With so many duties to juggle and schedules to maintain, executives simply can’t do it all themselves. To remedy this, many companies will hire an executive assistant to help.
Executive assistants are valuable members of the executive team as they can bring order and efficiency to an executive’s role—but you have to make the right hire. Here are some traits leaders believe one should prioritize when screening candidates.
If you hire someone just to take orders and fulfill them, you’ll have to hold their hand for everything you need. Finding someone who is creative in problem-solving and in the way they approach problems will yield a much better result that requires less time on your end. You want someone who will give you what you asked for, but also come up with new ways to look at things that you may not be initially thinking about.
The ability to remain calm under pressure and think quickly on their feet is key, without a doubt. An executive assistant has to essentially function as the port of call for whenever something goes wrong, armed with a contingency plan and a cool attitude. If your assistant panics as soon as you panic, then you won’t get anywhere. In fact, you’re likely to end up in even more trouble! Interviews are fantastic for seeing who can remain calm under pressure, because what’s more pressure than an interview? It’s the perfect environment to test how quickly someone comes up with solutions to problems too. Pay attention to how fast they answer your questions. This will give you direct insight into how they will work alongside you.
I recently brought on an executive assistant for myself and our COO, and the main trait that was most important to us in this candidate was authenticity. Obviously, other factors are important—such as intelligence, organizational skills, excellent communication and writing—but to our smaller family-oriented business, finding someone you feel you can trust is most important. Our new executive assistant was referred to us by a long-term employee, which also bolstered our positive feelings toward her after several excellent interview sessions.
A strong candidate for an executive assistant position is typically someone eager to prove their worth in the workplace. I’m looking for people who have a desire to do their jobs well, regardless of what they may be asked to do, or someone who will be able to perform to the best of their abilities in a time-sensitive environment. One of the most important benefits of choosing a candidate with a strong work ethic and a desire to prove their worth in this profession is that it is easy to gauge their attitude by their level of productivity. If an executive assistant consistently does a good job, even if their day is filled with a lot of interruptions, then they will always be more productive than a person who is constantly trying to catch up.
Your executive assistant will be conversing and interacting with virtually all members of your company and, in a sense, they are representing you. That is why professionalism is absolutely paramount.
6. Communication Skills
Executive assistants take calls, schedule meetings, oversee certain business functions and manage administrative requests. When hiring someone for this position, one trait to look for is amazing communication skills. Someone who has this will communicate effectively with you, other executives, clients and employees. Likewise, they’ll contribute to the good name of your business by being friendly yet effective. A few telltale signs someone has excellent communication skills are maintaining eye contact during an interview, being respectful, asking appropriate questions and displaying interest in what you’re saying.
Depending on your tech prowess, this may not be true for you, but the one trait I look for in a candidate for this position is tech-savviness. With so much of my business being conducted online, I cannot afford a technology mishap. Executive assistants are integral to successful client conferences. They can schedule, set up and proctor online meetings, record chats and provide client information in real time. Before, the executive assistant was not invited to the room, and today they can effectively control the entire meeting space with some anonymity. Tech know-how today is akin to unjamming the copier of yesteryear. It is essential for the position.
8. Time Management Skills
I want my executive assistant to have really good time management and organizational skills. A lot of times, they are responsible for keeping track of multiple schedules for the executives. Additionally, they are also responsible for maintaining the time needed to hold conferences, complete projects and work with clients. So I think possessing effective time-management and organizational skills can help assistants be successful in their roles.