How to recruit an organised executive assistant

30 April 2020 Anastasia Kelly

How To Find An Organised Ea

We’ve been recruiting EAs for decades. When we ask employers the personal qualities they’re seeking in an EA, everyone says the same thing: someone organised. 


Imagine you had an EA who is experienced, professional and personable… if they’re disorganised, all those other skills don’t matter. 


Of course, during the interview process we can ask candidates if they’re organised. And guess what? Over more than a decade of conducting interviews on behalf of clients, no one has ever answered in the negative.


So if you can’t ask directly, how do you make sure your applicant truly is organised? 


Reading between the lines

The CV is the first place to find signs of organisational qualities. Is it presented in a logical format? Does it highlight organisational skills as a strength? Do they talk about skills such as time management, prioritisation, delegation and teamwork? These are the hallmarks of the organised EA. 


A disorganised EA might give themselves away in their application by: 

  • not tailoring the cover letter to the job criteria 
  • leaving the name of another company in the cover letter (this is very common) 
  • making spelling mistakes or grammar errors, showing they did not proofread before submitting their application
  • omitting mention of skills such as planning, attention to detail or logical thinking


Time management skills

We all have the same 2400 minutes in a standard 9-5 working week. Organised people manage their time well. They know how long it takes to get things done and allocate their time accordingly. Plus they use a logical assessment process to choose the most important things - and do them first. So, look for clues about strong time management. 


Tools, tools and more tools 

Organised people love tools. It doesn’t matter if it’s traditional pen and paper methods, or digital workflow software. It could be bullet journals, calendars and post-its. Or, it could be Trello, Evernote and Slack. Most organised people use a combination of tools. Obviously your EA will need to be flexible and adopt the tools that your organisation uses. If a candidate speaks enthusiastically about the tools they use and shows interest in learning new tools, it’s a telltale sign they’re an organised person. 


Coping with disorganised people 

Many EAs are far more organised than their executive. That’s what makes them great EAs. If you have a leader who’s creative, erratic, dynamic and perhaps a little bit forgetful, the EA needs to be able to cope with that polarity of working styles. Even if it’s not the c-suite executive who’s disorganised, there’s likely to be someone at the company who’s all over the place. Perhaps it’s the brilliant yet chaotic sales manager or the finance head with papers all over their desk. An organised EA will answer confidently when you ask about managing disorganised colleagues. They’ll walk that fine line between keeping others on track without offending, nagging or cracking the whip.


The tendency matrix 

US writer Gretchen Rubin has a popular framework that categorises people according to how they respond to expectations, called The Four Tendencies. In a nutshell:

  • upholders: highly disciplined, they steadfastly stick to lists and routines
  • questioners: need plenty of detail and data to justify actions
  • obligers: work best when others are relying on them
  • rebels: act on instinct and want freedom to do things their own way

When it comes to your EA candidate, most employers prefer an upholder. Of all the tendencies, upholders can most definitely be relied upon to be organised. But they can be rigid in their approach. Upholders aren’t that common. Plenty of great EAs are not upholders. But understanding the framework and using it to determine the nature of your candidate can be helpful. 


Dealing with procrastination 

Organised EAs aren’t magical unicorns who never struggle with productivity. Instead, they have a system to identify when they are flagging and get themselves out of the rut. By asking your candidate how they manage procrastination you can determine their organisational capabilities. It doesn’t matter so much the approach they use. It could be a change of scene, doing the hardest activity first or blocking off distractions. What matters is they are able to identify their procrastination triggers and they have tactics to get themselves back into a productive zone. 

What do the referees say? 

If you are seriously considering making an offer to a candidate, you’ll need to speak to the referees. Of course, the referees are curated by the candidate so you can expect glowing recommendations. We know how to ask the right questions of referees to get a true picture of the candidate’s skills. We learn more from what they don’t say. Always ask open-ended questions, such as:

  • what’s their best quality?
  • what kind of tasks do they enjoy most?
  • what characteristics would their ideal boss have?
  • tell me about a time when the candidate impressed you?

Recruiting an EA for your CEO or C-suite executive?

We can take care of recruitment and present you with highly organised candidates for your consideration. Contact Anastasia on 0421 16 55 96.