If you are an EA preparing for an interview for your dream role, it’s natural to be nervous and apprehensive. Of course, you want to put your best foot forward and highlight your skills, while also keeping the conversation light and relaxed — a daunting prospect for even the most experienced of EAs.
Of course, being an EA you can bring your natural-born organisation skills to the fore and prepare thoroughly. A good way to start is to consider questions you may be able to ask. An interview is a two-way conversation, so it's important that you are prepared with topics you’d like to raise.
Your goal is to keep the conversation natural and relaxed
Let the interviewers be your guide. You’ll quickly get an idea if they want a formal question/answer arrangement or if they want to let the conversation flow more naturally. But at some point, you may find that the interviewers open the discussion to you and invite you to ask them questions. Shrugging and saying ‘no, I have nothing to ask,’ isn’t a great option. Because it shows you haven’t given this subject any prior consideration.
The more you can encourage the executive to open up, the more you’ll gain insight into what they are really like, leaving you in a good position to judge whether you are the right candidate for the role. Questions you can ask to facilitate this include:
what does a typical day in the office look like for you?
how often do you ideally like to touch base with your EA?
what things could an EA do to really impress you?
on the flip side, what can they do to irritate you?
what were the best parts about the performance of your best-ever executive assistant? (if they’ve managed EAs before)
what are your biggest frustrations with the day-to-day operations of your office that I can help with?
if I could wave a wand and take a few things off your plate, what would they be?
what things do you never have enough time for?
how do you see an EA supporting you in achieving your KPIs and the broader company goals?
Explore the culture of the company
Often, when you are learning about an organisation, you want to get an impression of the culture. If an organisation has a great culture, it’s no accident, so they should be able to share what they’ve done to build harmony in the workplace.
how would you describe the company culture?
what do people like best about working here?
how does the company perform in staff engagement culture surveys?
how has the company changed since you joined?
what are some office traditions that bring the teams together?
do people in the team hang out socially in any way?
Get an idea of the executive’s leadership style
Your executive is in a top position because they’ve a proven history of excellent performance, but what kind of leader are they? Consider who’d you’d best gel with and whether this executive has those qualities. Perhaps you like someone quiet and precise, or you prefer a more dynamic and charismatic leader. Even if you feel you could work with anyone, you want to use this interview time to get an idea of the personality of your executive. Questions you can ask include:
how do you manage the stress of your role?
how would you like us to resolve a disagreement?
how would your employees describe your leadership style?
what gets you most excited about the company’s future?
how available and accessible do you like to be to your team?
in what ways would you like your EA to act on your behalf?
Learn about the values
A great way to show you have done your research on the company is to demonstrate that you’ve checked out the company values on their website or annual report. Taking an effort to understand the values and how they are championed within the business can help give you valuable insight into the company culture, so it’s a good idea to ask questions such as:
I see your company values are X, X and X, how are these values encouraged in the business?
if someone acted contrary to the company values, how would that be dealt with?
how do you support diversity in the workplace?
what kind of social or charitable causes does the company support?
what mental health support policies are in place?
what sort of things does the company do to boost team morale?
Questions about the role
Of course, you want to understand the qualities the executive is looking for in their EA. Consider questions like:
what sort of qualities would the ideal candidate need to thrive in the role?
what things would I focus on in the first 90 days in this role?
what sort of performance review process do you follow?
will there be specific KPIs for performance in this role?
what sort of training will be provided when I begin the role?
will I have access to any ongoing training or professional development?
who are the important stakeholders I’ll be dealing with?
how can I help strengthen stakeholder relationships?
who would I be working most closely with and what’s their working style?
Be careful here! Before you prepare questions about the role, check over your documentation. If the position description shares the company values, KPIs or performance review process, you’ll fail to impress if you ask questions that reveal you know nothing about it.
Select only a few well-timed questions
Of course, you don’t want to ask the entire list of questions listed above. Trust your judgement and people skills to select a handful of carefully-timed questions that show you’ve done your preparation. While the decision sits with the executive about whether to progress you the next stage in the recruitment process, you have a decision to make as well.
You need to be comfortable and confident that continuing your executive assistant career is the right move. So the more preparation you can do in advance, the better you’ll be able to make that decision based on the discussion.
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.