assistants work together in a partnership, so having solid communication and collaboration is a must.

With these specifications, hiring the right executive assistant can be easier said than done. Not to worry, though: the following steps can help ensure that you get the right fit for the team and the role.

Skill fit

Executive assistants are privy to sensitive information about the executives themselves and the overall company, which means they need to be able to show discretion and command a high level of trust. They should also have outstanding organizational skills and be detail-oriented, since they’ll be managing the day-to-day tasks and hectic schedules of the executive team members.

Personality fit

Due to the amount of time spent between the executive team and the executive assistant, it’s extremely important that a potential hire is more than just a good skill fit. Making sure their personality matches the culture of the company and meshes with the executives’ personalities is crucial when hiring the right candidate. Additionally, executive assistants can sometimes become the face of your company to vendors, clients, or outside organizations, so it’s vital to make sure they exemplify the company’s core values.

Ask the right questions

Since so much of an executive assistant position is situational, make sure you’re asking the right questions during an interview with a potential new hire. Each day can bring new opportunities, so they need to be able to think on their feet. Here are some questions you can ask to gauge how a candidate would respond in this role:

  • Why are you interested in being an executive assistant?
  • What qualities do you believe make a great executive assistant?
  • Do you have any experience dealing with confidential matters/material?
  • Are you comfortable assisting with personal requests/non-work-related needs?
  • Are you willing to be available outside of normal work hours?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to reschedule meetings at the last minute.

Establish a company differentiator

How you market your company to candidates can make all the difference when trying to stand out to potential new hires. Do you offer special perks? Why is your company a desirable place to work? How do your benefits compare to those of a competitor (i.e., pay structure, PTO, work/life balance, etc.)? A lot of the time, candidates are nervous to ask these types of questions, so take the reins and showcase why your company is a great option for them. Just as you are interviewing the candidate, they are also interviewing you.   

Education

Try not to focus all your energy on a candidate’s education level. A non-degreed candidate who holds the necessary work experience can sometimes be a better fit than someone with the specific education or degree you are looking for. Focusing more on their skill set and previous work experience will more times than not lead you to a great hire.  

There are a lot of factors that go into selecting the right executive assistant for your company, so make sure you dedicate the necessary time to finding them. If you don’t have the time, consult the experts and connect with a recruiting firm. Recruiting firms do this for a living and will be able to send you qualified candidates in a short period of time so that you can focus your time on other business initiatives.

Julie Putnam is the senior director of staffing and partner at Vaco’s Nashville office.

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