Do you have excellent time management skills? Are you great at organizing? If you answered a yes to these questions, you have the most sought-after talents of an executive assistant. It is an excellent career choice if you have the necessary qualities and want a lucrative salary.
If you want to prepare for an interview for this job, we have some excellent executive interview questions to get you started. But first, let's see what a typical day for an executive assistant looks like and how to become a great assistant.
As implied by the job title, an executive assistant is responsible for providing assistance to a high-level manager in day-to-day operations. Here are some everyday tasks that they perform:
Providing support services to the director of the organization or other senior members
Answering phones, emails and scheduling meetings
Managing the executive's calendar and arranging travel plans
Recording minutes of the meeting and creating and disseminating them
Collaborating with heads of other departments and external stakeholders when needed
Screening visitors who want to get in touch with the executive
Organizing documents and preparing reports, and performing simple bookkeeping tasks
Effective assistants are an extension of their bosses. They play an essential role in boosting productivity, and if given the proper support, they offer a great return on investment.
A good assistant should have practical experience, but more importantly, they should be proactive and plan ahead of time for events that may unfold. It is essential to take a few steps ahead of your executive, so they don't have to tell you what to do.
When you prepare for an executive assistant interview, it is excellent to have a list of questions to get ready with a thoughtful response. This article covers the questions frequently asked by the hiring managers as they are looking for specific skills and the sample responses to each question.
Why this Matters: The interviewer wants to assess how good you are at managing different tasks and prioritizing them through this question. As the executive is a busy individual, the assistant needs to create the time and space for all the essential functions of the day. So, it would help if you planned to tell the executive the activities reserved for the day.
Answer: At the end of the day, I make a list of the critical meetings and commitments planned for the next day. I design a schedule based on the high-priority tasks and goals that need to be accomplished for the day, such as standing meetings, events, and check-ins.
As I begin the day at the office, I make it a point to run over all the tasks with my boss and inquire if they have anything else. If any new job or project needs their attention, I make changes to the calendar accordingly.
Why this matters: This question is asked with the intent to know more about your practical experience in handling different tasks as an executive assistant. The interviewer also wants to gain insight into the essential duties and responsibilities you manage routinely.
Answer: As an executive assistant, it is my responsibility to see that my boss stays on top of things and uses his time efficiently. So, I take care of various tasks such as scheduling the calendar, managing travel plans, answering phones and emails, and taking down meeting minutes.
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Why this matters: As an executive assistant, your job duties also involve assigning tasks to other stakeholders and keeping track of projects. So, project management is an essential skill that interviewers look for.
Answer: I have project management experience wherein I collaborated with the internal teams to give timely updates about the project's status. Moreover, as an executive assistant, every task is related to a project. So tasks such as arranging travel plans and coordination with project stakeholders also helped in enriching my project management experience.
Why this Matters: In many organizations, executive assistants use project management software such as Trello, Asana, Slack, or OneNote to manage their workflow. The interviewer wants to see how familiar you are with these tools.
Answer: I am proficient in working with project management tools. (Mention the project management tools you are familiar with, such as Trello, Asana, Slack, and OneNote, and how to use them).
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Why this Matters: This question aims to test your expertise in problem-solving. It determines your ability to collect the required data, analyze a situation, and come up with possible solutions by weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each option.
Answer: In my last company I encountered several visitors who got mad when my boss could not attend them. They got angry and upset and sometimes verbally abusive. My first approach was trying to maintain a calm demeanor and putting them in touch with the executive through a phone call if that was possible.
I also asked these people to be sure to check with me at least an hour before arriving, as my boss's schedule was erratic. However, over time I realized that the best approach was to find someone who could address their concern in the absence of my boss.
At my request, my teammates were willing to pitch in when my boss was unavailable, which helped solve the problem.
Why this Matters: As an executive assistant, you routinely work with multiple executives, and there may be instances where two people have different viewpoints regarding the same issue.
So, this question is aimed to test your approach to resolving such conflicts that often arise in the workplace.
Answer: If I were given different instructions, I would communicate this to both and seek clarity to get the task done accurately. I would prefer to meet with both of these executives and discuss the task to ensure that we are on the same page regarding the instructions.
Why this Matters: As an executive assistant, you would have access to confidential information. So, you need to keep this information to yourself. Moreover, maintaining confidentiality is another common challenge people face in this job. So, the interviewer wants to know how you deal with this problem.
Answer: Maintaining trust and confidentiality is an integral part of my job. In my previous company, I faced a situation where one of the executives I worked with provided me with sensitive information about a merger, which would have a considerable impact on the company's stakeholders.
Another executive whom I was also working for asked me about the merger in a casual way. I told him that while I understand his interest in the subject and respect his position in the company, I cannot provide the details as they are confidential. I also suggested he contact the concerned executive if he wanted details regarding the merger.
The person understood the reason behind my polite refusal and also appreciated my ability to maintain confidentiality.
Why this Matters: The interviewer wants to assess your temperament with this question. They want to know how you perform under pressure and manage difficult situations.
Answer: I make it a point to discuss the work expectations with my boss and the different strategies that I can adapt to meet these expectations. Moreover, I try to organize my time so that I don't have to rush things early in the morning and manage the day properly.
I also like to organize my desk and keep it clutter-free as I believe that small tasks such as these make a big difference in making us more efficient.
Why this Matters: As an executive assistant, taking instructions is an essential part of the job. Also, negative feedback is part and parcel of this job and allows improvement when presented constructively. The interviewer wants to know whether you can take suggestions and corrections with the right attitude.
Answer: Once, I was asked to make significant revisions to a report I spent considerable time on. But, after listening to the executive's suggestions, I understood the areas for improvement, made the required changes, and delivered a better report.
I am always willing to learn from people and incorporate suggestions that will benefit the end product and help me grow in my career.
Why this Matters: Saying no to people is a frequent challenge that executive assistants encounter. There is never enough time for the boss to attend to everyone. So, the executive assistant has to turn down such requests from time to time.
An executive assistant is like a gatekeeper and needs to be professional and courteous with everyone even though they cannot fulfill every demand.
Answer: There was an instance when I was assisting two executives simultaneously. One of them wanted immediate assistance on a new project while I was already in the middle of things. So, I assessed my calendar and tried to accommodate the request, but I couldn't because I had too much on my plate.
I communicated to the executive that it wouldn't be possible for me to take up this work at the moment. I also explained the reason and conveyed that I was available next week, and he understood the situation.
"Saying no is vital to both your success and the success of your organization."
– Rebecca Knight, Harvard Business Review
An upcoming interview may give you jitters, but it is completely normal. The key to acing your executive assistant interview is to prepare in advance.
We have included frequently asked executive interview questions and provided sample answers so that you are well-rehearsed. You don't need to memorize the responses, but take them as pointers, so you have a good idea of what you can answer.
Feel free to add to the answers and prepare your examples regarding your work situations. It is good to record yourself and watch how you respond to make the required changes in expressions and tone. At the end of the day, you should have confidence in your skills and abilities.
Always remember to send a follow-up email to your hiring manager thanking them for this opportunity.
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