How to secure a high-performing executive assistant in a difficult job market

14 September 2022 Anastasia Kelly

How To Secure A High Performing Executive Assistant In A Difficult Job Market

It’s well understood the most difficult position to successfully recruit for is an executive assistant.

The combined pressures of a busy executive leader, short timeframes, high expectations, and a defined budget can make this a stressful task, even for the most experienced of HR teams. Now, in the midst of “The Great Resignation” and position vacancy rates at 111.1% higher in Australia than pre-pandemic levels, securing the right executive assistant feels more challenging than ever before. 

You know that competition is high and the top-level executive assistants are more discerning, but you’re unsure how to attract the very best to the business. 

The good news is there are several steps you can take to give you the recruiting edge for your new EA in a demanding job market. 

Get clear on your expectations of your new executive assistant

You know you’re after an excellent EA to complement, and reduce the pressure on, your leader. But has your executive defined what excellence looks like for them, day to day?

Perhaps they need an executive assistant to manage their diary, travel arrangements, correspondence and meeting requirements, so they can free up some much-needed time in their calendar. Or maybe they’re looking for a strategic business partner who can anticipate their every requirement and thought, help with decision-making, and act as a conduit between themselves and key stakeholders.

Both of these types of EA can add true value to the business, but not if you recruit one type, and your executive needs the other. 

An incorrect fit means lost time, money, and productivity. It can also lead to a frustrated leader who is disappointed in your team.

Before placing a job ad, I strongly recommend thinking about the areas that are presenting the most pain points for your executive. Also, consider a more strategic view of what a talented and committed executive assistant could add to the organisation in the future.

A specialised position description for a specialist role

When searching for a new EA, quite frankly, you need someone exceptional.

Therefore, the position description must be accordingly tailored to the specific needs of your leader. You have already defined the skills and attributes that are required from the executive assistant to help your executive succeed in their  role, and it’s vital to reflect these in the position description. Using a generic, administrative-focused position description will not be a suitable approach for your search. Instead, writing a detailed and accurate position description that fits the expectations of the role, is a key predictor of success in your hunt for the perfect EA. 

Don’t discount the effectiveness of a well-written job advertisement

Just as defining your leader’s requirements, and documenting them in a position description, are critical steps in the process, so is crafting the ideal job advertisement. 

A strong job ad will capture the interest of outstanding applicants, and convince them to apply for your role. I advise drawing attention to what makes the business an attractive place to work, what challenges and opportunities are on offer, and what benefits your successful applicant can expect to receive. 

Additionally, give some thought to the culture that is on offer and how you might highlight this in your advertisement. Is it fast-paced, dynamic, and cutting edge? Or perhaps you’re in need of someone who is a good fit for a friendly, collaborative, and hands-on team. Diving into these details within your job advertisement will save you valuable time during the recruitment process. 

Finally, consider the key terms that come to mind when picturing your ideal candidate. Defining desirable traits such as self-starter, intuitive, superior communicator and strategic thinker, will encourage applicants of a suitable calibre for your role.

By clearly setting the tone and expectations within your job ad, you are more likely to avoid disappointment, and professional embarrassment, when it comes time for interviews.

High-performing means highly paid

There are no shortcuts when finding the ideal executive assistant to join your business leader. And within the current job market, appropriate remuneration could not be more important.

Top-level EAs are very aware of the skills and value they bring to a business, and will simply bypass opportunities that don’t remunerate accordingly. 

The earlier defined requirements will be useful in helping you guide your executive in determining the package they’re willing to offer. You can then compare to find out where the remuneration package is placed among similar positions

The bottom line being, if your leader is looking for the very best of EAs, you’ll need to influence them to pay their new EA accordingly.

The perfect personality fit is vital

Often, sourcing candidates with the right skills and experience seems easy, but matching their personality to that of your executive leader, can prove to be an extremely difficult ask. 

It can be challenging to professionally allude to the more unique aspects of your leader’s disposition within a job advertisement, during candidate vetting, and then interviews. 

As the leader of the HR team, it’s your responsibility to professionally represent your leader and organisation. However, when sourcing the right EA, you need to balance that responsibility with being honest about what working with your leader will be like.

If you attract the wrong personalities, or candidates with unrealistic expectations, the new partnership is unlikely to last. Meaning you will be back to square one, and your team’s reputation may be damaged in the process.

Worthwhile benefits will attract desirable candidates

By now, you’re confident you’re recruiting for an exciting role, full of positive challenges, a great culture, and an attractive salary package. 

But so are lots of other HR teams. 

So, how to make your offer stand out from the others? There are many benefits you can include in your job advertisement to entice the most suitable applicant. Perks such as a genuinely healthy work/life balance, paid professional development opportunities, hybrid working models, and additional leave are just some advantages you can offer as a recruiter.

Not only will these benefits help you during the recruitment process, but they will also contribute to the retention of your valuable new team member.

Whichever of these you can counsel your leader to offer, make sure they’re clearly outlined in your job advertisement, and referenced during any conversations held with your chosen prospects.

A daunting process but rewarding outcomes

Finding the ideal executive assistant for the needs of your business leader can feel insurmountable but dedicating the correct resources will always prove worthwhile.

As we have seen, it’s not enough to have an exciting position available. You’ll also need:

  • Clarity on expectations, required skills, and desired outcomes from the role

  • An understanding of the organisation’s culture and the personality that will best fit it

  • A carefully crafted job advertisement that is targeted towards your ideal candidate and what they’re looking for in a position

  • An attractive salary package with meaningful benefits that differ your business from others in the job marketplace

Looking for expert help to find an exemplary EA?

If you’re looking for access to an extensive network of outstanding executive assistants, I can help. I provide assistance with sourcing and securing the highest quality candidates, including those who aren’t publicly advertising their availability. 

Contact Anastasia for an obligation-free discussion on 0421 16 55 96.