Can you recruit an executive assistant from outside your industry?

30 November 2022 Anastasia Kelly

Can You Recruit An Executive Assistant Outside Your Industry

In the current job market, I’m speaking to many HR managers who are experiencing significant challenges in attracting high-quality applicants for their crucial executive assistant roles. The usual strategies of leveraging industry contacts and advertising in a variety of locations aren’t working, requiring some out-of-the-box thinking to find the right applicant. 

Casting your recruitment net wider, into new industries, might be the key to finding a solution. As a HR professional, you know the most unlikely candidate can sometimes be your next superstar hire, however convincing your executive to take a chance can be difficult. So, how can you persuade them that considering an applicant from outside your industry could be a very smart move?

Accessing a wider pool means stronger talent to choose from

Successful recruitment can be a numbers game. The wider the area your advertisement appears, the higher the number of quality applicants. However, when screening those candidates and immediately discarding interest from those outside of your industry, you could miss the chance to onboard your next top-performer.

Be mindful of an accidental bias towards industry-based key phrases, qualifications, and experience. Instead, be on the lookout for core skills.

Key transferable skills are found in all top-performing executive assistants

No matter their industry, your next executive assistant will have a suite of core skills at their disposal. They will be masterful organisers, skilled relationship builders, and discreet and savvy stakeholder managers, while possessing a self-aware and resilient mindset. 

Your executive needs someone who can take pressure off them, anticipate their needs, and act as a gateway between them and the business. 

These are the attributes you need to be seeking during the recruitment process, and convincing your executive of their value. An applicant could have years of industry experience, however appear to be weak in coping with dynamic, fast-paced environments. Another applicant might be from outside the industry, yet their time-management, project coordination, and interpersonal skills are second to none. Considering an applicant with no industry experience, but a deep, core skillset will likely pay dividends in the long run. 

The benefits of appointing an EA from outside your industry

Highly motivated applicants

In most cases, the candidates applying from outside of your industry will be highly motivated to prove themselves. Often, I find these applicants have been researching and preparing to break into their chosen industry for some time. Many have undergone professional development or additional study, building on their networks, and actively seeking out opportunities.

As a recruiter, I’m always more impressed by an eagerness to learn and outperform, over an industry-seasoned applicant with a fixed mindset. By offering an opportunity to a highly-motivated candidate, you’re more likely to see top performance, and a deep loyalty to the employer who gave them their first break into their coveted industry.

The chance to introduce fresh perspectives

Doing things the way they have always been done can be limiting for business growth. Ideas aren’t challenged, processes aren’t changed, and opportunities for improvement are missed.

The good news is however, by simply introducing a fresh pair of eyes to a problem, procedure, or system, changes can be driven. By choosing to place an executive assistant with a different industry background, you are guaranteed to bring in new ways of working, ideas, and knowledge. 

Different experience means new expertise

When your executive has identified gaps in their team’s capabilities, bringing in an executive assistant from a different industry could be a game changer. 

For an executive who has to prepare or review large amounts of legal documentation, an executive assistant from an industry heavy in regulations, contracts, or governance could be invaluable to them. Alternatively, if your company has been recently listed, seeking out a candidate from a financial markets background could reap some immediate benefits.

Leveraging your EA to break into new markets

Applying a strategic approach to recruiting your ideal candidate could prove profitable. Should your business be looking to break into new markets, then screening for applicants with a background in these industries may put you ahead of your competition. Through leveraging the new executive assistant’s industry contacts, understanding of customers, sector requirements, and key stakeholders, your executive can save time, money, and effort in securing business in these new areas.

Managing the risk when recruiting outside your industry

Even with all the potential benefits available to your executive when recruiting outside of their industry, it may still feel like too large a risk to take. Encouragingly, there are some simple steps to take to reduce this risk, for both the short and longer term.

Skills assessments

Combining skills assessments with behavioural interviews is a solid recruitment strategy for any scenario, and can be invaluable to reducing risks for new hires outside of your industry. If your new executive assistant needs to be particularly skilled in transferable areas such as Excel, project management, or financial processes, using relevant assessments helps to guard against appointing the wrong candidate. 

Onboarding processes 

Ensuring your onboarding processes are thorough, structured, and supportive to your chosen candidate will set them up for success in their new role. Taking the time to develop and provide useful resources such as wikis, industry jargon busters, relevant subscriptions, and key stakeholder maps can significantly speed up a successful onboarding. By allowing your new executive assistant to hit the ground running, your executive manager will feel the benefits of their presence that much sooner.

Ongoing support

Once onboarding is complete and any probation periods served, continued investment in your successful candidate is worthwhile. By supporting them with professional development opportunities such as industry conferences and training, ensures a growth in their confidence, increased networks, and improved specialist knowledge.

Additionally, you may consider connecting your successful candidate with an appropriate mentor within the business, or industry. Perhaps there are other executive assistants within the company, or partner organisations, who could offer guidance, further connections, and inside tracks on the specifics of your sector.

Where to from here?

When asking your executive for a different approach to appointing their all-important executive assistant, you need to be absolutely certain of the quality of the applicants you can bring forward. 

If you’d like a confidential discussion about finding a high-performing executive assistant who can adapt to a new industry, while immediately benefitting your business, contact Anastasia today on 0421 16 55 96.