Executive Assistants typically handle a variety of professional, and occasionally personal, tasks for company executives. They are responsible for helping with travel accommodations, maintaining schedules, data collection, organizing meetings, and supporting presentations. Exceptional computer skills and proficiency with a range of software tools are vital to the role.
During your Executive Assistant interview, it’s important to learn who you can trust to represent you in a professional manner with internal and external parties. A top priority is to ensure the candidate understands the sensitive nature of information that passes through the executive offices, and their responsibilities of discretion and confidentiality.
General interview questions (such as “Can you tell me about yourself?” and “Why are you looking for another job?”) are a great way to get to know your candidate’s personal history, interests and goals. However, be sure to add inquiries specific to the role they’re interviewing for, so you can gain valuable insights into their likelihood of success in that position.
Below are Executive Assistant interview questions to help you get started:
How will you anticipate the needs of an executive?
What you want to hear: This question allows you to detect if the candidate is confident in their ability to forecast the needs of an executive. The candidate should appear to at all times be focused and alert to the activity around them. Being observant of who calls or visits in person, monitoring upcoming meetings or presentations, and paying attention to the purpose of often-made requests are all good indicators of a strong candidate.
Have you ever been involved in a task that didn’t go as planned? How did you react?
What you want to hear: An Executive Assistant needs to be persistent and know how to problem-solve. Things inevitably go wrong when it comes to meetings or events, travel schedules, document preparation or delivery, or the like. The issue isn’t will it happen, it’s how will the candidate handle it when it does happen. Listen for examples of composure, focus, and the ability to resolve challenges with viable solutions.
Red flag: If your candidate appears to get overwhelmed by uncertainty or surprise, that is a sign they will not perform well in this role. You can expect they will be inefficiently relying on others on the team to help sort out problems.
If you were a superhero, what would your power be?
What you want to hear: This atypical question should elicit a creative and unscripted answer from your candidate and tip you to a little insight into their personality. Would they desire super strength, mind reading powers, or the ability to fly? How would they use their power? Their responses can tell you something about the things they value.
Red flag: If your candidate isn’t creative enough to come up with a good power and how they would use it, they might not be creative enough to problem solve tasks on the job. Look for someone who can think quickly on their feet.
If you are on a tight deadline for multiple tasks, how would you handle the situation?
What you want to hear: Executive Assistants are given tasks that vary from day to day and require a great deal of multitasking. Your candidate should demonstrate the ability to handle a workload that comes all at once, or is scattered about unpredictably. Can they show they can complete assignments quickly? Will they sacrifice quality when rushed? Are they willing to work after hours to get the job done? Search for a candidate who provides convincing answers.
Red flag: Everyone reacts differently under stress and time crunches. If in an interview a candidate can’t convince you of their capabilities in these situations they are likely going to run into big challenges on the job.
How do you feel the position of Executive Assistant has changed or will change in the future?
What you want to hear: This question gives your candidate an opportunity to show they take an interest in their career beyond showing up for work each day. Look for a candidate who can discuss the profession from various perspectives. For example, the responsibilities of the role, how the role is viewed in the organization, the technological advances that support the role, and the changing quality of continuing education for the position. A strong candidate is always aware of changes in the profession and how those changes can be used to one’s advantage.
Red flag: If your candidate seems indifferent to exploring the profession’s changes happening around them, the same lack of curiosity will likely surface on the job. At a minimum, failure to know of technology or other advances puts you at a disadvantage when it comes to maximizing efficiencies in your department and company.
What type of information do you consider to be confidential?
What you want to hear: A skilled Executive Assistant knows what kind of information should be treated as confidential. They should at a minimum point to the executive’s business and personal contacts, meeting and presentation content, documents and files, employee information, and all forms of correspondence as matters to be held in strictest confidence. The right candidate will recognize that gossip is to be expected in the workplace and under no circumstances will they use their knowledge to confirm or deny suspicions raised by colleagues or friends.
Red flag: A candidate who is unable to recite the basic rules of confidentiality and discretion, or appears to be more focused on the social aspects of their job and willing to show off that they are “in the know”, is waving a big red flag.
Every interview question can help get you closer to the right fit for your Executive Assistant position.
Be sure to keep an eye out for candidates who:
- Have outstanding problem-solving skills
- Understand the rules of confidentiality
- Are able to multitask effectively