A great executive assistant is like an air-traffic controller for your life. Not just your business, your whole life. They help manage not only the intricacies of the office and your business, but all the treacherous intersections between work, family, social obligations, and more. Hiring the right one is critical to your growth to get from the mid-tier to the top tier in productivity. Here is an overview of the process we use with our Private Clients.
Step One – Have a well written job description.
Set expectations right up front. The right Executive Assistant for your unique needs and personality are tough to find. Their job mirrors yours. It’s on-call 24/7. When you call or text, they need to answer, and do so happily. They are your right hand and are an extension of you and your brand. Clearly identify what you need this person to do for you and put it in the ad. It’s also helpful to offer a summary of the hiring process you are using to avoid frustration. The process can move as fast as you and the candidate wants it to.
Here is a sample job description:
Executive Administrative Assistant
To provide support for top level executives by providing executive level administrative support by providing clerical support, receiving clients and visitors, arranging travel and correspondence, and scheduling meetings. May also be responsible for training and supervising lower level clerical staff.
Roles and Responsibilities:
- Manage and maintain executive schedules, including scheduling travel and conferences, making appointments, and making changes to appointments.
- Answering and directing calls to appropriate executives and parties, taking messages.
- Greeting visitors and determining access to appropriate parties.
- Overseeing administrative policies within an organization and within the office; recommending changes as appropriate.
- Opening, sorting, and distributing correspondence, including email, faxes, and snail mail.
- Reading and analyzing submissions, letters, agendas, memos and determining significance; routing to appropriate personnel in a timely and efficient manner.
- Prepare reports, collect and analyze information; prepare presentations.
- Develop and utilize historical information; provide retrieval of information. Record meeting discussions and provide minutes.
- Maintain inventory and office supplies. Anticipate office needs; evaluate new office products; place and often expedite orders when necessary.
- Ensure operation of office equipment, order maintenance when necessary. Troubleshoot malfunction of office equipment.
- Provide payroll processing. Answer questions regarding payroll. Provide quarterly tax reports and filing.
- Maintain knowledge by attending professional and technical educational seminars and workshops; review publications; establish professional and personal networks within the industry. Participate in societies relative to the business.
- Data analysis; Proficient in Access, MS Word, Excel, Outlook. Perform filtering and sorting of data, V-lookup and other functions.
- Coordinate finances, assist with budget preparation.
- Train clerical staff on office equipment, policies and procedures, arrange for setup on new computers and logging of new employees in database.
- Meet with special interest groups or individuals on behalf of executives.
- Prepare executive responses to routine memos, letters, or correspondence.
- Prepare checks for signature and review.
- Provide clerical and general office support to other offices. Delegate tasks and responsibilities to other staff members when appropriate.
- Prepare and develop a records management system; maintain and recommend changes to records system when appropriate.
- Interact with customers when appropriate and problem solve. Document complaints and develop an appropriate course of action. Report problems to executives when they cannot be resolved for attention.
- Evaluate policies to ensure they are in compliance with corporate rules and mission.
Step Two – The 3 Minute Video
One of the key skills with an Executive Assistant is the ability is attention to detail. We have found starting with resume’s is a time consuming process and may weed out a candidate that would be a great fit for you. Instead, end your ad with a request for them to send you a 2-3 minute video. Ask them to answer the question “Why do you think you would be a perfect fit for this job?” Where you have them send it is up to you. If you are really active on one social channel, use that. If not, have them text it to you. One of the important factors here is to make sure they can figure out how to communicate in a way you are used to. They need to fit into your life and business not the other way around.
Step Three – The Personality and Skills Screening
If they pass the Video Test, then I’d invite them to take the screening assessments. For Admin positions, we start with the DISC test. Tony Robbin’s offers a free version which is pretty robust. If you want a super detailed analysis, Dr. Abelson’s version is the gold standard. We also ask them to take our Strengths and Core Values assessments. You can send them a pre-formatted message with all the links and the instructions to submit them to you via email. Once received, they can be scheduled for an interview.
Step Four – The B&P Capability Interview
For our Private Clients, we offer to do the first interview. We have hired hundreds of Executive Assistants and know what to look for in attitude, demeanor and skills. We also have a pretty good handle on our Clients unique needs and personality. We do the interviews via phone or Zoom video and will screen out the ones that are a bad capability fit.
Here’s what we are looking for:
- They have a servant’s heart. This is the foundation for everything else. A great executive assistant wants to serve—and not just your company or organization. A great EA wants to serve you. Whether the task is big or little, they achieve their goals by helping you achieve yours.
- They have personalized expertise. A great EA is like a second brain. They know what you like and don’t like. They knows where you are and where you need to go. They know when to schedule meetings and when not to. A great EA will gather as much of this information as possible as early as possible—and proactively keep learning.
- They master the calendar. In business we live and die by the calendar. Deadlines, appointments, meetings, presentations, calls—the calendar is the flight plan that keeps all of these moving parts from crashing into each other. And don’t forget scheduled commitments at home. If your EA doesn’t have mastery of the calendar, they are not they right fit.
- They anticipate needs. A great EA sees in advance what you need and plans accordingly. If it’s lunch before a meeting, reports emailed to a client, whatever, they have already seen the need and addressed it. Anyone can take a direction. But a great executive assistant is already moving the way you want to go.
- They prioritize the personal. When we talk about them being the air-traffic controller for your whole life, this is what we mean. If your EA defaults to prioritizing the professional at the expense of the personal, they aren’t a great EA. Protecting your personal time lets you maximize your professional time. A great EA knows that and helps you guard that time.
- They are willing to push back. A good EA will keep you from burying yourself. At any given moment you don’t know the full range of your commitments, obligations, and initiatives. Because it’s their job—and a great EA will push back when you start getting overcommitted.
- They create and master systems. Effective performance depends on a certain number of set preferences and procedures. What works best for you and your team? A great EA will document and systematize these things so you’re not always reinventing the wheel.
- They know what’s on your plate. We all have too much on our plates. Your EA should know all that you’re dealing with and what’s critical to your success. If they know that, they can keep you focused on the high-leverage activities and decline or delegate the rest.
- They respect your confidentiality. A great EA will have all sorts of personal information and access. It’s critical they have integrity and a sense of discretion. It’s also important they see when people are trying to get insider access or influence.
- They have great communication skills. This doesn’t just mean they can carry on a conversation. A great EA will help facilitate communication in your organization, especially if you’re bottlenecking things. Whether it’s email, calls, or other communication, a great EA will accelerate response times and keep the messages moving.
Step Five – Your Interview
The last step is the interview with you. We suggest you ask the Executive Assistant candidate about them, their background and get to know the human side of them. You interview is about comfort, your gut instinct and whether you feel this person is a good fit for you. This person is going to be an insider and you want to make sure you feel you can trust them.
Step Six – The First Six Weeks
The first six weeks are going to be bumpy and you need to be patient and reassuring. They are learning you and your rhythm. They are taking in the rest of the team and all of your current systems. A good Executive Assistant will be able to figure out things on their own without looking to you for a lot of direction. It is what distinguishes them from a normal admin. They are objective driven vs process driven. For example, If you ask them to get the contact information for someone, an Executive Assistant will just return with the information. An administrative assistant might ask you how you want them to get it or where to look.
At the end of the first 45 days, sit down with them for an honest conversation about what they are learning, what’s working and what’s not. The right person will take the feedback and also give some helpful tips on how you can do things more efficiently and effectively.
Remember, the right executive assistant is like an air-traffic controller for your life. They help manage not only the intricacies of the office and your business, but all the treacherous intersections between work, family, social obligations, and more. Not just your for your business but for your whole life.