10 Crucial Steps For Hiring a Great Executive Assistant – Part 2

In the last blog post, we talked about the first five steps you’ll need to complete before hiring a great Executive Assistant (EA). In this article, we’ll finish out the series and provide you with the final five steps.

Note: Before tackling this blog post, we highly recommend reading the first blog in the series – “10 Crucial Steps For Hiring a Great Executive Assistant – Part 1.

Step 6: Email Follow-up Questions.

After screening out applicants with the “optional” cover letter requirement and the additional tests/questions, you’ll likely be left with 10-30 candidates that you’ll need to sort and evaluate.  To get that list down to your top 10 prepare a couple of follow up questions for each candidate to email to the remaining candidates. 

These follow-up questions serve a dual purpose. For starters, you should be asking questions that you are curious about and help you get to know the candidate better. However, the main reason you’re asking follow-up questions is that you’re looking at their response time (if they do respond – if not, strike them from your list) and gauging the thoughtfulness of their answers. Promptness, follow-through, and thoughtfulness are qualities you’re going to need in an EA.

For example, “I noticed that you are out of state, will you be moving to XX?” or “I see that you’ve worked at larger companies – what made you interested in working for a smaller company?” or “I noticed you’ve only been in your current role for one year, why are you looking to move so soon?”

Step 7: Schedule a “Get-to-Know-You” Interview.

After assessing the answers to your follow-up questions, select the top 5-10 candidates, and set up fifteen to thirty-minute meetings with each of them. If it’s convenient to meet locally in person do so, but I’ve found a video-conferencing call is easier logistically for both parties. 

Remember, this isn’t a formal job interview. You should use this time to just see if you connect if you’d enjoy working with this person and do you think they seem capable of doing the job. 

Stay away from job-centric queries, and ask more general questions like “What interested you in this role?,” “Why do you want to be an EA?,” and “What about our company makes you want to be apart part of what we do?”  A few minutes discussing some simple questions like these will help you know which one to three candidates you want to invest in a longer more in-depth interview.

Step 8: Prepare For the Interview.

This step is so easy to skip. Executives often jump right into the interview and rely on their “gut.” I cannot stress enough how much that is a bad idea. You need to have well thought out questions. 

The good news is that if you took Step 1 (Define What You’re Looking For) and Step 2 (Write the Role Description) seriously, then most of the preparation work is already done.  These items the framework for your job-related questions. Look through the list of expectations, tasks, and projects in the role description and prep questions for each candidate specifically related to items in the role description. (For example, “The Role Description mentions you’ll be doing [X]. Do you have any experience doing [X]? How has your previous employment roles prepared you to do [X]?”). 

You’ll also want to have a few non-role specific questions ready as well. Review their resume and cover letter before the interview and jot down any questions you have. If the candidate lives out of state, ask them how they feel about moving to where your company is located. If a candidate doesn’t have any prior experience as an EA, be sure to prep some questions around their qualifications for the position. 

Step 9: Conduct the Interview.

It’s time to interview. Be sure to have your questions and role description at the ready. Remember that the best line of questioning comes straight from the role description. 

The majority of time will be asking questions but don’t forget to take this opportunity to set expectations and get their response. It’s imperative that you address the fact that being an EA will sometimes be difficult and unglamorous. There’s no reason to present the position through rose-tinted glasses.

Be sure to point out that mundane tasks (like making copies, scheduling meetings, and organizing travel) will undoubtedly make up a portion of their workload. Additionally, you need to bring up the fact that being an EA may put them in contact with confidential information about the office and their co-workers. If violated, trust is nearly impossible to rebuild, and if they don’t feel as if they keep a tight lid on these sensitive matters then give them an early out. 

Finally, give time for questions at the end. I always want people to have questions. If they don’t have any questions, then they probably don’t have any real interest. 

(Also, a big bonus is if you have a trusted EA join you or conduct their own interview for you. It’s always great to have an extra set of eyes and ears when selecting candidates for such a consequential position).

Step 10: Make an Offer.

The interviews are over, and it’s time to make your top choice an offer! However, before making a phone call or sending an email, do your research on compensation. If you found the perfect candidate don’t blow it now with an offer below-market or by making an offer in a way that is not compelling. You want your offer to be competitive with similar roles in your area.

I recommend you make the offer yourself and don’t delegate this to HR.  This is someone you are going to be working very closely with and you want to be able to respond to any questions or concerns they have and be able to experience their response first hand. 

As I wrote in a previous blog post, your EA is the most important hire you can make. I hope these ten steps will help you select the ideal candidate that you can partner with. Honestly, we probably could’ve written a blog on each of the ten steps, but let us know in the comments below which steps you consider the most vital and what advice do you have for people when hiring an EA. 


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