What is one interview question you should ask when hiring an executive assistant?
To help you hire the best executive assistant, we asked business professionals and leaders for their insights. From “describe your preferred management style” to “how well do you handle rapid change,” there are several interview questions you can ask when hiring an executive assistant.
Here are 10 questions you should ask at your next interview for an executive assistant:
- What are your career goals?
- How well do you handle rapid change?
- What tools or systems are you most familiar with?
- Tell me about your problem-solving skills
- How would you act as a gatekeeper?
- How do you prioritize your workload?
- How do you typically handle sensitive information?
- Describe your preferred management style
- What are your strengths?
- What’s your process for making travel arrangements?
What are your career goals?
One needed interview question for an executive assistant is to ask what their ultimate career goal is. The reason to ask this question is that you want someone in the position aspiring for more out of their career.
A great executive assistant has drive, tenacity, and goals that surpass what they are doing currently for you. You, as a leader, always want to grow your subordinates, so you’ll need someone who wants to go further in their career so you can help guide them or utilize them for more within your organization.
Mark Smith, University of Advancing Technology
How well do you handle rapid change?
An executive assistant often has to manage rapid changes and adjust the plan accordingly. That’s why it’s essential to evaluate if a candidate can handle unpredictability and find a solution under pressure. To check it, it’s a good idea to ask the following question during your interview:
Could you give an example of a situation when you had to change your initial plan and apply some unconventional solution to deal with the problem?
Such a question helps you see if the candidate can handle unpredictable situations and think out-of-the-box when obstacles arise. On top of that, this question is not a standard interview question asked at every interview. Thanks to that, you can see how the person handles stress and comes up with creative answers under pressure.
Dorota Lysienia, LiveCareer
What tools or systems are you most familiar with?
Executive assistants may have it written on their resumes, but go over what tools they know and are skilled in as an interview question. Ask them for past experiences and projects they worked on using various software and tools. You may also learn new tools that will improve your experience, plus bring in old tools to build on new ones.
Olivia Young, Conscious Items
Tell me about your problem-solving skills
I think a great question to ask during an interview is one that explores the candidate’s boundaries with work and how they execute those boundaries. Inquiring about a time where they were asked to do too much work outside the regular workday is a great way to see this candidate’s problem-solving skills not just in a scenario like this one, but how those problem-solving skills will bleed into other aspects of their duties on the job.
It is important for employees not to experience burnout. Not only are you validating this person’s right to have a work-life balance (which will give the company a more positive light), but you get a chance to see how this employee will be able to handle a situation like this. Will they crack under pressure, or will they aim for a compromise so that both parties can get what they need?
Tom Mumford, Undergrads
How would you act as a gatekeeper?
Usually, executive assistants act as buffers for the executives they work with, filtering phone calls, emails, and visitors to help keep them productive and addressing issues as they arise.
To get a sense of how they would act as a gatekeeper, ask them how they would deal with an angry person who calls and demands to speak with the executive. This will help you understand if they would try to deescalate the situation and how they would go about diffusing tense situations.
Benjamin Smith, Disco
How do you prioritize your workload?
Executive assistants are responsible for organizing the schedules, flights, and meetings of executives. Understanding how they prioritize their work can give insights into how they will prioritize the executives’ schedules.
If an executive assistant does not provide clear examples of tools used to coordinate calendars, flights, and competing priorities, it can uncover some potential drawbacks to filling the position. Ultimately, if the executive assistant is unorganized, it can be a detriment to business executives.
Annette Harris, Harris Financial Coaching
How do you handle sensitive information?
When interviewing for an executive assistant, you should focus on how each candidate goes about supporting C-suite executives and handling things like sensitive information. Ask a question like, “If you had been given information that was sensitive and confidential by your boss and were approached by another executive about that information, how would you handle that situation?” This will give you insight into how they would navigate office politics, as well as their level of discretion in handling confidential information.
Eymel Daniel, ForChics
Describe your preferred management style
When hiring for an executive assistant (EA), it is imperative to look beyond skillset and determine if they are a fit for the person (or people) they are being hired to support. Many highly skilled EA’s have not been able to provide the success promised due to being mismatched.
A good way to establish fit would be to ask your candidate to describe a former executive (including their management style) that they worked best with as well as how they like to work. Their responses will help determine if the executive you are hiring for will be a good match for this candidate. Combining an EA that needs autonomy with a micromanager is a recipe for disaster that could be avoided.
Dawn Myers, Guided Leadership Solutions
What are your strengths?
By asking the virtual assistant what their strengths are, you will learn about what tasks she can complete for you versus what you will need for your business. It is always best to focus on the strengths a virtual assistant has and then ask about other things you may need and learn if she is open to learning those skills.
Galit Ventura-Rozen, Empowering U
What’s your process for making travel arrangements?
When you’re looking to hire a new assistant, you want to be sure they’re adept at making travel plans. Knowing how to book a flight, rent a car, and reserve a room may sound elementary, but it’s the kind of detailed task that requires thorough planning — especially if the trip is on a budget. In addition, traveling can be stressful at times, so an executive assistant must also consider an executive’s preferences and personalize each journey to create a successful experience.
Alix Greenberg, ArtSugar
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