Recruiting an executive assistant for a fast-paced workplace

27 February 2020 Anastasia Kelly

Recruiting An Ea To A Fast Paced Role

Everyone says their workplace is fast-paced right? But as a recruiter, I’ve placed candidates in busy offices that would make the typical employee’s head spin. 

Sometimes, the fast pace is directed by the leadership team and company culture. They’re decisive and they act quickly on those decisions. 

Otherwise, it’s a fast pace as directed by the industry. Industries such as entertainment, events industry, foreign exchange trading, logistics, air traffic and others are always hectic due to the very nature of the organisation. 

So when it comes to recruiting an EA for a fast-paced organisation, what are the qualities you should be looking for? 

Recently, I met an executive who brought a new meaning to fast-paced. A typical week for this executive included: 

  • travelling to three countries within a week, requiring extensive logistical support
  • heavy meeting schedules, needing strong diary management 
  • frequent last-minute schedule changes, requiring adaptability from the EA 
  • back-to-back (or even concurrent meetings), requiring flexibility and tech support 
  • plenty of events to attend requiring logistical support and planning 


Not to mention numerous projects, deadlines and pressures on a daily basis. 

It can be challenging to recruit EA for a truly fast-paced environment. 

If the candidate confidently reassures you they are great under pressure, how do you really know? It’s only till their feet are under the desk that you find out for sure how they cope. It’s a combination of four factors:

  1. establishing the importance of industry experience 
  2. finding the right personality fit 
  3. considering past experience 
  4. reviewing the skillset 

Industry experience helps 

Some organisations seek extensive industry experience, while others focus on attitude and personality. There’s no wrong or right here, but for a fast-paced workplace there are a few benefits to industry experience that will help your EA settle into the role: 

  • knowing stakeholders  - when the EA is asked to call ‘John’ or check the ‘SLR’ they know who John is and what SLR stands for
  • less induction - knowing the industry means the EA doesn’t need to learn as much and can settle in the job faster
  • well connected - with established industry relationships the EA is in a position to share resources 
  • best practice - the EA has directly observed other approaches within the industry and can share better ways of getting things done 

Questions to ask to find the right personality

When recruiting for a fast-paced environment, there are a few questions you can ask to determine how the candidate truly handles high-pressure workplaces. If you simply ask the question: can you handle it? Be assured you’ll hear a resounding ‘yes.’ So, you need to ask a few left-of-centre questions to determine the true nature of the candidate. 

Try questions such as: 

  • do you prefer a calm environment or high energy? 
  • tell me about a time when your office was really busy - what was that like? 
  • do you like to work on one project at a time or several things concurrently? 
  • how do you use technology to support you in managing a frenetic workload? 
  • in what ways can you support a team when they are really busy? 
  • tell me about a time when you felt stressed in your career - what was that like? 
  • what frustrates you in the workplace? 
  • do you agree with the statement ‘the busier the better?
  • what does fast-paced mean to you?

Past experience in a fast-paced role 

If the candidate has experience in a busy workplace, they’re much more likely to succeed and even thrive in your fast-paced environment. The previous experience listing on the applicant’s CV may not give much away about the nature of the workplace. So, the best way to find out is to speak to referees. It’s an important element of the process that can often be overlooked or left till the final stages. You can ask referees about the workplace to determine if it has a similar pace to your own. Also asking about the CEO or c-suite executive they worked for, to determine if they were demanding, frenetic and busy. 

Understanding why the candidate left their previous role is important too. If they left because they felt the business was chaotic or overwhelmingly busy, then perhaps they’re not the right fit for your position. Understanding the difference between a conducive fast pace and a stress-inducing hectic environment is key here too. 

Reviewing the skillset 

Of course, all EA position descriptions call for strong organisation skills. But in a fast-paced environment, it’s crucial. It’s also important to look for a decisive character. In a busy office, your EA will need to make quick decisions without wavering. 

The skillset you should be looking for will include:

  • organisation: to plan ahead 
  • decisiveness: to prioritise the best use of time 
  • communication: to keep third parties informed 
  • flexibility: when things suddenly change
  • common sense: for strategic insights  
  • resilience: not taking things personally when sudden changes arise 

Are you looking to recruit an EA for a fast-paced workplace? 

Contact Anastasia today on  0421 16 55 96 or email to discuss your requirements.