Illustration of a woman sittiing at a table with a computer holding a phone

Why this matters:

With this question, you’re looking for the candidate’s proficiency with leading-edge software applications and their ability to adjust to changing systems quickly and seamlessly. Executive assistants are on the front line of all company communication needs, creating expense reports, spreadsheets, annual reports, and emails — and they must be able to use all tools at their disposal to their best advantage.

What to listen for:

  • Familiarity with a range of project management systems, videoconferencing platforms, and communications devices
  • Strong answers that show the candidate is ready and eager to learn and master new tools as they become available

Why this matters:

Executive assistants need to routinely make difficult things happen — and the great ones won’t stop until all tasks have been successfully ticked off the list. If their boss asks them to make a meeting happen, the right hire will stop at nothing to put it on the books, trying a variety of strategies until they find one that works.

What to listen for:

  • Answers that show the candidate is looking at the challenge from all angles and has actionable suggestions for several eventualities
  • Creativity, assertiveness, and professionalism — even in the face of a challenge

Why this matters:

Executive assistants often have access to sensitive and confidential information, and it’s imperative they understand the importance of keeping it private. At the same time though, there are some situations when sharing the information is the right thing to do. The best executive assistants have no trouble assessing the situation and acting appropriately.

What to listen for:

  • Answers that show the candidate knows that keeping things confidential doesn’t necessarily translate into 100% nondisclosure
  • Evidence that the candidate has an understanding of how to maintain proper confidentially — and how to evaluate and draw exceptions to the rules

Why this matters:

It’s good to know that an executive assistant will be there for the company when it needs them most, so the best candidates will show an understanding that staying late, coming in early, and working the occasional weekend is a possibility. But work-life balance is also important, so you want to know your candidate can draw the line when it needs to be drawn.

What to listen for:

  • Signs that the candidate is comfortable pushing back and suggesting compromises and alternatives when necessary
  • Strong answers that show true dedication to the job, but not at the expense of the candidate’s well-being

Why this matters:

This question will tell you how a candidate adapts to change. There’s nothing more frustrating for an executive assistant than to see a beautifully choreographed schedule fall apart — especially at the last minute. But it happens from time to time, and it’s their job to pick up the pieces and reassemble them into another masterpiece.

What to listen for:

  • Signs that the candidate can maintain a positive attitude, even when things aren’t going to plan
  • Evidence that the candidate relishes restoring order after an unexpected shake-up

Why this matters:

Often, there aren’t enough hours in the day for the boss to speak to every person demanding their attention, so it falls on their executive assistant to turn some people away. To be an effective gatekeeper, your new hire must be firm while maintaining courteous, solid, and professional working relationships with everyone they interact with on a manager’s behalf.

What to listen for:

  • A clear indication that the candidate is comfortable saying no and can do so tactfully
  • Evidence that they took the time to understand the reason for the request and offer appropriate suggestions about how the requestor might accomplish their objectives

Why this matters:

It’s imperative that you find an executive assistant who fits the culture of your office and organization. Delve deeper into the corporate culture they experienced at their last job and confirm whether they’ll thrive in your office. If they prefer quiet, for example, and your office is bustling and loud, they may struggle to focus.

What to listen for:

  • Answers that focus on the positives and discuss the negative aspects of the job thoughtfully, rather than sounding annoyed
  • Mentions of the things they disliked about their last job — if those are integral to this position, it’s probably not meant to be

Why this matters:

A great executive assistant is highly self-aware, and their answer will likely tell you the job skills that they feel are their personal strengths. It will also give you a sense of the parts of the job they consider to be the most important, whether that’s generating efficiency or making their boss’s life easier.

What to listen for:

  • Answers that closely align with the traits your organization values most
  • Whether the candidate provides three words (and only three words) — if they do, you know you have a great listener who can take direction

Why this matters:

This answer will tell you a lot about the candidate’s passion and motivation. The role of the executive assistant is changing over time, evolving from someone who simply schedules meetings, takes notes, and answers phones to an employee who plays a more strategic role in the business. You need to know that your new hire will get what they want from the job — otherwise, they may leave.

What to listen for:

  • Answers that align with what the position offers to candidates
  • An indication that the candidate sees themselves as more of a gateway than a gatekeeper
chatting over desk with laptops and coffee

Contact a sales specialist.

By submitting this form, you agree that we may use the data you provide to contact you with information related to your request/submission and LinkedIn's products and services. If you are a LinkedIn member, you can control the messages you receive from LinkedIn in your settings. If you are a guest, you can unsubscribe from LinkedIn marketing emails at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the email. Your data will be used subject to LinkedIn's Privacy Policy.