How to prepare for an executive assistant interview

25 February 2022 Anastasia Kelly

Executive Assistant Job Interview

When you are looking to step up your career, there comes a time when you’ll be preparing for an executive assistant interview. It can be very nerve wracking, particularly if you are enthusiastic about the potential in the role. Also, if you have been in your current role for many years, it may be some time since your last interview, and you might be feeling a little rusty. 

It’s true that some of the methods recruiters and employers use to find quality candidates may have changed, thanks to the onset of online tools like Zoom. However, the ultimate process is no different from years ago. It really boils down to finding candidates who meet the criteria, and have that important personality connection with their employer. 

Overcoming nerves 

When you are feeling nervous, it’s hard for the employer to see your true personality, which makes it difficult for them to make an informed choice. Employers are usually very good at helping you relax during the interview — they want to see you shine. 

Remember, if your CV and cover letter have got you to the interview stage, the employers have already realised you are an attractive candidate, so have already made it through the most difficult stage of the application process. If you can do everything you outlined on your CV, then there’s no need to feel nervous. Plus, a little nervousness is a good thing — it means you’re keen to secure the position and that’s attractive to employers. If someone’s not even a little nervous, it can mean they lack enthusiasm for the role. Often the worst moment for nerves is that final few minutes before your conversation starts. Once it begins and the discussion starts flowing, you often find the nerves melt away. 

Being prepared 

It goes without saying that you need to demonstrate your excellent organisational skills and be prepared for the interview. Doing your research and asking informed questions about the company values, culture and goals will be highly impressive. On the other hand, employers can spot when a candidate hasn’t taken the time to learn about the business and its culture. 

You can weave in the fact that you’ve done your homework by asking questions. For example ‘I see that the company uses Salesforce as its CRM, would I be required to use it in my role?’ Or ‘I read that you recently expanded into New Zealand, so will the executive be travelling there frequently?’ 

Having a few key messages up your sleeve 

Some interviewers will ask you to describe a time where you faced opposition, or a crisis occurred. If you are not prepared for a question like this, your mind can go terrifyingly blank while you scramble to answer. So be ready with a few anecdotes up your sleeve. Even if you don’t get asked outright, find a way to naturally weave them into the conversation. Perhaps there was a time your travel management skills averted a crisis or you appeased a difficult stakeholder. Have the story ready and practice telling it a few times. When a question arises, you can segue into your story and feel confident in the delivery. 

Be ready to interview them too 

Remember it’s a two-way thing. You are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Changing careers is an important decision, so you want to make sure you are making the right choice and joining a workplace that supports your career goals. Having a clear picture of the kind of people you want to work alongside and the kind of organisation you prefer will help you make the assessment in the interview. It’s important that the company goals are aligned with your personal values, and you can see yourself in a position where you bring your experience to the table and thrive. There’ll come a time in the interview when the employer will invite you to ask questions, so take advantage of this opportunity when it arises. Asking questions shows your enthusiasm and interest in the role and helps you decide whether it’s a right fit for you. Some questions you can ask employers could include: 

  • What would a typical day in the office involve? 

  • Are there any frustrations with the previous executive assistant that I can alleviate? 

  • Do you prefer frequent status updates or would you rather just leave me to get along with the job? 

  • In what ways would you expect your EA to act on your behalf?

  • What did you like about your best-performing EA?

  • Who would be the people I’d be working with most closely in this role?

Being concise 

I’ve seen excellent candidates miss out on exciting roles because they spoke too much in the interview. While some questions do require in-depth answers, it’s important to use your judgement and read social cues. If the interviewer is nodding and smiling, then you’ll know to continue. Otherwise, it is best to keep your answers brief and concise. If you are not sure, you can always say, ‘I won’t give you the whole story, but the outcome was a success.’ If the employer wants more detail, they will ask you for it. During the interview, the employer is wondering whether you are the right fit for the job, and whether you are someone they can see themselves working alongside. So chattering unnecessarily is a common cause of some interviews falling flat. 

Avoid cliche answers 

A great way to stand out from other candidates is to consider typical responses to common questions and prepare more considered responses. Check this list of common executive assistant interview questions and consider the potential standard answers you could provide— how can you go above and beyond in your responses? For example, if you’re asked about strengths, the go-to response is ‘organised’. When every candidate answers the same way, it can be tiresome for employers. So if you were to to bypass that cliche answer and suggest that your discretion, your people skills or your project management skills are your greatest strength you help differentiate yourself from other candidates. Similarly, when you’re asked about your weakness, perhaps avoid ‘perfectionism’ and talk openly about a genuine weakness. For example, ‘I’m not too familiar with the analytics system you use, but I’m a fast learner.’ 

Quality candidates are in demand

Plenty of employers are seeking high-quality EAs — so knowing that you’re likely to be highly sought after will help improve your interview confidence. Combine that with your naturally excellent preparation and research, and you will be assured that you’ve made every possible effort to put your best foot forward. Good luck! 

Are you an EA considering changing careers? 

Contact Anastasia for an obligation-free discussion on 0421 16 55 96. We can discuss your career goals and get a clearer picture on the right kind of executive assistant position for you. 

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