Recruiting an executive assistant for your CEO: tips for HR managers

04 November 2019 Anastasia Kelly

Hiring an EA for your CEO

Every CEO wants a high performing executive assistant. So, as the HR Manager for your organisation, you are likely to be tasked with finding the perfect candidate. Unlike other roles across the business, the executive assistant to the CEO has a unique set of responsibilities. No other position within the organisation has such a close working relationship with your CEO.



Increasingly, a quality executive assistant is becoming integral to the success of the CEO.


CEOs face intense pressures from both within and beyond the organisation. The board, shareholders, senior executives and other staff are looking to the CEO for leadership, vision, direction and delivery of the company KPIs. Meanwhile, beyond the organisation, there could be scrutiny from regulators, suppliers, stockists, collaborators and perhaps even media analysis as well. It’s a demanding, challenging position. So, a high performing EA who can support the CEO at all levels is vital to the greater success of the organisation. Increasingly, functions like diary management and travel planning are becoming more automated thanks to developments in technology. As such, the role of the executive assistant is pivoting to a more strategic, consultative level of support.  


The key elements of recruiting an executive assistant for your CEO 

  1. understanding what the CEO requires 
  2. crafting an appealing position advertisement
  3. positioning the role amongst EAs not currently seeking a career change 
  4. diligently questioning potential candidates to find the right fit
  5. prepping candidates to perform well in the interview
  6. navigating successful placement 


Let’s go through each element in detail. 

Understanding what the CEO requires from the executive assistant

Sometimes, what the CEO says they want and what they actually need can be vastly different. Naturally, it’s important to have a discussion with the CEO about how the EA can best support them in their role. But as administrative processes become more automated, the role of the EA has much more potential. If the CEO is not aware of this opportunity, it’s up to the HR manager to open their eyes up to the possibilities of how the role can be diversified.  


These functions could include:

  • driving the CEO’s personal branding and thought leadership
  • strategic decision making support 
  • executing the business strategy
  • facilitating cross-team collaboration
  • providing higher-level administrative and operations management
  • supervising support staff such as office manager, receptionist, etc 


Crafting an appealing advertisement 

We treat position advertisements more like sales letters. It’s not just a listing of the functions of the position. Essentially, it needs to be persuasive, speaking directly to the potential candidate and selling the benefits of the position. Unfortunately, by adhering to the company’s strict position advertisement templates, the key selling points of the position may be buried in unnecessary detail. If the current structure of a position advertisement isn’t delivering, then finding high performing candidates will be difficult. Consider revisiting the structure of position advertisement templates to ensure that the key benefits of the role are presented strongly and persuasively. Candidates are scrolling vacancy listings quickly, probably only giving each position a brief scan to see if it’s worthwhile reading further. So we only have a short moment to gather their attention. Taking time to create a high-impact and powerful position advertisement is a worthwhile investment. 


Finding candidates not seeking roles at present 

Unfortunately, the best person for your CEO’s executive assistant is most likely already a high performing EA to a CEO elsewhere. If he or she is satisfied with their role, they may not be looking through the recruitment listings. Because we place many EAs, we have access to a database of potential candidates. But if you’re handling the placement in-house as an HR manager, how can you tap into that potential database? It’s challenging. But not impossible. By using LinkedIn you may be able to find executive assistants in their current positions in similar or vertical industries. 

By all means, reach out to them to see if they’d be interested in reading your position advertisement. After all, if they are a successful executive assistant, it’s possible they have a friend or colleague who may be interested. People are happy to share exciting opportunities amongst friends, colleagues and family. So, ask them!  I find that a simple request suggesting they share the role works wonders. 

As a recruitment agency, this is something we do regularly. Naturally, an in-house HR manager doesn’t have the time or resources to reach out on a similar scale. However, even if you target just a dozen potential candidates, you have cast your net that little bit wider in your search for the ideal executive assistant for your CEO. 


Questioning potential candidates 

You’re an HR manager, so we don’t need to tell you how to interview candidates. We know that techniques vary amongst organisations. No doubt you’ve honed your favourite approaches too. What works for us is establishing a natural, relaxed conversation. If the discussion is stilted and forced, you’re not seeing the true candidate. By encouraging longer discussions on a more informal basis, we find we get to see more of the true colours of each candidate. This is essential, particularly if you’re recruiting for a formidable CEO. Many CEOs are under high pressure and can be exacting, demanding or challenging at times. We favour transparency. If the potential candidate is well aware of the CEO’s personality and can demonstrate the capacity to manage it, the partnership is more likely to be a success. Using a recruitment agency can be helpful here. Often, the agency is in a position to have a truthful and frank conversation with candidates on behalf of HR managers. 


Prepping candidates to perform well 

We want to ensure each candidate puts their best foot forward. So, if the candidate has successfully passed the first round stage and is ready to meet your CEO, spend plenty of time prepping. It’s important to ensure the CEO gets a true picture of each candidate. Your role is to empower candidates to manage nerves. Many highly qualified candidates can be intimidated by powerful CEOs. Unfortunately, they don’t always sell themselves as well as they can. It’s a shame because many of these candidates would perform excellently in the role. As specialist EA recruiters, we work hard to help candidates highlight their capabilities during the interview process. 


Navigating successful placement 

If the candidate is successful and happily installed in the position of executive assistant to the CEO, it’s tempting to congratulate yourself and move on to other projects. But spend time onboarding candidates as much as practicable. It’s essential to work with both candidate and CEO to ensure they both settle into their relationship. This early stage can be vulnerable, and many executive assistants can struggle as they learn the personality and preferences of their CEO. Providing as much support as possible means the EA is more likely to learn the ropes and you’re more likely to have a satisfied CEO on your hands. 


Help for HR Managers recruiting executive assistants for CEOs

As specialists in recruiting executive assistants to Australia’s leading employers, we’d be delighted to assist you in finding suitable candidates. List a vacancy online or contact Anastasia at Altitude EA today for a confidential discussion about our recruitment services. Call 0421 16 55 96.