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How to hire the perfect Executive PA

Kate Allen, Executive Chair and Marketing Director, Allen Associates

An Executive PA can be one of the most valuable assets to a business owner: it is they who ensure your time is managed effectively, your meetings are scheduled accordingly, and your to-do list is tackled efficiently.

In many organisations, Personal Assistants are the first point of contact for all internal and external stakeholders and play a key role in keeping the ship sailing smoothly: if there’s one person you should trust the most in your organisation, it’s your Executive PA.

Unfortunately, finding the perfect Personal Assistant isn’t always easy. Choose the wrong candidate and you could find yourself dedicating more time to their development than running your business. However, choose the right one and your company could flourish from the extra energy you can commit to driving success. If you’re currently seeking a safe pair of hands to lighten the load, the following few tips will help you in hiring the perfect Executive PA.

Determine what ‘perfect’ means to you

Before you can hire the perfect PA, you must first determine exactly what this means in relation to your business. Take some time to assess the current skills gaps and the areas you feel are suffering due to lack of resource. Consider the duties you will need your Executive PA to undertake: will they be mostly secretarial or will they support you in making key business decisions? Do you expect your Executive PA to be as flexible as possible, staying late or coming in early when appropriate? If so, include this in the job description. Your aim should be to provide an honest summary of the role to ensure a closer match in applicants.

Be selective

In an attempt to speed up the process, business owners are often too quick to snap up the first candidate that ticks the right boxes. Sure, they may appear perfect on paper, but will their personality be compatible for the role? Once you have a clear image of your ideal Executive PA, use it to guide you through the screening process - don’t simply settle for someone because you’re scared that time is running out. As your dedicated assistant, the successful candidate will work directly alongside you to achieve business objectives, so it’s critical to perform thorough interviews to assess whether or not they are right for the job.

Take a second look

Clicking with a candidate can leave you feeling convinced you’re on to a winner. But be careful: a strong personality may facilitate a positive working relationship, but charm isn’t everything. Remember, this is someone you’re relying on to manage your schedule from behind the scenes: their responsibilities will range from administrative duties to diary management and even business forecasting, so don’t hesitate to dig deeper before deciding.

Test their skills

Ultimately, your Executive PA should be a problem-solver by nature, as this is a fundamental skill required for the role. Luckily, the interview process provides a perfect opportunity to put your prospective PA’s skills to the test. Present your candidates with a few scenario-based questions that prompt them to quickly find an effective solution. You might ask: “A client has called to cancel a meeting, but the executive you work for is unreachable. What do you do?” Candidates may draw on evidence from previous experience to form their response. Following the interviews, be sure to keep in touch with your chosen finalists via email and phone to get an insight into their communication skills, as this could (and should) contribute towards your decision.

Make the call

With interviews over and reference-checks complete, it’s time to choose your Executive PA. By now, you may have a gut feeling as to which candidate fits the shoe, but don’t be too hasty and never hire on the spot. A careful review of all the finalists will help you to make the right decision, even if it leads you to the same conclusion.

As soon as a decision has been made, a competitive offer should follow. If this really is your perfect Executive PA, you’ll want to secure their employment before your competitors get a chance.

For 20 years, the Allen Associates team has been helping employers in Oxfordshire secure the Executive PA and Administration talent they really need. Can we help you? Click here for more information.