“Executive Assistant” can have vastly different meanings between organisations and as such, is one of the most challenging types of roles to hire. EAs occupy the space somewhere – and everywhere in- between admin assistant and strategic partner, providing not just administrative support but on-the-ground intel to their executive to ensure that business implementations are a success.
With the digitisation of the more basic support functions as well as a post-pandemic shift towards remote working, the EA role has expanded in recent years to encompass a broader range of skillsets and as a result, the typical candidate is one who is continuously in the process of upskilling to meet these changing business needs. The typical tasks that are now expected of a mid-level to senior EA include, but are not limited to:
● project management
● overseeing budgets
● managing other support staff
● participating in meetings
● critical thinking and providing objective advice
● human resources tasks
With as much scrutiny as ever on the bottom line, a hesitation some organisations have when it comes to hiring an EA is the pressure for his or her output to be commercially quantifiable. If you are weighing up value add vs bottom line with respect to hiring an EA, a helpful way to look at it is to evaluate the percentage of your time, and therefore salary, that the EA will free up to allow you to move forward with activities directly related to growing the business.
How do I attract the right kind of candidate?
Before considering anything else, the chemistry between executive and EA has got to be right: no amount of qualification will replace finding someone whose personality you truly gel with and can see yourself evolving with over time. Establishing a harmonious working relationship will help to ensure your EA is comfortable to be themselves, to share ideas and better fulfil their potential; in turn helping you to fulfil yours.
When compiling your job posting, be clear on what you expect from the successful candidate: as the EA role can differ so much from one organisation to the next, it is useful to define a list of responsibilities that you would expect your EA to carry out: this will filter out candidates who are after something more – or less – involved. Do you require specific qualifications or types of experience, e.g. the use of certain softwares? If so, stipulate this on your posting. Looking for certain personality attributes? Make sure they are spelt out.
Finally, take the time to research market rates to ensure that what you’re offering is competitive, both in terms of base salary and benefits. Research indicates that benefits such as a discretionary bonus, flexible working opportunities, an inclusive company culture and access to training are all factors that contribute to a candidate’s decision to join an organisation.
Getting the most out of the interview process
You want to give the candidate a platform to be themselves and show you their personality amongst answering the more functional questions. So, kick off the interview by getting them to talk you through their CV: who were they supporting in their last role? Why did they leave? What was their favourite – and least favourite – part of the job? What transferable skills have they gained? This familiar territory should help put the candidate at ease for the remainder of the interview.
Next, you need to think about chemistry and value matching to ascertain if they’ll be a good fit. How would their co-workers describe them as a team member and a leader? What kind of work environment brings out their best performance? How would they describe their ideal boss? It may also help to ask scenario-based questions such as “Can you give me an example of a time you have worked with a difficult individual and how you dealt with the situation?”
On top of conversational questioning, you may want to look at additional measures of evaluation such as psychometric testing, a software test or a prioritisation exercise which you should set expectations for at the initial screening stage.
In our experience when it comes to recruiting the perfect Executive Assistant, practical skills can be taught but first and foremost you need to gel with a candidate in order to get the most from the partnership (and a partnership is absolutely what it is!). It definitely pays to chat to a recruiter with an EA specialism as they’ll know exactly who to introduce you to based on the skillset and work ethic you’re looking for. At Australasian Recruitment Company we have a strong EA candidate base and can guide you through the hiring process. Get in touch on 0207 625 3300 or firstname.lastname@example.org to see how we can help you.