I talk to many executives convinced of their need for an Executive Assistant, but who never actually pull the trigger because they don’t know how to find the right person, and they fear hiring the wrong person in the role is worse than having no one at all.
At the end of the day, you’re going to have to make the decision to hire and take the time to do it right. This is not a hire where you should use a hands-off approach.
You need to be involved in the hiring of your own EA.
This hire, if done well, will become your right hand.
So, take the time and do it right.
This blog post is the first part of a two-part series titled “10 Can’t-Miss Steps for Hiring an Executive Assistant.” In this article, we’ll cover the first five steps.
Step 1: Define What You’re Looking For
Before you write the job description, you’re going to need to figure out what you’re looking for in an EA.
Are you going to need someone that performs only administrative calendaring or emails? Will they help with the budget? Do you want them to know Excel, Sheets, and/or some other program? Will they help with your social media?
Will they do any personal/family work for you, or is the role strictly business? Will you need someone to coordinate all of your travel? Will they plan events for your company? Will they write company-wide emails and memos on your behalf?
What kind of personality are you looking for? Will you work well with someone who is more introverted, or extraverted? Do you want to work with someone that is more analytical or more expressive? Do you want your EA to be an active participant in the inner-workings of your company? Do you need someone to rein you in or to drive the pace?
These are vital questions you need to explore before you begin building out a role description and job posting. And, since the ideal candidate will be your EA, it’s essential that you’re the one providing answers to these questions. I know you may be eager to reap the benefits of having a great EA, but you’ll be doing both of you a disservice if you don’t take the time to carefully evaluate what you want in an EA.
Step 2: Write the Role Description
The best way to ensure that you have a successful relationship with your EA is to make sure
you set the right expectations at the very beginning. If you copy and paste an off-the-shelf role description, you’ll create immediate challenges when you hire someone and have them perform duties totally different from what they were expecting.
A role description should lay out the basic tenants of the position in clear and concise language. There’s no need to get fancy here. Highlight the expected day-to-day task as well as long-term projects. Use action verbs to better help any prospective candidate judge whether they’re capable of handling being your EA. If building out a successful job posting is like constructing a house, the role description is the framework upon which everything else relies.
For more information about crafting a great role description, check out our blog article on that topic.
Step 3: Write a Role Summary
Most job posting websites will let you include a role summary with your role description. While a role description is zero fluff and to the point, a role summary can be a good opportunity to not only expand on the role description but also show off some of your personality. In the role summary, present more details and explanations about what you’re looking for in an EA. You want your role summary to catch the eye of the type of EA you’d want to work alongside.
At the same time, remember to avoid cheesy jokes and don’t oversell the position. When it comes to job postings, trying too hard is almost as bad as trying too little.
Here’s an excerpt from the role summary I wrote for an EA position with Emmre:
“Want to be in an Executive Assistant role that is probably different from any other Executive Assistant role out there? We are a start-up company in Colorado Springs trying to get off the ground. You’d be our first employee. Most startups don’t hire an Executive Assistant as their first hire. Why would we? We believe in the exponential impact of an Executive Assistant.
Like any great Executive Assistant, you would be an extension of me, taking things off my plate, and helping us get our product out in the market. And the most exciting part of it all…our product is software that helps Executives and Executive Assistants work better together! Keep reading if that sounds interesting to you!”
Step 4: Ask For a Cover Letter
At the end of the role summary section, I always include something like “If you match this description, I look forward to receiving your cover letter and application.” A lot of job posting websites ask if you want to make a cover letter a requirement for the application, but I choose to make it optional, and I make a point to ask for a cover letter. However, I don’t even consider an application if it doesn’t include a cover letter.
Let me explain: I want an EA who will go the extra mile, and if they’re not willing to do something I ask (like upload a cover letter) then I can safely assume we’re probably not going to be a good fit. I know it sounds harsh, but – as I said in a previous blog post – your EA could be your most important hire, and this no time to begin cutting corners.
I view this step as my first screening, a chance to separate the applicants who are serious contenders for the position and those who are merely firing off job applications left and right with no serious consideration of what they’re signing up for. And, speaking of screening…
Step 5: Include a Couple of Screening Tests
Every college student knows about weed-out courses. If it’s been a while since you’ve been in the classroom, a weed-out course is a class at the beginning of a degree program designed to phase out the students who aren’t going to be willing to put in the work and effort required to succeed in the program.
The last time I posted for an Executive Assistant role, I literally received hundreds of candidates. Right out the gate, the cover letter screening eliminated half of them. I didn’t even open their application. While that step immediately cut my workload in half, there were still a lot of candidates to review.
A lot of job posting websites let you add screening tests to the application. These tests can be as simple as a few open-ended questions or as complex as talent assessments to measure a candidate’s aptitude. You can add a fun question to get a glimpse into someone’s personality or provide a “check-all-that-apply” questionnaire to see which software they’re comfortable using.
Here’s the trick: Just like the cover letter, don’t make the tests a requirement. I was shocked at the number of candidates who flat-out ignored my questions or didn’t submit answers to my tests. So, I cut those candidates too. At that point, I had a manageable list of applicants from which I could review and pick the ones I wanted to get to know better.
And now, you’re ready to start interviewing candidates! In the second part of our two-part blog series on 10 Crucial Steps for Hiring a Great Executive Assistant, we’ll cover the final five steps.